"Why Am I So Unhappy?" Find the Root of Your Unhappiness and How to Change
Somewhere along the way, life lost its charm, and you don't know what happened. "What's my problem? Shouldn't I be loving this stage of life? Why am I so unhappy?" Here some steps to change your perspective and get back to loving life.
The most frustrating part of realizing you're unhappy is feeling that you shouldn't be. If you're healthy and have a roof over your head, then you shouldn't complain. Right?
It's good to realize you're unhappy -- in fact, it's the only way to take control and change things. Here are tips to help:
- Answer the Question "Why Am I So Unhappy?"
Unhappiness comes from a number of places. If you've recently had a baby, there are chemicals at work that are not under your control, and you should give yourself the time and grace to feel all kinds of highs and lows. If you've recently lost a loved one or received scary news about finances, allow yourself time to process it all.
"Be very careful about telling yourself you should change perspectives," says Dr. Elaine Aron, Ph.D., author of "The Highly Sensitive Person." If there's an underlying cause to your sadness, then mood-boosting tips may actually exacerbate the problem. "Very often self-help is simply impossible, for dozens of reasons, and only makes you feel worse," she says.
So call your doctor, even if your lows aren't "extreme." Your doctor knows you, knows best how to assess the root of your unique unhappiness and knows about therapeutic treatments available.
- Accept That Sometimes Life Is Difficult
Once you've ruled out underlying physiological and psychological issues, it's time to look at your perspective.
According to Dr. Shannon Karl, Ph.D., healthy and well-adjusted people are often sad or angry, because life is sometimes hard. "Life is inherently challenging and comes with elements of suffering," she says. And Hollywood doesn't always help. "Cultural and media influences can present unrealistic expectations of happiness." Combine those two factors, and unhappiness isn't so crazy. In fact, it puts you in the ever-increasing majority, according to research reported on by Reuters and the American Psychological Association.
- Make Some Changes
Once you've answered the question "Why am I so unhappy?", you're ready to do something about it.
If you want to change, you're in a great position. Desiring improvement is a mark of mental health, and here's how you can do it.
First, consider the possibility that your unhappiness may be a misunderstanding, says Dr. Ray Guarendi, psychologist and author of "Fighting Mad." "It is our misinterpretations that create the distress so very often," he says. "Unfortunately, we are bent towards misinterpreting." One of the most liberating eye-openers is to realize your unhappiness is because of misinformation, misinterpretations or assumptions.
For example, the media images that Dr. Karl mentions may affect feelings and behaviors, sending you into a downward spiral. "Images of unattainable wealth, love or beauty foster negative self-concepts," she says. So develop a critical eye -- not toward the genuinely good things in life, but toward misinterpreted glitz and glamour.
Jude Bijou, psychotherapist and author of "Attitude Reconstruction," teaches that our emotions are just unexpressed energy, and they turn negative when trapped inside. Her solution? Physical expression. That means if your predominant emotion is sadness, you should find a place to weep openly and get it all out. If you find yourself snapping at your kids -- and everyone else -- then your predominant emotion is anger, and you should allow yourself a safe place to pound, stomp or scream. Not convinced? Watch Bijou's "Anger" demonstration and see if you don't already feel better. And if, like so many moms, fear drives your unhappiness, spend a few minutes shaking out your limbs and mind with the "Shiver to Express Fear Constructively" demonstration.
A recent Pew Research study revealed that parents are happiest when caring for their kids, and you may agree. The price to pay, though, may be sleepiness. So if you're willing to sacrifice a bit of sleep, try waking up earlier to get things done so that you can soak up the joy of your little ones later.
For more ideas on happiness, read these 6 Tips for How to Be Happy Parents.
Bethany Johnson, a professional writer from Washington, D.C., specializes in the quirks of family life and relationships. When she's not writing, Bethany and her husband raise both free-range chickens and free-range children on their organic farm in the suburbs.
* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.