15 Negative Attitudes of Chronically Unhappy People

Unhappiness is toxic.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned there are certain traits and habits chronically unhappy people seem to have mastered. But before diving in with you, let me preface this and say: we all have bad days, even weeks when we fall down in all seven areas.

happiness vs unhappiness

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

―   John Milton, Paradise Lost

All of us experience negative thoughts from time to time. How we manage our negative attitudes can make the difference between confidence versus fear, hope versus despair, mastery versus victimhood, and victory versus defeat.

Let’s explore the characteristics, attitudes and lifestyles of unhappy people.

Here are the 15 qualities of chronically unhappy people.

  1. Self-Defeating Talk. Self-defeating talk is messages we send to ourselves which reduce our confidence, diminish our performance, lower our potential, and ultimately sabotage our success.
  2. Waiting for the future. Telling yourself, “I’ll be happy when …” is one of the easiest unhappy habits to fall into. How you end the statement doesn’t really matter because it puts too much emphasis on circumstances, and improved circumstances don’t lead to happiness. Don’t spend your time waiting for something that’s proven to have no effect on your mood. Instead focus on being happy right now, in the present moment, because there’s no guarantee of the future.
  3. Or Worrying About the Future. Saving money or having goals and plans for the future is one thing, but a life full of constant worry about what may or may not happen can only hold you back from being happy. The future can be scary, but have enough faith in yourself to know that you can handle a situation when it arises. Work hard, be kind, aim high, and the rest will follow.
  4. Embracing pessimism. According to research, thinking pessimistically (your glass is half empty because someone drank the other half without your permission) is a staple in the depressed person’s cognitive structure. The unhappy tend to recite Murphy’s Law to remind them that life is overwhelmingly negative.
  5. Spending too much time and effort acquiring “things.” There’s an ocean of research that shows that material things don’t make you happy. When you make a habit of chasing things, you are likely to become unhappy because, beyond the disappointment you experience once you get them, you discover that you’ve gained them at the expense of the real things that can make you happy, such as friends, family, and hobbies. Ask yourself:  What Should I Do Today? Here 35 Science-Backed Ways to Live Life Happily.
  6. Constant Complaining. Complaining itself is troubling as well as the attitude that precedes it. Complaining is a self-reinforcing behavior. By constantly talking—and therefore thinking—about how bad things are, you reaffirm your negative beliefs. While talking about what bothers you can help you feel better, there’s a fine line between complaining being therapeutic and it fueling unhappiness. If you want things to change, you need to act, not complain about it.
  7. Making Problems Bigger. When a not-so-great situation arises, an unhappy person will almost always make it worse. They tend to overreact, blow things out of proportion and see things negatively instead of finding a way to fix what went wrong. We all encounter things we’d rather not deal with. The difference between a happy person and an unhappy person is how they handle a tough situation. Take a step back and a deep breath, and search for a solution!
  8. Making critical of everyone and everything. Remember, finding reasons to judge others ensnares people in that negative mindset which is so essential in sustaining depression. Most importantly, unhappy people reserve the harshest judgment for themselves, as there is no more bitter pill to swallow than that of self–contempt.
  9. Caring about what others think. It’s impossible to be happy if you spend worthless time thinking about outside judgements. Find out what YOU think and care only about that. Not how others stifle you. Feel strong about your own beliefs so that when people judge, you can stand confidently. It takes major introspection to discover your authentic self, so don’t waste time on what others are thinking.
  10. Assuming no responsibility for anything. There is plenty of blame to go around, so they find others to dump it on. Why? Because if one assumes no responsibility, then there is no need to take ownership of anything, including one’s misery. Accepting responsibility can lead to change, improvement and – gadzooks – self-pride, which is truly the arch enemy of a debilitating depression.
  11. And Seeing yourself as a victim. Unhappy people tend to operate from the default position that life is both hard and out of their control. In other words, “Life is out to get me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” The problem with that philosophy is that it fosters a feeling of helplessness, and people who feel helpless aren’t likely to take action to make things better. While everyone is certainly entitled to feel down every once in a while, it’s important to recognize when you’re letting this affect your outlook on life. You’re not the only person that bad things happen to, and you do have control over your future as long as you’re willing to take action.
  12. Establishing no goals. It’s not that unhappy people don’t want to set goals, it’s just that to do so requires leaving the comfort zone and placing one’s self-esteem on the line. You see, whenever a person takes the risk of setting goals, they will probably feel differently about themselves, depending upon whether or not the goal is achieved. It is almost impossible to remain depressed if one is continually setting and achieving new goals.
  13. Ignoring their health. Sometimes, our health can fail us no matter how hard we try to stay well. When our bodies start to fail us, it isn’t long before everything else starts to feel harder than it normally would. Chronically unhappy people fail to value and ensure their good health. They avoid exercise and pay little attention to their diet, how well they are sleeping, or how they’ve been feeling emotionally.
  14. Struggling to Forgive Yourself. All of us make mistakes in life. When you look back at your past deeds, perhaps there were decisions and actions you regret. There may have been unfortunate errors in judgment. You may have caused harm to yourself and/or others. How to Forgive Yourself & Learning to Accept Yourself.
  15. The Fear of Failure and Making Mistakes. The fear of failure and making mistakes are often associated with perfectionism (at least in certain areas of your life). You may think that you’re not good enough in some ways, thereby placing tremendous pressure on yourself to succeed. How to Let Go of Fear.

