Why am I Not Happy? 17 Reasons and Their Respective Remedies.
Happiness is no secret.
Certain factors boost it while others reduce it.
Most of these factors are under our control. Better yet, we can change many of them quickly and easily.
In this article, we’ll look at 17 factors that may reduce your happiness. And we’ll discuss what you can do to correct hem.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why am I not happy?” this article will give you the answers.
1. You’re Lazy
As I’ve explained in a previous article, happiness takes effort.
Most activities known to boost happiness – e.g., exercising regularly, meditating, spending time in nature, finding a fulfilling job, experiencing flow, or planning a vacation – are time-consuming and hard.
Sitting on the couch all day long, playing video games, or eating junk food won’t make us happy. Neither will sucking it up at a job we don’t like. Neither will spending leisure time watching hours and hours of television.
The remedy: Get serious about building self-discipline and work ethic. I know it’s not sexy. I know it’s hard. I know you don’t want to do it. Yet without a certain base amount of discipline, you won’t ever reach the upper limits of happiness.
2. You’re a Couch Potato
Spending too much time on your couch – watching Netflix, staring into your smartphone, or reading a newspaper – is a surefire way to misery town.
This is true for many reasons. For one, you’re not moving your body. Movement creates happiness; sedentariness creates misery. Happiness experts tell us that not exercising is like taking a depressant pill.
Another reason is that you’re not experiencing flow. We create this beautiful state when we’re actively engaged in an activity, not when we’re passively schmoozing on the couch.
The remedy: Bring more activity into your life. Exercise more frequently, meet your friends for dinner, go on a hiking trip, plan weekend activities, or join a yoga class.
3. Your Social Life Sucks
Social relationships are the #1 driver of happiness.
Without a thriving social life (whatever that looks like for you), you’re not nearly as happy as you could be.
“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends,” explains happiness researcher Daniel Gilbert.
The remedy: Improve your social life. Call your mother once a week, visit your grandparents, join a cooking class, or actively plan social activities for the weekend.
4. You Overvalue “Stuff”
Materialism is one of the greatest obstacles to happiness.
“A mountain of research has shown that materialism depletes happiness, threatens satisfaction with our relationships, harms the environment, renders us less friendly, likable, and empathetic, and makes us less likely to help others and contribute to our communities,” explains happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky.
“Stuff” doesn’t make us happy, period.
The remedy: Clarify your intrinsic values – e.g., family, self-growth, closeness with friends, or contribution to the community – and make financial decisions based on those values. (Learn more about materialism and happiness in this article.)
5. You “Maximize” too Much
Are you trying to get the best in everything? Do you often second-guess yourself, wondering whether you could have made a better choice?
If so, you might be a maximizer. And it might be another reason why you’re not happy.
“Maximizers, according to a series of studies by Schwartz, are lower than satisficers in happiness, optimism, self-esteem, and life satisfaction, and higher in depression and regret,” explain Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener in their book Happiness.
The Remedy: Let go of trying to get “the best” and focus instead on being satisfied with “good enough.” Go through your life eating a good enough breakfast, getting a good enough cup of coffee, and maybe even a good enough life partner.
6. You Take Your Blessings For Granted
Taking things for granted is a natural human tendency, and it’s another reason why we’re not as happy as we could be.
As I explain in this article, the simple practice of gratitude journaling can make us 25% happier in a matter of weeks! Without gratitude, we’re prone to worrying, comparing ourselves to other people, complaining, pitying ourselves, and so on.
The remedy: Actively and deliberately practice gratitude in your life. Check out this article for ten science-backed gratitude exercises.
7. You’re Addicted to Thinking
Overthinking – comparing ourselves to other people, ruminating about the future, worrying what others think of us, and so on – is a disease that’s troubled me all my life. I can attest to the fact that it’s scientifically proven to make us miserable.
“The evidence that overthinking is bad for you is now vast and overwhelming,” explains happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky. “If you are someone who is plagued by ruminations, you are unlikely to become happier before you can break that habit.”
