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10 Habits of Unhappy People (And How to Fix Them)

“Ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.’” ~Marianne Williamson

Have you ever felt that something was missing in your life?

Who am I kidding, everyone has.

I used to be unhappy. But not just unhappy—miserable.

I’d look at other people and wonder what they had that I didn’t. I was sick of living my life. And being sick of it was the tipping point that changed it all. It’s what got me moving in the direction of what made my heart sing.

As I moved forward, I discovered that what was making me miserable wasn’t outside of me, but the habits I had built up over the years.

I’d like to share with you what those habits were, and how I overcame them.

1. Waiting for clarity.

I thought that in order to do what I loved and be happy, I had to know where I was going.

Turns out that wasn’t. It was just a thought that I believed.

When I took action despite feeling confused, and simply did my best, I discovered that I could always take one step forward, clarity or no clarity.

It was like walking in a heavy fog. As long as I kept moving forward, more of my path revealed itself. But if I stood still, nothing would happen.

Fix: Don’t wait for clarity. Listen to your heart and take one tiny step forward. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

2. Seeking permission from others.

I wanted others to tell me I was on the right track. The more I did this, the emptier I felt inside.

Why? Because I was giving my power away. Instead of listening to my own guidance system, I was relying on someone else.

It was confusing and disempowering.

I’ve never had an easy time trusting life. I worry a lot. But over the years I’ve realized that trusting myself is the only way toward living a fulfilling life.

Once I stopped trying to seek permission, or figure things out, my inner wisdom grew stronger, because it was no longer clouded by thoughts.

Fix: Don’t look to someone else for validation for your dreams. Go after what makes you come alive. That’s enough.

3. Hoping for future salvation.

Another unhelpful habit I have is living in the future, thinking that reaching my goals will make me happier.

However, I’ve noticed that once again, this is just a thought that I give power to.

I’ve also noticed that I’ve reached plenty of goals that I thought would make me happy, but didn’t.

Like me, you’ve probably heard the following phrase over and over again: “Happiness comes from the inside. It’s available right here, right now.”

For a long time, I wondered, “That’s all fine and good, but how do I use that in my life?”

The answer was to witness my thoughts and let them pass by. I don’t have to believe every thought that tells me that the future holds the key to my happiness.

Once I let those thoughts pass, I noticed that there’s a source of joy within, always available to me.

Fix: When you find yourself living in the future, just notice what you’re doing. Let go of the tendency and observe what’s going on. This is a practice, so don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect.

4. Wanting to take big leaps.

When I get caught up in thinking that the future will save me, I want to take big leaps. I want to hurry to my goal.

Yet this behavior makes reaching my goal less likely. It introduces sloppiness into my work. It produces an aroma of selfishness.

But, if I let things take their time, and if I let those thoughts pass, there’s a sense of peace.

As I write this, I’m not in a hurry. I sense the wanting to finish, but I witness it. I don’t get involved. Then I return my focus to writing and letting the words flow on paper.

And my soul smiles. My heart nods. My breath deepens.

I remember: “This is it. This is life.”

Fix: Big leaps assume that happiness is in the future. Take a deep breath. Notice how much happiness is available right now. No big leaps needed, just a remembering of who you are.

5. Having faulty expectations.

For a long time, I believed that I could eliminate negativity from my life.

But every day does not have to be a happy day.

Life is sometimes difficult. The problem isn’t the difficulty, but how I relate to it. If I think it shouldn’t be there, I suffer.

Again, it comes down to my thinking. Life is as it is; my thinking creates my experience of life.

When I notice my expectations, I can let them be. This doesn’t mean I don’t feel the sting of something I label as bad; it simply means that I don’t have to pour more gasoline on the fire.

I can’t control life, but I can control how I use my attention.

I don’t have to change my thoughts; just notice what’s going on and how I’m creating my experience of the present moment.

Fix: Notice how your expectations make you unhappy. Bring your attention to this moment. Do the best you can with what you have.

