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8 Things You Might Be Doing If You’re Feeling Unhappy

8 Things You Might Be Doing If You’re Feeling Unhappy

It’s completely normal to feel unhappy from time to time. It happens to everyone. However, it is possible that you are doing some things that are contributing to your feelings of unhappiness. You might not even know you are doing them. Consider the list below, and then ask yourself from time to time, “Am I doing this?”

1. Assuming The Worst

If you’ve ever caught yourself thinking negatively about a situation or a person before knowing the reality, chances are you are assuming the worst. Here’s an example:

Your husband hasn’t called at the time he said he would.

Assuming the worst: He got into car crash. He’s with another woman. He’s left me.

Happy people assume the best in any given situation. They don’t jump to negative conclusions or assume something terrible has happened. This causes premature, unnecessary sadness, anger, and frustration. Always give the benefit of the doubt. If it turns out reality is pretty bad, then go into problem-solving mode. You’ll be far more clearheaded and prepared to handle a problematic situation at that point anyway. Here’s the same example but with a different perspective.

Assuming the best: He is surprising me with something special. He stopped at the store to pick up groceries for the family. A meeting with his boss ran late. He landed a promotion.

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2. Living In The Past

Do you ever replay the same worries over and over again in your head? Are the words of your boss, friend, or co-worker playing on repeat in your mind? Are you holding a grudge against someone you had a fight with? If so, you are probably living in the past.

Happy people live in the present moment. This doesn’t mean they don’t think about the past and it doesn’t always mean they don’t consider their futures. But they know there has to be a balance. Sometimes you just have to let go in order to move on. It’s not always easy, but it is the healthiest option and will make your present moment and your future moments the happiest.

Live in the here and now. Forget regret. Forget the past. Learn to truly be present.

3. Comparing Yourself To Others

When looking at pictures of friends’ weddings and babies, do you wonder why you are still unmarried with no children yet? Do you look at someone else’s job and question your own accomplishments and successes? It’s probably because you are comparing yourself to other people.

Everyone is different, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. External motivation, i.e. some friendly competition, is fine, but comparing yourself to others is dangerous. There will always be someone who is funnier, more successful, has bluer eyes, a better job, and makes more money than you. But on the other hand, there will always be someone who makes less money than you, is less funny, and has fewer successes.

Happy people don’t compare themselves to any of these people. They know who they are, they are content with where they are, and compete only with themselves.

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4. Trying To “Fix” Your Feelings

How often is it the case that when something is wrong you start to question your feelings? How many times have you thought to yourself, Is there something wrong with me? Is it okay to feel what I feel? Why am I sad? Why aren’t I happier? Why am I angry today?” The truth is that life is series of ebbs and flows and it’s normal to have ups and downs. Negative emotions are perfectly normal to have. This means that when you feel sadness, you don’t need to immediately question it. It also means you don’t have to go into panic mode and attempt to fix it.

Allowing yourself to feel your feelings does a lot of things for you.

1.    It allows you to just be you.

2.    It allows you to process your thoughts.

3.    It lets your mind know that it’s okay to go through what you are going through.

4.    It reminds you to reevaluate your life’s decisions and make sure you are still on the path you want to be on.

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If you are feeling upset, allow yourself to feel upset. But—and here’s the most important part—you must also let yourself move on. If a feeling is starting to last too long, you might want to ask yourself, “What next?” and try to keep the emotion in perspective. Emotions and feelings do not define you. So, don’t worry about the negative ones too much. Be strong, get through them, and you will prove to yourself just how resilient you really are. The best part is that the next time you have the same negative feeling, you will be more prepared for it. Instead of wondering if something is wrong with you, you might say to yourself, “Oh, I recognize this feeling. It passed the last time it came. And it’ll pass this time, too.”

5. Believing All Of Your Thoughts

This one might sound a little confusing. A common mistake people often make is believing every thought that goes through their heads. This is not safe. Sometimes our brains play tricks on us and we may think things we do not truly believe. It could be in the form of putting yourself down. It could be questioning the honesty and trust of a friend or loved one. Sometimes emotions, worry, and fear cause us to think unnecessarily negative things.

Happy people don’t believe everything single thought that goes through their minds. Often it’s the case that as you calm down and feel better, or even just allow time to pass, you will not think as negatively as you did earlier.

6. Focusing On What You Don’t Have

Have you ever been hard on yourself for not achieving enough? Have you ever tried to convince yourself you need more? This is probably causing you pain and unhappiness.

Happy people are grateful for everything they have and for everything they have accomplished. They do not focus on all of the things they don’t have. Try thanking yourself for everything you achieved in your life. Thank your parents, your siblings, your partners, your friends, and your co-workers. Thank your bed for providing a place to sleep. Thank your jacket for being warm. Thank your coffee for tasting so delicious in the morning. Thank your job for being a source of income. Thank the store for having the items you can buy.

You may not have everything you want, but it’s likely true that you have a lot. Be grateful because gratitude is a direct contributor to happiness.

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7. Getting Upset With Things That Are Out Of Your Control

Some things you just can’t control. Traffic, prices, people: these are just a few examples. People have enough to worry about. There is no sense in worrying about these things. There is even less sense in trying to control them or getting upset about them.

Happy people realize what things are out of their control. It is not always easy, but we have to accept that we can only control our own actions. Let go of the need to control everything and don’t let the things you can’t control bother you. Soon you’ll notice how much better you’ll feel.

8. Not Being Yourself

One of the most important things in life is loving yourself. Love yourself for who you are. This does not mean that you cannot strive to be a better person by performing random acts of kindness, learning a new skill, or practicing gratitude. But it does mean that you should stop trying to be someone different. Just be yourself, and include all the complicated imperfections that make you you.

If you are tall, don’t wish you were shorter.

If you are quiet, don’t wish you were louder.

If you have brown hair, don’t wish you were blonde.

Know your value and love yourself.

If you’re feeling unhappy, ask yourself if you are doing any of these eight things. Then stop them right away. You’ll be on your way to feeling better in no time.

More by this author

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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