Evolutionary Psychologists say that our default mode is to be on the lookout for danger. As cave men running around many years ago, we had to be tuned in to threat around us. Being complacent could lead to death very easily. These days, modern threats still activate the same parts of the brain (the amygdala and the hypothalamus) and produce the same physical effects – dry mouth, adrenalin rush, increased heart rate etc
Behaviour and thinking are closely linked and our thoughts tend to err on the negative side too. We worry unnecessarily and often the worry doesn’t produce effective results. So, what are the common reasons for unhappiness? I recently went through my client files looking for trends.
Common reasons for unhappiness:
Caring too much about what others think
When we care too much about what others think, it stifles us. We dilute our true essence in order to conform and appease others. We end up suppressing parts of our true selves in order to be liked. If you want to be happier, start pleasing yourself a little more and stop caring about the judgements of others. It’s your life and others usually accept what you are doing in the end.
Comparing our lives to others
This is such a waste of emotional energy. Social media has increased this type of unhappiness immensely. When we look at Facebook, for instance, we see the best part of other people’s lives (often embellished or downright lies) and this triggers our insecurities about what we feel is lacking in our own lives. Stop comparing – life isn’t a race. We all have things, lose things at different times. Focus on where you are now, how far you have come and where you want to go in the future irrespective of what others are doing. Really – you need to shut that out and focus on your own life. It’s essential for happiness and peace of mind.
Staying in an unhappy relationship
Sadly, many people stay in relationships that leave them feeling miserable. There are many reasons for this – financial, lack of confidence, fear of the unknown….Whatever the reason, being in an unhappy relationship can destroy your soul over time. It can strip you of hope and happiness and leave you feeling helpless. It’s not easy to leave a realtionship, it’s a big decision to make but happiness lies on the other side of that brave move to regain your independence.
Staying in an unfulfilling job
Fear keeps people sticking with what they know even when the rewards could be far greater. Humans are creatures of habut and we hate change. Sometimes though, change is the switch that we need to regain our sense of joy and fulfilment in life. Too many times I see clients who live their lives in fear of change. They give in to their self limiting beliefs and don’t try to see life as an experiment. See life as an adventure. There are opportunities out there – be more aware of how you might be shutting these down with self limiting beliefs. Self limiting beliefs such as “I am not good enough”, “I could never do that”, “I’m not clever enough” etc limit your life and choices and your thoughts may not even be accurate…be brave, try new things.
Intolerance of uncertainty
Yep, we would all like certainty but if you think about it, having complete certainty wouldn’t be that great either. Imagine knowing when and how you will die as well as knowing the same about your loved ones. No thanks! I prefer surprises. Learning to accept uncertainty and living more in the moment are two key elements of improved happiness. The more flexible we are in our thinking and our appraoch to life, the better our quality of life.
Learn to embrace uncertainty. See threat as opportunity and reframe anxiety as excitement. What we think hugely affects the way we experience the world around us. Learn to challenge all those negative fearful thoughts – don’t believe everything you think! Be brave, acknowledge your limiting thoughts and then go do it anyway.
Happiness is generated in the brain when certain receptors release the right chemicals and hormones – this is achieved, not by what happens to you, but by what you think about what happens to you. Learn to look for evidence of your thinking – you will often find that your thoughts aren’t based on clear evidence, they are based on your insecurities and your emotions. Challenge your thoughts and tune in to your ‘mental diet’. Choose neutral thoughts over negative thinking for improved happiness.