post written by: Marc Chernoff

8 Things Unhappy People Refuse to Admit

8 Things Unhappy People Refuse to Admit

“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
―Abraham Lincoln

Everyone experiences an unhappy mood on occasion, but there is a big difference between experiencing a temporary bout of unhappiness and living a habitually unhappy life.  That’s what chronically unhappy people do.  And although many of these people are afraid to admit it, a vast majority of their unhappiness stems from their own beliefs and behaviors.

Over the years, Angel and I have helped thousands of unhappy people rediscover their smiles, and, in the process, we’ve learned a lot about the negative beliefs and behaviors that typically hold them back.  Even if you are generally a happy person, take a look at the list below.  Many of the unhappy people we’ve worked with initially refused to admit that they carried these beliefs and behaviors, even when the evidence stacked against them was undeniable.  See if any of these points are keeping you from experiencing greater amounts of joy.

1.  They struggle with self-respect.

Decide this minute to never again beg anyone for the love, respect, and attention that you should be showing yourself.  Be your own best friend.  Trust your inner spirit and follow your instincts.  Accept who you are completely, the good and the bad, and make changes in your life as YOU see fit – not because you think anyone else wants you to be different, but because you know it’s the right thing to do, for YOU.

Be the person you will be happy to live with for the duration of your life.  Don’t rely on your significant other, or anyone else, for your happiness and self-worth.  Know that our first and last love is always self-love, and that if you can’t love and respect yourself, no one else will be able to either.

2.  They are self-conscious about what others think of them.

The minute you stop overwhelming your mind with caring about what everyone else thinks, and start doing what you feel in your heart is right, is the minute you will finally feel freedom and peace of mind.  In fact, you can end half your troubles immediately by no longer permitting people to tell you what you want.

You have to put your life in your own hands.  Others may be able hold your happiness hostage temporarily, but only you can do it permanently.  (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” and “Happiness” chapters of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

3.  They are holding on to old grudges.

You will never find peace until you learn to finally let go of the hatred and hurt that lives in your heart.  Life is far too short to be spent in nursing bitterness and registering wrongs.  Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, on the other hand, is for those who are confident enough to stand on their own two legs and move on.

In order to move on, you must know why you felt the way you did, and why you no longer need to feel that way.  It’s about accepting the past, letting it be, and pushing your spirit forward with good intentions.  Nothing empowers your ability to heal and grow as much as your love and forgiveness.

4.  The routines they follow imprison them.

Remember that the way you’ve always done it isn’t the only way.  It’s unlikely that one of the things you’ll regret when you’re 70 is not having consumed enough beer in your 20s, or not having bought enough $6 lattes from Starbucks, or not having frequented the same night club for years.  But the regret of missing out on opportunities is a real, toxic feeling.

The bottom line is that you’ve figured out drinking and going out.  You’ve had enough lattes.  It’s time to figure something else out.  Every corner you turn or street you walk down has a new experience waiting for you.  You just have to see the opportunity and be adventurous enough to run with it.  (Read Eat, Pray, Love.)

5.  There’s a lot they can’t control (even though they try).

Life is often unpredictable.  Some of the great moments in your life won’t necessarily be the things you do; they’ll be things that happen to you.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life.  You have to take action, and you will.  But don’t forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change in an instant – for better or worse.

To an extent, the universe has a plan that’s always in motion.  A butterfly flaps its wings and it starts to rain – it’s a scary thought, but it’s part of life’s cycle.  All these little parts of the machine, constantly working – sometimes forcing you to struggle, and sometimes making sure you end up exactly in the right place at the right time.

6.  They let their fears numb them from life’s goodness.

“Numbing” is any activity that you use to desensitize your feelings so that you don’t experience vulnerability or hurt.  But by numbing yourself to vulnerability, you also numb yourself to love, belonging, empathy, creativity, adventure and all of life’s goodness.

Remember, every worthwhile venture in life – intimate love, friendship, a new business, etc. – is scary.  These things are inherently risky.  They are unsafe.  These things aren’t for the faint of heart.  They take courage.  And most importantly, they can’t coexist with fear.  When you open up to life’s greatest opportunities and joys it means you’re also giving life the opportunity to break your heart, but trusting that it won’t… that the risk is well worth the reward.

7.  They are addicted to avoiding themselves in the present moment.

This is something we all struggle with sometimes.  It’s also the root cause of nearly all of our unhappiness.

One of the hardest challenges we face in life is to simply live in our own skin – to just be right here, right now, regardless of where we are.  Too often we needlessly distract ourselves with anything and everything: food, booze, shopping, television, tabloid news, online social networks, video games, cell phones, iPods, etc. – basically anything to keep us from being fully present in the current moment.

We use compulsive work, compulsive exercise, compulsive love affairs, and the like, to escape from ourselves and the realities of living.  In fact, many of us will go to great lengths to avoid the feeling of being alone in an undistracted environment.  So we succumb to hanging-out with just about anybody to avoid the feeling of solitude.  For being alone means dealing with our true feelings: fear, anxiety, happiness, anger, joy, resentment, disappointment, anticipation, sadness, excitement, despair, and so on and so forth.

And it doesn’t really matter if our feelings are positive or negative – they are overwhelming and exhausting, and so we prefer to numb ourselves to them.  The bottom line is that we are all addicted to avoiding ourselves.  Acknowledging this addiction is the first step to healing it.  So begin today by just noticing with curiosity, and without judgment, all of the ways in which you avoid being in your own skin, right here, right now, in this present moment we call life.  (Read The Power of Now.)

8.  The grass isn’t greener anywhere else.

If you feel anxious because you constantly feel like you’re missing out on something happening somewhere else, you’re not alone.  We all feel this way sometimes – like the grass is greener somewhere else at this very moment.  But let me assure you, you could run around trying to do everything, and travel around the world, and always stay connected, and work and party all night long without sleep, but you could never do it all.  You will always be missing something, and thus it will always seem like something wonderful might be happening elsewhere.

