- Being unhappy is not the same thing as depression, which is an all-consuming feeling of emptiness.
- There are some signs you might be feeling down, like not getting enough sleep or sunlight.
- It could also be because you’re not living in the moment – re-living the past in your head or mentally time-travelling.
- You may also have never learned to be alone, jumping from one unhappy relationship to another.
- It’s also possible you’re letting your emotions control you, or always see yourself as the victim.
Feeling hollow and all-consuming emptiness may lead to a diagnosis of depression, and often this is after several indications something is wrong.
But sometimes you just feel down, and it may be harder to seek out the reasons why you’re simply not as cheerful as you’d like to be.
Carolin Müller, an online psychologist, told INSIDER there are many signs that can explain why you’re not feeling happy. Here are five of the most surprising ones.
1. Not living in the moment
Over-thinking what has happened and what is yet to happen can mean you may never drift off into a deep sleep so you don’t wake up feeling refreshed and re-energised.
“If you always think about the future and the past, you don’t spend time in the moment very much,” Müller said. “I have may clients who are either living totally in the past – like all the things they have done that were wrong, that didn’t go well … Or in the future – all the things that could go wrong, all the things that could happen to them, and how they could lose the things they love.”
In a way, happiness is strongly linked to living in the moment. The brain doesn’t really know the difference between an emotion you’re feeling right now, and one you’re re-living in your mind.
“If you think about the situation, you can have all of these feelings from back then come back – you can feel the anger again in your stomach or your chest,” said Müller.
“We say it’s like a cow, they eat the grass and they bring it up again, and they chew it again, and they swallow it again, and it goes to the next stomach. This is exactly what you’re doing. Vomiting it up and chewing it again.”
What you do with negative thoughts you can do with positive ones too.
“You can think about something really beautiful that happened to you, how you met someone very nice, or you had a good day at work,” said Müller. “You can live in the good past, let’s say.”
2. You see yourself as a victim
Sometimes people can’t stop seeing themselves as the victim, Müller said, always asking “why me?” But the reality is, it could happen to anyone, so why not you?
The way to reframe your mind is to stop generalising, said Müller. For example, if you say everyone is mean to you, really think about whether that’s true. In all likelihood, you’ll probably be able to find at least one person a day who was nice to you.
“If you see yourself as a victim you make yourself a victim twice because you diminish yourself again,” said Müller.
3. You can’t be alone
Most people don’t end up seeing out their days with their first love, so chances are you’ll go through a breakup. But if you’ve been in relationships your whole adult life, and never been single, the idea can be terrifying.
This is why some people jump from partner to partner, as being with the wrong person is better than being with no one at all.
But according to Müller, learning to be content with your own company won’t just make you happier in the long run, it will also be beneficial for all your future relationships.
“If you understand yourself first of all, you will be able to understand others much more,” she said. “You’ll know about your needs and your expectations, and you will understand why certain people act the way they do.”
4. Your body isn’t getting what it needs
Overall, if you’re feeling down, it’s likely to come down to the most basic things, said Müller. For instance, not getting enough sleep, eating badly, not taking care of your relationships.
“See that you have a meaning in your life,” she said. “Go out into nature, see more green than concrete, take care of animals and people that are important to you.”
5. Your emotions control you
Müller practices Buddhist psychology, which is all about being in control of your mind. This means your emotions don’t have a hold over you and dictate how you behave, because you recognise your mind is just a tool that helps you make sense of the world.
“Use your mind so that it’s useful for you,” Müller said. “And look what it can do, it’s amazing, you can solve the most amazing riddle, you can make crossword puzzles and build atomic bombs. We can go to Mars because we have a brain and a mind, yet it also leads people to think they are worthless.”
If your negative emotions are uncontrolled, you’re not the captain of your own ship, and you’ll only be able to steer it if you retrain your mind to choose when you want to react.
“It’s different from not having emotions, because they are so important for our life,” said Müller. “It’s more about, do I really want to go there now? Is this reasonable what I’m doing? And thinking maybe not, maybe I can see it from another perspective.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.