The remedy: Practice mindfulness, a skill largely honed through meditation practice. It’s hands down the best long-term strategy to conquer overthinking. Check out this article for a beginner’s guide to meditation.
8. You’re Holding Grudges
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned,” said the Buddha.
When we harbor hostility, resentment, anger, or hate towards people, situations, or our past, we’re the ones getting burned. We’re the ones suffering.
The remedy: Practice forgiveness. (You don’t do it for the person who wronged you, but for yourself.)
9. You’re a Pessimist
How you look at the future matters for your happiness today. (Read that again.)
When you’re excited and optimistic, you’ll experience more happiness. When you’re anxious and pessimistic, you’ll experience less happiness.
The remedy: The #1 way to become more optimistic is reframing. Frame the future in ways that induce optimism rather than pessimism. (For more on this, check out Martin Seligman’s book Learned Optimism.)
10. You Don’t Have Any Meaningful Life Goals
Goals give us a sense of purpose, meaning, and control. They excite us. They fill us with enthusiasm. They get us fired up. And they give us a reason to get up every morning.
“Working toward a meaningful life goal is one of the most important strategies for becoming lastingly happier,” explains happiness scientist Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness.
The remedy: Set goals and pursue exciting projects – aim to run a marathon, cook a new dish for your family every weekend, join a yoga class, or read 20 books in the next 20 weeks.
11. You’re Not Flowing Enough
According to Wikipedia, flow is “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time.”
Flow is a massive contributor to happiness. Not only does it fulfill us and boost our mood for hours or even days, it also acts as a buffer against overthinking, ruminating, worrying, and being stuck in our heads.
The remedy: Strategically incorporate more flow activities into your days, whether that’s at work, on the weekends, or in the comfort of your own home.
12. You’re too Self-Focused
Self-focus means being overly concerned with yourself. It has been shown to reduce happiness, lower resiliency, ruin people’s relationships, and damage their health and emotional well-being. It’s associated with depression, anxiety, social isolation, higher blood pressure, and increased coronary atherosclerosis.
I learned about this in Emma Seppälä’s The Happiness Track.
The remedy: Move your focus away from yourself, toward other people and the world around you. How? By practicing acts of kindness, meditating on loving-kindness, or eliciting feelings of gratitude, awe, or wonder.
13. You Don’t Play to Your Strengths
When we engage in an activity we’re good at, we feel good, too. We feel powerful, self-confident, in control, and happy.
If you rarely use your strengths, you’re not as happy as you could be.
The remedy: Design your life in a way that allows you to use your strengths. Organize a weekly football/cooking/yoga/singing get-together, land a job suited to your strengths, or plan weekend activities that align with what you’re good at.
14. You’re a News Junky
According to one study, individuals who watch just three minutes of negative news in the morning have a “whopping 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later compared to the positive condition.”
Happiness researcher Shawn Achor adds in his book The Happiness Advantage that “studies have shown the less negative TV we watch, specifically violent media, the happier we are.”
The remedy: Stop consuming mainstream news or limit your consumption as much as possible.
15. You Hang Out With Negative People
Happiness and other emotional states are contagious. For example, one study has shown that if a friend who lives within half a mile of you gets happy, your chances of happiness increase by 42%. (I talk more about emotional contagion and what it means for your life in this article.)
“You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience, but it also depends on the choices and actions and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected. Happiness is contagious," explains Dr. Christakis, one of the authors of this study.
The remedy: Surround yourself with people who lift you up, who inspire you, and who make you want to be better. At the same time, reduce the amount of time you spend with complainers, naysayers, and pessimists.
16. You (Unknowingly) Prime Yourself for Misery
People around you are only one part of your environment, an environment that is constantly wielding a subtle but powerful influence on your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
This is known as priming. You may not know it, but priming yourself for happiness or misery, strength or weakness, power or powerlessness can make all the difference between success and failure.
If you environment subtly pushes you into misery, you’ll always struggle with being happy.
