Being unhappy is horrible. It can take over your life and suck all that is good and joyful out of it. None of us wants to be unhappy, but many of us are.
One thing many of us don’t ask ourselves is why we are unhappy. We have a vague understanding that our lives are not what we hoped they would be, but we don’t know specifically why.
In an effort to help you identify what specifically is making you unhappy I have five questions for you. Answer them in terms of your own life and you will get the answers you are looking for.
#1—Are you proud of the choices you are making?
All of us having internal guiding principles that are important to us, things such as the importance of trust or honesty or loyalty. These guiding principles light our path to living our best life, but unfortunately they can get lost as life happens.
Do you know what your guiding principles are, and are you living them?
I have a client who was having an affair with a married man. He made her deliriously happy, or so she told herself. But still she didn’t feel good about her life and she didn’t know why.
I asked her what her guiding principles were—what was most important to her in a relationship?
After some thought and discussion she realized that the truth was of paramount importance to her. And that nothing about her relationship with the married man was based on truth.
“Are you able to live with that?” I asked. “And be happy?”
The answer was no, and she soon moved on to a relationship that was based on truth and trust…and she is happy!
#2—Is your relationship making your heart sing?
Our romantic relationships are very important, more important than many of us recognize.
In this modern world we are told that we should be able to take care of ourselves and that to rely on another to bring us some happiness is a sign of weakness.
But this just simply is not true.
Happy relationships provide much that is essential to human survival: commitment, communication, touch, sharing, sex, support, laughter, joy, sex. When we have those things our lives are fuller, we are satisfied, and we are loved. Other things can bring us down, but the foundation of a good relationship helps us when we founder.
Being in a relationship isn’t necessary for happiness, but being in a relationship that is toxic puts you on the surest path to being unhappy.
I have a client whose husband was always one of two things: absent or drunk. She wasn’t sure which was worse—his not being in the house or being drunk when he was. What she did know was that it was making her miserable. She was always hoping that things would change, but they never did. She was alone in her marriage.
And the rest of her life? It foundered. Her parenting suffered, she stopped eating well and exercising and gained 20 pounds, her work was neglected, and her crabbiness made her friends stay away.
What did she do? After much deliberation and overcoming lots of fear, she asked him to stay absent and she is fighting her way back to herself, on the path to living the life of her dreams.
#3—Do you make a difference in the world?
I know you are going to say that you just don’t have time to volunteer. How could I possibly ask you to do that?
I am not going to ask you to do that. Although if it appeals you should try it. Volunteering makes the world go ’round.
What I mean by making a difference is asking you how you interact with others in the world. Did you smile at the checkout person at the grocery store? Do you hold doors for other people? Do you refrain from giving the finger to the man who cut you off in his BMW? Do you pick up trash that you see in the street?
All of these things contribute to the world in a small way, and doing them will make your life better as well. The act of smiling at someone will actually make you and the person you smiled at happier. Holding doors for people makes them feel noticed, and you made it happen. Not giving someone the finger will allow you not to feel the pain of remorse in the middle of the night. And picking up that trash will literally make the world a more beautiful place.
So make a difference in the world every day. It will make you happier. I promise.
#4—Do you feel healthy and strong?
You know when you go out on a long dock and it’s old and creaky and with each step you wonder if you are going to end up in the water? If you aren’t healthy and strong like a good dock, you could find yourself drowning before you know it.
Taking care of yourself is the key to a foundation from which happiness can grow. Eat well, but don’t deprive yourself. Exercise, but only so it makes you feel good. Do one thing that makes you happy every day, like a massage or lunch with a friend. Find a life coach to get the support that you need.
If you feel healthy and strong, you will be able to take on whatever life throws at you.
Wouldn’t that feel great?
#5—Do you challenge yourself?
I know that I have my routines. I get up, walk my dog, do some yoga, work all day, walk my dog again, do errands, have dinner, take a bath, and go to bed. Pretty much every day.
As a life coach I know that while routines are good for keeping us on track, it is essential to challenge ourselves. Challenging yourself will keep your brain going strong, keep you physically confident and get that adrenaline rushing.
What do I mean by being challenged? It can be anything.
When I got divorced I promised myself that I would start doing all of the things that scared me. I learned how to ride a jet ski (which was awesome), I conquered my fear of driving in the snow (which was convenient), I took up crossword puzzles (which has made me way smarter), and I can now use power tools. Except for a drill.
It’s so hard to imagine now not being able to do those things. Doing them has given me so much more confidence in myself—not only that I can do them, but that I challenged myself to overcome my fears and prevailed.
And did I mention that I was way smarter? That makes me happy.
Unhappiness to so many of us is the status quo. We assume that this is the way life is, and we must push through it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Happiness IS possible.
Are you making choices that feel good? Are you feeling loved and supported in your relationship? Did you make someone smile today? Is your foundation strong? Did you do something recently that got your adrenaline pumping?
If not, choose one and make it happen.
Happiness is yours for the taking. Today.