6. Taking your thoughts seriously.

“You’re not good enough.”

“You’ll end up homeless if you follow your heart.”

“What will people think of you?”

We all have thoughts that freak us out. Yet I have days when I don’t care about those thoughts.

So what’s different between the good days and the bad days? Simply my state of being. When I feel good, my emotional immune system is more stable.

I remember that my feelings are simply an indication of how trustworthy my thinking is. When I feel bad, it’s a sign that I need to take my thinking less seriously.

When I feel good, that’s when I can solve problems. But often I find that problems solve themselves, if I’m willing to get out of the way.

So what I’m repeating over and over again is the fact that it’s our thinking that makes us unhappy, not our circumstances.

Fix: Experiment with taking your thinking less seriously for sixty seconds at a time. See what happens and how you feel.

7. Playing things safe.

When I push the boundaries of my comfort zone, I tend to get anxious, afraid, and worried.

But after a while the discomfort becomes comfortable. It becomes familiar.

What changed? My thinking.

When I let anxious thoughts pass, eventually my thinking returns to normal. But if I try to figure things out, I prolong the “healing” process.

I’ve realized that to be fulfilled in life, I have to grow and challenge myself. To do that, I need to step outside my comfort zone. I have to stop playing things safe.

There are no guarantees in this world.

All I can do is follow my heart and be aware of my thinking. That’s it. I’ll have scary thoughts, but that’s okay. I can still take one tiny step forward.

Fix: Become aware of the fact that being outside of your comfort zone is simply believing a different set of thoughts. You can always listen to your heart, and take the next step.

8. Focusing on lack.

I can have wonderful relationships, do work I love, and have life go swimmingly.

But if one thing goes wrong, and I focus on it, I make myself miserable.

And the thing about life is that there will always be something “wrong.”

The key to happiness isn’t to get rid of your problems, but to learn to live with them. To notice how your thinking gets you in trouble.

This doesn’t mean I neglect problems. It means that I don’t stress over them. I solve them as well as I can, but I don’t try to force solutions.

I’ve noticed that when I stop thinking, I allow my inner wisdom to help me. I often get solutions to problems when I’m not thinking, such as when I’m on a walk, washing dishes, meditating, or in the shower.

I do my best and then I let go.

Fix: Notice your tendency to focus on the thoughts that tell you something is wrong. Rest your attention in the witness of those thoughts. You are not them. You can observe them, and breathe.

9. Resisting obstacles.

For years, I ran away from challenges because I saw them as obstacles to getting what I want.

And I thought getting what I wanted would make me happy.

But then something changed: I saw that these obstacles weren’t obstacles, but stepping stones helping me follow my calling.

Instead of remaining in the habit of resisting obstacles, I get curious. I ask myself: What can I learn from this?

Everything seems to have a purpose.

The more I surrender to life, the more powerful I become. And to me, this surrender simply means not trying to figure everything out, or trying to control life.

Fix: Don’t fight life. Embrace life. Become curious about the problems in your life. Don’t rush to fix them. Let them be for a while and notice the results.

10. Neglecting your calling.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to happiness is neglecting your calling.

When I neglect my heart, my purpose, my inner wisdom, I become miserable.

And the way I neglect my calling is through thinking too much. Thinking that something is wrong, or that I’m on the wrong track.

When I notice this mental habit, I let it be, and I take a deep breath.

To follow my calling, I have to let go of what I think my path looks like.

I can’t figure out where my life is going, I can only live it one moment at a time. That’s scary to my mind, but that’s okay. I can let thoughts pass, and I can rest my attention in my heart.

Fix: Let go of what you think your life should be, and let it become what it was meant to be. Live life one moment at a time. It’s all you can do anyway.

Happiness is not something you get, but something you are. What’s stopping you from being happy is taking your thoughts too seriously.

You have wisdom within you, waiting to guide you. All you have to do is let go and observe how you stop yourself from accessing it.

