Here you are: your friends and family are all doing great and having fun, while you have the feeling that your life sucks. You have a vague idea of what it is that sucks in your life, but haven't yet done anything to fix it. Or at least, anything that works.
This article won't contain useless advice such as "just cheer up, people have it worse, so you don't have the right to feel like your life sucks!". You've probably heard this one before, and that's why you're here now.
There are a couple of very clear and actionable steps that you can take right now in order to make your life... well... suck less. You can make it better and work today to make your life happier tomorrow.
Here's what you need to do when you're thinking "my life sucks!".
- Does your life actually suck?
- What to do when your life sucks
- 1. Write down what you're struggling with
- 2. Create small goals that you can actually reach
- 3. Try something you've never done before
- 4. Realize that you're often in control of your own life
- 5. Create a game plan (how to make your life suck less)
- 6. Keep track of your progress (a.k.a. track your happiness)
- 7. Prioritize the people that you enjoy being with
- 8. Sleep more (seriously)
- 9. Make other people's life suck less
- 10. Be grateful for the things that don't suck in your life
- 11. Accept that you're only human (and don't give up after a bad day)
- Closing words
Does your life actually suck?
Now, everybody has occasionally thought about how crappy their lives are. What happens is that people yell how their life sucks when they've missed a bus or are walking in the rain. Pretty often, this expression is combined with the phrase "FML", which seems to be used in pretty much every conversation these days.
- Have a hangover? FML, my life sucks.
- Running late for work? FML, my life sucks.
- Hit your toe on the edge of the bed? FML, my life sucks.
You know what I'm getting at, right? It's that those tiny problems are not actually reasons why your life sucks. If you've found this article, I'm assuming you're facing bigger problems than just a hangover or a rainy day.
This article is for the people who actually think their life sucks longer than a couple of minutes at a time.
For example, this article is for you when:
- You wake up every morning with severe anxiety and dread the idea of going to work
- You feel alone and sad 99% of the time
- You feel like your life has no purpose and feel useless every day
If this is you, then you're at the right place
What to do when your life sucks
People have probably already told you to "cheer up already" or "put on your big boy pants". Maybe you've already tried this "tactic"? If you did, I'm pretty sure that it didn't help.
If you think your life sucks, you need actionable advice that actually improves your situation or your current mindset. The following steps might not all make sense to you, but they've worked tremendously for people that are in your situation.
Let's get started.
1. Write down what you're struggling with
Write down exactly why you think your life sucks.
Grab a piece of paper, put a date on it, and start writing down every single reason why you are in this situation. Here are some great benefits of writing down these questions and answers:
- Writing down your issues forces you to actually confront them.
- It allows you to better deconstruct the issues without getting your thoughts distracted.
- Writing something down can prevent it from causing chaos in your head. Think of this as clearing the RAM memory of your computer. If you've written it down, you can safely forget about it and start with an empty slate.
- It allows you to look back at your struggles objectively. In a few months time, you can look back at your notepad and see how much you've grown.
It might not be hard to imagine that people often start journaling when they are in a difficult situation. Even though writing down your thoughts might sound silly, it can have a direct effect on your mentality. Do not underestimate the power of writing down your feelings!
2. Create small goals that you can actually reach
Change happens one step at a time. You cannot change your life overnight, which is something that might be difficult to accept. If you determined 6 issues that you want to change in your life, then you would be smart to only focus on 1 at a time.
Because you have to build habits. There's a chance that the things you want to change have been a part of your life for a long time already. Therefore, it will be difficult to change these things. You have to consider these changes to be long processes that require constant effort. It's a marathon and not a sprint. You can't work on all these issues today and expect to be happy again tomorrow. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that.
Let's say you want to start living healthier. This is, of course, a very big and noble goal, but it's much better if you could narrow it down into smaller sub-goals. Try to figure out smaller, more specific goals, like:
- Stop eating junk food on weekdays
- Spend 30 minutes exercising twice a week
- Wake up before 08:00 5 days a week
- Go to bed before midnight
- Take 5,000 steps per day
Notice how these goals seem much easier to accomplish? This makes it much easier to build lasting habits that will slowly transform your life in a great way. It doesn't happen overnight though.
