It’s normal to have days when you feel down and a little sad. For many people, these days can stretch into weeks. We all need to be more mindful of our mental health, but if you often find yourself thinking “nothing makes me happy”, it’s time to stop, think, and make a plan to get out of it
I feel somewhat qualified to talk about this topic because I spent around 10+ years stuck in negative-thought loops, crippling anxiety, and a fuzz of depression. Thankfully, I managed to pull myself out. I know you can do exactly the same thing, you just need to dedicate some time and effort to working out what is at the very core of your feelings and then start picking your way through it. [Read: 16 Things you need to give up to have a happier life]
If you strip away all the other motivations/reasons why we do what we do, at the heart of it all is that we want to be happy. Not a momentary dirty high type of happiness, but a continuous state of being anxiety-free, depression-free, and just feeling like… whoosh. We all want that continuous, easy state of contentment where life is just good.
But when nothing makes you happy, your experience of life might be negative-thought loops that seem uncontrollable. Maybe you can’t stop thinking of what others think of you. Or you feel like your mind is a living hell—a grey fuzz and mental fog that just won’t clear. Maybe even reading this feature is difficult because your mind is too exhausted to concentrate for long periods.
The mistake many of us make is thinking that attaining the state of happiness is something that’s out there, something we need to find. That’s not true at all. [Read: How to feel happy: 13 proven strategies for instant happiness]
Happiness is actually our default state. We tell ourselves, ‘I’m not happy so I will go out there and find out how to be happy. Maybe if I achieve more, or if I get a lover, get more approval, get attention, or material stuff then I’ll be happy.’ In the end, you end up thinking, nothing makes me happy. What you need to do is become content and from there, happiness grows.
Now I’m not saying achieving things isn’t important. It just misses the point. You need to focus on a sense of happiness and contentment all the time. Then, when you achieve great things, that’s when you experience joy. They are two different things entirely.
With that said, here’s what you want to consider when all you think is “nothing make me happy.” [Read: How to be a happier person: 20 joy-filled steps to change your life]
You’d think trying to get over depression by fighting it would be the way to beat it. I don’t think this is true. People love their story even if it’s painful and hurts them. This is because it’s familiar and self-validating to tell yourself a unique story of why your life sucks and how it’s a big problem.
It’s harder to just let go of the urge to focus on the feelings of self-pity. I know I spent years thinking about how bad I felt, which got me nowhere.
Ironically, the more I focused on doing and trying to get better the more it fed my negative-thought loops with attention. Focusing instead on the present moment *with moments where you make future goals that you write down* is a much better direction to pour your attention.
Even when you work on a big dissertation, you choose to focus on each step bit by bit, rather than looking ahead at your score or on some worrying thought about something that happened earlier in the day. [Read: Sabotaging your happiness: 12 ways you can ruin your life]
Ever said to yourself ‘why can’t I just stop obsessing?’ It was as if you talked about some part of you that is you yet separate from you. This is your thinking mind.
Your thinking mind may be incredibly good at creating problems and repetitive thoughts and feelings. It may constantly worry about the past and be fearful of the future, so you no longer appreciate the beauty of the present moment and even leads to you feeling nothing at all.
Spending time dis-identifying with the thinking mind shows you the difference between you and your habituated thought patterns.
I can’t word this any better—reading/listening to the likes of The Power Of Now gives you a solid realization of what the present moment is. You learn how to observe your own negative thought patterns without trying to force them away. Also, meditating around 20 minutes daily is a fantastic practice. [Read: How to calm your mind and make peace a state of mind]
Know someone who when something bad happens to them they deal with it or sort of laugh it off and move on? That person’s baseline level of how good they usually feel is maybe a seven or eight out of 10.
But if you’re stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts and feelings, you’re the reverse. So maybe you’re usually a two or three out of 10. So even if you get a spike of good feelings that pushes you to say a five or even a 10 out of 10, it eventually falls back to baseline.
I think it’s important to accept that this habit will be very, very difficult to get over. But you naturally find your baseline increase if you just have faith. You can’t make a number for how long it will take to get to a good baseline. It may take two months. Or two years. Just trust the process and you’ll make incremental progress bit by bit. [Read: The rules of life – 22 secrets to never be unhappy again]
Just think of online trolls who can’t stop feeding on the negativity and drama. The longer you’ve been depressed, the deeper your negative-thought loop groove will be. It’s like your grumpy granddad who can only maintain a sense of appreciation for a few hours at a time, before he finds something to complain vehemently about.
Your body does anything to try and put you back into that habituated frame of mind. Things like daily five-minute gratitude journals get your mind to practice a new habit that replaces your old ones over time. [Read: How to master positive self-talk and banish negativity]
All humans innately experience suffering because life is difficult. But how you face this suffering makes all the difference in the world. This is the difference between:
Living in fear and playing it safe.
Facing your fears *such as the fact that everyone you’ve ever known will die at some point* and doing the shit that scares you that you avoid in your life *check out the book The 50th Law for how*. [Read: Secret to happiness: The uncomplicated guide for a happy life]
Life is full of suffering and chaos. But we have two choices in how we accept this reality:
We conclude nothing matters because life is random.