It’s not easy. It’s a practice. Sometimes it takes time.

But notice that even the rush to get it right is a thought. Let it be.

Do your best.

Follow your heart.

And remember to breathe.

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  • Intrigued

    This is a fabulous list and worth referring to from time to time as we can so easily fall back into unhelpful habits. Number 8 is a big one for me, I’ve just heard I haven’t got a job I wanted and instantly everything about life is less than satisfactory.

    I’m often confused by the notion of a “calling” – many articles on this website refer to following your dreams or living your passion but I can honestly say I don’t know what that is. Whether I sit and think very hard about what I enjoy doing or whether I sit back and try to subliminally let the idea come to me.. a big blank zero is always the result. I’m just hoping my calling isn’t doing my current job and being an exhausted mum for the rest of my life.

  • Heya,

    I didn’t know what my calling was until I did. If that makes sense. Instead of trying to figure it out, bring your attention to the present moment.

    Notice what you feel compelled to do right now. What feels magnetic? Think small. Instead of thinking in terms of “write a book,” “speak,” and so on, think in tiny steps.

    If you want to write, write 100 words in a journal. If you don’t feel like doing anything, give yourself time to relax, to stop trying to make sense of things.

    This was never easy for me. I was often confused. But what helped me was to take one tiny step at a time, and do my best with what I had.

  • Cleo

    I’m with you there Intrigued.

    I’m assuming that if we follow our passion, dreams, etc, the result would be a sense of fulfillment. The work that I do pays the bills, but it certainly does not feel fulfilling. I’ve asked myself if I didn’t have to go to my job every day what would I do, and my only answer is ‘not work.’ So, I just practice not taking my thoughts about this too seriously and try not to turn this into a problem. Whatever unfolds will unfold, stay open to life, etc. Mind has a loud voice sometimes.

  • Lynn Skidmore Feulner

    Amazing words of encouragement !! Thank you so much!!

  • Such a great way to put it. And I love your mindset. The chattering mind can indeed take over at times.

  • Thank you for reading 🙂

  • What a pleasure to read. Great way of describing how we create our experiences! For some reason or another, the last “fix” suggesting to let life become what it was meant to be seems a bit contrary to most all other points made here, or at least, what I gather from those points.

    Considering that life is what we make of it, one can gather that our lives aren’t necessarily meant to become or develop in a specific way; but rather, it’s steered in the direction that it’s going to go based on many different factors including our actions, beliefs, circumstances and dispositions. Just a thought.

  • Makayla

    “I do my best, then I let go”.
    I struggle with having to have everything “right” before I can be happy. Being a perfectionist..nothing is ever “right”. My mind is always in what I need to do to be happy. I need to remember that I can only do my best, then let go. 🙂

  • Yup. No need to always take the mind seriously 🙂

  • That’s a great point, Nicole. I find it hard sometimes to write about these things, because the deeper we go, the more contradictory things become. At least that’s what I’ve found.

    The way I see is that letting life become what it was meant to be is a letting go. Letting life do what it does, without constantly trying to manipulate it.

    And then, life is what we make of it, is simply being present and using what we have, and being where we are.

    Hope that makes sense 🙂

  • Amalia

    I LA LA LA LOVE this!! Every number listed is on point and I like how you did a “fix” at the end of each. I especially relate to #2 and learning to follow my heart without seeking validation from others. Great work and I really appreciate you sharing this =)

  • Thanks for the kind words, Amalia. And thanks for reading!

  • Nadine

    I needed to read this. Thank you! (:

  • Talya Price

    Thank you for this. I needed to read this today.

  • Nicky

    I really needed to read this article today! Thank you. After leaving a comfortable, yet unfulfilling job to seek out my true purpose, I have stumbled on a self imposed road block. I let fear of the future (losing all of my money, then my home; unexpected emergencies; failure) block my journey. I’ve pretty much just shut down and have lost hope in allowing myself to realize my calling. This article has brightened my day. I do take my thoughts to seriously, so much so that they have become too heavy! I’m saving this wonderful article as a helpful reference.

