Encouraging being unhappy may seem like an unlikely offering coming from someone who purports to help people live more fulfilling, joyous lives but stick with me here for a few moments and I'll show you how being unhappy could provide your key to contentment. Many people, including myself, sometimes feel burdened by messages from the popular media implying we are only one positive affirmation or funny joke away from everlasting happiness. We are told with the right dosage of such things as positive thinking, regular exercise and expressions of gratitude we can unlock the secrets to our bliss.

I don't know about you, but I'll admit I feel attracted to the notion that I may have unlimited control over my emotional ups and downs. I am drawn in by such pronouncements as, "Change your thinking, change your life." In the end, however, I find myself feeling more trumped than triumphant. My original sadness is often compounded by my sense of failure to apply these simple offerings successfully, resulting in my happiness slipping that much further from my grasps.

It's not just me, either; I have seen this same behavior in my friends, colleagues and clients. A friend once describe it as "double dipping," feeling bad about something and then feeling bad that you are feeling bad about it--quite the vicious cycle to say the least. My sense of what is going on isn't just that we don't like feeling unhappy, it's that we feel that it is wrong to feel unhappy or angry or sad and that we will be punished in some way for it. One client even articulated it as such. She lamented, "I don't want to be sad because then I will just attract more sadness." The fact is, sad things happen, marriages break up, homes go into foreclosure, we lose our jobs, people die. Having unhappy feelings about these things is only human and natural and, in the end, healthy!

As part of the beautiful spectrum of emotions, feeling unhappy, believe it or not, plays a critical role in teaching us about ourselves. It would be like removing the color red from the rainbow simply because it wasn't as pretty or made you feel as good as the color purple. In continuing with that same analogy, we wouldn't even have the color purple if it wasn't for the red, and we wouldn't appreciate the elation of happiness if it wasn't for the depth of sadness.


To cultivate an appreciation of the benefits of unhappiness, for the next month I invite you to embrace your unhappiness and the unhappiness of those around you. Feel free to engage in any of these offerings or create some of your own.

    You know how it happens, when you're watching It's a Wonderful Life, and you're trying not to cry? Well, next time you're watching a sad movie or television show or reading a heartbreaking novel and feel like crying, go ahead and let those tears flow.

    When you're feeling unhappy take a moment to get to know your feelings. Notice how it feels in your body. Does it affect your posture, your tone of voice, the way you walk? Do you feel heavy? Is there a sense of emptiness or stillness?

    The next time you're consoling a friend and find yourself about to tell them affectionately, "Don't cry, it will be OK," you might say instead, "Feel free to cry as much as you like, it's good for you."

    (il>Instead of reflexively reaching for that remote control or telephone or some such diversion to distract you as soon as you feel those telltale signs of unhappiness, grab a journal instead and write about your feelings. See where it takes you.

And not to worry... for most of us the time we spend honoring our unhappiness will not lead us forever into the depths of despair. As the seasons change, so will our feelings. When the time is right the storm clouds will pass, the sun will come out and there will be rainbows with their cornucopia of glorious colors for us to appreciate all that much more again.

Author's Bio: 

Kirsten Mahoney is a certified Life Balance Coach and founder of Insight Out Life Coaching who enjoys speaking nationally, live and on television, on the subjects of life balance and stress management. As a Life Balance Coach, Kirsten combines her natural curiosity and compassion with her expertise and knowledge to empower individuals to live more balanced, less stressful lives. Her approach incorporates one-on-one coaching, workshops and presentations, as well as designing and implementing corporate wellness programs. Her clients include Clif Bar, Wells Fargo, Facebook, Cisco, San Francisco Small Business Association and Cisco.

Kirsten is also author of Insights, an international monthly publication on Life Balance.

Prior to becoming a Life Balance Coach, Kirsten performed as Director of Operations for non-profit and for profit organizations where she traveled internationally to present workshops and provide trainings.

Kirsten has worked and studied on five continents and has traveled throughout thirty-five countries. Much of her understanding of people and the life balance choices they make has been informed by her diverse traveling experiences.

Kirsten has earned a BA in Sociology from Tulane University and University College Dublin, Ireland, an MA in Education from San Francisco State University and Massey University, New Zealand and a Professional Coaching Certification through the International Coaching Federation accredited program at New Ventures West.

For more information please visit http://www.insightoutlifecoaching.com.