It’s normal to have days when you feel down and a little sad. For many people, these days can stretch into weeks. We all need to be more mindful of our mental health, but if you often find yourself thinking “nothing makes me happy”, it’s time to stop, think, and make a plan to get out of it
What’s behind the grey haze?
If you strip away all the other motivations/reasons why we do what we do, at the heart of it all is that we want to be happy. Not a momentary dirty high type of happiness, but a continuous state of being anxiety-free, depression-free, and just feeling like… whoosh. We all want that continuous, easy state of contentment where life is just good.
But when nothing makes you happy, your experience of life might be negative-thought loops that seem uncontrollable. Maybe you can’t stop thinking of what others think of you. Or you feel like your mind is a living hell—a grey fuzz and mental fog that just won’t clear. Maybe even reading this feature is difficult because your mind is too exhausted to concentrate for long periods.
Happiness is actually our default state. We tell ourselves, ‘I’m not happy so I will go out there and find out how to be happy. Maybe if I achieve more, or if I get a lover, get more approval, get attention, or material stuff then I’ll be happy.’ In the end, you end up thinking, nothing makes me happy. What you need to do is become content and from there, happiness grows.
Nothing makes me happy – But happiness only comes when we let go
Now I’m not saying achieving things isn’t important. It just misses the point. You need to focus on a sense of happiness and contentment all the time. Then, when you achieve great things, that’s when you experience joy. They are two different things entirely.
1. Quit fighting it
You’d think trying to get over depression by fighting it would be the way to beat it. I don’t think this is true. People love their story even if it’s painful and hurts them. This is because it’s familiar and self-validating to tell yourself a unique story of why your life sucks and how it’s a big problem.
It’s harder to just let go of the urge to focus on the feelings of self-pity. I know I spent years thinking about how bad I felt, which got me nowhere.
Ironically, the more I focused on doing and trying to get better the more it fed my negative-thought loops with attention. Focusing instead on the present moment *with moments where you make future goals that you write down* is a much better direction to pour your attention.
Even when you work on a big dissertation, you choose to focus on each step bit by bit, rather than looking ahead at your score or on some worrying thought about something that happened earlier in the day.
2. Getting into the now
Ever said to yourself ‘why can’t I just stop obsessing?’ It was as if you talked about some part of you that is you yet separate from you. This is your thinking mind.
Your thinking mind may be incredibly good at creating problems and repetitive thoughts and feelings. It may constantly worry about the past and be fearful of the future, so you no longer appreciate the beauty of the present moment and even leads to you feeling nothing at all.
Spending time dis-identifying with the thinking mind shows you the difference between you and your habituated thought patterns.
I can’t word this any better—reading/listening to the likes of The Power Of Now gives you a solid realization of what the present moment is. You learn how to observe your own negative thought patterns without trying to force them away. Also, meditating around 20 minutes daily is a fantastic practice.
3. Accepting that it will be a bitch to overcome negative thought habits
Know someone who when something bad happens to them they deal with it or sort of laugh it off and move on? That person’s baseline level of how good they usually feel is maybe a seven or eight out of 10.
But if you’re stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts and feelings, you’re the reverse. So maybe you’re usually a two or three out of 10. So even if you get a spike of good feelings that pushes you to say a five or even a 10 out of 10, it eventually falls back to baseline.
4. Understand that negative thought loops are an addiction
Just think of online trolls who can’t stop feeding on the negativity and drama. The longer you’ve been depressed, the deeper your negative-thought loop groove will be. It’s like your grumpy granddad who can only maintain a sense of appreciation for a few hours at a time, before he finds something to complain vehemently about.
5. Choosing to accept suffering
All humans innately experience suffering because life is difficult. But how you face this suffering makes all the difference in the world. This is the difference between:
Living in fear and playing it safe.
Life is full of suffering and chaos. But we have two choices in how we accept this reality:
We conclude nothing matters because life is random.
We say everything matters and we’ll take full responsibility to live properly *by being brave and not holding back our highest potential*
Everything can be looked at multiple ways. It depends on how you frame a situation. As it is, if you’re always unhappy you may have the frame of the nihilist, where nothing matters.
6. Sorting out your life incrementally
Accept where you’re at right now. And move forward within that context. The key is to start with the small things in your life.
Start really small and just with yourself. Tidy your room if it’s messy. Organize your things. Make sense of the chaos that you have direct control over. Get a regular sleep routine where you wake up and sleep at a particular time each day. Start small and increase your scope bit by bit as you gain confidence.
7. Sorting out your health
Here are crucial things to address over time if you have brain fog/depression/anxiety:
– Schedule a check-up with your doctor *hormone levels, blood/micronutrient test, allergy test*.
– Exercise adequately.
– Getting adequate sleep in a dark room each day.
– Removing inflammatory/allergenic foods *consider an elimination diet*
– Cutting out all processed foods like bread, white rice, biscuits, sugar, flour-based foods.
– Cranking up the greens *dark leafy greens*, whole foods with colors from the whole rainbow, and spices.
– Consider also supplementing with micronutrients e.g. magnesium, vitamin D, omega-3s.
8. Let loose and have a social life
Such as taking time out, de-stressing *e.g. using saunas*, spending time just mucking around with people who make you laugh, having a social circle, goofing around, and doing new things and having new experiences. You can meet all kinds of people on sites like meetup.com.
9. Accept that you are a sponge
You can do a lot to change your life and mood. But the fact is that you will be the sum of the five closest friends you have and the books you’ve read. So, if you spend a lot of time around people who feed on negativity this brings you back to a low base line.
You may need to change the types of shows you watch, the types of websites you read, your job, your friends, even leave your family if they seem to fan the flames.
10. Accept that you’ll have setbacks
This is major. If you don’t expect to have setbacks you’ll feel completely destroyed when they happen. You will have really low days *even low weeks* despite making progress. This awareness limits how much you get in your own way.