  • leah.d.h.

    Usually don’t like “list articles” but this one s great! getting familiar with these ideas little by little. thanks

  • Branden

    Hi Nicole, I must have been reading this as you were at the same time, and when I finished your picture was right there:) I don’t know why, but my heart told me to write a reply to you, I feel comfort in your smile, and I don’t really know, can’t explain. As mentioned in the article, I wont try to analyze just enjoy the moment for what it is. Have an excellent weekend:)

  • jazz

    this totally make my day better !! 😀

  • Stuart

    This is something I needed to read right now, thankyou.

  • Purple Diary

    Thank you 🙂

  • Marsha

    This is reminding me of something a man said to me a week ago. I went to a street faire up in a small mountain community. Everyone was parking along side of the road, half on the dirt and half on the pavement in front of houses and cabins. I found myself searching for the “right spot”, not too close to the street, not too close to someones gate, driveway, etc., etc. I stopped and asked a fellow out in front of his house who was having a yard sale where the best place to park was. He looked at me and smiled and said “Anywhere! You are overthinking it. Just park your car as long as you are not blocking a gate or driveway. I was tiptoeing around in my car, frustrating myself. I parked about 10 ft. away, part on the dirt, on the other side of a tree. The man smiled and waved at me. I said “You were right – I WAS overthinking!” Thank you!

  • Nicole

    THANK YOU for this. Beautifully written, and it really touched home for me. I may have to print this out:)

  • Robin

    Thank you for writing this article, it was as if you were reading my mind.
    So happy, I came across your article, you write beautifully.

  • Nice. Great story 🙂

  • Glad to hear you liked it, Nicky!

    Isn’t it interesting that the fear of the future and losing your money, is actually making it more likely that it will happen by shutting you down?

  • Yenny

    Hi.. Same thing happened to me, am struggling to get job that I like. Am currently stuck in a job which is totally a different role. I was out of my comfort zone and am trying hard to adjust. To make it worse, I have kind of regretted leaving the old job. I feel miserable….. Things do happen for a reason, I do need to keep that in mind and keep believing in god for he might have a better plan for me…

  • Sing Sing

    Thank you. This really resonated with me.

  • Cida Martins

    Henri, your post is amazing and really made me think different about life and the way I’ve been giving so much attention to my thoughts. Thank you so much for this inspiring article!!

  • Hi there,

    If what you are doing is really a calling in your life, you will wake up everyday and look forward to working on it. That is what I felt when I found my purpose and passion.

    Edmund

  • T

    Thank you Henri. Standing still in a cloud of indecision, confusion about finding the ‘right’ path, waiting for clarity to arrive like a bolt of lightening is very tiresome. Have been struggling on and off for a long time, trying to find my calling… It’s perhaps time as you say to take a step, any step. To move and get comfortable with the not knowing.
    Thanks again for the post.

  • Intrigued

    Hi Edmund, that’s definitely not what my job sounds like! My struggle is trying to find out what I *should* be doing. Nothing has come to mind over the last few years whilst I’ve been open to finding out what it could be.

  • HB

    This was a touching article….thank you so very much for sharing!

  • Ankur Srivastava

    Thanks. It’s wonderful to read this. I got many of my answers. 🙂

  • Ashley

    I thought I was the only one who thought/felt this way. Thank you for helping me feel not so alone. This is an amazing list, I will have to try all the fixes because I’m going through all your befores. Im just turned 20 & it feels so hard to change my negative thinking but I have to start. Thank you again for your wisdom.

