Why aren’t I happy?

So, you have the house, you have the partner, the great job, maybe even a couple of kids and a dog. Your Instagram and Facebook pages are filled with pictures of smiling faces, great holidays and drinking gin in the sunshine. Yet deep down you don’t feel happy, you don’t feel fulfilled, you feel like something is missing, you know you aren’t depressed but do have a general sense of discontent.

Well, for starters let me reassure you, you are not alone, social media warps the difference between fantasy and reality for us all (Kim Kardashian yes, I am talking about you). It creates the modern-day equivalent of that feeling of needing to keep up with the Jones.

It is also absolutely normal to have ebbs and flows in your mood and days when you feel fed up without actually being clinically depressed. But if you have a pervading sense that you want to be happier generally and you want to explore how to do just that… then read on.

I’ll be happy when...

We have all done it. I’ll be happy when… I lose a stone… I get that promotion… I can afford to travel more etc. And do you know what? You might feel happier when you achieve these things, but the likelihood is it won’t last, it will be replaced with a new 'I’ll be happy when…'.

So instead, stop living for a future state of happiness and embrace life now, so maybe you could do with losing that stone?! Don’t listen to that critical inner voice that is telling you to hide away inside until you lose it or that you will have a better time when you meet with friends if you are a dress size smaller. Go and enjoy that evening out and laugh until your sides hurt.

These moments of connection, of shared humour and experience and the resulting pleasure it brings lead to spurts of that happiness hormone dopamine being released. Allowing you to feel happy in the moment instead of statically waiting, projecting into a future state of happiness based on 'but when’s'.

Three positive things

A study by Seligman in 2005 found that if every day over a period of a week you identify and write down three positive things that have happened that day, you can actually change how happy you feel. In fact, of the 411 people who took part in his study, a massive 92% stated that they felt happier within just 15 days. In addition, the positive effects of the exercise lasted for six months or longer. Imagine that… being able to retrain your brain just by looking for the positives in life. It makes sense really doesn’t it? We all get stuck in a cycle of having a good moan of only seeing the negatives.

So tonight, when you go to bed, why not take a few minutes to write down three good things that have happened today and do that every night for the next couple of weeks and see if that has an effect on your feelings of happiness too.

Random act of kindness

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness? I have. A few years ago when my children were very young the person behind me in a queue insisted on paying for my shopping. I could not believe it, and that feeling of gratitude carried me out of Tesco in a haze of genuine appreciation and, yes, happiness.

Since then, I have tried to replicate that feeling for others, I’ve bought an extra bunch of flowers at the supermarket and given it to an elderly lady as I was walking to my car. I have stopped women in the street that I don’t know to tell them how fabulous they look. I have bought little gifts for friends who were feeling down and just left them on their doorstep, no fuss, no drama, no need for thanks.

And I tell you what, it feels good, I can’t think of anything else where the pleasure given and received is so equal (ok maybe one thing… but that’s another story!). Don’t just take my word for it either, a recent study found that people who engaged in random acts of kindness experienced a measurable increase in their positive emotions and a decrease in their negative ones.

Get a coach

Now as a life coach I often see people who feel like they want to be happier but aren’t sure how to go about it. The first thing we generally always do is explore their values. For nearly every client it is a revelation to them what their values actually are, it’s something they have never even thought about. Yet time and again you find that if your core values are at odds with how you are living your life then this sense of discontentment will be present.

So, for example if a core value for you is that you love to learn, but are in a job you could do with your eyes shut. Or positivity is important to you, yet you are surrounded by negative people - is it any wonder you are struggling to feel truly happy? A life coach can help you to identify these values and empower you to make changes so that you are living more authentically and, as a result, more happily.

Do what you love

That leads me to my next top happiness tip, it sounds simple but do what you love. Setting boundaries and learning to say no allows you to free up time for the things you actually enjoy. Now sometimes we can be so stuck on the hamster wheel of adulthood that we can lose sight of what we actually enjoy, or what parts of our life may need to change in order for us to feel happier.

Again, this is where a life coach can help, they can help you explore and examine the different aspects of your life… work... family… health etc to see which bits you are satisfied with, and which may need tweaking.

Now, cards on the table, making these changes isn’t always easy, it takes courage to move away from the usual. If, for example, you come to the realisation that it is your work that is ultimately making you unhappy and you decide to switch jobs, you are only human if you find yourself along the way yearning for the reassuring comfort blanket of the familiar.

But with the support of your coach, you can stay focused and accountable for your goals. The journey to it can be broken down into manageable steps that feel far less daunting. Ultimately leading you to a place where you are living in a way that is far more aligned with what makes you happy.

Social media blitz

Now let’s be honest, turning off your social media long-term is likely not practical or sustainable, but you can try taking a general break. A study by the Happiness Research Institute on the impact of social media found that people who took a break from Facebook for a week felt happier and were less sad and lonely.

So, log out, read a book, phone a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages, or maybe go for a walk. Instead of losing that half an hour of your life daily scrolling through endless pictures of people’s food, their relatives (who you have never met). Or watching videos of enormous spots being burst by Dr Pimple Popper (I know that’s not just me!).

Perhaps a more long-term solution is looking through your friends lists, the groups you are in, the pages/people you follow. If their content impacts negatively on how you feel about yourself, delete them. If you get a sense of anger about certain posts because you fundamentally disagree with them (there are those sneaky values again) then remove them. The power is in your hands!

Also maybe try not charging your phone in your bedroom so you can break that morning habit of scrolling through your feed. (Does anyone really need to give any time in their day to viewing Janet from accounts' weird rash on Facebook… go and see your GP Janet, my first aid badge from Guides does not make me medically qualified!).

So, there you go, whilst I don’t have a magic wand that can instantly make you happy, trying some of these tips may set you on your way.

References:

Nelson, S.K., Layous, K., Cole, S.W. and Lyubomirsky, S., 2016. Do unto others or treat yourself? The effects of prosocial and self-focused behaviour on psychological flourishing. Emotion, 16(6), p.850.

Seligman, M.E., Steen, T.A., Park, N. and Peterson, C., 2005. Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. American psychologist, 60(5), p.410.

Tromholt, M., 2016. The Facebook experiment: Quitting Facebook leads to higher levels of well-being. Cyberpsychology, behaviour, and social networking, 19(11), pp.661-666.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Northwich, Cheshire, CW8

Written by Caroline Marshall

Northwich, Cheshire, CW8

Caroline Marshall (The Cheshire Life Coach) is a Certified Coach who works with Mums from the UK and Internationally at crossroads in their lives personally and/or professionally. She coaches on how they can feel less stressed and anxious, be happier, more fulfilled, and empowered to rediscover themselves, their life purpose and their goals.

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