It’s impossible to feel happy all the time. Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes we’re up, sometimes we’re down.
This is completely normal and natural, and a phenomenon that can’t be avoided. Chasing some elusive permanent state of happiness is a futile exercise.
However, if you’re constantly going through life with a sense of dread, knowing that something is missing – usually it’s because there’s a problem with your daily habits.
Although you’re never going to attain a state of happiness that lasts forever, your life should always have a purpose. You should always feel like you’re moving towards the life that you imagine for yourself. This pursuit is what provides the meaning that helps you get through the days where you’re just not feeling it.
In this article, we’re going to talk about some of the most common habits of miserable people. If you’re finding that where you are right now is filling you with negativity and shame, then there’s a good chance it’s because you’re repeatedly engaging in one of these habits.
Here’s a list of the most common habits of miserable people – and more importantly, what to do about them.
#1 – Comparing Yourself to Others
It’s incredibly easy for us to look around at our peers and feel underwhelmed with our own lives.
The rise of social media means that other people have more insight into our lives than ever before. Regardless of the platform – Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter – everyone is trying to convey themselves in the best possible light.
As a result, we tend to internalize our struggles and develop the mindset that everyone has it better than us. We compare salaries, jobs, popularity, vacations, houses, and down the rabbit hole we go.
But the truth is that we’re only seeing the face that people want us to see. As Wesley Snipes said, “Don’t let the internet rush you. No one is posting their failures.”
The problem with constantly comparing ourselves to other people is two-fold. If we don’t stack up, we start to feel guilt and shame. When we start to feel guilt and shame, we become less motivated to go after things we want.
Someone will always have it better than you in some aspect of life. There’s always going to be someone with a nicer car. There’s always going to be someone with a bigger house. And unless you’re Jeff Bezos, there’s always going to be someone richer than you.
Does it mean that they are happier than you? Not at all. In fact, all of these people are fighting internal battles that you can’t even comprehend.
The only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday. Instead of concentrating on the achievements of others, focus on yourself and your own progress.
Take pride in the fact that you’re moving forward. Think about how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished up to this point. You can’t control what other people do, but you have total control over what you choose to do today.
And if you’re not moving forward and feel stuck? Then remember the fact that you’re still standing. You’re still alive and breathing, and you’ve made it through whatever turmoil has led to your current situation.
If you’re finding that sticking to new habits that move your life forward to be a difficult task, then feel free to check out my Free E-Book: 3 Steps to Creating Better Habits
You’ll learn a simple 3 step process for making any habit stick which will help you get unstuck and start becoming the person that you want to be.
#2 – Procrastination
Another one of the common habits of miserable people is procrastination, which is the act of putting things off that we know are important to us.
When we procrastinate, we’re essentially letting life pass us by and prioritizing short-term pleasure over long-term gain. The reason why procrastination makes us so miserable is because almost all of the things that we procrastinate are things that our inner wisdom is guiding us towards.
When most people think about procrastination, they think about work and productivity, but that’s not the full picture.
Once we repeat a habit enough times, it becomes a part of our identity. So if we develop the identity of someone who chooses instant gratification over our long-term goals, the negative effects of that identity are far-reaching.
We start putting off improving other aspects of our lives – relationships, mental health, sleep habits, exercise, etc. Once your brain labels you as a procrastinator, the domains in which you procrastinate are extensive.
Luckily, the two minute rule has been extremely helpful in helping me overcome my own battle with procrastination. Here’s how it works:
Whenever you feel yourself putting off a certain task, commit to sitting down and working on it for two minutes. After the two minutes are up, give yourself the option to stop working.
Based on my experience, there’s an 80% chance that you’ll keep going once you feel yourself making progress on something important. If you can master the art of starting, you’re well on your way to beating procrastination.
#3 – Not Sleeping Enough
Getting proper rest is an often overlooked component of living a happy life. Miserable people tend to underestimate just how detrimental not getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night is to their brain, body, and overall mental health.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have been preaching for years that one of the most overlooked health problems in the U.S is that many Americans are chronically sleep-deprived.
Just how much does lack of sleep impact our day to day life? Here are a just a few of the negative side effects of not getting enough shut-eye each night:
- Impaired memory
- Lack of concentration
- Increased stress
- Increased risk of depression
- Decreased motivation
- Decreased cognitive function
The bottom line is that we simply aren’t operating at our peak level when we don’t get enough sleep. We’re not ourselves. We get stressed out more easily. We have difficulty focusing on our work. We have less control over our emotions. It’s a recipe for disaster, especially if your sleep schedule has been erratic for quite some time.
Researchers at the University of Michigan even concluded during a study that making an extra $60,000 a year has less of an impact on your daily happiness than getting an extra hour of sleep each night.
If you want to be happier and have more energy, it’s imperative that you get your body on some sort of schedule. In a perfect world, you should fall asleep and wake up in the same one hour window every day.
However, we don’t live in a perfect world. You might have a late night at the office one night and not get home till 4 a.m. You might find yourself out late with friends on a Saturday night and not able to get to bed at a reasonable time.
