“The greatest happiness is to know the source of unhappiness.”—Fyodor Dostoevsky
“I hate my life. I’m not suicidal; I just hate my life. Before, it was just the kids who kept me busy by flying around the house during the day and crashing into one thing or another. Now that my husband is disabled and bedridden, I feel even worse.”
Yes, Sarah admits she is unhappy—miserable with her present circumstances.
Unfortunately, Sarah can do little about her situation as her husband’s illness and needs require 24/7 care and are outside her control.
So, what can Sarah do to feel less sad and miserable?
Working through unhappiness can be challenging, but you can gradually improve your well-being with patience and effort.
Here are eight ways you can take to work through unhappiness.
8 Ways to Work Through Unhappiness
No.1: Acknowledge Your Emotions
Recognize and accept that you are feeling unhappy.
It’s essential to acknowledge and validate your emotions rather than suppressing them.
Unhappiness is a negative emotion. When you try to suppress or inhibit outward expressions of this feeling, your health, and well-being suffer.
With suppression, the misery remains inside you, eating away.
What can you do instead?
It is best to manage your difficult emotions healthily.
One way to regulate your emotions is through mindfulness:
“Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.”—(greatergood.berkeley.edu)
No. 2: Identify the Source of Your Unhappiness
Reflect on the aspects of your life that contribute to your unhappiness.
It could be a particular situation, a relationship, or an internal struggle.
Understanding the source can help you address it more effectively.
In Sarah’s case, as mentioned above, the stress and anxiety related to her role as a full-time caregiver to her ill husband were the cause of her unhappiness.
What could she do?
While Sarah’s ability to do something about her husband’s illness was not possible, the best she could do was learn as much as she could about how to care for her husband lovingly.
Following is a list of attributes Sarah could ask about her loved one, which could help her love and appreciate her partner in illness:
- Was he funny?
- Was he kind toward you and others?
- Was he a good provider?
- Was he a friend, a confidant?
- Was he understanding?
- Was he supportive of your dreams and aspirations?
- Was he respectful?
- Was he respected?
- Was he forgiving?
- Was he trustworthy?
- Was he quick to apologize when he was wrong?
- Was he generous of spirit?
- Could he keep secrets?
- Did he show empathy?
- Was he open-minded?
- Was he quiet or outgoing?
No.3: Seek Support
Contact trusted friends, family members, or a mental health professional who can offer support and guidance.
Sharing your feelings and concerns with someone who understands can provide comfort, help you gain new perspectives, and help alleviate sadness and unhappiness.
For instance, if you are a family caregiver, there are numerous online resources and communities.
When caring for my husband 24/7, I felt lost without the online Caregivers Hub Support Group I found through my doctor.
However, there are positives and negatives.
Benefits of Support Groups:
- Feeling less lonely, isolated, and judged.
- Reducing distress, depression, anxiety, or fatigue.
- Talking openly about your feelings.
- Sharing stories, both good and bad.
- Improving skills to cope with day-to-day challenges.
- Staying motivated to hang in there.
- Gaining a sense of empowerment, control, or hope.
- Getting practical feedback about treatment options.
Possible Risks of Support Groups:
- Disruptive group members.
- Conversation dominated by griping.
- Lack of confidentiality (must be careful of what you share).
- Emotional entanglement, group tension, or interpersonal conflicts.
- Inappropriate or unsound medical advice.
- Competitive spirit and comparisons of whose condition or experience is worse.
You can find many support groups online or through word-of-mouth.
I also joined an in-person caregiver community, which a nurse led.
Bottom line: support groups may offer a relaxing and enjoyable setting for you to share problems and challenges you face daily.
No.4: Practice Self-Care
To alleviate unhappiness and sorrow, focus on caring for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, such as hobbies, exercise, meditation, or spending time in nature.
Make sure you prioritize sleep, nutrition, and self-compassion.
More tips for practicing self-care:
- Learn to say no without feeling guilty.
- Seek out, positive people.
- Nurture your relationships.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Practice yoga.
- Be patient with yourself.
- Be proud of yourself.
- Pamper yourself.
No.5: Set Realistic Goals
Establish achievable goals that align with your values and interests.
As you work through unhappiness, achieving these goals can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
Start small and gradually increase the complexity of your goals as you progress.
Set SMART goals:
SMART goals are a framework used to set objectives effectively.
The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
This approach provides a clear and structured way to define goals and increase the likelihood of success.
Here’s what each letter represents:
- Specific: A SMART goal should be clear and well-defined. It answers the questions of who, what, when, where, and why. It helps focus on the details and narrow the goal to make it specific and unambiguous.
- Measurable: Goals should be measurable and progress tracked, which involves identifying specific criteria or indicators.
- Achievable: Goals should be realistic and attainable. Set objectives within your reach and consider available resources, skills, and time. While it’s good to aim high, setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and demotivation.
