5 Happiness Tips for the Unemployed (and 15 Tips to Support Them)

Chairs by the Sea

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it” ~Charles Swindoll

Unemployment is up almost 10 percent and job opportunities are not necessarily speeding to catch up. It’s not always easy to stay positive when you’re dealing with uncertainty, particularly if you fell out of a comfortable situation and now have to adapt.

But if you’re willing to see the experience as a challenge, and possibly even an opportunity, you can find a sense of peace and fulfillment—not just once you find work, but while you’re in the process of looking. It’s not just cliché advice that sounds good on paper. It’s actually possible. Here’s how.

If You Are Out of Work

1. Don’t isolate.

Without work, some people become hermits. Most jobs involve some sort of social interaction, be it with co-workers or customers. For many people, the workday is also the most frequent opportunity for social interaction. Spending some time alone can be healthy; just make sure you don't take overdo it.

A lot of people feel ashamed or embarrassed about being unemployed, and as a result avoid social situations. As tempting as it may be to dodge friends and family, it can become a dangerous habit. You need support to make it through this transition with minimal stress and anxiety.

Aside from that, interactions allow you an opportunity to put your worries aside and have fun. You’re dealing with enough stress—don’t you deserve a break?

2. Remember that social connections are your biggest resource.

Another reason to stay social and engaged is that it’s one of the best ways to find your next job. When you’re struggling, the intimate seclusion found searching job lists and sending out endless resumes is enticing. While there’s nothing wrong with responding to job ads, it’s not nearly as effective as using your social network to find opportunities. It’s like they say: sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

3. Maintain a positive outlook.

Negativity is an easy habit because it creates the illusion of relieving frustration, but it actually just breeds more. And unfortunately, it doesn’t get you anywhere good.

Positivity, especially when things are tough, may not be your first reaction. No worries about the future with a smile. But if you try to maintain a positive outlook, you will keep yourself open to new things. If you’re convinced there aren’t any opportunities available, you won’t even try to find one—meaning you definitely won’t get one.

4. Stay open to possibilities.

It's ideal to think that life conforms to your plans. But it doesn’t. If it did, you wouldn’t be unemployed to begin with. Once you free yourself from a rigid path you think you should be on, you will open yourself to the new opportunities and roads that will present themselves. When this happens, be ready and willing to say yes.

It may mean taking a short-term contract job, or a lower level position in a new field. When your life path hits a roadblock you need consider the alternate routes available.

5. Take advantage of the extra time.

It’s often said that looking for work is a full-time job. That certainly can be true, but it’s a full-time job with a lot of flexibility. When you take away things like a commute, business trips, conferences and everything else that comes with a nine to five job, there’s a lot of extra time in the day.

It’s a good idea to maintain as much of your normal routine as possible. If you exercise three days during the week, make sure you keep doing that. If you wanted to work out five days but never had the time, well, now you do!

This is your time to focus on yourself—what you enjoy, what makes you feel the most fulfilled.

You don’t need to spend every waking hour stressing about finding work. If you put too much emphasis on where you need to be, you may find it’s self-defeating. Just because looking for work can be a full-time job, that doesn’t mean you need to walk around with full-time pressure.

If you didn’t lose your job, odds are you know someone who did. Here’s how you can help.

15 Simple Way to Support Someone Who Lost Their Job

1. Check in regularly…

…especially if you are close to them. Be their buoy, so they don't lose sight of the things in life they can trust.

2. Listen.

Really listen, without waiting to talk.

3. Invite them to do free stuff.

Even if they have money in the bank, with less or no money coming in, it will be easier for them to commit to free or cheap activities.

4. Exercise with them.

Or encourage them to do activities you know they enjoy. It's easier to stay upbeat when you feel good physically. (Those endorphins help!)

5. Help them get sunshine.

A healthy dose of sunlight can improve your mood and help you get better sleep. Boost your friend's spirits by helping them get out of the house for a walk when the sun shines.

6. Understand that their life is different for now.

It can be strange to have so much time and uncertainty, particularly if they had a lot of structure in their day previously.

7. Acknowledge their feelings.

They may or may not talk about them, but they feel something no matter what. If they don't open up, you can share a story about a time in your life when you felt uncertain.

8. Laugh.

Humor helps everyone cope. Help them take things less seriously. They’re unemployed, not comatose. There’s still a lot to enjoy!

9. Make a list of things you value in them…

…maybe things an employer would appreciate, and give it to them.

10. Offer to review/edit/spruce up their resume.
11. Send them job posts that you think match their skill set.
12. Offer to be a reference.

You obviously know them well and like them—your recommendation may be valuable.