Sleep is important, but it shouldn’t stop you from living your life either. The goal here is to simply win more often than not. If other obligations make it difficult to get to bed at the same time consistently, at least aim to wake up around the same time every day. This will still be sufficient enough to get your body acclimated to a schedule as long as your bed time isn’t wildly erratic.
If you find yourself struggling with hitting the snooze button on a daily basis, then a trick that I like to use is putting my alarm clock on max volume and sticking it in a separate room.
This forces you to roll out of bed in order to turn your alarm off. And once you’re up and moving, you’re far less likely to walk back over to your bed for an extra hour or two of sleep.
#4 – Obsessing Over The Past
It’s easy to fall down the mental rabbit hole of analyzing the past. Our past experiences are always there lingering in the back of our mind, and they always seem to pop up at the most random moments.
Just thirty minutes ago, I was in the shower preparing to start my day and found myself thinking about some stupid thing I said to somebody in high school. And it wasn’t just a thought that came and went, it stuck with me for a couple minutes before I finally caught myself and got back to the present moment.
Occasionally reliving the past isn’t a big deal. Every minute, our brain is thinking about something, so it’s only natural that some of these thoughts will be about our previous experiences.
However, the difference between miserable people and happy people comes down to the way they interpret the past. There are two different ways to think about the past – rumination and introspection.
Introspection is about analyzing the past with an attitude of curiosity. Being introspective means looking at your previous experiences and drawing conclusions about the outcomes. It’s an exercise that helps you learn more about yourself, and arms you with the knowledge to avoid those same mistakes in the future.
On the other hand, rumination is about focusing on the regrets that we have. At those times, we’re not analyzing our past to learn and grow from it, we’re beating ourselves up because we didn’t do things a certain way.
Rumination doesn’t teach us anything about ourselves. All it does is make us feel shame and guilt, which are two emotions that miserable people experience quite frequently.
There are really two solutions here to reduce the impact that your past is having on your present state.
The first one involves leaning into your thoughts and noticing whether you are ruminating or being introspective.
How do you know the difference? It comes down to what you are gaining from thinking about the past.
If you are enjoying the past or drawing lessons from it, then you are being introspective. However, if your thoughts about the past are causing you to feel regret and bitterness, then you are ruminating.
The key to being introspective is to observe your past actions as if you were observing the actions of a stranger. Start asking yourself the question: “What can I learn from this experience, and how can I apply that lesson to my future actions?”
When you adopt this mindset instead of wallowing in your regrets, your past becomes full of valuable lessons that can be used to create a brighter future where you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
The other solution is to simply practice mindfulness and keep yourself grounded in the present moment. I know that the idea of living in the present moment might seem like an idealistic cliche, but it’s actually quite easy to put into practice.
Whenever you find yourself thinking about the past, or even the future, notice the thought and name it before returning your focus to the here and now. Simply say:
“Ah, there goes my mind thinking about the past/future, time to get back to the present!”
It’s a simple phrase, but it defuses yourself from your thoughts and keeps your focus on whatever is in front of you.
#5 – Not Owning Their Failures
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was the last person cut from the JV basketball team.
When the decision was final, my brain started swirling and hypothesizing thousands of different reasons why my name wasn’t included on the final roster sheet. Want to know the common theme that all of these reasons shared?
They didn’t place any blame on myself.
Funny things happen inside our brain when we experience failure. You have to understand that your brain has one goal – to make you feel good in the present moment. As a result of this, failure is a trigger for our brain to go into creation mode and come up with a narrative for the failure.
Failure feels bad enough, so the last thing our brain wants is for us to feel even worse by believing a story where we’re the one at fault. That’s why it will naturally latch onto the story that paints ourselves in the best possible light.
It feels good to think that we did everything we could to prevent failure, whether it’s true or not.
“It wasn’t my fault for not making the basketball team, the coaches had it out for me”
“If only I would have hit my growth spurt, I’d probably be starting on that team right now.”
After experiencing the pain of getting cut from the basketball team, these are the stories that I latched onto. My failure wasn’t about my lack of ability, it was because I was playing against a stacked deck. Here’s the fatal problem with latching onto narratives that free us from blame:
If you blame your failure on someone or something else, you have zero reason to change.
Failure is about acquiring real life feedback so that you don’t repeat the same mistake in the future. However, all of this potential knowledge goes out the window when you fail to accept responsibility for your failures. You don’t have any reason to alter your future actions because you’ve ingrained the belief that you weren’t the one responsible.
The most powerful mindset you can adopt in life is that everything is your fault. The good things in your life? You did that. You either put yourself in a position to deserve it, or took action and were rewarded for it.
But there’s a flip-side to that coin, because everything in your life that isn’t up to your satisfaction? Yep, you’re responsible for that too.
When you decide that you are the only person responsible for the outcome of your life, you no longer are a prisoner of external circumstances. You’re back in the driver’s seat of your own life.
If there’s one thing that miserable people hate hearing, it’s that they’re the one to blame. Embrace the discomfort that comes with taking responsibility for your failures and you might just find the information you need to grow from it.
