Unhelpful Thoughts that Keep You From Being Happy

Ever had one of those days where you wake up feeling on top of the world, and then it just goes downhill from there? It’s not your imagination: we all have those days. Yet while some of us may feel happy and energetic, others can get stuck in a downward spiral where nothing goes right.

If you find yourself wondering why things always go wrong, you may already be feeling a little blue. But what if the thoughts that keep you from being happy are making your life harder? If you want to be happy, start by recognizing the following thoughts that keep us from being happy. Here are 13 unhelpful thoughts that keep you from being happy.

“I Am Not Enough”

If you struggle with feelings of inadequacy, it’s time to learn the truth: nothing is ever perfect. While it may seem like others have their lives together, that doesn’t mean they are immune to everyday struggles or that they don’t have moments of self-doubt. Even people who appear successful have challenges in their past and areas for improvement in their future.

Remembering this can help you view yourself more realistically without putting labels on your performance or accomplishments. You don’t have to compare yourself with anyone else or put unrealistic expectations on yourself. You may not feel happy every day, but the happiness will last if you focus on your strengths and remind yourself that you are enough.

“I can’t believe this is happening to me!”

If every time something bad happens, you feel like it’s the end of the world, your brain may be stuck in catastrophic mode. The next time you find yourself whining to friends about how unfair life is, try asking yourself these two questions: What’s so bad about this situation? Is this as bad as I think it is?

Consider the possibility that you are blowing things out of proportion, and remind yourself of how many other people would love to be in your shoes. While life does have its obstacles, learning to step back and see things more clearly can help keep you from overreacting every time something goes wrong.

“I Can’t Do This”

No matter what kind of challenge you face, remember the adage: where there’s a will, there’s away. Arguably one of the most difficult habits to break is that of negative self-talk; yet when left unchecked this habit often leads us into an endless cycle of discouragement or disappointment. When faced with challenges or problems, try saying these words out loud: I can do this.

If you find yourself automatically thinking that you can’t, it may be a sign that your negative mindset is getting in the way of your success. Keep telling yourself “I can do this” until the words change from being a lie to being true.

“People Should Treat Me Better”

Ever notice how quickly we expect others to be there for us whenever we need them? When something goes wrong or someone doesn’t do what we want, our first thought is often that they should have known better and been more thoughtful about what they did or didn’t say. Yet asking everything from friends and family isn’t fair, nor does it create sustainable relationships.

Instead of expecting people to read your mind, share your feelings with them openly and without judgment. If you feel like you aren’t getting the attention or help that you need, ask for it directly instead of growing resentful over time. Other people are just as flawed as you are-but they probably don’t want to be reminded of it constantly.

“I Can’t Change Anything”

When difficult things happen in our lives, most of us tend to focus on what we can’t change instead of working towards making even small improvements. While it may not seem possible right now, there are always steps that can be taken towards becoming a happier person or learning something new about yourself or others around you.

The next time you find yourself dwelling on a problem, try to think back to all of the similar situations you’ve faced in your life. What did you learn from each one? Or what would have happened if you had chosen to make things better? Sometimes it takes some distance and perspective before we can see past our limitations and start making possible changes instead of feeling like they are impossible.

“It’s All My Fault”

When we make a mistake, there’s a lot of pressure to beat ourselves up and blame ourselves for everything that went wrong. However, making mistakes is part of the human experience. When you mess up or hurt someone else’s feelings unintentionally, try saying these words out loud: I made a mistake; it was my fault.

You don’t need to add guilt and shame on top of the negative emotions already surrounding your choices or actions-nor should you let other people do so either. The more time we spend blaming ourselves for things we had no control over, the less time we have to fix them and move on with our lives.

“I Can’t Control My Emotions”

There are few things more frustrating than when you know you should do something but your emotions get in the way of actually taking action. We all have bad days, times when we’re overly sensitive to criticism or judgment, and periods where our emotions are at an all-time high. Yet these experiences of overwhelming emotion don’t last forever.

When you find yourself unable to control your emotions, one helpful exercise is to picture yourself moving them out of your body. If you see them as a physical thing instead of part of who you are, it can help separate how you feel from who you truly want to be when interacting with others. Even when the negative feelings come back again, it’s important to remember that they will eventually fade as long as you don’t feed them with more negative thoughts and self-criticism.