So let it go, and realize you have everything right now.  The best in life isn’t somewhere else; it’s right where you are, at this moment.  Celebrate the perhaps not so insignificant fact that you are alive right now.  This moment, and who you are, is absolutely perfect.  Take a deep breath, smile, and notice the green grass under your own two feet.


Let me tell you a secret I’ve learned about happiness.  Nobody is happy all of the time.  It’s perfectly normal to experience considerable fluctuations in your level of happiness from day to day, month to month, and even year to year.  In fact, according to a recent scientific study, overall levels of happiness decline from one’s teens until one’s 40s and then pick up again until they peak in one’s early 70s.  So the chances are that your happiest days are yet to come.  Hopefully that gives you something to smile about today.

Your turn…

What would you add to the list?  What behaviors and beliefs often stand between you and happiness?  Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts with the community.

Photo by: Stephen Poff

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  • I feel like I’ve said this before so many times on here, but “listening to your own lies” and refusing to admit that it’s nonsense. These days I’ve been calling myself out and became much better at stating the truth in my head. “I’m not doing that because I am SCARED, not because I don’t want to.”

    Deluding yourself is never a good thing, especially when you begin to believe the lies you tell yourself.

  • The opener to this is something I find myself doing, seeking validation and love when I give and give and, although it is unconditional love and giving, I’m still seeking some kind acknowledgement that I exist. How can we love so deeply and yet feel that we are loved in return?

  • Katie, I am the same way. I hate that I feel like I need the acknowledgement that I exist. I don’t know how to change that. This post (and your comment) couldn’t be more timely.

  • Katie, I experience the same thoughts and feelings myself, as I’m sure many others do. I’ve recently started disecting the word love, and looking at each piece of the many definitions of love out there. I now feel through a lot of personal soul searching and research that the saying “all things in moderation” applied to the many aspects tied to the term love give me a better more realistic expectation. I think we all crave that “high” of a partner who just seems to consistanly push the right buttons in a manner we enjoy. A real satifying emotional state.

    What I have seen time and time again over the years is that most couples who seem to click like that never last, and I believe it is because there is none of the moderation mentioned earlier. It is like doing too much of anything, it eventually ends in catastrophic failure, burnout whatever. Love goes so far beyond that emotional state, protection, helping to haul the load, shared responsibility etc.. All those things that make up love outside of the unique bond of lovers, the love of family, friends, self, are all just as important in the relationship of lovers.

    We can’t have the high of emotional happiness all the time, the relationship needs all of these different aspects of love to last. Once I began to recognize this, I started to see my “love” in a new light. She has been providing so much more than I realized all this time. I was so fixated on the high I felt I was missing that I didn’t see the effort she was putting in for my benefit in so many other area’s of our life. Perfect? No. More than good enough? Absolutely, I’m very fortunate to have what I have.

  • Tim, as I read the article I found myself revisiting the work that I doing to be a whole and happy with me person. Someone who can live with the person that I am and know that its more than enough. However, your words about love make so much sense, it is a high that cannot last yet love is what many of us long for. Love is so much more than the feeling its a commitment and an effort to be there everyday. Do I appreciate it, yes I do. More importantly I believe its what makes a relationship last. I believe you said what I’ve always known but didn’t know how to say. Thank you for sharing, your timing and this article were right on time for me.

  • Hi Marc,

    # 7 is wholly me as I am addicted to avoiding myself in the present moment and waste much of my time. Though I do realize it and want to get rid of the compulsive labors but it’s real hard to avoid when in stress. I usually run from the present moment through games, listening music, onlines social activities, compulsive love affairs, cell phones and afterwards regeret to lose all that moments that could be spent more constructively :/ I’ve noticed it and want to know the cure pls!

  • I would add - a lack of trust in oneself and others. You have to have faith that with enough encouragement, the right path will be found. Sure we screw up and get screwed over, but there is always a way through it.

  • Believing my negative thoughts without investigating their validity keeps me from happiness. So many times my default setting is set to negative simply from former conditioning, and I allow these negative thoughts to march into my mind and take over. Out goes my happiness, along with my peace, and calm. I’m learning to “see”…to investigate without judgement, the negative thoughts that flow so naturally through me, this helps me to dispel ancient fears and unfounded phobias, and increases my sense of happiness!
    Thanks for this great post. I can always count on the two of you to say it simple and clear.

  • This is a good list. I’m usually a happy person. I would add that just because you have bad days doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. You have the bad day, it happens and then you’re happy again. That’s how it is for me anyway. Plus, I’ve had more good days than bad days. Other than that, I’m also in a better mood. My sisters still try to help me out(my second oldest sister recently told me that you have to have a bachelor’s because they don’t offer a lot of jobs where you can maintain an associate’s degree). Instead of wasting time arguing with her, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing and get that degree whether anyone likes that or not. I’m 20 years old. I’m not a younger sister anymore. I’m my own person and my best friend.

  • Fantastic, many, many… many thanks!

  • Tim, I think you’ve found something really important and profound. I hear it as ‘gratitude’. Gratitude for what you have. I experience it as another way of being in the ‘now’. I find gratitude and forgiveness are two keys that help me move and change in positive directions–they’re living, breathing conduits for love and happiness. No one is perfect, or can always understand another perfectly. We all make mistakes and fall short sometimes. We do the best we can. With love and gratitude for ourselves and others, our blessings and happiness expand.

  • I really enjoy and find great comfort from your insight. Thanks. Dysthymia (a mood disorder that is a less severe but longer-lasting form of depression) is term coined by modern medicine to explain persistent unhappiness. Do you believe that nurture beats nature? You give me hope that there is hope.

