Signs You're Chronically Unhappy

Sad young woman using mobile phone on sofa. Horizontal composition.
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When life gets tough, especially for a long stretch of time, it's hard to feel like happiness is within your grasp. If you experience chronic unhappiness, this sense of hopelessness occurs on a daily basis as a sort of default setting. But chronic unhappiness has an important distinction from depression: It relies on habit, routine, and mindset, which means that the signs that you're experiencing it may be somewhat different.

Like depression, however, chronic unhappiness can have negative side effects on your physical health, which makes it pretty serious. People who experience chronic unhappiness may suffer from poor sleep, headaches, and fatigue. Some studies show that even living with someone who experiences chronic unhappiness can take years off of your lifespan.

But if you are chronically unhappy, you shouldn't be ashamed. All emotions are valid and real, and there's no reason to hide away your unhappy feelings or sense of dissatisfaction. The key is that it's beneficial to reach out and get help when it comes to unhappiness. When a feeling of sadness becomes the norm, it can be really hard to shift things on your own — but asking for the support of a friend or loved one or seeing a mental health professional may give you the perspective and guidance you need to work towards being a happier, more satisfied person.

Chronic unhappiness can stem from all sorts of places; it's important to get to the root of the issue so you can determine what changes will ultimately bring you joy in your life. If you're not sure what chronic unhappiness looks like, here are five key signs you might be suffering from it:

1. You Focus On Acquiring Things

Sure, everybody likes new stuff, and there's nothing wrong with treating yourself, but if you focus most of your happiness on acquiring new items, that's not a good sign. If you spend more of your time buying new things, and not having new experiences or forming new bonds with people, it suggests that you might be looking for happiness and satisfaction through material gains, rather than social or interpersonal ones. This can set you up for disappointment: There will always be a new or better piece of technology, for instance, and if getting the best or newest TV or iPhone is your only source of happiness, you're setting yourself up for a cycle of purchasing — feeling happy, then needing to purchase the update to continue feeling happy, and so on.

2. You Constantly Compare Yourself To Others

If you continuously compare yourself to others, you're going to feel like you can never win. When we compare ourselves to others, it's easy magnify their good traits and highlight our own perceived flaws. It's a lose/lose situation, because when we put people on a pedestal, our perception of them is always going to be one that tell us they're "better than" us in some way. It's a lose/lose for us those who are chronically unhappy, too, in that you're missing out on forming real bonds and connections with those around you, because you're too busy idolizing them and making comparisons to get to others on an authentic level.

3. You Wait For The Future To Experience Happiness

Ah, yes. Perpetually waiting for happiness to occur once you get a better job, move into a nicer apartment, find the perfect partner... If you're chronically unhappy, it can be easy to put all of the emphasis and hope in your life into your future somehow being "better" than the life you lead now. I think striving for a better life is a good thing, but there's a point at which you have to slow down and appreciate all of the good that's in your life right now. And when times are tough, sometimes appreciating the good in your life right now is pretty darn hard, but I think it's still important (and there's always something you can be grateful for). If you wait for the future to allow yourself to be happy, you're missing out on savoring the big (and small) moments that comprise your life.

4. Your Go-To Conversation Topic Is Gossip

It's no surprise that people who are unhappy with themselves or their lives tend to gossip about others. Many people who are unhappy with themselves experience a great deal of insecurity and low self-esteem, so turning the conversation onto others can be a defense mechanism. It can also be a way to avoid sharing things about yourself and your life with others; and let's be real, if you're chronically unhappy, you might feel like you have nothing interesting or appropriate to talk about, especially if you're meeting a new person or trying to make a good impression. Still, talking about others isn't a good solution, because gossip isn't attractive coming from anyone. While there's a time and place for everything, I do think it's useful to talk about unhappy emotions, as it can give you the chance to hear an outside perspective, as well as let others "into" your world more, so people can feel more connected to the real you, and not gossip-you.

5. You Don't Forgive Yourself

We all make mistakes. Seriously, even the very best people make mistakes that harm ourselves or harm others. If you're chronically unhappy, it can be tempting to hold onto that guilt forever. However, holding onto negative feelings is a sure-fire way to continue experiencing those emotions, not recover from them. If you want forgiveness, it's important to approach the person you think you wronged or hurt and own up to what you did and offer an actual apology. If someone doesn't accept your apology, you have to accept that and move on. And if someone does accept your apology, you have to move on then, too. Harboring guilt and self-blame endlessly isn't going to encourage you to be a better person or make better choices; instead, it's going to act as a weight on your shoulders and drag down your self-esteem and perception of yourself.

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