“I’ll Be Happy Once…”

When difficult circumstances happen, we may feel like they will never end and that we’ll never be happy or content again. We tell ourselves that we won’t be able to enjoy life until the pain goes away and we get back what we lost. Yet what often ends up happening is that you don’t realize how much worse it could get if you let your negative thoughts take over your mind and heart.

The next time things become overwhelming or make you lose hope, try doing something small for yourself instead of worrying about everything else going on in the world (you can read more about this concept here). Doing little things like taking a walk outside, going for a run, or watching an enjoyable comedy can help to put things into perspective and remind you that there are still good things in your life regardless of the challenges you’re currently facing.

“I Shouldn’t Have To…”

It’s natural to want to avoid other people if you feel judged, misunderstood, or mistreated-but this habit usually keeps us stuck in negative emotions instead of helping us resolve conflicts so we can move on with our lives. This negativity only makes it more difficult for others to support or help us because they may feel like they aren’t “good enough” for us either.

When you find yourself thinking about why something is unfair or how it negatively affects you, take a few minutes to reflect on the language you’re using and how it might be coming across. It’s time to stop seeing your life as something that is happening “to” you and start looking at it as an adventure where you get to choose what role you want to play in everything that happens.

“No One Understands Me”

It’s easy to feel like you don’t belong or that there will never be anyone who understands you, especially when surrounded by people who seem happier than yourself. Yet it’s often our thoughts that keep us from connecting with others instead of what they’re saying and doing. When you find yourself thinking about these phrases, take a moment to look at how someone else might see the world if not for yourself then for your children or future grandchildren.

You never know whose life could be changed by your openness, silly sense of humor, or willingness to engage in conversation without needing anything in return. So, ask yourself this simple question: Who would I want to meet today? Then go out and talk to them as if the answer to this question was “you.”

“Life is Too Difficult”

It can feel stressful to live in a world where bad things happen to good people and the future is always uncertain. Yet being able to find purpose and meaning in your life, despite all of its challenges, is what separates those who are truly happy from those whose happiness depends on external circumstances.

If you’re struggling with thoughts about how difficult your life is or seems, take some time each day to do something that makes you smile even if it’s as small as finding five beautiful roses on a bush during a walk, talking about a favorite movie with a friend over coffee, or chatting with someone new at the library. Then consider telling this person why they bring joy into your life and how you’ll try to share that feeling with them in the future.

“I Can’t Handle This Right Now”

It’s challenging to face even a few hours of uncertainty, let alone the reality that some people have to do this every day. But those who are cheerful, patient, and grateful for everything they have in life-even the small things-tend to experience more happiness as a result of their choices.

Instead of using phrases like “I can’t handle this right now” or “This is too much,” try thinking about why you’re struggling instead of what doesn’t work for you. For example, if your child spills juice on your favorite rug just before a party takes place at your home, you could say “This isn’t the way I wanted the day to go, but it seems like can have fun together if we all stay positive.”

“My Thoughts Are More Important Than Anyone Else’s”

It’s natural to want to follow your intuition and do what you feel is right in a given situation, but this often leads to ignoring thoughts and feelings from other people who are also involved. While you need to stay true to yourself, the best way to solve problems with others is by finding common ground instead of waiting until someone else “gets” what you need out of any given experience.

If you find yourself thinking thoughts like these, take a few minutes each day just after waking up or before going to sleep and ask yourself: “What three things would I most like non-negotiables? How can I start today? Why am I willing to give up my expectations of people to achieve them?”


To find happiness, avoid overworking yourself or neglecting what is important to you. It’s not about changing your life and it’s not about changing who you are; it’s about finding the right combination of thoughts and actions that allow you to be fulfilled in all aspects of your life.

You can start by choosing one of the 13 thoughts above, holding it in your mind for five minutes, and then replacing it with something that encourages you to be present at the moment. Take some time to find small ways that you can live more fully today and each day after that. When you do this, you’ll notice that someone else will be sharing in your journey and your happiness.

Leave a Comment