  • Vincent, I agree with you 100%. Letting your fears hold you back is instant unhappiness with yourself- and that goes for anything that you do because you are scared to do it, yet tell yourself you aren’t doing it because “You don’t want to.” “You can just do it later, the opportunity is sure to come again.” or “I can’t do that, because _________.” Knowing in your heart, that the fact is, you are only not doing it because you are afraid to. I have been scared to be in heavily wooded areas since I was a kid, as we grew up in a city where the woods were not for hiking, and were told repeatedly why we should never go into them. I have told myself everything from, “Well, it might rain, so we shouldn’t hike so far today.” to “I just don’t feel like it” to “Its already 6:00pm and the sun sets in an hour.” to not have to hike further into the trails. Yet, I know that I am only telling myself these things, because I am afraid of going any further. Though this is a small example, every time that I let myself down, the disappointment and unhappiness stays with me much longer than the feeling of fear, which usually disappears as soon as we get back to the truck. The first time I hiked a 5mi. trail - something I’m sure many of you do not see as a big deal- I can’t tell you how proud I was of myself. The point being, your never going to learn how to be happy, until you begin to face your fears.

  • While there are things you can’t control. I feel unhappy people also blame the things they do control as the fault of others.

    It is plying on what you guys already listed but it gets to the problem they unhappy people feel entitled.

  • I would add two things to this list: being envious or jealous of others and comparing yourself to others. Envy means you are focusing on what others have or do and believe that they have it better than you. Similarly, in comparing yourself to others, you often think the other person knows better or does something better than you do.

    I know very well that these two ways of thinking are destructive to one’s sense of happiness. And I am really working on letting them go. It’s a struggle sometimes.

  • I have been guilty of all these in the past, and are still guilty of a few. Perhaps the hardest one for me to let go of is 7. and 8. I still have a hard time convincing myself that the random smiling pumped up jocks I see on the street, or actually meet, are not actually happier than me. Although when you get to know a wide variety of people, that certainly helps.

    I still fall into the trap of distraction. There are some things that I find unpleasant to deal with, and although the more I put it off, the worst it gets, sometimes it can be hard to put your work gloves on and just do it.

    I don’t think that I would add anything to this list, not that I can think of at the moment, although I might perhaps phrase some things slightly differently if left to my own devices. Thank you for this, really helped me refocus on my chosen perspective.

  • Happiness is an inside job. Easy in theory, difficult in execution. It’s easier to focus on other people than focus on myself. I’m trying.

  • Katie, Cynthia and Tim;
    I appreciate that you have shared your thoughts. Very timely. Tim, I appreciate the “moderation” concept. We live in moments. Some moments are divine. Some moments are uncomfortable. One thing is for sure, moments don’t last. It’s as though we move through life, from moment to moment. We struggle through discomfort knowing it will end, and we can anticipate the arrival of a divine moment, we know it will come. Becoming more aware and comfortable with the fact that moments ebb and flow help me. I still struggle, but at least I’m starting to understand.

  • Carolyn Sullivan
    August 30th, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Grudges, they can “poison” the well. Eventually one has to empty out the well and start flushing it. One can’t get the poison or toxic emotions out, if enough of them are contiues to be added.

  • We are all codependent at times; we live in a Codependent Nation. Love the way you guys bring the nuts and bolts of codependency to seekers’ attention! Keep up the great work! Thank you.

  • Like the post said, you gotta love yourself first. People who act like they hate the world and everybody and everything in it are really just unhappy with their self and can’t forgive their self for how they have lived their life. Love your self, love others, love life. The one thing in life you can give away and still keep is your smile. So when you see someone who doesn’t have a smile, give them yours.

  • The anxiety of the the other shoe dropping. Having one thing after another after another for years makes one suffer from extreme anxiety waiting for what is around the next corner. This is a very difficult feeling to overcome. This anxiety can be paralyzing at times when it strikes and there is no warning or reason. It is like a waterfall and it is difficult to hold onto the strategies to keep from fall further. I find this to be my personal struggle.

  • I would only add this: the happiness study mentioned at the end is a sad reflection of U.S. society (& many others) We start working and many of us just find a job…it pays the bills but we have no joy in it. It sucks the life out of us and leads to the rest on this list. As we approach retirement and begin to dream again, happiness builds.

    If parents would aid their children in finding and following their own passion, this would all change. I know, I’ve done it. My son wakes up most days delighted to head to work at a job he’s passionate about. Stop steering them to the money and point them to happiness. So many warned me that my son would be a “starving artist,” they just didn’t get it. He’s living the life he always dreamed of and I am so proud to have had some part in that.

  • Powerful list Marc. I’ve seen all of these obstacles at some point in my life. Whether it be in myself or the people around me, these are all sure fire ways to feel depressed.

    I would add one thing to this list: “They feel like the world is conspiring against them.” An unhappy person always feels like the world is completely unfair and nothing good can happen without something terrible happening. It’s a glass half-empty viewpoint and a tough way to live.

  • Everyone is so on tune with my head and emotions this morning. This is a great reminder of what it truly means to be happy and try to live in the moment. I am a planner. I like to plan today, tomorrow, next week, next year, and the rest of my life. I have a very hard time accepting the present moment and enjoying just what is. But as I have always said (and posted on here in the past) the best things in life are never planned. I personally think that my limit to happiness is recognizing that I deserve it and that happiness lies in the every day things.

    And Tim you are so right on Love…. There is so much more to love than that “high” and no that will never last long term. LOVE is unconditional and absolutely shown in the little things that we do. Taking care of someone when they are sick, seeing them for who they are faults and all and still seeing them as a perfect human being because that is how God created them. It is loving the little moments when you need a shoulder to cry on and not being afraid to show your vulnerability in times of need. It is being able to call someone at a seconds notice and knowing that in an emergency they will be there for you no matter what. Love is not begging someone to spend time with you, love you, or pick you over someone else!

  • Thank you Marc for another wise and inspiring blog post.

