There are millions of articles, blogs, YouTube videos, and memes that instruct us how to be happier. However, for the seeker of fulfillment, there are far fewer guides that teach us about what pitfalls and traps to avoid along the way.
In fact, positive psychology – the new science of happiness – offers some very definitive research and studies on what factors, circumstances, and attitudes in our lives will make us feel less happy.
The good news is that we analyzed dozens of credible sources to identify these 29 things that are scientifically proven to make you unhappy:
1. Holding a grudge
Too often, we cling to petty arguments, construed slights, and perceived wrongs. But when we allow our ego to hold grudges, our anger poisons our own happiness – not the other person’s.
2. Being too well-off
Wait, making too much money will make us UNhappy? Are we sure we have that right? Yes, as numerous studies by the World Health Organization and others found that increasing income does correlate with increased levels of happiness UNTIL that income reaches a certain threshold. After that, you won't become happier just because of the dollars you make or what you have. (For that reason, depression is more prevalent in higher-income nations than poorer countries.)
You might be wondering what that income threshold is? About $70,000!
3. Giving up on our dreams
It matters not whether we’ll ever achieve them or not, but just the pursuit of our dreams has been proven to higher happiness levels. In fact, abandoning our dreams results in decreased levels of joy, passion, and emotional health.
4. Not making time for the things that bring us joy
Just like giving up on our dreams, when we don’t prioritize even a little time each day, week, or month for the things we love, our feelings of overall happiness are sure to sink.
5. Letting our minds wander
A 2010 Harvard study found that when our minds wander, we're significantly less happy. In fact, researchers found that our minds wandered about 46.9% of the time, no matter what we were doing. And while 4.6% of our happiness is attributed to what we're doing at that moment, 10.8% of our positive mental state is determined by our thoughts at any given time.
6. Superficial relationships
Research shows that when we “settle” and date, become friends with, or do business with someone who we don’t really like or respect, it holds us back from achieving greater fulfillment.
7. Not challenging yourself
Small goals + small aspirations + small effort = less happy. That’s the formula for NOT keeping a joyful, sunny outlook day in and day out. It seems that when we don’t challenge ourselves, we feel less connected, less part of something bigger than ourselves, and less passionate – all factors in unhappiness.
8. Comparing ourselves to others
Buddha said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I definitely can’t put it any better than that. But most of us still do it, especially in this era of social media, television and advertisements, and the Keep-Up-With-The-Jones’ mentality.
9. Valuing things over memories and experiences
If you’re constantly focused on acquiring STUFF (no matter how nice that stuff may be!) over the more intangible goals of making lasting memories and enjoying experiences (especially with others), then your happiness will take a hit.
10. Not being appreciated/treated fairly at work
You may think that too much work (or having a job at all!) is the cause of your dissatisfaction, but that’s not the case. In fact, research proves that even with a heavy workload, its feeling underappreciated, treated unfairly, and undervalued by your employer that will sink your morale.
11. Not coping with our shame or guilt
They say that depression is anger turned inwards, and, likewise, when we carry guilt and shame about something we've done and don't come to terms with it and forgive ourselves, our daily joy will be impacted.
Whether it's bad food, alcohol and drugs, painkillers, porn, or even addiction to work, we're self-medicating like never before – but not facing the cause of our unrest. In fact, Brene Brown put it best when he said, “The USA is the most medicated, in debt, addicted and obese nation in the world.”
13. Lack of sleep
Sleep science is an emerging field, as new research shows that our lack of sleep, restlessness due to overuse of electronics, and even sleep apnea are making us more prone to depression and high anxiety levels than ever before. It's hard to feel consistently happy when you're exhausted, burnt-out, and lacking energy.
14. Caring what others think
All the way back in the 1930s in his book, Conquest of Happiness, author and introspective icon Bertrand Russell identified "fear of public opinion" as a major cause of unhappiness. Now, think about how dangerous our current snake pit of social media and online opinions is to our mental health!
15. Not being close to siblings
This is one that I didn’t expect at all – the early connection with siblings. In fact, research from the American Journal of Psychiatry has shown that when we grow up without close relationships and bonds with our brothers or sisters, our risk of depression and unhappiness goes way up later in life.
Look for part two of this blog, with the remaining 14 things that are scientifically proven to make you unhappy coming very soon!