Everyone is on the pursuit of happiness, whether they realize it or not. Whatever it is that we do in life is for the improvement of our current situation from our perspective. This in turn leads to us satisfying our desires which in turn leads to… happiness. But rarely do we ever consider the question: “What is on the other side of the happiness coin?”
It seems that happiness is so focused on in today’s culture that rarely is the opposite ever considered. In fact, most people are clueless as to what the opposite of happiness is. Books on how to achieve happiness in life floods bookstores globally, but not enough attention is given to what constitutes as being unhappy.
What is the benefit of knowing what the opposite of happiness is? How does that do us any good? If everyone just wants to be happy, why should I care what being unhappiness consists of? And how can unhappiness be narrowed down or summarized? Aren’t there many different factors that makes us unhappy just as there are that makes us happy? These are all valid questions and the answers may be surprising to some of you.
It’s Not Sadness
At first thought, sadness may seem like the obvious answer. This is due to the common expressions of this emotion; crying, sulking, withdrawn, etc. All of these expressions are in stark contrast to what many associate with happiness; laughing, smiling, social, etc. But is being unhappy really just sadness? Is it really just a matter of displaying signs that are opposite of what many consider to be happy? And are those “expressions of happiness” indicative that someone is truly happy?
Different Factors But One Common Cause
Life can throw many different things at us all at once. So much so that at times we can be overwhelmed. And somewhere in the middle of all that, unhappiness can set in. In such situations, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Typically, the situations do not relieve themselves and action must be taken on our part. That can very easily turn into a vicious cycle where our situation worsens and we’re continually impacted by it, diminishing our willpower to do anything about it. And then it repeats.
But in all situations where unhappiness sets in, there is one common cause for it. Before we reveal what it is, let’s see how this common cause was found.
Think of all the different possible situations where unhappiness could set in for you. Regardless of the situation, can you identify the one common denominator in all of them? Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, abusive workplace, unable to make ends meet, etc., all of these situations have one common cause of unhappiness to them, lack of goals and motivation.
How This Applies
In each of the mentioned situations, our motivation can be completely wiped out, depending on our perception of the severity of what had happened. Any goals we may originally have had may no longer be possible or at the very least put on hold. We can easily view those occurrences as something that’s holding us down.
Tim Ferriss had mentioned that the enemy of happiness is boredom. I don’t think that completely describes what the opposite of happiness really is. Boredom is one of the aspects of what one goes through when they lack motivation to achieve their goals or even worse, the lack goals in general.
The perception of unable to achieve one’s goals, of not having any goals, is just that, a perception. It’s something that is induced due the circumstances, much like the lack of motivation. And just like the way our perception can be changed with worsening circumstance, they can be changed for the better. But change in circumstance is not the only way to change out perception.
A I mentioned, the lack of goals is one part of the root cause of unhappiness. For a guide and more in-depth explanation of goal attainment, see my previous post here.
Everyone Should Know This
The tone of this article so far hasn’t been the brightest. Yet, it is important that we understand truly what causes unhappiness. Only by knowing and understanding something can we begin to do something about it in an effective way.
This is by no means a cure for clinical depression or other medical conditions that causes some of us to be unhappy all the time, regardless of what we do. But this article is mainly to help us understand the nature of unhappiness and where it stems from for many of us.
More Than Just Doing the Opposite
It may seem logical to simply do the opposite of what makes us unhappy. But that’s very much like taking medicine to treat a symptom instead of the root cause. If we’re secluding ourselves from others, it may not necessarily be the recluse behavior that’s causing the unhappiness. Just by going to social outings or taking the initiative to hang out with friends may not necessarily make you happy again. If it does, then great! But it’s not always this simple.
If you have read the post I linked to above, you’d see how important it is to ask yourself those specific questions. But if your unhappiness was caused by a life-changing event, or drastic circumstantial change that has impacted your outlook, then it’s crucial that you ask yourself those questions regularly.
Avoid Getting It Back
Going through a life-changing event can cause a major shift in our paradigm, so much so that our priorities, interest, life-goals are changed completely. That’s why it is so important to regularly ask yourself if you are aligning your way of life with what you want. This tends to change over time for everyone, but if you are unhappy, this can be something that changes frequently. Therefore, constant evaluation of your goals is of the utmost importance.
Motivation to keep going is the main driver of what’s going to bring you back to the state of happiness. It most likely happen overnight, but it is something that’s worth the fight.
So what has caused you to be unhappy? And how did you gain back your happiness? Please share in the comments below!