    Tim, thank you also for your response to it, it did me well to read it.

    Cynthia as I was reading your response I thought to myself “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all give ourselves the acknowledgement we need? And the love we need? And what would that look like if we could?”. We do have the capacity, everything we need is inside us.


  • Interesting that you used a quote from Abraham Lincoln who suffered from depression at times. He had to overcome a lot to choose happiness, but he did. Many people suffer from “unhappiness” as described above because of biochemical disorders such as depression or, unfortunately, early childhood traumas. Nonetheless, a decision to be happy will always find its way to the answer. Tim- a good post. I think I’ll meditate on it for a while and see if it fits for me.

  • Low grade depression..anxiety..unhappiness. I’m sure there’s plenty of prescriptions happily dispensed by well meaning physicians. Although beneficial for some, it creates an apathy of spirit on a whole different level. When pharmaceutical companies barrage us with TV and radio commercials that offer a “better life” by dispensing their promise of greater joy,more vigor,and stronger bonds or intimacy, and we buy into that, we are essentially saying, “I give up..can’t fix know best”.

    Having been someone who struggled with bouts of depression throughout my life, I realized although Prozac numbed the pain for awhile, it also retarded my ability to feel anything…I stumbled across a book that changed my life- cognitive therapy-David Burns..began to understand the power of the words I was feeding myself. Awareness..although incredibly overwhelming, was key to so many other facets of life for me. It’s a daily walk in appreciation and as stated before, gratitude..your messages are so powerful. #7 is a lifetime project, meta cognition …being present and thinking about what you think about…”be in the now” is mental yoga, but worth the stretch.

    Thanks Marc for the love you send through your posts.

  • I “should” myself way too much. Instead of just being, I tell myself that I “should” start a load of laundry; my house “should” be as nice as my friends homes; I “should” be working out like all my co-workers; it’s like by doing the “shoulds” then I’ll be happy, but will I? My sister put it very well when she retired. When asked what she was going to do to be happy, she said was going to become a “human being” instead of a “human doing”.

  • Wow, so many of these points you’ve mentioned are right on, Marc!

    I used to struggle with almost all of these points. But I’ve since learned to be honest with myself and deal with these negative habits. The one thing I’m still learning how to do is “not avoiding myself in the present moment”.

    The best way I know in dealing with that is to stop what you’re doing whenever you find you’re trying to distract yourself. Just sit there quietly and let the feeling – loneliness, anxiety, fear etc. – wash over you.

    Yes, it feels uncomfortable at first. But you’ll soon get used to it. You’ll then realize all the things you have dreaded so much isn’t so bad after all.

  • Kathleen,
    I am in a 12-step program which has helped me to go from low self-esteem to greater self-esteem in the years of my abstinence. I agree with your sister also because of the program. However, since I am bipolar, I also need drugs to deal with life. I have found this out through the years. I am 74 years old but family has mostly been dysfunctional. After years and year of this, I need the extra assistance.

  • Wow!! So many great responses!! For me, being bi-polar, happiness is always a work in progress. I just got down from a three day, 57 hour marathon of no sleep while my mind churned through a lot of clutter, contempt and contemplation.

    This is what I learned this year about happiness.

    1. It’s a choice. Period. Do I get crushed? Yes. Overstressed? Yes. Screw up and screwed over? Yes and yes. But then I choose what I want to do next, how I will react, what I will/will not say and/or do. Unhappy people over-react or don’t react at all. Make your own choice.

    2. Happiness CANNOT be planned! I am a professional Project Manager. I get paid to organize and tame chaos. Great for work, but it fails completely at home. Six year olds don’t live off checklists and my wife resents being “treated like a project.” Did you plan your first date in advance? What day are you retiring? What are you having for lunch the day before you die?

    3. If you cannot find love, stop looking. Yes, I said it. Start loving the people, things and world around you that you can. Be more appreciative. Take a weekend and disconnect from everything that runs on electricity. It can be done.

    Then, let yourself be vulnerable, become the prey and not the hunter. You will be stunned at how much love will find you. Dress up. Get a new haircut, new lipstick, wear your better clothes.

    4. Unhappy people have bad thinking habits, are stuck in negative ruts, ruminate on bad thoughts, deeds and actions, and cede control of action to the negative side. Its a lifestyle, and they do not even know it. But they have grown comfortable with it, and will resist any change because “it might get/be worse.”

    I have been here many times with my worst depressions, and I missed out on a lot of opportunities because of it. Not any more.

    4. Get unprepared, and strike out on your own. You will NEVER be ready, NEVER be all set, NEVER be 100% confident, NEVER have the prefect conditions. Therefore: everyday is the right the right day!!!

  • What a marvelous inspiring community here! I love how something magical appears when you need it the most. Thank you again for the most perfect post, at the most perfect time, and to all the wonderful responses. Cherish every fiber of who you are, you are all amazing.

    “We are all just helping each other walk home.” -Ram Dass

    Peace, love, joy & happiness!

  • I would not add anything to this, but it is a great post to help us reflect on our own behavior. I am not perpetually unhappy by any stretch, but I have my moments. And in those moments, I have maintained some of these characteristics. What we need to be careful of is people who are constantly like this who affect us, which is what I have been writing about recently.

  • I think this article hits the nail right on the head. I’ve read (and written) numerous articles and a book on how to Erase Negativity, but framing the topic in this unique way should be an eye-opener for many individuals.

  • Amazing post. Right on time for me. I will get it printed and keep in sight. Thank you Marc.

  • HAHA. It’s almost as though I’ve unknowingly been working down this list in order. I feel pretty comfortable saying that I’m good through number 3, making some good progress on 4, and at least have the rest in my sights. I have no idea how, or why, but I found running (something I’d never done before) last year when dealing with a painful personal loss. It provided a self-clarity that I have never been able to fully describe and in that clarity I almost immediately reclaimed my self-respect and a desire to find and release my most authentic self.

