Life Lessons in the Real World

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10 Causes and Cures of Unhappiness

unhappy.jpgOne of the quickest ways to spread the sunny rays of happiness over your life is to directly confront the negative attitudes darkening your doorstep.  

While neither universal nor all-encompassing, the joy-stealing attitudes and corresponding cures listed below are common enough to warrant a thumbtack on the wall of many lives, including my own.

1. Jealousy: Destroy the green monster by celebrating the successes of others. If your friend succeeds, celebrate his victory as your own; if your enemy succeeds, remind yourself that jealousy is self-defeating, pointless, and merely extends an enemy’s power over you.

2. Persecution Complex: Recognize that persecution is irrelevant, since you (and only you) control the outcome of your life. Every person has a stack of obstacles placed before him; success hinges upon your ability to overcome the obstacles in your path, persecution or no.

3. Lack of Accountability: We may not control every bad thing that happens to us, but we do control how we react to those bad things.  Instead of passing the buck, take responsibility for every failure so you can learn and grow.

4. Perfectionism: Stop nit picking. Perfection is rarely attainable and seldom necessary. You’re a person, not a robot. Use the 80/20 Rule whenever appropriate.

5. Excessive Reasoning: Man is blessed with a marvelous and astounding ability to reason. At its best, this ability facilitates accomplishment; at its worst, it causes spirals of perfectionism, over-thinking, and paralysis by analysis. If it’s clear you’re in a situation that cannot be improved through logic and reason, learn to let go.  

6. Negativism: Remind yourself that there are just as many positive forces in the world as negative ones; your fixation on the negative is a matter of perspective and choice.

7. Assuming the Worst of Others: There is a fine line between guarding against a realistic threat and being needlessly defensive. Make sure you haven’t crossed that line. Whenever possible, give people the benefit of the doubt.

8. Low Self-Esteem: Raise your self-esteem by recognizing your accomplishments and positive qualities; further boost it by correcting the problem areas that drag you down.

9. Low Self-Efficacy: Self-efficacy is defined as faith in your ability to achieve a desired outcome. To overcome low self-efficacy, master the skills required to reach your objective. Practice, practice, practice.

10. Feelings of Meaninglessness: Inject meaning into your life by learning to follow your passion: that internal compass, guiding you toward fulfillment. Read my synergy series of articles for more information; if you disagree with my approach for discovering purpose, pioneer your own.

Unhappiness is both self-defined and self-imposed (meaning a person who believes himself happy is), so if you’re capable of controlling your mental state without examining its constituent elements, I stand in awe of your mental abilities and politely leave you to your devices.

On the other hand, if you’re like most people I’ve known (myself included) and occasionally feel unhappy for reasons that cannot be swept under the rug, review this list of 10 self-destructive attitudes and corresponding cures. 

By understanding the source of your unhappiness, you can take the steps required to climb out of the hole of despair and into the sunlight of happiness.  


57 Responses to “10 Causes and Cures of Unhappiness”

  • Grace says:

    What if my husband is causing my unhappiness? What do I do? Even if I want to leave him, he does not want me to leave him because we have a child. Is it worth it to be together just for the child?

    Attitude, values and interest are important in a relationship. What if we do not share any of the signifacant factors?

    I always pray to God that He would someday shower me lots of luck and happiness in life.

    How can I be happy? Just the sight of my husband reminds me of my unhappiness.

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  • Good point. And of course I agree that it’s all a matter of perspective. And I also agree that an important facet of happiness is learning to control the way we feel, regardless of circumstances (and I said as much).

    But my point is that manipulating the internal without attempting to manipulate the external will only get most people so far.

    Put more simply, sometimes the most productive way to achieve happiness is to change what’s inside of us; and sometimes, the most productive way is to change what’s outside of us, with numerous shades of gray inbetween. And there are a million examples of each scenario that we could drag up from the mud, wipe clean, and expose to the light for examination.

  • Aparna says:

    I must these ar indeed few points that mak people unhappy with varying degrees. I would like to add two more to these, one , which i always believe in i.e “Expectation is the root cause of unhappiness” (mind u , pls do not confude this with wish, hope or desire)and two, “Helplessness”.
    I agree that all these causes of unhappiness can be overcome but it is nature, capability (mental and physical) that makes it tough to overcome.

  • Stephen W says:

    John, great article. The only thing I want to add is the idea that people criticize themselves so much and so easily. We can train ourselves to look at our better side and spend our time complimenting ourselves and our achievements. There are no perfect humans and mistakes are meant to be learned from. When we take on learning and implementing as our key ways of being, success overtakes unhappiness.

  • Rozell says:

    I am 33 and I have in life to lead me to the next day is my mind thinking about more better things. I try my hardest to just ignore the negative things in my life can’t see my future with anymore negative things in it. Life isn’t what you make it……..its what you think it.

  • i totally agree, but another important factor in happiness is letting go. we think holding attachments to outcomes and things will improve our happiness, when more often than not those attachments hold us back. i dont want to go on and on but I wrote more about it on my site here

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