I have noticed a theme with clients as I have been working with them. I will hear them say that they tend to be a pretty happy person for the most part but other people around them just bring them down. Or I do fine until I am around a really negative person. I want to challenge those of you that think this way that someone else’s behavior, mood or energy should not have that power over yours.
I used to be one of those unhappy people, so I now have the advantage of seeing both sides. I used to envy people that appeared on the outside so happy all the time. I used to judge their smiles and wonder if it was forced. Goodness the things my brain came up with.
I have done so much work on myself and so I got curious as to why I was an unhappy person and why I would claim that the negative energy of others affected me in some way.
We are only responsible for ourselves. And no one else’s negativity jumps out of them and onto us. It’s not like it is an unhappiness germ that infects us. This just doesn’t happen. You are ultimately having a thought about their behavior which creates a feeling in you. Once you know and believe this. You can create a new protocol for how you react to unhappy people.
Don’t give someone that power over you.
I have since learned that I can have compassion for people as they are. I now know that if they are out of alignment it is very difficult for them to be happy with themselves and this often spills over into how they show up in the world.
So what are the reasons we tend to be unhappy? I am here to tell you it all starts with our thoughts. No matter what happens in our life we have a thought about it. But let me go broader with that answer to start.
There are actions that can lead to unhappiness. We may intentionally choose these or they can also be subconscious.
- Comparing ourselves with others and using it against ourselves. Being in the habit of comparing ourselves to others will leave us in a constant state of discontent. If we use the comparison to get inspired and create goals for ourselves that creates possibility. But comparing and despairing just opens us up to unhappiness.
- Lack of gratitude. We need to count our blessings everyday. How many of us have the things we once wished for and what do we do, we move on to the next thing to accomplish or acquire. Truly being grateful for everything we have places us in a place of abundance rather than lacking or scarcity which leads to unhappiness.
- We are stuck in our own comfort zone. We all have this primitive brain of ours. Its main focus is to pursue pleasure, comfort and to exert as little energy as possible. This is what keeps us safe in the cave and in our comfort zone. But as humans we also are meant to evolve and grow. This is what has allowed our species to evolve and thrive. Our big human brains are naturally hardwired to acquire knowledge. When we stay still and content it can cause unrest within ourselves. Because we are pushing away this natural desire to grow and evolve.
- You are living in the past or future. We tend to either be stuck in our past and we look for patterns and certainty from our past to decide what we are capable of. Or we are so focused on the future that we worry about what is going to happen to us and where we are going to end up. WIthout being intentional we may stay in the past or future so much that we get stuck in indecision. We get so conflicted with what to do next that we do nothing. When we live in the present moment we can create our future and we can decide what we make our past mean to serve us going forward. We must be mindful to live in this present moment.
- You are not making healthy lifestyle choices – addiction, buffering, poor diet, poor sleep. If you don’t take care of the fundamentals your body will alert you in many ways. When we don’t physically or mentally feel our best and do things that are giving us the best chance for health we are going to deal with issues which can add to our unhappiness and make us feel like a victim to our circumstances. But we actually had all the control to begin with. We get to decide what actions are serving us and which ones are hurting us.
What you should gather from this list is that what makes us unhappy comes from within ourselves. There is no one else that we can place the blame on that makes it any better,
Likewise then, can we allow others to deal with their own unhappiness without making it mean something about us or be our problem to solve?
You know, I will share an example with you from my own life. Something that I had to step up and do the work on myself about.
I can recall how I would always ask my husband….what’s wrong? He would walk in the door after work and I would look at him and try to gauge his demeanor and if my brain did not perceive it as happy I would ask “what’s wrong?” Of course he would typically say “Nothing” and then my primitive brain would go to work to try to make sense of that. It would either create stories or try to find evidence of how I am somehow part of his low mood.
I learned a few things. I noticed that seeing others unhappiness would just remind me of my own. So, I would often be projecting my own feelings of frustration onto someone else. It’s like it kept my brain busy without cleaning up my own brain. I had this false sense that if everyone around me is happy I can be happy.
I learned that life is going to be 50/50 and I can retrain my brain to believe this and live it each day. I don’t need to follow my primitive brain scanning for trouble at every corner. I can just let life happen and I deal with those things in the moment. I know some days may be filled with tremendous joy and others could have an overabundance of pain. There was this false sense of security that I was somehow preventing some negative circumstance from happening in my life. But what happens when you are so focused on finding the negatives in life? You find it!!
I learned that being at peace requires no effort to BE HAPPY. I learned that I can feel my feelings…all of them and I survive. Not just the ones that feel good. So when I learned this about myself, I realized this applies to everyone around me. We are not meant to feel happiness all the time. We need the contrast in life to experience the fullness of joy.
Look, the goal here is to not be happy all the time. And hide our pain. We want to understand our pain and process it in a healthy way so we aren’t a walking time bomb of frustration and anger ready to take it out on someone so we can feel better for just a short burst.
Remember, you get to choose your own thoughts about anything that happens around you. That includes how other people act, what they say, what they do. You get to make it mean something about you. Or you get to recognize that they have their own model going on in their brain and it does no good for you to interject yourself into it.
It is human nature to feel like we need to sympathize or join them. But the best thing we can do for them is to maintain our own emotional balance. Keep showing up in a way that feels authentic and true for ourselves. Deal with our own things in our brain and let other people be who they are at that moment. There are so many other ways to support people rather than trying to solve for their unhappiness.
“Miserable people focus on what they hate about their life. Happy people focus on what they love about their life.”– Zig Ziglar