13. Ask them what they really want to do, what they would do if they money wasn’t an issue.

Maybe they're considering taking this break to make a career change. That’s scary stuff, meaning they’ll need lots of encouragement.

14. Don't complain about your job.

Okay, if you must, try to keep it to a minimum. No matter how difficult your boss is, you can at least say you have a boss. (Which is exactly what your friend will think).

15. Check in with their family to see how they’re handling the change.

Anyone who depends on your friend will be affected in some way. What better way to be a friend than to remind them you’re there for support—for anyone who needs it.

People often think of unemployment as floating adrift somewhere between A and B; and then they try their hardest to get to B so they can be happy again. Get a consistent paycheck, settle in, and feel safe, secure, and certain. You’ll get there—but life is rarely certain. You only have this moment.

Unemployment provides a great opportunity to accept, adapt, and enjoy, even if things aren’t perfect now.

Photos here and here.

About Aaron Jacobson

Aaron Jacobsen is a freelance mental performance and health writer. He holds a graduate degree in Sport Psychology and tries his best to live the advice he gives to others. He co-wrote this post with Michelle Santos, a freelance writer and graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law. Specializing in grant and legal writing, she also writes about personal development and travel.

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  • BobMacSon

    Thank you so much for this post!! I recently lost my job & this has really helped me on the right path to turning my negative mood around. 🙂

  • Thank you for such a great article. Solid advice served in a non-preach-y non-coach-y way.

  • SoCalNewBeachBum

    I've been out of work since July. I'm living 1-5 and treating this time off as a 'gift of time' which after working for 25 years I never had enough time for the things I love to do, but the Support side has been lacking. I think some people (friends and former co-workers) just don't get what a psychologically devastating thing it is to be layed off. I chose to not start job searching until Jan this past year, however, not having much luck. …officially on Sabbatical, no longer unemployed;-)

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  • Philippa

    I agree with everything here. I've just got a job after being unemployed for 8 months. I think that I managed to do some of the things on your list and friends of mine did some of the ones on the list for friends – I really like that list.

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  • Shreejith

    Loved this article. I can connect it more as I’m unemployed from last 6 month

  • Samantha

    Thank you for this inspirational article. It’s just what I need right now. I’ve been unemployed for almost a year, and it has been a real struggle to try and stay positive. During such a low point in one’s life, you tend to find out who your true friends are. I had a really great friend that I have known since highschool. She was my best friend and someone who I thought I could trust and rely on for support. But because I wasn’t the normally cheerful, happy person that I used to be before being unemployed, she just stopped calling me and responding to my emails. It was a devastating loss for me, but it has given me the push to make new friends. Now I’m looking into joining a club or take a class so I can meet new people and move on with my life.

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  • maya

    thank you so much for the article! :)) my SO is currently unemployed for about 6 months, and it was really really difficult for him. I did my best to be his buoy (like the authors mentioned in the article) and it comes to a period of acceptance for him now, and he is still looking for a job.
    Unemployment is not only tough for the unemployed, but also for his/her closest ones (though we don’t depend on each other financially).

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  • Helen

    I whole heartedly agree, there are so many articles and blogs that tackle this issue that would have taken the preachy and ‘make you feel more under pressure’ approach. This article has been uplifting and defiantly is a much more realistic approach to this type of situ. Thanks tinybuddha 🙂 such a great site 🙂

  • Evergreen

    Thank you so very much for working to create this site. I appreciate the article. I am trying very hard to stay positive and motivated and hopeful. It was good to read on your front page about guilt NOT changing the past and anxiety not helping to create a future – I SO needed to read that. I’m having a tough time holding down a job. I worked in the same field for 15+ years and now that industry is dead, workers replaced by software and/or work is being completed overseas. Before and during that time, I raised 3 young men – all healthy, happy and kind. I have a long-term relationship. I am alive, housed, have food. All those very important things I am grateful for. Each job I find wants me to be fast, multi-everything, and the more difficulty I have learning and retaining the myriad skills I am taught, the more panic and anxiety I feel. And each time it gets harder for me to face it and I walk away with less of a feeling or belief in my self worth. One job had 33 duties listed with the last entry being “any
    additional tasks set out by your manager” and another job had 10 different
    reports with 13+ steps to each report AND the person training me rolling their eyes and not understanding why I just don’t get it yet? Another job, I was hired and began my training with the person who did NOT get the job … er, very awkward … and the situation did not improve. Now, here I am, age 50, which seriously does not make this easier. Please keep on pumping out the positive, Tiny Buddha! And thanks to whoever reads my vent 🙂