By: Dr. Christopher Cortman

What creates unhappiness?

Your attitude, beliefs—the way you explain the world to yourself—and your behavioral choices.

Unhappiness is toxic. In truth, even the world’s happiest person would soon plummet like a rock in water were they to think and behave like those who are chronically unhappy.

Let’s explore the characteristics, attitudes and lifestyles of unhappy people. Check out these top ten habits that all chronically unhappy people possess.

Things That Unhappy People Do Differently

1. They embrace pessimism.

According to research, thinking pessimistically (your glass is half empty because someone drank the other half without your permission) is a staple in the depressed person’s cognitive structure. The unhappy tend to recite Murphy’s Law to remind them that life is overwhelmingly negative.

By contrast, happiness is very often linked with optimism—something unhappy people refuse to endorse, because positive thinking leaves them open to disappointment. Unhappy people are less inclined to find amusement in life’s challenges, as laughter seems to provide a buoyancy to pain and heartache.

2. They are critical of everyone and everything.

Remember, finding reasons to judge others ensnares people in that negative mindset which is so essential in sustaining depression. Most importantly, unhappy people reserve the harshest judgment for themselves, as there is no more bitter pill to swallow than that of self–contempt.

The remedy here is to borrow a line from Jesus, “Judge not that ye be not judged’ or one from the much lesser known, Lailah Gitty Akita, “Many great people have experienced some kind of failure. They build on the lessons from failing to become great.”

3. They worry like hell.

This is an absolutely necessary component to sustain misery. Why? Because worry affords that mood–destroying component of catastrophic thinking.

For instance, depressed people worry that their loved one is not merely flying through inclement weather—he is embarking upon a fatal voyage. They are not studying for a challenging final exam, but rather preparing for the test that will destroy their college career (and their life). Further, when their loved one’s plane lands successfully, or they do pass the exam, they believe that this proof positive that worry works—hence, it is vital to worry about all things, from now on.

Happy people learn that the antidote to worry is faith that everything will be ok.

4. They develop chemical addictions.

I’m not talking about two or three drinks at happy hour every now and then, or that occasional cigar with the boys. Unhappy people tend to consume their substance of choice religiously. That is, they use the stuff until they are abusing it.

Daily alcohol contributes mightily to unhappiness because, among other things, it’s a depressant and leads to a ton of negative outcomes. Cigarettes are every bit as destructive, if not more so, because nicotine is highly correlated with depression.

Besides, there is nothing uplifting about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or lung cancer.

5. They assume no responsibility for anything.

There is plenty of blame to go around, so they find others to dump it on. Why? Because if one assumes no responsibility, then there is no need to take ownership of anything, including one’s misery. Accepting responsibility can lead to change, improvement and – gadzooks – self pride, which is truly the arch enemy of a debilitating depression. Which leads us to our next crucial step:

6. They establish no goals.

It’s not that unhappy people don’t want to set goals, it’s just that to do so requires leaving the comfort zone and placing one’s self-esteem on the line. You see, whenever a person takes the risk of setting goals, they will probably feel differently about themselves, depending upon whether or not the goal is achieved. It is almost impossible to remain depressed if one is continually setting and achieving new goals.

Here is how it seems to work: establishing goals can lead to formulating plans, which can foster self-discipline and, eventually, succeeding at meeting those goals. And before you can say, “Boy, do I feel good about myself!”, the goal-setter is now beaming  with self-satisfaction, because very few things feed self-worth and happiness like accomplishing goals.

7. They avoid whatever frightens them.

Sure, an afternoon on the couch with a case of lite beer may seem far superior to tackling the backyard gardening project, but unhappy people avoid more than chores. Depressed people often avoid anything or anyone that challenges them to step up their game, including piano recitals, tennis lessons, and Spanish classes. They avoid public speaking like a court summons. No risk–taking, no counseling, and needless to say, no self-help books or articles!

Living a risk-free life is the key to residing in an emotional coma, not the key to happiness.

8. They don’t have any close friendships.

Friendships are good for whatever ails you, from indigestion to acute depression. People with friends even get sick less often than lonely people, including colds, influenza and even heart disease.

Likewise, long–term relationships are replete with positive outcomes, like better health, greater income, more sex and greater happiness.

If you are committed to recovery from long-term depression, consider commitment to teams, clubs, old friends, and yes, a long-term partner.

9) They hold onto their grudges.

Unhappy people tend to nurture and feed their grudges with all of their might. They are hopelessly trapped in the mode of victim, because someone, somewhere, violated them, stealing away their opportunity to achieve their goal. As a result, life has never measured up to their fantasy of what it was supposed to be.

To release that grudge, to them, is tantamount to condoning the bad behavior of another. Hence, their hatred must be maintained for life as a protest to the outcome, no matter how self-sabotaging their grudges become.

Just a reminder: forgiveness (letting go) is linked with outcomes like peace, serenity, joy and happiness, so let go of any desire to hold on to those old grudges.

10) They have surrendered to hopelessness. 

Chronically unhappy people have a painted themselves very bleak picture. There is nothing in their mindset that inspires a positive forecast of any type.

But just as hopelessness is the most powerful link to clinical depression, the injection of hope affords the mightiest force in recovery. Hope in what, you ask? It doesn’t matter. Your nervous system responds not to circumstances, but your perception of them.

Hope and faith are what makes all situations tolerable and create a perspective that lends meaning to pain and suffering. Above all, hope provides optimism and richness to human life. As such, it must be pursued at all costs.

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