You know those things that you can’t do anything about, but you worry about them anyway?

Happiness has much less to do with life circumstances than you might think. A University of Illinois study found that people who earn the most (more than $10 million annually) are only a smidge happier than the average Joes and Janes who work for them.

Life circumstances have little to do with happiness because much happiness is under your control—the product of your habits and your outlook on life. Psychologists from the University of California who study happiness found that genetics and life circumstances only account for about 50% of a person’s happiness. The rest is up to you.

10 thoughts on “15 Negative Attitudes of Chronically Unhappy People”

  1. We surely do have the power to turn happiness into pain and pain into happiness.. We just need to observe our lives closely.. Great post and thank for sharing.

  2. Unhappiness, pain, fear, failure; it’s so easy to maintain these attributes. It’s why people never break out of them. There is a comfort with not having any expectations because no one is expecting you to do anything. You don’t have to worry about constantly and consistently having eyes all staring at you waiting for you to accomplish the next thing. It’s like Marianne Williamson stated, “It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.”

  3. Great post and love all the tips. My favourite is about being the victim. My old manager once told me “don’t be a victim, be a victor”, love that saying.

  4. Thank you for this post. I know I have been guilty of a few of these negative behaviors. I’ve been trying to turn my life around for a very long time. As a Christian I pray and read my Bible, I’m open to other faiths and have explored Buddhism searching for answers. Have done exercising, Hobbies of reading, writing, photography, listening to positive uplifting music such as Gospel songs and I try to spend as much time in the great outdoors aka Mother Nature as my job and working hours will allow. Mine has been a battle fraught with numerous doctor visits and hospitalizations but with God’s help I will achieve that “Happiness Goal” one day. I place everything in the Lord’s capable hands.

  5. A good reminder to see the bright images in life, rather than constantly viewing the darkness. It’s that old idea of ‘The Ink Spot’. What you see when you look at it, illustrates what is going on in your own mind, and when someone else looks at it, they see things differently. So it really is a case of ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…’…

  6. While I agree with most if not all of the points noted here, I do wish to add as a long time sufferer of Depression that tragic circumstances out of your control can effect you past the point of these principles. It’s difficult to argue them since I feel like I would most likely be branded negative for that reason and that reason alone, despite the fact that I’m trying to argue with a more logical outlook…

    Being depressed can be a condition; NOT a choice. If we all had the choice to not be unhappy, I’m certain we would all take it. Sometimes however, we need to be in order to empathise with others. (The Pixar movie ‘Inside Out’ showed this in practise wonderfully.)

    Please note I’m not trying to rain on your optimism so to speak – I wouldn’t have read such an article otherwise and I do find it very insightful! Yet sometimes the mindset that people who are sad are sad because they choose to be can be extremely toxic for those who suffer from a mental illness. Rather than shun or brand us for our outlook, please seek in listening, understanding and accepting the reasons to why we think like we do. Even better, however; please give us a helping hand up, rather than a scornful sneer down.

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