5 things that could be making you unhappy – and how to change them
In the Expertrain office, one of our favourite quotes is, “Happiness is a state of mind, a choice, a way of living; it is not something to be achieved, it is something to be experienced.”
There are loads of little things that can affect your happiness, from the career you choose to your relationships, friendships and how much money you earn. But if there are certain things in your life that are making you feel depressed, anxious or hopeless, it might be time to make some changes. We've come up with 5 things that could be making you unhappy; don't worry, we'll tell you how you can change them too. So if anxiety or depression has left you feeling under the weather, take a look at your life and see what changes you can make.
#1. Your relationship
We're not talking friendships here, we're talking about romantic partners – your significant other. It's true that lack of a romantic relationship can be a source of unhappiness for many people, but being trapped in an unhappy relationship can often be worse. Did you know that a study of 3,000 adults in the UK revealed six out of 10 couples are unhappy in their relationships (1)? It's important to think about your needs as well as the needs of the other person, and assess whether your current relationship is meeting those needs. These could include:
- Sexual needs, including intimacy
- Need for time to be spent together, which can be a struggle depending on conflicting work schedules
- The need for shared interests
- Emotional needs, such as support when you're tackling a problem
If your partner is falling short in any of the above areas, you may be left feeling lonely and unsupported, which could lead to anxious thoughts and feelings or a low mood. The best way to resolve relationship issues or needs which are not being met is to talk about it with your other half – in a gentle, non-confrontational way; although occasional anger can be healthy! Use "I" instead of "You"- for example, “I love it when you come home early from work to spend time with me,” or "I feel lonely when you work late every night." Always try to focus on the positives before addressing the negatives. Unfortunately, if your partner isn't willing to meet your needs, it may be time to end the relationship.
#2. Your job
Work is a huge part of what defines us – did you know that the average man in the UK spends 11.5 years of his life at work (2)? That's a significant chunk of time! So it's important to ensure that, for the most part, you enjoy your job and it leaves you feeling fulfilled. Today, more people than ever before work flexible hours or work from home – in fact over 4 million people in the UK regularly work from home (3) – which means we spend less time commuting and working face-to-face with colleagues, clients and customers. Whilst this might be living the dream for some workers, others find this type of work isolating and need the hustle and bustle of a busy office in order to motivate themselves. It's important to think about whether the stress levels experienced on a daily basis at work are something you can cope with. If you regularly feel stressed (more than three days in a typical week), it might be time to cut back on your hours or consider moving into a new role. It's important to find a work-life balance, and there are ways to be happier at work:
- Change the way you look at difficult situations – when dealing with complaining customers, let yourself see things from their point of view
- Focus on what you can do (the positive) rather than what you can't (the negative)
- Help your colleagues out and allow them to help you – delegate tasks where you can and don't become a control freak in the office
Ultimately, we spend a lot of our time at work, so you need to enjoy what you do. If you're considering moving into a new role, it might be time to study an evening or weekend course around your current job, to learn a new skill set – even a distance learning course can boost your career prospects (4).
#3. Your social life
A healthy social life is important for a number of reasons. Friendships impact who we are as people and they also have a knock-on effect on our life choices. The right circle of friends will bring out our best qualities and help make life more rewarding. Having a solid social circle can also be beneficial for your health – you're less likely to feel lonely and depressed if you have friends and family members to speak to about your problems. It can be hard to meet new people and boost your social life, but try some of the following:
- Forget Facebook. Real friendships are about quality, not quantity. It's better to have two or three close friends you can depend on than 400 casual acquaintances
- Appreciate your friends. Make sure you give as well as take – bake them a cake when their boyfriend dumps them, treat them to a meal out or organise a gaming or movie night to cheer them up when they're feeling low.
- Keep in touch with old friends. Even if you've moved away from your home town, social media makes it easier than ever before to keep in touch. Or use Skype to video chat with friends back home – it's the perfect way to organise a trip back home!
- Be brave if you want to meet new people. Sign up for a meetup or interest group where people will share your passion, such as a photography group. Or join a fitness boot camp, head for a dance class or try something new, like rock climbing. It can be daunting, but remember that everyone feels shy and insecure to some degree.
#4. Your fitness
Being fit and healthy isn't about spending every day at the gym lifting weights. It's about finding the right type of exercise and healthy diet that works for you, whether that's a combination of bodyweight exercises, pilates and sessions with a personal trainer or a morning run and weekend boxing training. Taking positive steps to improve your health and fitness will boost not only your physical health but your mental health too. So don't let your current fitness level get you down; start small by fitting in at least 30 minutes of activity every day, and work up to greater things – you could even sign up for a fitness challenge such as Tough Mudder in 2015.
When it comes to changing your diet, try to cut out processed and ready-prepared foods as much as possible. We know you're busy, and that cooking from scratch isn't always possible (or practical), but cook when you do have the time, and freeze or refrigerate food ready for quick lunches or dinners after a workout, or a busy day at the office. Cram fresh fruit and vegetables into soups, smoothies, pasta sauces and more to ensure you're getting your five-a-day, and if you're still lacking inspiration, check out some of our recipes that will soon have you eating healthily and feeling great. Eating the right foods can dramatically boost your mood, and being more active gets endorphins flowing, which makes you happier – win!
We all think we're stressed, all the time. If you find yourself saying constantly, “I feel so stressed,” it might be time to stop and think about what is causing you to feel this way. Is it work? Your relationship? Money? Something else? Tackling the root cause of stress is the key to feeling less stressed, but there are plenty of other things you can do, right now to relieve anxious, stressed feelings. Try one of these for size:
- Take a long, hot bath and read your favourite book. Switch off your mobile phone for peace and quiet
- Meditate, for a minute or more. Meditation can help you connect with yourself and feel calmer about your problems. Plus it's a great way to unwind after a busy, stressful day
Remember that you're the only one in control of your life. If something is making you unhappy, it's time to change it. Why not Tweet us and let us know what you've changed lately or are planning to change in your life?
READ THIS NEXT: How to be more happy by changing your diet