When you look at your own life, maybe you’re thinking about how time has gone by so quickly and you have no idea how you got to where you are at. You might begin to feel sad because you’ve drifted so far from where you wanted to be at your age. Life was much more difficult than you expected it to be, so you just settled and decided to accept that this is just how life is.
You’ve given up and your goal now is just to get by. You just want to be happy.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Cultivating much more happiness in your life is a very real and close possibility. You just have to put in a little work.
Here are 13 proven ways to shake off your sadness and feel happy again:
We’ve all been there. A feeling of boredom and being stuck in our lives without knowing what to do.
Nancy is one of the many who’ve been there. Take a look at her story and find out why finding your meaning to live is so important.
Rather than trying to figure out such heavy questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” it’s much easier to turn on the television and let the day go by.
“When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl
Many affluent people are experiencing unhappiness no matter how much money, respect, or fame they have because of one big reason: Our unhappiness stems ultimately from a feeling of meaninglessness.
Frankl has developed a process called Logotherapy to help people build more meaning in their lives. He was put in charge of the mental health department of the Viennese hospital system because they were losing too many patients to suicide. His practices were what prevented tens of thousands of these patients from killing themselves. He did this by helping instill a sense of meaning to their lives.
In moments when you are struggling with unhappiness, you can start applying Frankl’s Logotherapy in your life by doing the following:
I met a woman in Thailand once who ran an orphanage with children who were affected by the AIDS virus. She also suffered from cancer, but rather than viewing the illness as something that is ruining her life, she shared with me:
“It’s kind of like a death sentence when the doctor says to you ‘you’re HIV positive’ or ‘you have cancer’ and it gives me an ability to identify with these children that are HIV positive, so I’m grateful for cancer because of it, if nothing else.”
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
“Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together.” “Keep your options open” may be advice you’ve heard often. But if you keep your options too open, it usually makes you more unhappy, stressed out, and tired from having to choose between too many things.
When you have too many choices to make, you begin to make more poorer decisions as you make each following one throughout the day. This is what’s known as decision fatigue.
The most important thing you can do to increase your level of happiness is by effectively reducing the amount of any unnecessary decisions you have to make in a day.
Set up routines to help you accomplish the following:
We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need to look, act, or be a certain way in order to be happy and successful.
The average person gets exposed to over 10,000 advertisements a day and most of these messages are total nonsense.
All of these false promises given to us each day are what causes us to portray ourselves in a way we think others want us to be so that we can fit in. The sad part is that many of us do find ways to fit in, but we never actually feel like we belong.
When we don’t feel loved and understood for who we truly are, there is no way we can ever be happy. The reason we are often reluctant to be our most authentic selves is because of shame.
At some point in your life, you will run into shame and it will make you feel like there is something wrong with you. Whether it was getting teased at school, not meeting up to your parents’ expectations, or being harshly judged by a peer, shame makes you hide your true self and wear a mask to show someone else.
Learning to have the courage to stay true to yourself is one of the keys to longer lasting happiness.
Dr. Brene Brown, an amazing vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED talk that she once took put a poll on social media asking “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”:
Within an hour and a half, she had 150 responses. Here’s what some of them said:
Vulnerable moments like these are when we are most prone to feeling shame. Learning about how to handle that shame is what will enable you to recover from it in a healthy way.
Start by looking yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself “I’m not perfect, but that’s ok”
Take Dr. Brown’s simple advice that she gave on the Oprah show. When you experience shame, talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.
I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brene Brown
Some of the greatest things that exist in our world today were a result of someone’s curiosity. It’s the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford created some of the most innovative products of all time.
Satisfying your curiosity releases dopamine in your brain. This is also why we absolutely have to finish a great movie and watch it till the end. You want to know what happens and when you finally do, you get that rush of dopamine and get pleasure from it as a reward. The same applies with any habits we’ve formed, such as checking our social media feeds and emails.
While these kind of things may give you a short moment of happiness, there is a type of curiosity that will give you a more longer lasting happiness. Dr. Todd Kashdan explains it in the terms of being a “curious explorer”.
“Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.”
By using your curiosity to help you get better at something, become more knowledgeable or see something in a new perspective, you’ll find life to be much more enjoyable.
Kashdan’s suggestions on how to become “Curious Explorers” are summarized in Kari Henley’s Huffington Post article in the following way:
Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan PhD.
The happiest people are ones who make a positive impact on others.
“No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” ―Denis Waitley
Every individual has something they can contribute to the world. The hard part is figuring out what that is. And the truth is, we’ll never figure it out until we actually do something about it.
Science has shown data that supports the evidence that giving is a powerful way to lasting happiness. If done in the right way, giving can feel good and give you the much needed boost in your mood.
“Happiness is only real when shared.” -Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild
Intentionally begin contributing to something or someone in your life.
Check out these 20 small acts of kindness to do something bigger than just for yourself.
Chances are you are unhappy because of the routine. Simply put, you’re bored but at the same time, maybe you’re a little afraid of trying something new.
Or, in a more extreme example, you might hate your job but you are too afraid to quit because you’re worried you may become broke with nothing better ahead for you.
Whatever the case may be, bringing yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible can result in a much more satisfying life.
Scientists have found evidence that if a person steps out of their comfort zone just enough, then they can increase endorphin’s in their brain, which creates increased feelings of happiness.
I can’t remember the number of times I was excited to buy a new toy, game, or piece of technology for myself only to get bored of it not too long after. This goes to show material things usually only bring out a temporary amount of happiness at best. Happy experiences last as a happy memory forever.
While owning material possessions can be nice, they can never be a part of you like great experiences can be a part of you. This is why you should invest more in experiences rather than things.
