I often teach about happiness, and what has become exceedingly clear is there are seven qualities chronically unhappy people have mastered.
According to Psychology Today and University of California researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, “40 percent of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change.” If this is true, there’s hope for us all.
Throughout the years, I’ve learned there are certain traits and habits which chronically unhappy people seem to have mastered.
But, before diving in, remember, we all have bad days, even weeks, when we fall down in all seven areas. The difference between a happy and unhappy life is how often and how long we stay there.
Here are the seven qualities of chronically unhappy people:
1. Your default belief is that life is hard.
Happy people know life can be hard and tend to bounce through hard times with an attitude of curiosity versus victimhood.
They take responsibility for how they got themselves into messes, and focus on getting themselves out as soon as possible.
Perseverance toward problems versus complaining over circumstances is a characteristic of a happy person.
Unhappy people see themselves as victims of life and stay stuck in the “look what happened to me” attitude, versus finding a way through and out the other side.
2. You believe most people can’t be trusted.
I won’t argue that healthy discernment is important, but most happy people are trusting of their fellow men. They believe in the good in people, instead of assuming everyone is out to get them.
They are generally open and friendly toward people they meet, foster a sense of community around themselves and meet new people with an open heart.
Unhappy people are distrustful of most people they meet and assume strangers can’t be trusted.
Unfortunately, this behavior slowly starts to close the door on any connection outside of an inner circle, and thwarts all chances of meeting new friends.
3. You concentrate on what’s wrong in this world versus what’s right.
There’s plenty wrong with this world, yet unhappy people go so far as to turn a blind eye to what’s right in this world. You can spot these people a mile away; they’ll be the ones complaining and responding to any positive attributes of our world with “Yeah, but...”
Happy people are aware of global issues, but balance their concerns with also seeing what’s right. I like to call this seeing with both eyes open.
4. You compare yourself to others and harbor jealousy.
Unhappy people believe someone else’s good fortune steals from their own. They believe there’s not enough goodness to go around, which leads to jealousy and resentment.
Happy people know that your good luck and circumstance are merely signs of what they, too, can aspire to achieve. Happy people believe they carry a unique blueprint that can’t be duplicated or stolen by anyone on the planet.
They believe in unlimited possibilities, and don’t get bogged down by thinking one person’s good fortune limits their possible outcome in life.
5. You strive to control your life.
There’s a difference between control and striving to achieve our goals. Happy people take steps daily to achieve their goals, but realize in the end, there’s very little control over what life throws their way.
Unhappy people tend to micromanage in an effort to control all outcomes. They fall apart in dramatic displays when life throws a wrench in their plans.
Happy people can be just as focused, yet still have the ability to go with the flow and not melt down when life delivers a curveball.
The key here is to be goal-oriented and focused, but allow room for letting sh*t happen without falling apart when the best laid plans go awry -- because they will. Going with the flow is what happy people have as plan B.
6. You consider your future with worry and fear.
There’s only so much rent space between your ears. Unhappy people fill their thoughts with what could go wrong versus what might go right.
Happy people take on a healthy dose of delusion and allow themselves to daydream about what they’d like to have life unfold for them.
Unhappy people fill that head space with constant worry and fear. Happy people experience fear and worry, but make an important distinction between feeling it and living it.
When fear or worry crosses a happy person’s mind, he or she wonders if there’s an action that can be taken to prevent that fear or worry from happening.
7. You fill your conversations with gossip and complaints.
Unhappy people like to live in the past. What’s happened to them and life’s hardships are their conversation topics of choice. When they run out of things to say, they’ll turn to other people’s lives and gossip.
Happy people live in the now and dream about the future. You can feel their positive vibe from across the room. They’re excited about something they’re working on, grateful for what they have and dreaming about the possibilities of life.
Obviously, none of us are perfect. We’re all going to swim in negative waters once in a while, but what matters is how long we stay there and how quickly we work to get ourselves out.
Practicing positive habits daily is what sets happy people apart from unhappy people, not doing everything perfectly.