- Relevant: Goals should be relevant to your objectives and align with your broader plans. They should be meaningful in the context of your personal or professional aspirations. Ensure your goals are relevant to your current situation and contribute to your long-term vision.
- Time-bound: Goals should have a specific time frame or deadline for completion. Goals add a sense of urgency and help prioritize tasks. Setting a time-bound plan establishes a target to work towards and creates a sense of accountability.
Following the SMART framework, you can create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals.
This approach enhances clarity, motivation, and progress tracking, increasing the chances of accomplishing your objectives.
No.6: Challenge Negative Thinking Patterns
Negative thinking can perpetuate unhappiness.
You can choose how to feel.
Practice identifying and challenging negative thoughts.
Replace negative thinking with more realistic positive alternatives.
However, you will only feel frustrated and disappointed if you expect perfect happiness, contentment, or positive emotions.
Happiness is relative. Nonetheless, striving for it is better than being imprisoned in a life filled with persistent and debilitating negative emotions and unhappiness.
Here are seven ways you can create positive emotions:
- Concentrate on positive things. Focus on qualities and virtues, such as faith, hope, love, trust, security, communication, positive stimuli in life, recreation, the will to live and be of good health.
- Talk about positive things. Discuss encouraging experiences that help to keep one healthy, as pleasure can stimulate the immune system and strengthen the resistance to illness.
- Laugh. Researchers believe laughter may empower the immune system, underscoring Proverbs 17:22’s point, “A heart that is joyful does good for the curer.”
- Seek the company of positive thinkers. Spend time with someone who knows you well and can remind you of your successes, encouraging you.
- Focus on helping others. If you have friends who feel depressed, ask what you can do to help them.
- Treat yourself compassionately. When you feel overwhelmed, sad, or have other negative emotions, force yourself to walk, call a friend, or listen to music to ease your negative feelings.
- Forgive. The perfect antidote to harmful emotions caused by hurt feelings is forgiveness, as you replace negative feelings with positive ones.
(Source: A Family Caregiver’s Guide: 7 Secrets to Convert Negative Triggers to Positive Emotions 2019)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques can also be helpful in the process of working through unhappiness.
No.7: Cultivate Gratitude
Focus on gratitude and appreciate the positive aspects of your life.
“Gratitude can improve health in older adults.”—PubMed
What is gratitude?
“Gratitude is being aware of and thankful for the good things you have. These good things are not necessarily material possessions. They can be relationships, situations, or anything positive in your life.” (Stephanie Nicola, WebMD.com)
Regularly reflect on the things you are thankful for, even small ones.
This practice can shift your mindset, help you find more joy daily, and help you work through unhappiness.
In his book, The Miracle of Mindfulness, Zen Master Thich Nhat Nanh teaches:
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
The Benefits of Gratitude Include:
- Improved sleep.
- Improved mood.
- Improved immunity.
- Decreased depression.
- Decreased anxiety.
- Reduced difficulties with chronic pain.
- Increased happiness.
- More strength when facing adversity.
- Community building.
Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to fully embrace a sense of appreciation and support this practice in mind.
No.8: Seek Professional Help If Needed
If your unhappiness persists or worsens despite your efforts, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor.
A therapist can provide specialized guidance and support tailored to your situation.
Therapy can benefit anyone feeling overwhelmed, sad, or unhappy with some aspect of their life.
If you have considered all the previous seven suggestions in this article and still experience great unhappiness, get a therapist’s help.
There is no shame in seeking professional help.
How to choose the right therapist for you?
To start, consider these four types of psychotherapy:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): I mentioned CBT in No.6 above to work on unhappiness. This form of therapy is the most widely used because it focuses on changing a person’s thoughts to manage behavior and emotions.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT mainly treats borderline personality disorder. Coping skills in this therapy include mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation.
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): This form of psychotherapy is considered short-term and focuses on a person’s relationships with others. This non-judgmental form of psychotherapy treats depression and other mental health disorders.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): This therapy focuses on learning to change your relationship with experiences of life. ACT teaches incidents should not be avoided but accepted. You know to be more flexible regarding your thoughts and feelings.
These four types of psychotherapy are an excellent place to start as you research the option of seeking professional help with your unhappiness.
Dear reader, we are all unique.
Working through unhappiness is a process that requires the following:
- Acknowledgment of our emotions.
- Identifying the source of our unhappiness.
- Seeking support from friends and family.
- Practicing self-care.
- Setting realistic goals.
- Challenging negative thinking patterns.
- Cultivating gratitude.
- Seeking professional help if needed.
Remember, everyone’s journey through unhappiness is unique, and it’s okay to take your time.
Healing takes time.
Being patient and gentle with yourself is crucial as you work through your emotions.
Change your mindset if you are in the clutches of sadness and misery.
Work Through Your Unhappiness by following the eight steps above.