“O Lord! Unhappy is the man whom man can make unhappy.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I have dealt with a lot of unhappy people during my 45-year career and I have been unhappy enough myself during my own roller-coaster ride in life to have experienced the top ten reasons causing unhappiness and their best commonsense cures from the trenches. Here goes:

• Unhappiness Cause # 1: Wrong, dumb or silly beliefs that you can never prove anyway. Some examples are: Believing that you can make other people happy when the truth of the matter is you can only make them unhappy; another is, if I can only solve this problem things will get easier. Again the truth of this is things will probably just get harder whether you succeed or not, just to test you at a more difficult level on what you learned. Somewhat sad but undeniably true.

• Commonsense Cure: Get real and realize beliefs are beliefs and not truth or facts you can take to the bank. You can undue unhappiness caused by wrong beliefs, just by coming to your senses. Try it, you will find it is easier done than said. Just be honest with yourself about the possibility that all that you think you know may not be necessarily so.

• Unhappiness Cause # 2: Irrational fears that worry you to near death or deliver you into de-habilitating, sweaty anxiety.

• Commonsense Cure: Fear is the opposite emotion of love. Most human fears are based on a fundamental distrust of life not taking you where you want and need to be—happy, loved, and in living in abundance. The only way to deal with fears is to see through their irrationality and then do what you can to change the object of your fear in some small but positive way and enjoy the progress, one baby step at a time.

• Unhappiness Cause # 3: You look in the mirror and don’t like what you see.

• Commonsense Cure: Quickly go out and change your hair style or buy some new clothes. If this doesn’t work, look closer at what you see in the mirror and dare to pay attention to the clues as to why you may not be looking the way you would like, such as lack of sleep, not using eye crème, not exercising enough, poor grooming, eating too much junk food, allowing yourself to get too distressed, having unrealistic expectations about aging, etc. Easier said than done.

• Unhappiness Cause # 4: You feel tired, unenergetic, worn out, morose or generally depressed with a large dark cloud looming over your head.

• Commonsense Cure: Take some vitamin supplements and quickly go out and exercise, doing some physical walking, calisthenics, running, swimming, fitness center routine or anything to get your mind clear of the dark thoughts keeping the unhappy feelings hostage, wrapping the body too tightly. Physical exercise is the easiest and cheapest form of drug treatment for depression, next to getting some affection.

• Unhappiness Cause # 5: You are not getting along with your spouse or partner, arguing a lot, having different values or interests, growing apart or not getting needed emotional support during a serious crisis.

• Commonsense Cure: Something serious is going on here that may have been brewing for a longer than you imagine and you may need a professional mediator to separate the issues from the emotions and open up non-defensive communication. If there is incompatibility in the way you both approach this conflict, it is worse and you need to recognize that. And if you are a guy, try to listen closer and understand the problem rather than giving into your compulsion to control and fix things.

• Unhappiness Cause # 6: You don’t feel like you belong or are part of the in-group at work and are unhappy with feelings of alienation, rejection and not being accepted.

• Commonsense Cure: Approach someone you feel you can trust and discuss this situation openly to find out if this “rejection” is real or not, and what you may be doing to bring it on or aggravate it. That will take openness and courage to accept truths that may hurt, but you will be the winner in the long run, guaranteed.

• Unhappiness Cause # 7: You are unemployed or in a financial mess.

• Commonsense Cure: The hardest part about this cure is that you have to first own the problem. No matter who pushed you down the hole you are in, nobody else is going to lift you out. The first two rules are (a) quit waiting for a miracle, and (b) quit digging deeper. Then look yourself in the mirror and admit frankly why you are in this position. Finally make a plan to not quit doing what is necessary to reach the surface so you can begin to climb the mountain again, i.e. quit spending so much, start saving, network more aggressively, be flexible about what you will do for work, improve your positive attitude no matter how difficult that may be, revise your resume radically, etc.

• Unhappiness Cause # 8: You have a legitimate problem and source of real unhappiness, whatever it may be, that nobody else seems to understand.

• Commonsense Cure: When this occurs, realize: (a) this problem is all yours to solve (b) It may not be solvable, only manageable (c) It may take the rest of your life to manage (d) It is so big that you have to break it down into smaller parts, to work on one by one. Patience, patience and more patience.

• Unhappiness Cause # 9: The sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one. This can be a seemingly impossible challenge to overcome, especially when it involves a young child or a mate of 50+ years. This is bringing tears to my eyes.

• Commonsense Cure: The only cure for this very legitimate source of unhappiness is the love of God and the compassion of other family and friends. The next best thing to this needed relief is keeping too busy to think about it—with work, hobbies, church activities or volunteer services. Hopefully enough of us think compassion out to the sky where those who need it can receive it.

• Unhappiness Cause # 10: You are the victim in a relationship or family involving any of the Three Big A’s: Addiction, Adultery or Abuse and feeling very hopeless about the possibility of any happy ending.

• Commonsense Cure: This is too close to home to be completely objective, but I sense this can easily translate into a realistic hopeless situation, without a happy ending possible. This is where you are confronted with the impossible challenge of understanding and accepting the not understandable or unacceptable. How in the world do you do that? Minute by minute and with reverent prayer for divine intervention and resolve to the values you hold dearest, is my only clue. Support groups are the practical cure that seems to help. Acceptance of the inevitable is a real part of this one, but that is usually slightly out of reach for the healthiest of us for some strange reason.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the peaceful mountains and rivers of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000, Getting It, Passwords to The Prosperity Zone, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, Reality Repair Rx, and Reality Repair coming shortly. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or bcottringer@pssp.net