6 reasons you're not happy (and how to change that)
Positive psychology teaches you better happiness habits.
Down in the dumps? Spending all your time staring at your walls? Feel like your blood's been replaced with lead? You may have some bad habits that are bringing down your mood. Luckily, Tal Ben-Shahar can help you out. He's an Israeli author, lecturer and motivator. He has taught at Harvard, where his positive psychology class was the most popular course in the history of the university.
According to Shahar, if you're not happy, it might be because ...
You don't know what you're good at.
You have strengths, but you may not realize you do since you're so used to your own abilities (you talented human specimen, you). Even Superman and Einstein probably had days when they forgot that they were all that and a bag of chips. Can't think of anything you're good at? Try registering at the University of Pennsylvania's Authentic Happiness website and taking a strengths quiz.
According to Ben-Shahar, who heads the positive psychology department at Israel's Interdisciplinary College, we learn what we're good at through trial and error. "We need to ask ourselves when we felt that we were at our best, most alive, most competent," Shahar told From the Grapevine. "Past experiences often hold the key to our best future."
You don't know you're human.
We're just not wired for constant pleasure. (Photo: Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock)
Our culture is obsessed with pleasure and believes that "the mark of a worthy life is the absence of discomfort," Ben-Shahar explained. This means that when we experience pain, we imagine it means that something is wrong with us.
"In fact, there is something wrong with us if we don't experience sadness or anxiety at times, which are human emotions," Ben-Shahar said. "Give yourself permission to be human."
You watch cooking shows instead of cooking.
There's a pretty magical psychological state called "flow" that happens when you're wrapped up in an activity. Bottom line: do that thing more. Think back to the last time you were in flow. Were you writing a screenplay? Following a complicated recipe? Analyzing theoretical physics? Learning about ancient times? "Flow is about being fully immersed in whatever it is that we're doing," Ben-Shahar explained. "We lose track of time, place and even self."
You talk about 'Game of Thrones' too much.
You don't need hundreds of friends, but you need to tell someone your deepest, darkest feelings. If you mainly talk about things like television, sports and music with your friends, you might feel as lonely as a White Walker in Hawaii.
Ben-Shahar, who told us "The No. 1 predictor of happiness is quality time we spend with our loved ones," Ben-Shahar told us. "There is nothing more important than cultivating close relationships for our well-being – not just psychological, but also physical."
You don't focus on other people's problems.
When you're feeling blue, it can seem impossible to drum up additional energy to focus on someone else. But thinking about your own problems all the time is exhausting and might even make you feel more overwhelmed. Instead, try to cheer up other people. Everyone has problems, except for all those magically perfect people out there who live in a state of constant bliss. We've never met those people.
“The beauty of focusing on other people’s concerns is that it shifts your attention away from your own worries and anxieties," write American advertising authors Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval in "The Power of Nice," a book Ben-Shahar recommended. "And it’s a lot cheaper than therapy!”
You don't take care of yourself.
It's tough to get going when you're unhappy for a whole bunch of physical and emotional reasons. But not getting enough exercise, sleep, sunlight and nutritious food can wreak havoc on your mood. If you power through the ennui, you'll reap some serious benefits.
"Remember the mind-body connection," explained Ben-Shahar. "What we do – or don't do – with our bodies influences our mind. Regular exercise, adequate sleep and healthy eating habits lead to both physical and mental health."
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