    Since that first run, I’ve stopped smoking, adopted a near vegan whole food diet, and lost weight both physically and mentally. With my physical self getting healthier and my awareness of self increasing, the remaining imbalance in my sometimes unquiet mind is just that much more impossible to ignore so I’ve recently started a daily meditation practice that I think is going to help get me closer to the place I’m supposed to be.

    I love these posts. Sometimes they tell me to follow my heart. Sometimes they remind that my heart might not know where it’s going. But they always make me think about “me” right now, in this moment, which is something that I’m not always good at. I’ll keep working on it though. I’m coming for you number 7.

    Have a great holiday weekend everybody. I’m going to run my second half marathon on the one year anniversary of the most painful day in my life. I think doing something positive and health affirming should help keep that calendar block from getting darkened forever. Cheers.

  • Coming from a traumatic childhood, you end up with so many little kinks to work out and a general melancholy, or anxiety, or addictions or all of the above. In therapy I started to get this weird feeling in my chest sometimes. It turned out to be “happiness”. Its really a foreign feeling if it wasn’t really part of growing up. You have to get used to it, figure out why it’s a safe way to feel now, try it on, wear it around…I think its such an interesting phenomenon how scary and uncomfortable happiness feels at first. I’ve never heard or read anything about that aspect of it.

  • Elizabeth, what an inspiration! Especially to artists, thank you for sharing! :)

  • Wow David, I am also very grateful for your comments! Truly inspiring and quality advice along with the article.

  • Can I just say THANK YOU for using the concept of self-respect rather than self-esteem? I am weary of the public school/mental health push of “self-esteem” when THAT isn’t the issue. It’s self-confidence and self-respect that need to be bolstered and nurtured to produce a contented, HEALTHY human. When a parent or other authority figure artificially inflates a young person’s “self-esteem” we get….well….what you see now: spoiled, entitled brats. Whereas, if the same people would work to help a young person increase self-confidence and self-respect, by providing true learning moments, not everybody-wins-a-trophy moments, you end up with a much better adjusted, productive human. IMHO, of course.

  • Great post and so timely, as usual. Thank you!

    I’ve run down this entire list at one time or another, and have really been struggling with unhappiness for the last few months, with the last month being the worst, where I was crying at the drop of a hat on a daily basis.

    For me, the biggest thing was letting go of old grudges. Every time I thought I was finally through it, something would come up to to remind me and the crying and hurt would start all over again. I had a lot of endings to get through all at once, so it was a lot to deal with, and fear of the unknown played a huge part. It wasn’t until I was finally able to just accept it all without reservation and fully, wholeheartedly let it go that the breakthrough happened and suddenly opportunities and a new path just fell in my lap immediately. Yesterday.

    A moment of magic and new adventure that’s exciting and scary and completely unplanned, but I am so ready to get started.

    The other big one is probably self-respect. I’ll put up with a lot from others in an effort to get their respect and/or love before I throw up boundaries and/or cut my losses and walk away. That stops now.

    The only thing I would add is frustration, stagnation and lack of progress can make anybody unhappy, especially if it continues over a long, drawn-out period of time. It drives me nuts and brings out the absolute worst in me. So my suggestion is to DO something, anything, whatever it takes to get yourself moving forward again, even if that means leaving other people behind.

  • Haha, allyHM! That is so true, and one of my own personal pet peeves.

  • If I had to add something, I would add “striving for justice,” although that could fall under the “grudges” or “grass is greener” category. I also feel that self-respect is a better and more useful term than self-esteem. You can still respect yourself even if your position in life is not “esteemable,” but even people who are in enviable positions may not respect themselves. Good distinction.

  • Even though I KNOW I need to rely on myself for self-respect and to not care what others think, to tell myself it doesn’t matter, the simple fact is, as soon as something happens that makes me feel apart from the norm, I start questioning myself… I want validation from outside. Knowing what’s the right thing vs. actually being able to carry it out are two different things. It’s something I struggle with all the time.

  • This article was so good. We all need to be reminded to choose happiness. I feel like you covered it all. I did, however, want to add one thing. I’m not sure if it totally fits but I feel like perpetually unhappy people tend to lack gratitude. I think it’s just a matter of perspective, but I know when I stop seeing how blessed my life is in so many areas, I tend to be unhappy because I’m only focusing on the disappointment or troubles of the moment. A few years back, I was in Nigeria doing some mission work. The people I was working were so poor and quite a few were very sick. Yet, all of those I spoke with were happy and it baffled me. I mentioned how I was so impressed with that, they would immediately respond with something they were grateful for whether it be the fact that they had their family or a place to live or food on their table. To this day I try to grab onto that perspective even in the worst of times. Thanks for sharing this. It has re-inspired me.

  • Marc & Angel,

    I would just like to let you know what a wonderful way it is to begin my days with your words. Another great article and so well put on so many levels. Always a great reminder and at the bottom of it all is gratitude. Being grateful for what you have in this life is the key to happiness and I am grateful to have found you.

    Have a miraculous day!


  • Great Article! I have written about happiness and stress reducing and living the life you are meant to live—these are excellent points and I am sending the link to many people to read! Thank you!

  • I stumbled on your website and found it therapeutic. I am currently legally separated and facing divorce. It’s past time to let go. Thanks for helping me to arrive at this point. I feel free (er).

  • Excellent. Once I accepted that I will always be missing something somewhere, and it didn’t matter because where I am right now is much more gratifying, ‘it all’ fell together seamlessly. Thank you.

