There are so many self-help books and articles out there for people who seek happiness. They advise their readers to live kind, balanced lives—or so they say. They encourage meditating, and donating to charity, and avoiding gossip at all costs. They tell their readers to wake up, exercise, and eat a well-balanced breakfast, all before eight a.m. They advise kindness, and calmness, and preparedness, and acceptance, and flossing. Basically, these books and articles tell people that the key to happiness is being a flawless superhuman.
But what about those of us who don’t strive to be perfect? What about the people who can honestly find contentment with a bag of Cheetos, a beer, and a golden retriever to snuggle with on a Friday evening? What about the people who just want to go to bed each night with a smile on their faces? What are the really important things a person has to do to be happy?
This isn’t a “how to be happy” list. This is a “how to be a balanced human” list. Because, really, balance is what most people sorely lack in their lives, and it’s what they will never find if they are constantly striving to become “happy.” Here are 10 things that unhappy people don’t do and the reasons why doing these things may just make an unhappy person happier. Not happy, as in perfectly content with everything ever, but happier. Hopefully, you’ll read this list and realize that you’re doing all right. Maybe you’ll learn a few things and decide to make some changes.
1. Unhappy people don’t say thank you
Saying thank you—and, more importantly, meaning it—has actually been proven to make people happier. Feeling and expressing gratitude is a win for everyone involved. The person being thanked feels happy for being appreciated, and the person doing the thanking feels good for making the other person happy. So if you’re ever feeling down, ask yourself: Have I been acting like a jerk lately? If the answer is yes, the odds are pretty good that this behavior is affecting more than just the people you’re being rude to; it’s also making you unhappy.
2. Unhappy people don’t take active roles in their relationships
It’s all well and good to have lots of friends and family members, but if you never make an effort to work on or maintain those relationships, you won’t be getting nearly as much out of them as you could be. This is one of several examples of ways that being nice to others can benefit you.
3. Unhappy people don’t pray or meditate
Don’t get us wrong—prayer and meditation are not for everyone. You don’t have to be a member of an organized religion to be happy. The real issue here is spirituality and finding peace. Maybe you need to write in a journal, or play the violin, or paint. Whatever you need to do to get in touch with something beyond the physical world and to find some peace of mind, do it.
4. Unhappy people don’t change the things that make them unhappy
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” These wise words from a famous fictional high school student couldn’t be truer. Getting stuck in an unwanted situation can be a cause of unhappiness for many people. The solution to this problem is simple: change. Now, we’re not suggesting you skip school, steal your friend’s father’s sports car (now that’s a mouthful of possessives!), and lip sync to the Beatles in a parade. All we’re saying is that change, scary as it may be, can be good for you.
5. Unhappy people don’t give gifts
Remember earlier, when we mentioned that being nice to others is really good for a person’s happiness? Well, here we are again. Being stingy never helped anyone. Being realistically generous makes other people thankful, and making other people thankful makes you happy. Isn’t that great?
6. Unhappy people don’t sleep like normal humans
Okay, so this isn’t exactly true for everyone, but good sleep habits are associated with greater levels of happiness. Even though many university and college students have managed to live the nocturnal life for years on end, this is not how humans are actually wired. Try to sleep at night, and stay awake (and relatively productive) throughout the day.
7. Unhappy people don’t laugh as much
Contrary to popular hipster belief, finding funny things funny actually is cool. You know what else is cool? People who can laugh at themselves. Finding the humor in your own life is a great coping mechanism, and people who can cope are people who can be happy.
8. Unhappy people don’t manage their money well
Ugh, money. Nobody likes to admit that money is related to happiness. We would all like to believe that we are beyond the materialistic joys of life, but let’s be real here: being in debt sucks. The stress of being unable to pay off debt or, you know, to provide yourself with the basic needs of living is obviously a huge happiness-sucker. It’s nearly impossible to concern yourself with happiness when you’re busy trying to figure out how to feed yourself or keep a roof over your head. So while money doesn’t buy happiness, it does allow us to focus on happiness.
9. Unhappy people don’t let things go
At the 2014 Academy Awards, John Travolta absolutely botched Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her performance. The Internet exploded with references to the performer Travolta introduced as “Adele Dazeem.” Now, Idina could have been pretty ticked about that, considering her performance was kind of a big deal and her role in Frozen was kind of her first big Hollywood “moment.” But what did she do? She let it go. (See what we did there?) And you know what? She seems like a pretty happy lady.
10. Unhappy people don’t exercise
We know, we know! Much like you were hoping to lose that winter weight you’ve been meaning to get rid of for the past five years without working out, you were probably also hoping to skip the whole physical exercise thing on your quest to happiness. But the fact of the matter is, your brain is connected to your body; treat one well, and the other will benefit.