The remedy: Create an environment that primes you for happiness. Stop consuming the news and read inspiring books and articles instead. Get a coffee mug with a smile on it. Update your bedsheets to make them more positive. Change your background wallpapers to something that inspires you.
17. You Have Nothing to Look Forward to
Positive anticipation has a surprisingly large effect on happiness. In fact, research shows that happiness is often higher during the anticipation of an event rather than the event itself.
If you don’t have anything to look forward to, your life lacks excitement, optimism, and happiness.
The remedy: Put something on your calendar. Fill your life with exciting events in the future. Go on a hiking trip next Sunday, plan a vacation, or join a weekly dance class.
Happiness is no secret.
We know which factors lead to happiness and which to misery.
Becoming happier is merely the result of setting up your life in ways that incorporate more of the happiness-inducing and less of the misery-inducing factors.
This is great news. Because it means your happiness is under your control. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can become as happy as you want to be.
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Thank you for your thought provoking article and inspiring me to think bigger. Each and every article of yours build loads of positive vibes and energize me to do the things I love more passionately.
Eagerly waiting for your next article.
That’s awesome! Glad you enjoy the articles 🙂
relative observation… and pretty good solutions:). Keep it up!!
I love your emails – thank you for setting my day up positively
You’re welcome! 🙂
Thank you! This is so helpful. I was wondering, maybe you would like audio. (:
Mark Manson has a lot of audios. Talk to you soon.
Hey Brian, not sure I understand what you mean. Would you like audio versions of our articles? Or…?
I just really miss my ex and wish I could turn back time and not do the things I did
You can make my mind better … i aways in sad.
Very good article. And very helpful for me thank u so much for sharing it
My pleasure. Glad you found it useful.
No wonder why I’m unhappy! Just about all applies to me change starts now! Thanks
I know I should be happier but I tend to let my age hinder me because I am 45yrs old. I could have done better with my life especially in the area of social skills. Thanks for you encouragement and I pray I find abundant happiness and fulfillment. I’ve let my disappointment turn into pessimism. I pray I change my attitude to optimism and change my future.
Hey Errick, you’ve given yourself the right prescription here. Looking back and thinking, “it could’ve been better” will make you miserable. Looking back and thinking, “it could’ve been worse” will make you feel grateful and happy.
Likewise, looking forward with pessimism will make you miserable, while looking forward with optimism will make you happy.
Just a matter of training your mind and your attention to go where you want it to go… hence, to optimistic and appreciative thoughts. It will take time to change your thinking/attentional patterns, but what are the options? 🙂
(Psychologists would refer to this form of training as “cognitive therapy.”)
I really liked the way to put this in words…
Looking back and thinking, “it could’ve been better” will make you miserable. Looking back and thinking, “it could’ve been worse” will make you feel grateful and happy.
yeah, and the science proves it! 🙂
I am 50 yrs old. Today self made orphan. My mother died when I was 35 yrs. Whether it is my brother or father or society everyone has found fault at me. My friends when they want leaving my work aside had made time for them. But today they have to time to check if I am alive or existing for days together. Tired very tired of this world. Every one laughs with you when it is happy but when sad – You end up yourself alone as the death day where you travel alone. For some life is beutiful for some life is very lonely.
That is very much true: For some life is beautiful; for others a seemingly never-ending horror show. We don’t hear about the latter very often, but they must be much more numerous than any of us can imagine. Life is tough. And it’s unfair. And many people are struggling for no reasons of their own. All we can do is accept that and take it from there. Find a way to reframe things and move to a brighter future.
you are absolutely right and thank you so much for opening my eyes. there were the days in my life when i were pushing my days with all my strength without much thinking about my future but from last 4 years i am fearing from my future because i am always limiting the possibility of positive and expanding the negative. i am overthinking and fearing from my own actions, i am going to get out of my bed early every morning and engage my self in my works. thank you so much once again, your article is indeed a eye opener.