  • Serenity prayer:
    1) I can not change other humans. Their life belongs to them not me. Give up the insane idea you ever could. (Surrender)
    2) I have the ultimate power to change myself. No one can do it for me, just as I can’t do it for them. (Responsibility)
    3) This is the path to sanity and peace but it’s easy to forget. (Wisdom)

    The Classic version:
    God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change (others)
    the courage to change the things I can (myself)
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

  • I’ve found that lack of humility and a desperate need to tout one’s knowledge is a red flashing sign which indicates someone’s unhappiness. The more confident one is in one’s abilities, the less they feel the need to advertise them every chance they get. There are of course exceptions (like résumés, job interviews, competitions, etc.), but in day-to-day situations, I always respect the humble person.

  • I have experienced almost every factor you describe.

    One thing I cannot stress enough and totally agree with you on is that not everyone is always happy. We tend to fool ourselves into believing that the smiling person next to us is “happy”. No one knows what is going on in others lives.

    Great post.


  • Unhappy people thrive on their isms - negativism, skepticism, antagonisms, and many others.

    The problem is that they can be like magnets. In a noble effort to help them out, some people hang around.

  • You are totally correct about the aging process and happiness. Trials and tribulations of life can make us unhappy, but it is ourselves who have to make the choice. We must choose tonot let unhappy situations bring us down. You have to be happy with yourself first and foremost! Great post once again!

  • As always, thank you so much for sharing parts of your stories with us. The insights you provide in your comments are just as valuable as our posts. Together, we really bring a topic to light.

    Instead of commenting to you each individually tonight, I wanted to briefly touch on something I thought about this weekend regarding this post. Although it may be obvious to many of us, it is important to mention that not all of us have healthy minds – i.e. some people struggle with deep seeded depression. The advice in this article is geared for the majority of us who are not dealing with this kind of medical ailment – for us happiness is a choice. For those who have been medically diagnosed with depression, or fear that they might be struggle with such an illness, I recommend seeing a medical professional who can further assist you. Depression is not something that should be ignored.

    Anyway, I hope you all have a lovely week. I just posted our latest article. I hope you enjoy it.

  • I am constantly worried about real things that are happening right now. I don’t know how to control my worry. These worries have been going on for a year. My thoughts are exhausting me and it is leading to a high level of depression.

    Your article was good to read. Thanks.

  • Great advice here. I know that the times I have been unhappiest in life have usually been from a result of what you mentioned. Especially holding grudges…this is something I have worked on. Finally, I realized there is nothing I can do to change the past…so what does it matter. That has helped a lot.

  • You find what you look for. Look for reasons to be unhappy, there are plenty around. Look for reasons to be happy and you’ll find them, too. It’s just a matter of what you focus on.

  • Great list! I would add this to the list: inability to take responsibility for one’s own actions and consequences and blaming other people.

  • This is a good article.
    I would like to add a few points (if not mentioned by someone already):-

    1. Kindness & Helping others:
    We often demand help from others but we often forget this, but helping others creates a different self-satisfaction of its own. Helping anybody around us without anything in return spreads love across. Currently it is restricted to videos/messages only and seldom seen in practical.

    2. Complaining nature:
    We can’t have everything in life, we cannot do everything perfectly. Humans are prone to mistakes, and those mistakes creates experience. Complaining and passing the buck attitude leads to many other reasons of unhappiness mentioned in this article.

    3. Mistaking happiness with short term gains:
    We are too focused on short term gains, materialistic achievements, even short holiday tours, waiting for weekends to come, looking forward to parties and boozing as a source of happiness. We think that these are the moments of happiness. Are they actually are? Then happiness must be very short-lived which is not true. If we can bring out happiness from within ourselves, as mentioned in this article, then we shall stop depending on other people/things to be happy. We can enjoy each and every moment of our life.


  • It has been a joy to read your post and all the comments above. I would just like to add something that changed my life - in case it would be useful to others.

    I was deeply unhappy between the ages of 13 and 34 with some depressions so severe, I was in hospital. What changed my life was a therapy called EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing). I had been brutally raped at the age of 13 and lost three close family member, went through a traumatic marriage, where I and my first child were abused. The trauma caused me to implode whenever stress became too great. I also suffered from low self esteem etc. The emdr reprocessed these life events from a place where they had become ’stuck’ - like a tape playing over and over, and shifted them into memory.

    I can honestly say that over the past 15 years, instead of feeling that in my deeper core is a place of despair, this has been replaced by my inner core being a place bubbling with happiness - to the extent that I cannot help smiling walking down the street just because the sun is shining! I am a happily single parent to three wonderful sons, have my own house and run my own business in London. Believe me there were times in the past when a therapist had set me three tasks to achieve in a day - such as washing my hair. Nowadays people ask how I do all that I do!

    Of the points you mention, I think the most valuable to me is living in the present moment - because that is all we really have. Worrying about the future leads to anxiety and thinking about the past if it has been unhappy, leads to depression. The secret is to be fully in the moment and with enough of those wonderful moments strung together - you can look back on a happy and fulfilling life. I also admire Elizabeth’s comment. I have made my own job in life by following my passion - I am an artist, teach art and organize arts events for 5000 people. There is more than one way to feel rich in life - and meeting the people I meet and seeing the things I see, makes me feel richer than if I was a millionaire - which I’m not!

  • I would add blaming other people for your problems. That puts the onus on everyone else to change besides yourself. It keeps you stuck in a miserable cycle of self pity.

  • Accepting responsibility for your own actions and not blaming others for your problems and failures. People rely on others to make them happy, when really the only person who can truly make them happy is themselves.

  • Believing my negative thoughts without investigating their validity keeps me from happiness. So many times my default setting is set to negative simply from former conditioning, and I allow these negative thoughts to march into my mind and take over. Out goes my happiness, along with my peace, and calm. I’m learning to “see”…to investigate without judgement, the negative thoughts that flow so naturally through me, this helps me to dispel ancient fears and unfounded phobias, and increases my sense of happiness!

    Thanks for this great post. I can always count on the two of you to say it simple and clear.

