Have you felt miserable and wished there was something you could do? Well it turns out, that a lot of times your mind has a pretty heavy role in contributing to your misery.
We aren’t saying this to invalidate any of your sadness or make it seem like your fault. Rather, we want to encourage you by letting you know that you can take an active role in making yourself happier! Once you know about some of the tricks your mind plays on you, you can work to combat them before they take over.
Wondering how your mind might be tricking you into being miserable? Here are 6 ways.
1. Replaying past experiences
Did you do something embarrassing 5 years ago? Say something you wish you could take back? Are those moments still stuck in your memory?
It can be hard to let go of some past experiences that made us feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty, or upset. Sometimes, it even feels as though the memory randomly pops out of nowhere. While it is important to heal and reflect on negative experiences in your life, it’s just as important to allow yourself to move on.
Remember that you are human. By definition, you are flawed, and that’s okay! When you can, try to give yourself grace and prevent these painful memories from masking all of the wonderful things about you.
2. Being extremely hard on yourself
Do criticize yourself more than you should? Do you wish you could be as kind to yourself as you are to your friends?
If you aren’t there yet, don’t worry, you can learn! Meg Selig from Psychology Today emphasizes the importance of healthy self-talk and inner voice (Selig 2017). While it is important to be real with yourself and acknowledge how you can improve, it is equally important to support yourself with a positive, encouraging inner voice.
Remember to praise yourself for what you do well, and be gentle when you mess up. It makes a huge difference on your overall outlook and self-esteem.
3. Comparing yourself to other people
When someone else succeeds do you feel discouraged? If yes, don’t feel bad, it’s an understandable feeling.
Although it is natural to look at everything we don’t have, Segil warns against making these comparisons because it takes our attention away from what we do (Segil 2017). When you feel the urge to do this, remember a few things: you are comparing the entirety of your life to snapshots of someone else’s, and everyone really is on their own journey.
Just as you pick and choose which aspects of yourself to share with the world, others do too! Forgetting this may make you feel down about your own struggles, which is understandable. So do yourself a favor and remember to take it into account.
4. Always wanting more
Similar to comparing yourself to others, your mind may trick you into being miserable by constantly reaching for more. Know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with ambition, but don’t let your goals and your future take away the satisfaction of what you have already accomplished. It’s important to strike that balance between being grateful for what you have and setting new goals.
According to Psychologist Melanie Greenberg from Psychology Today, mindfulness is a great way to get into the habit of appreciating what’s already in front of you. Dr. Greenberg explains that mindfulness not only helps you accurately observe your situation, but it also helps you fully accept your thoughts and feelings (Greenberg 2020).
Want to start practicing mindfulness? It’s actually easier than you may think! Meditation, journaling, and actively practicing gratitude are great places to start.
5. Cognitive distortions
Have you ever been in a situation where your mind immediately assumed and reacted to the worst possible outcome? Do you find yourself doing this often? You may have fallen victim to a cognitive distortion called catastrophizing.
A cognitive distortion is an umbrella term for when your mind misinterprets a situation, often making it worse than it is. If gone unchecked these distortions can make you miserable . Common examples of cognitive distortions are catastrophizing, overgeneralizing, and jumping to conclusions (Ackerman 2020). While there are distinctions, there is also heavy overlap between all types of cognitive distortions in that they all cause you to stress over problems or situations that might not really be there.
6. Fighting negative thoughts
Have you ever heard of toxic positivity? This may sound a little like an oxymoron, but it is actually something that can make you miserable inside.
Toxic positivity is essentially when you inadvertently mask feelings of anger, disappointment, regret, or any other negative emotion by trying to be happy all the time. Positivity is essential to happiness and a great mindset to practice, but it can become toxic if you try to use it as a distraction. All of your feelings are valid, the good, the bad, and everything in between.
And not to mention, the more you try and not feel your feelings, the more they want to come out (Benjamin and Melsins 2013). Remember that there’s a difference between ‘being negative’ and expressing your emotions in a healthy way, so try not to deprive yourself of that relief.
We hope this helped you discover some ways your mind might be tricking you into being miserable. Could you relate to anything? Did you find this helpful? Let us know. Thanks for reading!
- Ackerman CE (2020, January 09). “Cognitive Distortions: When Your Brain Lies to You”. Positivepsychology.com. Body & Brain. Retrieved from www.positivepsychology.com/cognitive-distortions/
- Benjamin K, Melsins D (2013, April 06). “5 Ways Your Brain Is Tricking You Into Being Miserable”. Cracked. Science. Retrieved from www.cracked.com/article_20398_5-ways-your-brain-tricking-you-into-being-miserable.html
- Greenberg M (2020, January 27). “The Surprising Reason Mindfulness Makes You Happier”. Psychology Today. The Mindful Self-Express. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/202001/the-surprising-reason-mindfulness-makes-you-happier
- Selig M (2017, January 24). “10 Ways You Are Causing Your Own Unhappiness”. Psychology Today. Changepower. Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/changepower/201701/10-ways-you-are-causing-your-own-unhappiness