My pleasure! Glad to be of service 🙂
I suffer from depression but honestly its really your thinking that makes a diffrence i would love to learn to reprogram myself how though?
You could try cognitive therapy for depression. That’s one way to reprogram your thinking patterns. The most famous book on the topic is “Feeling Good” by David Burns. It’s helped a lot of people.
Thank you for the simplest and basic information I really needed to hear. Wow, several items checked my list. I entered Not Happy with life and I didn’t think I’d find anything.
My pleasure, Cathy! 🙂
Literally what I did
Umm this article basically called us lazy ungrateful people with no goals in life thanks for nothing dude♀️
That’s not what the article says, Kayla. That’s just your perception/interpretation. And frankly, if that’s your habitual way of interpreting life, then that’s an obvious reason why you might be miserable. Sometimes the truth stings a little…
I’ve got no goals because since retiring I’ve got no money! I’m now part of the generation that chooses to buy medication, pay doctor bills or eat. This is a form of slow death!!!
And those of us that are active, live rich fulfilling lives, have real relationships, still wonder what’s wrong with us as a hack job like Nils tries to blame us for feeling depressed.
I would probably be miserable too if I tried so hard to misinterpret someone’s writing just to make them feel bad. That being said, if you truly are active, live rich and fulfilling lives, and have real relationships, then the reason likely lies in your biochemistry. Maybe you have naturally low serotonin levels, or naturally low dopamine or your body can’t process magnesium properly, or you’re producing too high brain waves of a certain kind. Whatever it is, in that case, you would have to investigate those options.
this is the shittiest article ive ever read. this makes me feel as if you dont know what depression is?? some people are ‘lazy’ because they literally cant mentally bring themselves to do anything. all of these points seem like your talking down to us. even if someone didnt have all these things listed here they can still be unhappy with their lives.
Totally agree with your points, Kayli. The article comes across the wrong way for some people. I would like to clarify: I’m not judging or blaming anyone here. I’m not saying it’s your fault if you’re unhappy. I’m not saying you’re an idiot for being unhappy. I’m not saying you’re a loser if many of these 17 reasons apply to you. In fact, many of these reasons apply to me as well.
The article is meant to show you reasons for being unhappy that you might not yet be aware of… that you might not have taken into consideration so far. If, for example, you’ve never invested much time in building your social circle… and haven’t realized that social is massively important for health and happiness… then you may commit to working on that point in your life… and that, in turn, will help you become happier.
In complete honesty, you shouldn’t generalize this article with people who seek to not look for happiness. Most people, me being one of them (and also assuming this is the reason), comes to this question because they were happy and no longer are for unknown reasons, and have never had anyone in their life to express how it is to get things out appropriately. I was honestly the complete opposite of who I am now, and when it changed it, it happened over night. It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s that we don’t know what the problem is. I tend to take all my problems on my own shoulder, while also picking up other (just because that’s the type of person I am). I have never had a problem until now, which is a serious problem. While reading this article, within the first paragraph I knew the author of this article isn’t really speaking from experience, rather than personal input on a subject they don’t quiet understand. If you have a depressed person or a person not knowing what depression even is, and yet is exhibiting all the symptoms, you don’t look at them and go “oh no you’re just lazy.” or “No no you aren’t sad, its just your ownself bringing you down.” when in the case of some, that is not the case. I have a healthy image of myself, and yet here I am struggling. Email me or individuals like myself to really dive deep into the root of the problem, and not just assume people have a bad social life, health problems, or are introverts to the point of depression. I am not saying I am by any means a professional, but this article is honestly not informative nor helpful for the people you are seeking to reach. Maybe post in an area regarding people who just lack motivation, the points you make seem to fit more along the lines of that subject. There are many people who are not “couch potatoes” or “lazy”. Don’t really know who you are trying to reach with the points your making. Not attacking, just voicing an opinion towards a subject that was basically written for individuals such as myself.
You’re right, Vincent. I probably should add some caveats addressing some of the points you make and some additional ones.
