Unhappiness can often feel like it comes out of nowhere. One day you feel fine, and the next you feel down for no apparent reason. But in many cases, unhappiness gradually builds up over time due to certain habits we unknowingly fall into. By becoming aware of these habits and making an effort to change them, you can create more happiness in your life. Here are 7 habits that may be secretly making you more unhappy:
1. Comparing Yourself to Others
This is one of the most common habits that breeds unhappiness. Social media has made it extremely easy to constantly compare our lives to the carefully curated highlights of others. When you find yourself scrolling through other people’s feeds, remember that you are comparing your behind-the-scenes to their highlight reel. No one’s life is perfect, no matter how it appears online. Comparing yourself will only make you feel bad about yourself. Instead, celebrate others’ successes and focus on appreciating what makes you unique.
2. Staying in Your Comfort Zone
Stepping outside your comfort zone can seem scary, but staying inside it too often can lead to boredom and restlessness. Pushing yourself to try new things provides a sense of meaning and excitement. It also builds confidence and resilience when you realize you are capable of more than you thought. So whether it’s traveling somewhere new, taking an evening class, or making an effort to meet new people, make sure to regularly push beyond your boundaries. The discomfort will be worth it.
3. Holding Grudges
Forgiveness is known to have positive effects on both physical and mental health. Yet when someone hurts us, it’s tempting to hold onto resentment. Understandably, some transgressions are too hurtful to forgive instantly. However, holding grudges for long periods only breeds unhappiness and prevents you from moving forward. If possible, try to forgive those who have hurt you—not for their benefit, but for yours. Forgiveness will liberate you emotionally and allow you to let go of the past.
4. Living an Unbalanced Life
When life feels like an endless cycle of work without enough rest and fun, unhappiness and burnout are inevitable. Make time for the activities and people that bring you joy. Don’t underestimate the importance of seemingly “small” things like taking a walk, reading, calling a friend, or meditating. Incorporate activities into each day that provide a sense of meaning, creativity, and restoration. Protect your time off as much as your work time. Keeping your life balanced across different areas will prevent the stagnancy that can lead to unhappiness.
5. Isolating Yourself
It’s easy to want to hide away when you’re feeling down. But isolation often backfires and makes unhappiness worse in the long run. Humans are social creatures—we need connections with others to feel our best. Make an effort to regularly socialize, even if you don’t feel like it. Surround yourself with positive people who enrich your life. And don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it. The support of others can make a huge difference in difficult times.
6. Living in the Past or Future
Rumination—thinking excessively about the past or the future—is strongly linked to unhappiness. When your mind is stuck on “what-ifs” and regrets about the past or worries about the future, you miss out on the richness of the present moment. Practice training your mind to stay grounded in the here and now. When you notice your thoughts drifting to the past or future, gently bring them back to the present. Mindfulness activities like meditation can build this “muscle” over time.
7. Choosing Your Vices Poorly
There’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence. But some vices, when they become habits, are known happiness-killers. For example, studies show activities like excessive social media usage, drinking alcohol in isolation, and binge-watching television are linked to increased unhappiness. Be mindful of unhealthy patterns these vices can create. Choose activities that provide more long-term satisfaction. And limit vices that leave you empty over time.
The habits above creep into our lives in subtle ways, often without us noticing. Paying attention and making positive changes to daily patterns can have a profound effect on your happiness levels. Instead of feeling stuck in old patterns, see each day as a chance to build habits that serve you. With consistency over time, small steps in the right direction add up to big changes.