  • Nice points. BTW, out of the context : Happiness need to categorized like, healthy and unhealthy happiness. The happiness of a drunkard will be seen when someone offer him a bottle whiskey [unhealthy], but the happiness of a religious believer will be arriving the church, mosque or temple each day at time [believing in some blind spots, but still happy and healthy] ;) happy opium for the masses! Lets reinvent the religions!

  • Just wanted to say that I am a very happy person, but have never broken down why I am. I don’t think I’ve ever really let any of the things you listed bother me too much so I guess that validates your article!

  • Oh my goodness. This helped me so much. Thank you sooo much. I’ve bookmarked this article so that I can look at it any time I start feeling down or regretful.

    I’m seriously so glad I’ve read this.

  • Loved the article: that’s a great list — and some great add-ons were made in the comments.
    Jip, there is a difference between depression and unhappiness. I have DI, and most people who met me would tell you I’m a fairly happy person. They’re right. The DI is a medical condition that I have to work around, the same way other people have to work around allergies or ADD or diabetes or any other chronic condition.

    My advice to anyone chronically unhappy is to see a doctor to eliminate any possible physical causes for their state of mind. As strange as it probably sounds, being diagnosed with DI was an incredible relief: I’d spent a decade beating myself up for not having the willpower to make myself change. Finding out that there was a reason for the way I was, that the way my brain was wired was something I just had to accept and work around was, for as corny as it sounds, the first day of the rest of my life. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, but people who don’t have DI aren’t happy all the time, either, and it’s infinitely better than feeling guilty and ashamed.

  • Blaming others for one’s problems.

    We are all guilty of this at some point or another but it is a dangerous road to go down.

    Once we take responsibility for our own actions we are empowered to take action instead of making excuses and blaming others for our problems.

    …Thank u for the inspiration!

  • Lately I’ve been submerging myself in painting and other forms artwork. I use art as expression to motivate and inspire others. I draw from my past and present experiences. I write and draw about the struggles I’ve had within myself and the struggles I’ve had with people throughout my life so far. I can actually reminisce and laugh at my pain. I don’t consider it as “holding a grudge”. My pain, happiness, misery, joy, & other emotions are explored territories.

    One thing I am familiar with is feeling wanted and accepted by the people around you. It’s an innate feeling to be wanted and cared for. If you think about it, that’s everyone’s primary but subtle objective. It’s OK to feel this ways. It’s wrong to manipulate, lie and hurt someone emotionally to accomplish self-gratification. We all have to find our own unique balance in life. The same rules don’t apply everyone. Finding happiness in oneself is to free yourself and look deep inside to find peace. Peace = Happiness.

  • One of the worst things that unhappy people do is constantly compare themselves to others. You will never be good enough if you do that!

    Happiness is a choice. It is actually a series of choices a person must constantly make. It also comes from within. And everyone is capable of being happy.

    Honestly, I think some people prefer to be unhappy. It’s a safer and more familiar space for them.

  • Thanks a lot! This is a wonderful list and the comments were really great especially that of Julia Dennis. I am a teenager and I always feel like life has never given me enough. But the truth is very different. Actually I always think about the bad and negative things which estrange me from happiness. Yet what has comforted me a lot is solitude. I admire solitude for we, actually never give our own selves much time. Rather we expend our energy and resources in wasteful processes. Solitude is a beautiful thing to be with. You feel how important you are and the ideas of “humanly dependence” shun undeniably. Moreover it helps you to recognize yourself better.

  • Wow!!! I have read a number of your posts before but this one really speaks to me. I went through a tremendous change in the last six months with letting go of a relationship that wasn’t right for me along with a job that was toxic. Every single point listed in this post described the person that I was. I still struggle with being self-conscious about what others think of me, but i’m working on it.

    If there is anyone that is reading this post and feeling like this describes them, for your own sake, do what it takes to make your life better. The work will seem very hard at times but it isn’t as hard as carrying around emotional baggage every day that will stop you from having the happiness that you deserve. I’m single and I’m looking for my next job which has tested me like nothing else, but I can tell you that I did the work and I have joy with a tremendous gratitude for the many blessing in my life. Each point listed above kept my spirit chained and happiness never lasted for very long. When I let it go and released myself, I realized that there is nothing better than standing where you are on your own two feet without needing anything to hold you up except your own spirit.

  • Self-sabotage! Many definitions…always the same result. Can you elaborate on this? Why do we do it? It also adds to what may constantly make people unhappy when they are on the right road - but derail ourselves. We are more comfortable in the struggle - but do not know how to live a steady - no drama lifestyle. We are at our best when we are trying to get out of a hole - undo a disaster - react to a situation rather than deal with day to day responsibilities/ obligations on a normal basis.

  • Great stuff – I remember being younger saying to myself “ I will laugh at least once a day” As I matured I became angry, and angrier eventually cursing everything and hating as much hate as I thought I could possibly hate. I ruined a lot for myself and for others… still blaming in any direction that would build up hatred. Part this is because “I do have to deal with depression” and the other part was my own doing. My own dad was always a happy go lucky guy and he didn’t like to see me so angry. My mother, she was more of a mixture; she could be very hateful to whoever or to the people she liked - a very well-likable person. Life has been mixture of rough roads and I have some good times to remember too.

    If you want to be happy you will find a way – but I don’t encourage being unhappy to the point of ruining yourself. “ if you can’t laugh once a day – I guess try to often… then one day you’ll be having a happy spell without thinking about it.

  • Perfect! I have been living in the “if only” rather than the present “is.” The if only was a bad, negative situation. The is is a supportive, loving situation. That is where my happiness will be.

  • “In fact, according to a recent scientific study, overall levels of happiness decline from one’s teens until one’s 40s and then pick up again until they peak in one’s early 70s” - well goodness, this is going to be a looooonnnngg trip to 40.