If I am completely honest and I am. I recognize myself in every description you mentioned from the beginning to the end. And I really believe if anyone want to heal themselves from the unhappy germ, it starts with admitting that you have these issues. That’s the only way we can change it is to know we have these problems. It’s like a person who has bad breath or a body odor. Sometimes it’s take someone else to make them aware of the smell. They don’t know they stink and if they knew, they might just be happy you told them because they really did not know. Now they can get some new toothpaste and deodorant. I am really going to try some of the remedies you mentioned. I wish more people understood that your article is the medicine we need instead of rejecting the dose of love pills you just poured out. I really hope you have started using some of your own remedies. Because everything you mentioned is a real life prison life style and we all need to break out of jail ASAP. Thank you sooo much Nils. Genius is what I am calling you. To be honest I really knew all these things you mentioned was a part of my problem. I have also been trying some of the remedies on my own and when I do the things you mentioned I am always so much happier. So I totally understand you because I have had this discussion with myself one on one so many times it is embarrassing. So I get it.
Thank you so much for the kind words. Couldn’t agree more with you, and wish you the best of luck on your journey to greater happiness 🙂
Not the approach all people with depression dream of
First of, there is a reason why we can’t achieve some things ; having friends for example, of us really struggle so you can’t just say to us your social life sucks!
The real approach would be trying to tackle where the problem stems and identify it and come up with a solution constructive coping mechanisms not “ you’re depressed oh so don’t be depressed how bout you get your ass up and dust all of it under the carpet until it all comes out in some very regretful result…”
who ever the author is ? GET A REAL DEGREE THEB START LECTURING ADVICE TO DEPRESSED PEOPLE .
Hey there, Elly. I understand your points and would agree with you on most of them. However, as you’re reading this, you must try to see where I’m coming from and whom I’m addressing with this piece. This is not directed to people who suffer from depression. Rather, this is clearly written as a provocative, kick-in-the-ass type of article.
I see others making the same mistake as well. You are trying to deliberately misunderstand and misinterpret this article, and try to make it into something which it’s clearly not.
Of course you can’t just tell depressed people to “buckle up and be happy.” You can’t just tell chronic procrastinators to “just do it already.” I understand that.
I was just thinking, I fit all of these reasons, shit lol maybe its depression
Nicely done! I love this article, im going to stop watching the news in the morning I think that’s affecting my life..!:)
Awesome, Veronica! Let us know how it goes 🙂
I mean I always thought I was depressed because I’m an autistic and physically disabled person living in a society that actively punishes me for both those things and then calls me useless when I am unable to support myself, but yeah, maybe I am just lazy and unmotivated, and need to meet new people 🙂 incidentally, do you have any advice on how to do that while I’m bedridden, or was this advice just for people going through mid- or quarter-life crises and not people with actual problems?
The article is for anyone who doesn’t understand why they might be miserable or anyone who wants to feel better on a regular basis. If you think some of the points apply to you and your life, I suggest creating a plan to improve them. If you are bedridden, certain points probably don’t apply to you. However, you can still work on all the other points, no? 🙂
Thanks for such an enlightening article that makes me want to “get it together” and just be happy. With some regard, I think happiness is a choice, but the points made in this article just make sense and are definitely worth the effort!
Thanks, Kathy. Appreciate the kind words 🙂
The article was wonderful!! I am depressed and feeling down. I do take medication and these additional ideas just motivated me to look at what I haven’t been doing. Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I didn’t take it negatively at all.
Thanks so much for the feedback, Sherry. Appreciate it. And best of luck with overcoming your depression! 🙂
quit reading my mind Nils
Hah, sure thing!
I found some of these points very helpful. My spouse and I have been so zoned in on work, we haven’t done a social event all year, nor planned a vacation. I’ve stopped exercising which always made me feel accomplished & healthy. Probably why I can’t shake this. Thanks for these tips.
My pleasure 🙂
Good article but I feel like I don’t have the energy/spirit to try to fix my life and I don’t feel like I have anyone to go to for this. I don’t want to burden my friend’s with my problems or anyone in my life.
