I'm not thrilled to say this, but I've known a lot of miserable people throughout my life. Hell, I've been one myself.
I've noticed that chronically unhappy people tend to have a few things in common- habits they follow, life philosophies they subscribe to. And if they want to stop being so damned miserable all the time, they have to change those habits.
Here are six of the worst habits that miserable people tend to follow.
1. They get into fights on the internet
Arguing with people in person is usually pointless. Move that argument onto the internet, and it becomes several times more aggravating, with a corresponding decrease in the probability that anyone involved will learn anything or change their opinion as a result of the argument. There are few more certain ways to put yourself in a bad mood than to get into a flame war with someone on the internet.
Did they other person mean to insult you? Do they hate you? Are they trolling you? Were they even trying to start a fight, or were they trying to engage in a constructive debate? You don't know, but thanks to the anonymity of the internet, you and the other person will both assume the worst about each other. And that's how a Facebook post about how hard Suicide Squad sucked turns into a total, scorched-earth, no-holds-barred war, even though you both hated the movie.
Try to have constructive debates if you want to, but back out the moment the tone turns negative. At the very least, delay your response if you feel angry. Nothing good ever comes from fighting on the internet.
To watch this principle in action, post an insulting comment to this article and watch me not reply to it.
2. They wait for good things to happen to them
Chronically miserable people don't always have totally bleak outlooks for the future. Some of them can in fact be surprisingly optimistic that things will get better someday. The problem is, all too often their hope for the future rests on something good happening to them.
Maybe they expect the perfect job to fall into their lap when there's an opening that a friend can refer them for. Or to just meet the love of their life in line at the grocery store. Or to travel, or take up a new hobby, "when they have time."
More often than not, they justify this as "waiting for an opportunity." But what they fail to understand is that opportunities usually have to be created. Build your network and search for jobs. Join a club where you can meet people. Keep to a schedule so you have more free time. "Opportunity" just means you put yourself in the position to make things happen.
3. They try to impress people they don't like
Some people will tell you that you shouldn't care what others think of you. That's not true. Humans are a social species; we need to get along with people. What other people think of you matters.
But not everyone's opinion should matter. I've seen too many people waste their energy vying for the approval of people they didn't particularly like. Maybe they thought they needed to be liked by everyone. Maybe they thought those other people were cool, and their approval was therefore valuable in some way.
No and no. Figure out who you like. Figure out who has sound enough judgement that their opinion deserves to carry some weight. Their approval matters (kind of). Everyone else's doesn't.
4. They tell themselves that they'll be happy when they reach all of their goals
This one isn't even unique to the perpetually miserable. Instead, it's a problem with the way our society views happiness: as the light at the end of the tunnel, a reward for reaching our goals.
The problem with this is twofold. First, our unhappiness paralyzes us. It destroys our motivation to work towards our goals. Second, we need to have goals. Without them, we're aimless, bereft of purpose. When we reach our goals, the best thing to do is celebrate for a while, then set a new goal.
Should setting a new goal make us unhappy once more? Of course not- it's necessary, and a sign of progress. We shouldn't withhold happiness from ourselves because we haven't reached all our goals. Instead, we should derive happiness not from having reached our goals, but from working towards them and having a plan. We have to learn to enjoy the journey, to enjoy the act of building success as much as success itself.
5. They don't sleep well
High-minded philosophy aside, a big part of happiness is strictly biological. Eat the right food. Get some exercise. Spend time in the sun. And most importantly, get the right amount of high-quality sleep.
With vanishingly few exceptions, the most successful people make sleeping well one of their top priorities. People who are unproductive, depressed, or chronically fatigued, on the other hand, are almost always sleeping poorly.
Sleeping well is one of the foundations of a good life. For most of us, that means 7-9 hours of quality sleep in a dark, quiet room, every night. Learn how to get into a healthy sleep pattern, and make that a non-negotiable priority in life.
6. They mistake hedonism for happiness
Ancient Greek philosophers distinguished between two types of happiness: hedonia and eudamoia. Hedonia could best be characterized as simple pleasure: eating pita bread, drinking wine, or watching two naked men slathered in olive oil wrestle each other.
Eudamoia, on the other hand, is characterized by a deeper sense of mission and purpose. It's the feeling you get from working to build the Parthenon, invent geometry, or become the world champion of naked olive oil wrestling. And science says it's way, way more satisfying than hedonia.
Hedonism, on its own, leads to an empty kind of happiness that sort of feels good, but doesn't make your life that different from the life of someone who's simply unhappy. That doesn't mean hedonism has to be avoided, either- you can certainly enjoy some wine and pita bread now and then- just that it isn't enough by itself. Eudamoic happiness- a driving sense of purpose- should be the central goal of a happy, meaningful life.
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