  • Henri! What an insightful post! You put a lot of great content into it that really spoke to me. I have a habit of worrying a lot about my future and trying to control it, but reading this makes me see that I need to “let go” more and allow the natural flow of my life to take place. Thanks – check out my blog if you’d like to connect 🙂

  • Absolutely. And if it seems scary to let go, make it into an experiment. Let go for just 5 minutes. Tiny steps work for me 🙂

  • Do what you can with what you have. Sometimes our thinking seems overwhelming, but just the awareness that it’s overwhelming is progress. So you’re doing fine 🙂

  • Excellent post Henri, I was nodding throughout. This way of seeing the world has changed my experience of life. Being mindful and present, moving out of my comfort zones… yes.. so necessary. Thank you for sharing what is in my heart also.

  • Miranda Linkous

    So guilty of these in weeks past. Thank you for such a diverse list and concise explanations. This journey is a balance of thought, gut, and feel (I just see my brain, belly, and heart illuminated when I let each part have its turn)

  • May I suggest the main problem is chasing happiness in the first place?

  • Maryann

    One word…WOW!!! It’s like you channeled Heaven with the exceptional information you have written in this article. Absolutely what I needed to read at this moment in my life. You are an inspiration Henri! Keep up the fantastic work and know that you are helping tons of people by sharing the wisdom you receive 🙂 <3 xoxo

  • penny

    Absolutely delighted to read this post! At this point, I am seeking inspiration to continue without giving up. Its like I have everything in life and yet I feel I have nothing….No purpose in life. I know I have all the resources to do anything I want but I have no desire to do anything.

  • GuessWho

    Those are the thoughts of a brave soul. Thumbs up!

  • Ned Smed

    Henri, being such a ‘published’ author with such impressive credentials to be the counsellor you seem to be, has anyone ever told you that you’re a wanker? And that you shouldn’t TELL people what they have to do to “fix” their problems??? No wonder your courses are still free…..

  • Bunnny

    This is a wonderful article.

  • Mehmet Ali

    Thanks a lot, i will this this over and over on a regular basis like once a month.

  • SJ21

    Hi Intrigued. I am wondering if you have found out what you should be doing yet?

  • David G Stone

    Reading this article is like looking directly into a mirror. I exhibit all these habits and have been unhappy for the majority of my life. I’ve never been able to shake the negative thought patterns but never did much about it either. Even when I made some small victory that I did genuinely feel joy my thoughts would always tell me I was not deserving or it was just pure luck I succeeded even though I knew I made the effort.. I have a tendency to listen to that lie. I’m so glad you wrote this with the addition of “fixes.” There has been a lot of articles on this site that seem to be speaking to me. Maybe the Universe is trying to tell me that its time to try something and stop being comfortable being uncomfortable. Intellectually I know what I have to do but have waiting for someone to give permission. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help and I can see life as it is for other people and they would tell me that I’m so insightful when I give advice but I can’t seem to take advantage of this talent to help myself because I let my limiting beliefs and paralyzing fear of the unknown stop me before I even start. I will definitely be trying the fixes mentioned to change this because I can’t live like this anymore…I’ve had enough!!!

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  • Karl Stott

    Great article. Keep up the good work. And thanks to tiny Buddha for being a conduit for such inspirational stuff.

  • Christine

    Thank you….lately I have keep going after one goal to another..thinking I will be happy, satisfied and find peace when I do…I do achieve my goal and realise I got myself into another pool of misery…its running from one misery to another…they just come in different forms…and trying to mask all the pain and memories….while I’m running as further away as possible…I’m carrying the bitterness, hurt and anger along with me. I moved to another country, but I could not block out the memories and emptiness.

  • Lisa Doyle-Greenhall

    Just what I needed today. It has has been five months since I lost my Dad, and to read this list, and decide how I am going to live the rest of my life. Thank you.

  • Fantastic article that gives a lot to think about. Thanks so much!

  • Shannon Fargel

    this literally made me cry multiple times because it’s exactly how my brain works. i’ve never read anything that so perfectly encapsulated all the things I do to keep myself down. thank you thank you thank you thank you forever.