Psychotherapy/Counseling are always great options if you feel like you don’t have anyone else to talk to and discuss your struggles with.
Excellent article…but change the top image to happy one
Thank you, Moni. Glad you found the article helpful. I’ll think about the image 🙂
Love this article and everything is on point! people complaining about it is probably because they dont have self awarness enough to admit to these points, change is hard 🙂 great job!
Thank you, Matilda. Appreciate the kind words 🙂
The truth hurts though, I recognize myself in some of these a lot… like spot on… instead of blaming Nils for pointing out all these things (and even giving a suggestion to improve what’s wrong), I look at myself first. I’m the problem and I know it. This is an amazing article.
Thank you, Jake. Appreciate the honest words.
Great list. I think more than half apply to me, and I’m not mad at you for it. Lots of commenters here sound rather defensive.
Personally, when the items on your list didn’t apply to me I just moved on to the next one. I didn’t swear at my screen or lash out in the comment section. I wonder if the people who are mad at you are actually feeling the sting of the truth.
With that said, I don’t really know what to do about many of them. But hey, you gotta start somewhere.
Thank you for sharing, Ben, and I agree with you on those points. The article has to be understood properly.. and it seems many people seem to misunderstand it on purpose.. like you said.. perhaps because they’re unwilling to deal with the truth. I’m a big advocate of compassion, so my intention is never to hurt or bash someone.
Do you enjoy kicking people when they’re down? Seems like it. To call a person suffering from depression lazy is not only cruel but shows a complete lack of understanding of what people are going through.
You’re purposely misreading/misunderstanding the article.. My intention is not to kick anyone down. I’m not writing about clinical depression here. And trust me, I do have a very real understanding of depression. Also, just to be clear: Unhappiness is NOT the same as depression.
Thanks..!! I found some good points here. For months I was trying to figure out the reasons of my unhappiness. everything was in front of me but i was not able to see. this article has cleared a lot of things for me.
You have beautifully represented your study about oneself and how surrounding environment and people affect someone. Not everybody has this ability to observe the life in this way. god bless you.
I read some negative comments also, i just want to say that people need to understand that being unhappy is different from depression. This article is not about depression.
Cheers, Jatin. Thank you for sharing.
This whole article os so true. Thank you. You opened my eyes. Finding a job is what I have to do. I m such a lazy couch.
i work 48 hours a week. I just moved my daughter to her new job and i got to spend three days with my son and my daughter. I am not happy cause they they are over two hours away and i am divorced from their mom who i would do anything in the world for. So do better for an answer for me
Well, it sounds pretty obvious why you aren’t happy.. you just described why. Now, you can either change the situation or change your thoughts/emotions about the situation. The self-pity and (self-)blame certainly don’t help. Nor does the cynicism.
Understand: I don’t blame anyone for not being happy/satisfied. And my intention is not to make people feel even worse. My intention is to show potential reasons for unhappiness.. potential factors that contribute to misery. As far as your particular situation goes, that’s clearly a tough circumstance to be in. I’m not denying that. And I think it’s natural to not feel happy about it. I understand that.
Thank you for this Nils.
I can see why some people are upset by this article, especially those suffering from depression. I know in some of my depressive states, I would have felt attacked by this and taken some of it personally — but I’m not in that depressive state and I really appreciated this read.
This article reminded me of the things I used to do when I felt my best (meditate, paint, exercise daily). Things I’ve fallen out of and need to put into practice again. So again, thanks for this article!
Thank you for sharing, Gabrielle 🙂
It’s so true and cruel
I have nothing nice to say about this article. So i will keep my mouth shut. OK F>O>
i like this article, thank you very much
My pleasure 🙂
Thanks for the article, I’ve been depressed for a while, however after reading comments I understand that there are many choices to be made and this article highlights many choices and different perspectives.
You can’t help everyone, and we are the only ones who can help ourselves.