12 habits of the unhappy
If happiness is a habit, then surely unhappiness is too
As recently as 10 years ago, the psychology of happiness was a foreign concept.
The UN Happiness Index didn't exist, the field of positive psychology had yet to gain ground and how-to guides on happiness were only beginning to take a slice out of the self-development sector.
Nowadays, we all know the proven principles of happiness. Practise gratitude, help others, get into nature and, if all else fails, fake it until you make it.
But what about the flip side? If happy people share traits and qualities, surely the same could be said about chronically unhappy people too. Here are just a few of their habits...
1 THEY HAVE AN EXTERNAL LOCUS OF CONTROL
Unhappy people tend to point the finger outwards rather than inwards. Ergo, when things don't go their way, they are quick to absolve themselves of all responsibility. If they failed an exam, it's because the paper was marked incorrectly. If they didn't get a job, it's because the candidate was earmarked from the outset. Happy people, on the other hand, tend to have an internal locus of control. They believe that they are in control of their own success and, following a knockback, they pinpoint their own shortcomings before they consider the possible prejudices of others.
2 THEY HAVE A VICTIM MENTALITY
Unhappy people usually define themselves by the hardships they have suffered. They keep a mental dossier of all the trials and tribulations they have experienced and the perceived disadvantages that this renders them. This usually goes hand in hand with a belief that they deserve preferential treatment. Conversely, happy people are more inclined to think of suffering as a universal experience, rather than a personal plight.
3 THEY ARE CHRONIC COMPLAINERS
Deplorable service. Desperate weather. Despicable behaviour. Unhappy people are generally chronic complainers with a vocabulary of spitfire adjectives ready to take aim at any moment. It doesn't help that complaining tends to beget complaining, with some neuroscientists saying it can rewire the brain to make future complaining more likely.
4 THEY ARE CONSUMED BY LACK
Unhappy people tend to focus on what they don't have rather than what they do have. Even if they have an abundance of money and time, they remain attached to a lack-based narrative and a fear that they won't hold onto it for very long.
5 THEY TAKE THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE
Unhappy people often take what looks like the easiest route. They stay in unhappy relationships because they fear change. They undertake the least taxing tasks firsts instead of delaying gratification. And they use short-term Band-Aid solutions - food, alcohol, drugs - to ease their pain rather than trying to identify the root of the issue.
6 THEY THINK HAPPINESS IS A DESTINATION
Unhappy people think of happiness as a place they will arrive at as soon as they have achieved x or acquired y. Happy people, meanwhile, know that happiness is a choice that is made every day, irrespective of circumstances. As Marianne Williamson writes: "Ego says, 'Once everything falls into place, I'll feel peace.' Spirit says, 'Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.'"
7 THEY HOLD GRUDGES
Unhappy people tend to hold grudges. What's more, they often fail to realise that holding a grudge affects them more than the person they are holding a grudge against. As Annie Lamott put it: "Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die." Happy people know that grudges keep them anchored to the past and prevent them from moving forwards.
8 THEY BELIEVE THAT LIFE IS FUNDAMENTALLY UNFAIR
The Sufi poet Rumi said that we should live life as though it is rigged in our favour. Unhappy people, on the other hand, live life as though it is pitted against them. They view situations through a filter of cynicism and the perception that their world is designed to present daily challenges. This usually leads to apathy, which in turn becomes laziness.
9 THEY CATASTROPHISE
Unhappy people tend to allow pebble-in-the-shoe moments - a missed bus, a broken washing machine, an expensive electricity bill - to dictate their mood for the rest of the day. Rather than overcoming the issue and moving on, they decide it's "one of those days" or "just their luck". Likewise, they often blow things out of proportion and fixate on the worst-case scenario.
10 THEY COMPARE THEMSELVES WITH OTHERS
As many a self-development writer has pointed out, comparison is a dead-end street. Believing you are lesser than someone else leads to despair; believing you are better than someone else leads to arrogance. Happy people usually only compare themselves to their previous selves.
11 THEY SPEND BEYOND THEIR MEANS
Unhappy people often try to boost their mood with regular impulse purchases, even if they can't necessarily afford them. Unfortunately the high is short-lived and, according to the hedonic-treadmill theory, a person will soon return to his happiness set-point. Happy people are more inclined to spend their money on experiences rather than tangible objects, which is proven to boost long-term happiness.
12 THEY EQUATE HAPPINESS WITH FOOLISHNESS
Chronically unhappy people usually believe that relentless happiness lacks grit and edge, while misery has more gravitas. They think of happiness as a sort of ignorant bliss: - a state of mind for people who are oblivious to the suffering of life. In reality, happy people know that life is inherently challenging. They've simply chosen not to dwell on it.
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