15 Ways to Be Happy When You Feel Unhappy
Sometimes when you feel unhappy it can seem like the feeling will never go away. You may feel trapped in negative thoughts and it can be hard to imagine life any other way. You may also get down on yourself for feeling sad, like something is wrong with you.
But feeling down doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you or that you are weak, unlovable or broken. It just means you have some feelings right now that are difficult or overwhelming for you. It’s normal for you to have periods of feeling sad and periods of feeling happy. Everyone goes through ups and downs with their feelings and it doesn’t mean you are defective. The following are some helpful tips and thing to remember when you have sad feelings. Reminding yourself of these things can help you keep perspective on your feelings and hopefully lift you out of the negative thoughts.
- Know that your emotions are not permanent. For most of us, emotions can be like a rollercoaster - they go up and they go down. Sometimes they are smooth and straight, and sometimes they twist and turn. Rarely do they ever stay in the same position for long. It is normal to be sad sometimes and to be happy others. It’s all a normal part of life.
- Spend time with friends – social connection is one of the strongest ways to get out of a funk. Being alone can cause you to get stuck in your negative emotions. Isolation can lead to more distress. Engaging in the world around you with friends can help you feel connected and loved.
- Do things you enjoy. By spending time doing something you enjoy, it can help you feel more fulfilled and help you feel that you have more purpose in your life. Feeling fulfilled and connecting with your purpose can help reduce negative thoughts.
- Try to figure out what your emotional triggers are. Do you know what sets you off when feel down? It can be helpful to notice when you are set off on the emotional rollercoaster. Try to notice who were you with, what were you doing, what were you thinking? Paying attention to these things can help you avoid some of those situations in the future. If you can minimize your exposure to the things that trigger negative feelings for you, you may feel better.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol – sad or negative feelings can be amplified by drugs or alcohol and make a situation seem worse than it actually is.
- Avoid caffeine – caffeine can increase nervousness and make you feel more jittery or anxious. It can also make it harder for you to sleep, which can make negative feelings worse. Keep in mind that caffeine isn’t only in coffee, it’s also in a number of soft drinks.
- Practice gratitude -appreciate the things that you do have. When you are feeling down it can be hard to see the beauty or joy in things, but these are just the moments when you need that joy and beauty the most. Here are more tips on how to be grateful.
- When you are feeling sad, think about someone who cares about you and what they would say to you to help you feel better. Maybe it was a teacher you had in grade school, or maybe it’s a family relative – imagine them being compassionate and encouraging towards you when you are feeling down. What would they say to help you feel better? Now that you’ve thought of it, tell it to yourself.
- Learn to manage your negative thoughts. You can do this in a number of different ways. The next numbers 10 - 13 are some suggestions on how to manage your negative thoughts.
- Notice when a negative thought comes up. Don’t judge it or judge yourself for having the thought, just notice that it’s there. As quickly as it arises, think that it can float away. Think of your thoughts as coming as going, just like the clouds in the sky. You can’t hold onto a cloud or grab it. If you do, it will just evaporate. Clouds float away, just like your thoughts. Your thoughts are ever changing, like the clouds in the sky.
- See if it helps to replace a negative thought with the opposite thought. For example, if you think “I will never find a job and will always be unhappy” replace it with the thought “I will find a job and find happiness”. Keep doing this over and over when the negative thought comes up.
- Stop yourself from thinking in extremes – such as “I should” or “I must”. This type of extreme thinking is unrealistic and impossible to live up to. It sets up an unrealistic expectation that you cannot live up to and can be a set up for failure. More on thinking in extremes here.
- Stop thinking "it’s all my fault". Challenge yourself and challenge that thought when it comes up. You can challenge it by asking yourself, “Is it really my fault? Was this situation totally within my control?” If it was within your control, then think what you can do differently next time. If it wasn’t within your control, give yourself a break! Remember that it’s okay, and that everyone makes mistakes. Life isn’t about the mistakes we make. Life is s all about how we recover from those mistakes and that is what really defines us.
- Life is not perfect. Understand that we all make mistakes, it is normal. That’s why there are erasers on pencils, for our mistakes! No one is perfect. Get that? No one. Don’t try to be perfect because it’s impossible.
- Forgive yourself and give yourself permission to not be perfect. You can learn how to do things differently from situations that didn’t work out. Instead of beating yourself up in your mind, just tell yourself that it’s normal to make mistakes and that it’s okay.
Everyone goes through feeling up and feeling down. Usually these feelings can last from a couple of hours to a few days. If you notice that you are feeling down for more than just a few days, you may want to talk to a mental health professional and seek out some help. It is often necessary to try many different things before you can find a way to feel better. Know that there is hope and feelings do change. It is possible to reduce the negative thoughts you are having, and you can change the way you think. Also, there are people who are willing to listen to you and help you. You are not alone, and often times change is possible.
Written by Victoria Marano, LCSW
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