Are you happy? Do you wake up each morning with a sense of excitement about what is coming or do you look at the future as a place of probable disappointment? When presented with a new idea, are you drawn to the possibilities in it, or do you immediately begin breaking it apart and finding the negative?
Do you find yourself approaching life with a sense of confidence and self-satisfaction? Do you feel adequate to complete the tasks ahead of you or do you consistently doubt your judgments and abilities? Do you live to please other people or are you happy with where you are in life despite what others may think of you?
If you find yourself leaning towards the unhappy side of life, it is time for some introspection. What is at the root of your pessimism? If you feel alone, you shouldn’t. I have been there myself and I get it. I so get it.
What we feed our minds – our beliefs and the news we pump into our brains – affect our sense of well-being. The one who starts his day with praise music, prayer, and Bible reading is far more likely to head out the door to work with a confident smile than the one who wakes up to disturbing news on TV, Facebook, and depressing music.
Below are a some tips for the unhappy person written by someone who has been there and done that. These tips are not a cure, but certainly a start. Clearing out your mind and heart and creating a warm environment is not only important for you, but for the ones you love. Over the years, I have learned just how devastating my chronic negativity was to my marriage.
- Turn Off the Technology. Turn off your television. Turn off your phone. Turn off your iPad. Turn off the games. Let the technology rest. Go outside. Breathe in some fresh air. Embrace silence for a while. Start moving. Take a walk. Run with the dog (perhaps borrow [owner-approved!] a dog to run). Go skate. Get out of your technological world and experience the real world. Physical activity makes you feel better, helps you think more clearly, and cleanses your mind of mental cobwebs and digital clutter. When we bombard our minds with too much input, it weighs us down – even if the input is not negative. Let your mind take a breather.
- Start a Thankfulness Journal. Years ago, Eric’s mom gave a young friend of hers a journal and told her to write something for which she was thankful in it each day. Years later, Eric met up with this now-woman and her husband when he was visiting his hometown. Not only did she still have the journal, but she confessed that it had gotten her through some hard times. Specifically giving thanks daily combats that nagging voice that reminds us of what we are lacking. Even the richest man in the world is unhappy if he dwells on what he does not have. (And if you do not want to physically write it down, there are even apps to take pictures and document your gratitude!)
- Stop Complaining and Start Reframing Situations. Have you ever stopped to notice your immediate reactions to situations? I have and it was eye-opening! It occurred to me that my first thoughts are typically negative. After taking some time to process, I can usually find the good in undesirable situations; but, in the meantime, I have to fight my way through a forest of annoyance, irritability, and feeling sorry for myself. “Traffic is stopped on I-40. Ugh!!!” Or, I could think, “This gives me a little time to check my phone and relax.” Additionally, I could think, “Company is coming over and I have to clean.” Or, reframe: “I am cleaning to prepare for a fun time with company.” When there is an unpleasant task ahead of us, we only add to the negative when we conceptualize it as “bad” before we tackle it. In doing so, sometimes we are our own worst enemies, whispering discouraging messages to ourselves day and night. Would most of our dreaded chores be so awful if we didn’t first marinate in sarcastic thoughts like, “I have to spend my whole day cleaning this disgusting house!?!?” or “Why isn’t it Friday yet? I’m sick of this office!”? If you feel constantly unhappy, check your immediate reactions. If they are negative, challenge yourself to find the corresponding silver lining to each “problem.” Fill your mind with truth and positivity – even if it takes some time and energy to get there.
- Talk to Someone. Counseling is not only for people with significant emotional or mental health concerns. We can all benefit from sharing our stories with a skilled relationship coach or counselor who has significant knowledge of God’s Word – and therefore an understanding of how God created us and what His overall will is for our lives. If you are struggling and need someone to help you sort out your thoughts and feelings, consider looking for a godly counselor.
- Close Your Door and Open Your Bible. Perhaps this is where we should start. Pray, repent, and clear your heart of hidden sins. Is something separating you from close fellowship with the Lord? It is no surprise that I am the most unhappy when my heart is separated from God – when there is unconfessed sin in my life. Sin separates us from fellowship with our Heavenly Father and He is where we receive our true joy and the peace that passes understanding. If you are walking under a cloud of heaviness, could there be something in your life which is keeping you from walking closely with the Lord? He is our source of living water.
(Note: If you are suffering from depression, we encourage you to seek out a Christian counselor or psychologist. It does not help to just tell yourself to snap out of it. Sometimes we are unhappy because of circumstances; whereas, sometimes there are deeper reasons. If you still find yourself emotionally drained and depressed after trying the tips above, prayerfully consider seeking professional help. We strongly recommend selecting a Christian professional who will balance his or her care and advice with the truth of Scripture.)
Are you or a friend dealing with unhappiness and a negative spirit? What other factors can you think of which might lead someone down a bitter path versus a joyful one?
The aroma of our hearts is not something we can conceal for long. Eventually, our sourness will show up on our faces and come out of our mouths. In relationships, this sourness spreads like a contagious disease. If we focus on negativity, it will affect those around us; and, if they stick around and listen to us, they are likely to become callous and bitter themselves.
If you find yourself erring on the victim-oriented (i.e., “Why me?”) side of life, consider making some changes for your health and the health of your relationships.
Would you consider yourself a happy or unhappy person?
Why do you think that is?