The Common Factor Every Time You’re Unhappy, You


By Flickr user kirainet

It was just half a year ago when the inevitable came, the oncoming and radical shift in lifestyle that I had been expecting for the past four or five years, the day I moved to Arizona. I had always known I would have to leave my relatively easygoing and responsibility-free lifestyle, moving to a more unknown state in which its inhabitants live at a much slower pace.

You see, I was always a Southern California boy who was born and raised for the past 18 years, so how could I not be sad? There was no way I could blame this life changing decision on anyone else. It was all me. It was truly a daunting decision.

Why was I moving? Not only do Californians bombard me with this question, but this curiosity follows me even in Arizona. Quite honestly, I do not have a very good answer to that anymore.

Why leave the life of endless potential adventures to settle in an area where there is not much going on? Why leave the people who loved me and the relationships I have built? Why go into a foreign land and start up again? I ask myself these questions a lot these days.

The thing is, I was running from something and I hate to admit it to myself. I was ultimately tired and unhappy with what I had. My family life I felt was stagnant, yet at the same time overbearing. Yet, looking back and comparing it to my current one, California’s was not bad.

I noticed plenty of flaws in my social life that I felt discontent with, be it the quality of certain aspects or perhaps the loss of previous relationships.

Then again, towards the end of that chapter in my life, I realized my close circle of friends was quite amazing. I joke with a close buddy of mine from my former life that we had a very “overpowered group”, meaning we had a great mix of unique individuals that are hard to find elsewhere. Perhaps I’m just nostalgic.

The thing with all of this was that I was blaming all these external factors for my sense of unhappiness that seemed to water down on me like an unexpected torrent of rain every now and then.

In Arizona, I find myself once again discontent with my family life. As for socially, I am meeting plenty of great people and yet I rarely feel the same sense of wonder with them as I did with the folks I bond with in California. The grass is always greener on the other side, the old adage.

What has this made me realize after months of self-reflecting? I am responsible for my own source of satisfaction. Rarely do we ever look at ourselves to blame but yet we are quick to judge that perhaps other people are the ones causing us to feel boredom, such was my case. I am not saying, however, that I am boring others. Quite the opposite as it seems that people greatly appreciate my company, something I struggled to realize in the past. No, I was dissatisfied because I always felt there should be something more; I had an epiphany that I myself was the cause of my own self-torment.

Without a doubt, many people can relate to this story. Maybe while reading this you didn’t even realize that this is a reflection of yourself as well.

How often do you feel unhappy and have you always blamed others for this? The causation may be coming from your own outlook on life and the activities you partake in.

Interestingly enough, the way I snap myself out of self-loathing is to regain consciousness of the fact that I can control my own satisfaction out of everyday life through the activities I do and the thoughts I believe in.

Allow me to shed some light on various methods of getting away from these negative thoughts and living a fulfilling, content lifestyle.

Stay Active Physically and Socially:

Staying active is a great way to get away from your own self drowning thoughts.

There are plenty of ways: whether it is through sports, consistently going to the gym, even going for a walk with friends. Not only does it satisfy the physical, but it can very well lead to a great social branching.

Sports are a very social event, no matter what you play. Take advantage of it and meet new people, form new bonds, and ultimately create life-lasting relationships.

Most importantly, do not let your social life stagnate! Constantly create meet-ups with your friends or even if they are not your friends yet, make opportunities to turn an acquaintance into a buddy. You want to be the person who is known for networking and getting people together.

You will feel happy just being around others and the satisfaction as a very social individual is amazing. It is important to remember that everyone else is just as nervous as you are when it comes to reaching out to others.

It is a hard task for most people and it will be a valuable skill once you branch out. If you are constantly socializing, you have no time for your negative thoughts to bring you down.

Finding a Philosophy, Stoicism:

Stoicism works wonders for me when I take the conscious effort to apply it to my daily thought process. I recommend The Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, by William B. Irvine if you are interested. It does a wonderful job of explaining and giving you the tools for applying it to your life.