#6 – Waiting To Be Happy
Oftentimes, we tend to suffer from “I’ll Be Happy When Syndrome.”
- I’ll be happy when I get a promotion
- I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds
- I’ll be happy when I find the right person
Unfortunately, most miserable people dig themselves a deeper hole by tying their future happiness to a specific event that they believe will make them feel happy and fulfilled.
We all should constantly be looking for ways to improve, but we also need to be mindful of the deceptive story that our ambitious mind likes to tell us.
Let’s say that you have a goal of losing 50 pounds.
In order to achieve this goal, you start a rigorous workout routine and muster up the willpower to stick with it long-term. After a few months, you step on the scale and see that you’ve lost 50 pounds.
In that moment after you step off the scale, you’re going to feel incredibly happy. You’ll get a massive surge of positive emotion and jump for joy at the fact that you set a goal and accomplished it.
Unfortunately, that feeling you get when you step on the scale is fleeting.
You might feel happy for a few days, or even a few weeks, but eventually the initial high wears off.
This is because of a phenomenon called set point-theory, which states that our happiness levels will naturally regress to baseline levels after a change in our circumstances.
Your brain doesn’t just call it a life and say, “Okay, we accomplished this goal! Time to take it easy for the next 50 years.” We’re genetically programmed to start looking for the next mountain to climb once we reach the summit.
If you are tying your happiness to a future event, you will constantly be searching for the next accomplishment that will make you happy.
- If you make a million dollars, you’ll want to make ten million more.
- If you lose twenty pounds, you’ll want to lose twenty more.
- If you buy a Lamborghini, you’ll want a Ferrari or a Mclaren to go along with it.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination. One of the major keys to happiness is to be happy with what you have while working for what you want.
You need to be grateful and ambitious. You need to strive towards your goals while maintaining perspective. Blindly striving towards the future means you’ll neglect the things you should feel grateful for in the present.
Every morning, try to write down just three things that you are grateful for. It’s a simple habit that will help you recognize the blessings you already have and keep you grounded as you continue to strive towards success.
Plus, studies have shown that daily gratitude is one of the key traits that happy people exhibit.
#7 – Seeking Approval
First off, breathe. It’s completely natural to want to belong. As humans, we’ve evolved to seek validation from the people around us.
It’s actually not a bad thing to seek approval from other people, especially those we respect. Wanting to please your boss helps you advance in your career. Wanting to please your parents helps strengthen your relationship with them.
Seeking approval becomes a problem when we focus too much of our energy on seeking validation instead of being our true selves.
Biologically, it feels good to belong. Knowing that we’re accepted by the people around us releases chemicals in our brain that boost our level of positive emotion. But if we get hooked by this feeling, it can become addictive to the point where we derive most of our happiness from how others perceive us.
The need for acceptance is a hard-wired survival instinct, and one that we can’t get rid of. However, we can all take small steps in order to feel satisfied with who we are – regardless of what others think.
Tip #1: Speak your mind.
One of the most common habits of miserable people who seek too much external validation is agreeing with everything, even if what’s said or done contradicts their own beliefs.
When we engage in this behavior, we’re devaluing ourselves and developing a rigid belief system that changes based on who we’re talking to. True self-esteem comes from sticking to your beliefs even when there’s a chance that you’ll be rejected because of it.
If you spend so much time trying to fit in, you’ll never stand out.
Tip #2: Get rejected.
Being afraid of rejection is a direct result of the need for approval. We often avoid uncomfortable situations because we’re afraid that someone will form a negative opinion of us.
We don’t ask our boss for a promotion because we’re afraid he’ll say no. We tell a friend what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear because we don’t want them to be upset with us.
All of these behaviors are manifestations of the need for approval. If you can gradually expose yourself to situations where you might get rejected, you’ll start to place more importance on being your authentic self instead of acting in a way that pleases others.
For more ideas on embracing rejection, you can check out this article – Comfort Zone Challenges That Will Change Your Life
Tip #3 – Learn To Self-Validate
The best way to build authentic self-esteem that isn’t contingent on external approval is to get to know yourself and act in accordance with your values.
Analyze what drives your actions by asking yourself why you do the things that you do.
- Why are you working a particular job?
- Why are certain friends in your life?
- What are you naturally interested in?
- Why are you interested in those things?
Answering these questions will help you get a sense of who you actually are and bring clarity to the things you value. When you can match your actions with your values, that’s a recipe for happiness.
Final Note on Avoiding The Habits Of Miserable People
We all want to feel happy, but oftentimes the pull of our familiar daily habits sabotage us and put us in the same boat as the miserable people that we vowed never to become.
Change and growth are not easy, but nothing is more difficult than staying somewhere you don’t belong. Happiness is a choice, it’s a product of your daily actions, and your daily actions are one of the few variables in life that you can control.
You can’t control what others think of you. You can’t control your past. You can’t even always control whether you succeed or fail.
But you can sit down and think about your life and put together a plan that will help you change for the better.
You can avoid the pitfalls that miserable people fall into by being aware of the habits that are sabotaging your progress and working to fix them. I hope that this article resonated and provided you with the clarity to do just that.