  • I have been struggling to be happy, it seems that everything I’m doing is making me unhappy, I am 22 and have been through a lot more than most kids should have while growing up. I won’t get into that right now, my problem now Is when I make a mistake or make someone unhappy I hate myself for it. Its true I do not love myself the way I should. Right now I live with my boyfriend and his grandfather who we are taking care of. His grandfather is 89 with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I feel as if we have put a halt on our life, sometimes I feel that we are truely doing the right thing, and other times I feel as if we are being held back. My boyfriend and I take turns working and running errands while the other stays with grandpa. I am starting to become angry when he leaves and I cannot go with him. Please give me some advice or just motivational words. How can I make this an amazing experience rather than one I despise.

  • @Kendra - I too have suffered from guilt at the most minor of mistakes. It’s buried in your subconscious from your days as a child to feel this way. I’m 41 & am guessing our childhoods mirrored each other in many respects. I would suggest two things - 1. research the subconscious mind and ways to overcome those thoughts & 2. try to catch yourself at the moment you’re thinking/feeling the guilt, realize that it is a creation of your subconscious & you DON’T HAVE TO FEEL THAT WAY….which is a tactic you will find through your research (guess I’m being redundant with the number thing).

    You probably have many reasons to be proud of yourself that you’re not allowing yourself credit for. Because of your post I know of one - just how many 22 year old women would sacrifice to help her man take care of HIS 89 year old grandpa? Answer: VERY, VERY FEW! This shows that you have a vast amount of empathy and love in your heart & (although I don’t know you personally) I am damn proud of you for that. The guilt you ALLOW yourself to feel blocks the joy you deserve for the love you are giving.
    Don’t worry as much about the right thing/held back conundrum. All we have is the present moment. The past is the past & the future may never be. You can drive yourself crazy with those thoughts. Do what you feel is right in your heart at each moment & trust it.

    While I believe you are doing great work, it is important that you tend to your own wants/needs as well. It’s about a balance that is hard for any of us to achieve, but one we must work towards.

    ABOLISH THE GUILT KENDRA! You don’t deserve any of it. TRUST YOURSELF, know that you’re not alone (ever) & may karma come back around and bless you many times over.

  • Most unhappy between 20-40… when you’re chuck full of hormones that control your mood… that sounds about right. :)

  • I am in my late twenties, doing a double masters and starting a new life in Europe and have had moments of mind numbing unhapiness with the ”re-awakening”. Is all this pain worth it though? Is looking in the mirror and deciphering ”all the lies I tell myself” what we are all required to go through for the final breath of: wow I see the light? I hope it hurries up already!
    Loved the article though!

  • Yup, this post is for me. I knew why I was unhappy, but i was keeping it down inside because I was scared about what others thought of me. I retreated into an unsocial loner who wanted to take part in what was going on and be popular, but I was scared of the attention. Now, I realize to just go for it.

  • I searched for this article because there is a person in my life who makes me very unhappy. It became a source of self reflection. I think I only commit no 7 myself, I’ve made it past the other hurdles. I no longer care what others think, nor do I need validation. I am an orphan so one can imagine how difficult it was to find self respect, to stop begging for live from people who abused me, used me and abandoned me. I’ve learned to love myself, trust myself.

    I’m working on number seven. I need to live in the moment rather than the past or future. As E. Tolle points out, the past was always now, and the future will eventually be now.

  • One of the things I’ve noticed is that, as I approach 40, I feel like I can’t count on myself anymore. It feels like the old challenges are still present, but the energy, the guts, the malleability that got me where I am is fading. I guess it’s a natural part of life. Being open to whatever is thrown at you eventually gets replaced by being committed to those that depend on you. Control. That’s a big one. I used to get out of responsibility by not caring much about the benefits of it. So now I feel like I’m running out of time. Like I may never catch up to myself and my life if I can’t make some changes. I have this very strange mix of being very happy about my life will being filled with regret. I suddenly feel undeserving of what I have and I just wait for it all to be dissolved away. And I really can’t remember feeling this way when I was younger. But what I can sense is that this was below the surface all along. And the moment I couldn’t count on wit, energy, and a free spirit to bail me out…well. Here I am. No, actually I’m not sad. I’m not regretful. I’m terrified. I’m terrified that I’m not enough for my own life. What a strange thing to feel. Thank you for this very direct reminder that happiness is simple, it’s fickle, it takes work, and that’s ok. Because it got me thinking. And babbling. I’d love to wrap this up and make it inspiring. But…

  • I like the parts about “Avoiding oneself” and “the grass is greener on the other side”, how True, when comparing our lives we fail to see the beauty that is around us …

    A very encouraging article .

    God bless

  • Here are two that I’ve struggled with, but it’s getting better:

    1) Projecting my shortcomings onto others. It’s a lot easier to get angry about the behavior of someone I can’t change than it is to work on myself. Furthermore, I have found that what aggravates me most about others are things that I really need to work on in my own life. As I work on improving myself, I find that the actions of others tend to bother me less and less.

    2) Replaying negative experiences over and over like a bad movie. I realized one day that I never replay the GOOD times….only the bad. Somehow, I thought that doing so would allow me to “change the past”, but it never has, and it has actually impeded my ability to move forward, live for today and plan for the future. Not that we should forget the past, but a lot more is to be gained by learning from it than reliving it and hoping to alter it. Let’s face it….no matter how many times you watch “Titanic”, the boat always sinks at the end.

  • For me, being unhappy has become a way of life. Finding myself doing things, like meeting new people, to motivate my feeling happy time is not working. I feel that, no matter how nice and careful I am when meeting a new friend it never ends well. They slowly drift away, it’s as if they get board with me. Even though, I am most of the time unhappy inside, I usually am a very social person who loughs and greatly enjoys company. Some times though, I compare myself to a big ancient whale who’s visible scars are there to stay and remind you that your personality trade has been compromised by the battles experienced since the beginning of your life.
    For me, happiness is a complex thing to obtain.
    Thank you.

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