We say everything matters and we’ll take full responsibility to live properly *by being brave and not holding back our highest potential*
Everything can be looked at multiple ways. It depends on how you frame a situation. As it is, if you’re always unhappy you may have the frame of the nihilist, where nothing matters.
This is actually an easy way of going about life *though it’s excruciatingly hard to live with and fills you with despair*. But it’s not the right way if you want to find meaning and happiness. The proper way is to be the hero and accept life’s suffering willingly. [Read: How to deal with loneliness: 12 ways to bring you back to life]
Accept where you’re at right now. And move forward within that context. The key is to start with the small things in your life.
Start really small and just with yourself. Tidy your room if it’s messy. Organize your things. Make sense of the chaos that you have direct control over. Get a regular sleep routine where you wake up and sleep at a particular time each day. Start small and increase your scope bit by bit as you gain confidence. [Read: 7 Easy steps to be blissfully happy in a relationship]
Here are crucial things to address over time if you have brain fog/depression/anxiety:
– Schedule a check-up with your doctor *hormone levels, blood/micronutrient test, allergy test*.
– Exercise adequately.
– Getting adequate sleep in a dark room each day.
– Removing inflammatory/allergenic foods *consider an elimination diet*
– Cutting out all processed foods like bread, white rice, biscuits, sugar, flour-based foods.
– Cranking up the greens *dark leafy greens*, whole foods with colors from the whole rainbow, and spices.
– Consider also supplementing with micronutrients e.g. magnesium, vitamin D, omega-3s.
Such as taking time out, de-stressing *e.g. using saunas*, spending time just mucking around with people who make you laugh, having a social circle, goofing around, and doing new things and having new experiences. You can meet all kinds of people on sites like meetup.com. [Read: Beat boredom with 30 fun things to do with friends]
You can do a lot to change your life and mood. But the fact is that you will be the sum of the five closest friends you have and the books you’ve read. So, if you spend a lot of time around people who feed on negativity this brings you back to a low base line.
You may need to change the types of shows you watch, the types of websites you read, your job, your friends, even leave your family if they seem to fan the flames.
This is major. If you don’t expect to have setbacks you’ll feel completely destroyed when they happen. You will have really low days *even low weeks* despite making progress. This awareness limits how much you get in your own way. [Read: How to face relationship challenges & overcome them as a couple]
Programs like selfauthoring.com help you make sense of everything. If you’ve been through a lot of inner torment you’ll need to sort through your past obstacles and learn how to master them so that they don’t occur again in the future.
It’s also seriously important to know what your future plans are. If you have no life goals you can have no positive emotions!
If you try to present a mask to others you reject a part of who you are, which is like self-hate. You don’t have to tell people everything about you but not telling lies, even when it seems difficult, is important if you want to make sense of your life. [Read: How to stop lying to yourself and everyone around you]
Do you have good friends, a good job, a good diet—a good psychiatrist helps you to consider these things. And if despite having all these being okay you’re still depressed you may be a candidate for pharmaceutical interventions that balance out balance brain chemicals.
A huge amount of discontent and even depression comes from living in the past or worrying about the future. The problem is, you won’t find any joy in either place. You won’t find contentment either. The only place you need to focus on is the present. Have you ever heard of mindfulness?
A little earlier I talked about getting into the ‘now’. Utilizing mindfulness will help you do that. [Read: How to stop overthinking: Secrets to go from overthinker to relaxer]
Mindfulness meditation is very powerful and it’s actually one of the easiest types of meditation to begin with. Mindfulness teaches you to be more ‘mindful’ of what is going on around you in that moment and therefore keeps your focus right where it needs to be – in the here and now. That has a huge amount of benefit on many levels, including a health and wellbeing standpoint.
You see, when you’re constantly worrying about the past and what’s to come in the future, you don’t have enough headspace to enjoy what’s actually going on. After all, you can’t change the past and you can only influence the future to a degree. By constantly planning and worrying about what’s to come, you’re missing the things that are happening right in front of you. You’ll become so addicted to thinking forwards that you’ll never be able to stop. [Read: How to be present: The guide to find your zone of calm perfection]
Becoming more mindful won’t happen overnight, but it can be learned. There are countless exercises and meditations you can try, and I urge you to do some research into them. I find using the ‘snap back’ method works for me.
To do this, you need to be very aware of your thoughts and you need to identify when your mind isn’t in the present moment. When you notice that your mind is wandering backwards or forwards, forcefully tell yourself “stop!” and that should be enough to snap you back to the present. You can say it aloud if you want, and that’s going to be more effective in most cases, or you can do it in your mind if you’re somewhere public. You could also wear a band on your wrist that you can snap when you need to pull your attention back.
Give it a go. Living a mindful life will certainly make you happier and will help you to see that there is more happiness in your life than you actually realize.
[Read: 15 things everyone should know about how to live a happy life]
Your natural default state is happiness. However, things get in the way of this awareness. These include disconnection from the present moment, avoiding personal fears, inflammatory diet/lifestyle, and not sorting through your life goals, past traumas, and relationships. If you always think “nothing makes me happy”, it’s time to pay attention to why.
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