But first, you have to stop doing things that are detrimental to your mood, enjoyment, and appreciation of life, studies show. The relatively new field of positive psychology offers answers into the big-picture question about what makes us feel happier. But that research also has identified 29 circumstances, choices, and even environmental factors that will actually make us feel less happy.
In part one of this blog, we shared the first 15 of them, and here are the remaining 14 things that are scientifically proven to make you unhappy:
1. Giving in to our fears.
Everyone is scared of something – or a lot of somethings – to varying degrees. But the good news is that the secret to happiness isn’t that we necessarily need to CONQUER those fears, we just can’t give up trying to face them. Try to confront your fears head-on and do a little better each day, and you’re already winning!
2. Not giving, volunteering, and contributing.
Studies show that our levels of satisfaction peak when we're giving – not receiving. In fact, those who volunteer, donate, or get involved with helping others regularly have been proven to live longer, stay healthier, and enjoy much higher levels of happiness!
3. Our favorite TV series ending?!
Seriously? Yup! We actually get down in the dumps when our favorite TV show or, now, Netflix series, ends. According to Emily Moyer-Guse, Ph.D., people form a ''parasocial relationship" with their favorite ongoing TV programs, and feel "distress" when they end. That backs up something called the "Avatar Effect" that was observed in viewers after the 2010 movie (because the utopian planet wasn't real) and the increase in depression among Harry Potter fans when the franchise ended in 2011.
4. Not being in the moment.
We think, analyze, scrutinize, anticipate, and plan for the future, or remember, relive, memorialize, or exaggerate the past. However, the modern person seems to have forgotten how to be awake, aware, and present right now!
5. Not being a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Researchers have identified areas called "Blue Zones" across the world, pockets where people typically live to 100 years with an excellent quality of life. They've studied the similarities in these Blue Zones, which include staying active, a specific diet, etc. But those variables also always include being part of a bigger community or movement, as human beings fundamentally need something bigger than ourselves to be happy.
6. Flat-out boredom.
Work. Pay bills. Home. Errands. Gym. Eat. Watch TV. Sleep. Repeat. The typical modern person is stuck on autopilot. While we're also more comfortable than ever, we don't have enough of the other things on this list to break us out of our boring routines.
7. Coveting what others have.
We WANT more than ever, and it's making us miserable. If you want to be happy, practice GRATITUDE every day instead of WANTING that car, house, job, vacation, more money, a better body, or the perfect relationship.
8. Facebook and social media (again).
Are you starting to see a common theme? Researchers have identified something called the "Compare and Despair Effect," in which feelings of jealousy, suspicion, and discontent in their relationships increases as they spend more time on Facebook. Likewise, a study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross discovered a correlation between time spent on Facebook and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness, and isolation in participants.
9. Too much freedom of choice?!
Human beings value their freedom above all else, but only within the last generation or two in human history have we run into an unprecedented phenomenon - too much choice. Believe it or not, having the luxury of unending choices and decisions can actually sink the psyche. Consider two research projects published by the Stanford University's Department of Psychology and Colombia University, which discovered that too much freedom of choice makes us feel “bewildered,” misguided, disconnected, and even depressed.
10. Junk food and an unhealthy diet.
The average American is now fatter, unhealthier, and more diseased than ever, and our diet is the leading cause part of that problem. But more than just physical manifestations, a poor diet is also linked to stress, depression, anxiety, anger, and even mental illness, as documented in studies by the Public Health Nutrition journal. In fact, they found that people who regularly eat commercial fast food (hamburgers, hotdogs, soda, doughnuts and pizza) were 51% more likely to develop depression, compared to those who eat little or none. If you want to feel happy, eat a clean, healthy diet!
11. Living in high altitude?!
I didn’t expect to read about this one! But studies have shown that when human beings start living higher up (2-3,000 feet and higher), their rate of suicide increases. Dr. Barry E. Brenner explains that "The correlation is very, very, very high, and it happens in every single region of the US."
Based on two decades of mortality data collected from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they found that hypoxia, a lack of oxygen to the body's cells and tissues that occurs at higher altitudes, may cause profound mood disturbances, often leading to suicide.
12. Not socializing.
In his 2011 bestselling book, Positive Psychology, New York Times columnist David Brooks highlights research that sometimes, it’s the simple things that keep us happy. In fact, he shares data that “the daily activities most closely associated with happiness are social,” such as “socializing after work” and “having dinner with friends.” So, if you want to be happy, go hang out with your friends and coworkers!
13. Technology over interaction
It's apparent that we're slaves to our smartphones and screens, but that practice is also pulling us away from something that is fundamental to happiness: human interaction. In fact, the father of psychology, Sigmund Freud, anticipated the human isolation technology would cause way back with the advent of the telephone! In 1930, Freud wrote, "If there had been no railway to conquer distances, my child would never have left his native town and I should need no telephone to hear his voice.”
Much more recently, clinical psychologist and MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes in her 2011 book, Alone Together, that “online life tends to promote more superficial, emotionally lazy relationships, as people are drawn to relationships that seem low risk and always at hand."
14. Lack of exercise
Want to feel better almost instantly? From a scientific standpoint, there is nothing better to boost the “happiness chemicals” in the brain, improve oxygen intake, lower stress, and brighten your mood than vigorous exercise. And you don’t have to hit to the gym to feel the benefit, as even some simple yoga, pushups and situps at home, or a brisk walk will do the trick!