“Part of us believes the new car is better because it lasts longer. But, in fact, that’s the worst thing about the new car,” he said. “It will stay around to disappoint you, whereas a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory.” — Dan Gilbert
Rather than spending your money on buying something a material possession that you’ve always wanted, try these options instead:
Self-realization has been shown to have many benefits and this can be achieved by regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.
Taking a moment to get yourself untangled from all the messy thoughts and emotions you experience can be just the thing you need to be happier. Meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion. It also reduces gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.
These are just a few of the many benefits meditation has been shown to give you.
Download the no-nonsense Headspace meditation app. All you need is 10 minutes and a comfortable chair. If you find yourself thinking you don’t have 10 minutes, then let the truth of Tony Robbins’ words settle in:
“If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”
This is something that’s commonly said, but it comes from a place of truth.
The Journal of Happiness published a study where the 219 men and women participants involved wrote three letters of gratitude over a three week period. The results showed that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.
Your brain cannot simultaneously focus on positive and negative things at once. Because of this, practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.
When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases. This activates the happiness center of the brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work; so, you could think of gratitude as a natural antidepressant.
One of the biggest difference between happy and unhappy people are the habits they have. Over 40% of your day isn’t spent on making active decisions but is a result of habit.
The truth about why it’s so hard to break out of old routines is simply the fact that it is a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit. Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit how the basic structure of habits consists of a cue (trigger), the routine, and the reward.
For example, stress can be your cue to engage in your routine of smoking a cigarette, which rewards you with the surge of nicotine to relieve your stress. Duhigg teaches the key to turning bad habits into good ones is to figure out how to change the routine. Rather than smoking, maybe you can go for a nice walk or meditate to achieve the same stress relief.
If your habits are not making you healthier and happier, that means you may be automatically spending almost half your day doing things that make you more unhappy.
Changing your habits is much easier said than done, which is why you also need to modify your environment as much as possible to increase your chances of success. After doing so, try and tackle the routines which will help you to replace the bad habits with good habits.
Also take a look at this detailed guide to try to hack your habit loop and build lasting habits for a better self:
How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop
There are plenty of things in life that aren’t as pleasant as you thought they would be.
You may have always wanted the nice expensive car, but now that you have it, you’re constantly stressed out about any new scratches and annoyed at all the extra unexpected expenses involved with keeping it well maintained and in good condition.
You may have always wanted to be married, but now that you are, you didn’t realize the immense amount of work it takes to build and maintain a loving relationship.
Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert argues one of the reasons for our unhappiness is by wrongly predicting the types of things that will make us happy.
“If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I would find someone who is already living that future. If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who have actually done these things and see how happy they are. What we know from studies will increase the accuracy of your prediction, but nobody wants to do it.”
Simply investing the time and energy to learning more about what you are getting yourself into can increase your chances of accurately placing yourself in happier situations.
Reach out to people that are living the lifestyle you want or possess something you want to have; get on a call with them, or take them out for coffee. Ask about their experiences, both good and bad, and observe if what they have makes them happier, and then decide if it is something you want as well.
Speaking to a close friend who owns a new piece of technology that you want or is currently involved a career that you want to pursue is easy. Yet, if the person of interest is a celebrity or a highly respected individual, then getting in touch with them will be much harder. In this case, scour any public information such as blog posts, interviews and social media posts to get to know them and help you make a decision whether the life they are living is one you want to pursue.
Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert
Imagine sitting down in a cafe and overhearing a conversation between two girls at the next table.
“…and you’ve gotten fatter as well. It’s terrible…”
“Don’t you feel horrible right now?”
“With those large thighs and your horse’s hips?”
Fortunately, this conversation was staged by the personal care company, Dove. But the conversation was one that actually happened, except it was with one’s self.
The script for the actresses were written from actual self-dialogue from women who were documenting the thoughts that they had about themselves each time the thought came to mind.
Dove ran this campaign to illustrate this point: if we wouldn’t talk to others in this negative manner, why would we talk to ourselves in this way?
Here’s the video:
People who practice self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. So the next time you are feeling low and start nitpicking at yourself, come to your own defense and give yourself a break.
Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion:
Most of the time, people try to avoid negative emotions because they are afraid of the pain and grief they will experience or of the vulnerability it will require. But unless you let those tears come, you will never be able to let go of the emotions. They will stay stuck inside of you.
It gets even worse when you try and numb your sadness with negative behaviors such as overmedicating, excessively drinking or distracting yourself by overworking. What happens when you numb your negative behaviors is that you are also numbing your positive behaviors.
Fully experiencing your emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, is important for your own well being.
“But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” — Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie
Get into a habit of identifying your emotions. For example, when you start to feel sad, simply tell yourself “This is sadness.” Once you begin calling your emotions by name, it helps you realize it is an emotion and doesn’t have to define who you are.
This is the simple process that lets you ride the wave of emotion and let it pass without letting it take hold of you and controlling your behavior.
The next time you start feeling sadness, let yourself feel it. Don’t let your fear find an excuse to avoid it. Just like a roller coaster becomes fun after the initial drop, let the discomfort of sadness come through you so you can go back to enjoying your life again.
The important part of feeling your sadness is to make sure you don’t cross the fine line of dwelling on it and victimizing yourself. Let the feeling come, and when it wants to go, let it go.
Unlike in fairytales, there is no such thing as happily ever after. Instead, it’s similar to there being a variety of scattered treasures buried in a huge field called life. You will need to dig a little to find each treasure as you walk through different points in your life.
If you find yourself feeling unhappy about where you are, you don’t have to stay that way. You can in fact restart your life to be happy again:
How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late
As you continue to go through the daily grind, make the choice to invest time and energy into using the methods outlined here to uplift your spirits. You’ll be happy you did.
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