We’ve all been down in the dumps. Some of us are there right now.
While clinical depression is a medical condition that should be treated professionally, there are plenty of situations where someone is miserable because of controllable factors.
Read ahead if you’re looking to get your life back on track, and tackle the issues turning your smile upside down. Here are five reasons why you might have a miserable life — and how you can fix it:
1. You’re not grateful.
An article from Harvard Health Publications said that gratitude is one of the keys to developing happiness. You can’t be happy without being grateful for what you have.
Gratitude can be cultivated, like any habit. Grab a journal and write down three reasons why you feel grateful every day. I used to do this regularly, and would write things like, “I’m grateful I got free lunch at work today! Mmm. I love Panera.”
Gratitude items don’t have to be complicated. Being content with small moments of joy in your life can be enough. In fact, it’s probably better if you’re looking to find the magic in just about everything.
2. You don’t try to feel better.
I spent a full year after graduating from college being moping around and feeling sorry for myself. I was working in a small town, far away from everyone I loved in a job I hated. I felt so alone.
But I didn’t do much to counteract that feeling. I holed up in my apartment, where I watched Netflix by myself. No wonder I thought I had a miserable life. Looking back, I should have tried harder to make friends and be a part of the community.
Think about the advice you’d give a friend going through the same thing. Would you let them feel sad, or would you encourage them to try a few things that might help?
3. You’re not comfortable by yourself.
Much is made about the positive effects of socialization on mental health, but there’s a flipside. If you’re so dependent on other people to feel happy that you’re uncomfortable keeping your own company, it’s time to reassess.
I first learned this while I spent a summer interning in New York. I had a few friends in the city, and spending time with them helped me forget about missing my boyfriend and stressing out about my job.
It took a while before I felt comfortable doing what I wanted to do, even if it meant doing it alone. I quickly realized that my time off was scarce and precious, and if I wanted to see everything on my bucket list, I had to say no to my friends who wanted to do something else.
This wasn’t about trying to convince people to do the things I wanted to do. It was about saying, “I’m happy you want to go to Chinatown, but I want to go the Brooklyn Flea Market today. I’m fine whether or not you come with me.”
I would have loved to have company, but forcing myself to practice independence made me more confident and self-assured. That summer is when I learned how to be happy taking myself to the movies, to dinner, and to concerts. Friends are great, but sometimes you need to take yourself on a date.
Try doing things once a month by yourself. You’ll learn how to enjoy your own company and not rely on other people to make you happy.
4. You focus on the negative.
A friend of mine is always blunt about what she doesn’t like — even when it doesn’t need to be said. One time, we held a potluck and a mutual friend brought over homemade mushroom soup. She looked at the soup, realized it had mushrooms and said, “I’m not going to eat that.”
She wasn’t allergic to the mushrooms. She just didn’t want to eat them. When she said that, she put a damper on the mood and likely hurt our other friend’s feelings. At a different potluck, I mentioned how I loved the guacamole someone brought. She replied, “It had too many onions. When I ate it, all I could taste were onions.”
Don’t be this person.
When you zoom in on the negative aspects of a situation, they become all you can see. Like any habit, practicing negativity allows you to see it more clearly in every aspect of your life. It’s not a healthy quality for someone trying to live a happier life.
Take a step back and think about the good things. Maybe the soup has a delicious broth or you can’t taste the onions as much when you add more salt. The more you focus on the good, the more you’ll find it.
5. You compare yourself to others.
This is a habit that I’m trying to work on, but still trips me up. It can manifest itself even when I’m feeling happy about who I am.
For example, I can feel good about my body when I’m sweating in the gym. Until I see a girl with bigger muscles and a slimmer waist. I might feel fine about running errands in yoga pants and no makeup. Until I see a girl who looks totally put together.
In those situations, I try to remember that someone else looking great doesn’t make me an ugly duckling. Life doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game with clear winners and losers. I should be able to stand confidently by myself without feeling bad because I’m standing next to Barbie.
Once you pay attention to why you have a miserable life, you can find ways to tweak your day to bring more joy.