A basic summary of the philosophy is that it seeks to eliminate negative emotions from your life such as anger, sadness, etc.

The beauty is that all of this is purely mental! Another interesting part of the philosophy is that it teaches you to overcome the never ending pursuit of happiness by bringing consistent happiness to yourself. If this sounds interesting to you then give the book a try! I can’t stress enough how much I loved it and the book was ultimately what brought me full into the philosophy.

Write Down a List of Things You Appreciate:

How often does a person actually sit down to think about how good they’ve got it? I know, I know, you’re probably expecting a lecture on how you should not complain because someone has it worse in Africa. No, this is actually far from that. My point is that actually sitting down to write a physical list of the things you appreciate immediately brings you out of the dark to realize that you are ok. No one tells you this enough and when they try, they do it poorly, e.g. “Don’t throw away those beans, Johnny! There are kids in Africa…”

For me, I frequently bring myself to a journal to write out the things I appreciate in Arizona when I feel my thoughts creeping in. It really can be anything. This has the ability for you to weed out if why you are truly sad is due to the external circumstances and surroundings, or perhaps it’s simply all in your head. So for my list, I would frequently mention a few consistent things:

Sociability/Confidence (Not many people can say the same)


Amazing friends


Skills in multiple sports

Ability to articulate my own thoughts verbally and through words

Self Stairway

The list goes on, and yours can be infinitely longer.

Do you see how all of these things can really change your outlook on things? You can be the one who wants to jump up in the air for no reason because you’re just always happy for no reason. Admittedly, yes maybe you can argue that some of these changes are somewhat external, but in essence, it truly is your inner self changing. Your willingness to try new sports and socialize, your shift in thought process that leads to a new philosophy such as Stoicism, and you mentally going through what you appreciate, all things that require conscious effort from the inside.

Please, don’t be unhappy and don’t blame others; take a look inside and see what you are lacking internally and make the conscious decision to live a better, happy life. You’re in control of your own happiness, and it all starts inside.

Let me know in the comments about any personal anecdotes that you find relevant. I’m sure there’s plenty of times you could have been more forgiving of others for your own self torture. I can’t wait to hear it all in the comments and hope you subscribe to new article alerts at the top.

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway and founder of Growth Ninja, a digital marketing agency that specializes in Facebook Ads. Voted "Most Guapo" five years in a row (lost during 6th year to a hand model.)

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5 responses to The Common Factor Every Time You’re Unhappy, You

  1. Great post. It reminds me of a new friend of mine who has impressed me greatly with her ability to get out and meet new people. She moved to Oregon recently and signed up for all kinds of classes and joined several groups of people with the same hobbies. I only hope I could be so brave when/if I move next.

  2. Hey Vincent,

    What do you think now about eliminating negative emotions, compared to a year before? Have you learned more about this subject, personally?
    Kahneman and Gilbert say that we cannot control emotions, there are from the part of the brain that is automatic, intuitive, and not controllable. Branden says that refusing, denying, or disowning negative emotions is just going to backfire. The key is to accept, breathe them in, give some space, observe them, and let them go. Not “fusing” with them. So I’m wondering your view on that related to Stoicism (as I don’t know much about it). I believe though of course that one should do more and more of the things one wants and care about and less and less of the others. Let me know!

    • Wonderful question, Guill!

      Perhaps eliminating is the wrong word. What I’ve found to work best is to manipulate my own thoughts to draw out different emotions. In a way, that’s not exactly controlling emotions and would fall in line with what Kahneman and Gilbert have to say.

      For example, I am sad. Why am I sad? Analyze my thoughts and what’s going on in my life right now. Put a positive spin on it and try to see what aspects of my surroundings is making me sad. Should I be sad? Oh hey, I feel better!

      I hope that example makes sense.

      It’s been well over a year and I think my opinion of emotions has changed quite a bit. I still believe we can manipulate our own emotions but I don’t think I’d use the word “eliminate” anymore because it’s misleading and doesn’t get my point across the way I intend it to.

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