These goals can be narrowed down even further. An example:
Want to spend 30 minutes exercising twice a week? Start out by exercising for just 10 minutes tonight. Then, in 2 days, try to exercise for 20 minutes. Next week, try to exercise for 30 minutes, etcetera. Building habits isn’t about reaching your end goal immediately, it is about engraining doing that one thing you want to achieve every day.
It's difficult to build 10 habits at the same time. Instead, try to focus on one habit and once you feel comfortable, then continue to the next.
3. Try something you've never done before
If you think your current life sucks, then you should try something you haven't tried before.
Think about it: whatever you've been doing until now has not resulted in a happy life. Despite all the things you tried, you still think that your life sucks. Well, then it sounds pretty logical that you need to find something new to break your routine life, right?
Think outside the box here. What is something that you would like to do but never tried?
I want you to forget about the reasons why you shouldn't do these new things. There are always reasons to not do something. You have to push through this mental obstacle.
Grab a piece of paper and write down things that you would like to try. Here are a couple of examples:
- Taking dancing lessons
- Telling a person you have feelings for him/her
- Ask your manager for a different position
- Lose 20 pounds and get more confident about your appearance
- Travel to another continent by yourself
A fun example: I signed up for my first marathon 3 weeks prior to the start. At the time, I was feeling... well... let's just say my life could've been better. My sucky situation gave me the final push to just do it already. So I signed up.
I was NOT prepared properly, but I still ran the damn race. It was a perfect way for me to add a little adventure to my life when I needed it!
(Even though the last couple of miles were devastatingly hard, as you can read from my face on the picture below.)
My point is to not think of the obstacles when writing these down. We'll tackle these later.
4. Realize that you're often in control of your own life
What if your life sucks because of your rapidly declining health, or because you lost someone you loved?
Then you might have determined that there's nothing you can do about the cause. This is obviously not good news.
But I want to let you know that it isn't necessarily the end of the world. Without looking at your personal situation, it is commonly known that your happiness is made up of the following:
- 10% is determined by outside factors
- 50% is determined by genetics
- 40% is determined by your own outlook
So even though outside factors are currently making you feel miserable, it doesn't mean that you have to be unhappy by default.
Now I'm not saying that you should just cheer up and magically be happy. It doesn't work like that, as "choosing happiness" is relative. If you've ever been depressed, you know how trapped you can feel, how ensnared you are and how fruitless your attempts at escape can be. Additionally, some people don't have a "choice" in feeling this way, as some people have had unspeakable atrocities committed against them and they live with it. I don't mean to say "just choose to be happy" to those people.
I'm thinking about smaller events or things that happen to you. I want to show you an example of how you can sometimes really decide to tackle something with a positive mental attitude. Here's an example:
Imagine that you just finished a long day at work doing something that sucked the living soul out of you. You want to get home ASAP in order to binge-watch Netflix. But when you enter your car and turn on the radio, you hear that there's been a crash on the motorway. As a result, you'll be stuck in traffic for at least 30 minutes.
The first thought that enters your mind may be similar to this: Can this day get any worse??!?!?!
And that's okay. I usually have that exact thought whenever I see a big traffic jam on my commute.
But that doesn't necessarily have to mean your day is ruined. Instead of feeling irritated by the seemingly endless amount of cars in front of you, you can try to tackle this issue with a happy attitude. Here's a post I wrote about choosing happiness which includes actual examples of other people! How does that work?
Well, instead of blaming your misery on the traffic, you can focus your energy on something positive like:
- Good music (turn up that volume and sing along to your favorite song)
- Give a good friend a call to see if (s)he has plans for tonight!
- Close your eyes for a minute and let your mind wander (only do this when completely stalled though!)
- Plan out your week on how you're going to do the things that you have written down
By now, you should recognize that these things are all within your sphere of influence. You can do all these things without being reliant on some external factor that you cannot control. This is one example of having a Positive Mental Attitude, and I hope you understand how this can actually help you get happier in your life.
5. Create a game plan (how to make your life suck less)
This one is very simple. I'm going to ask you to create a specific plan that you can reflect on at the end of each day. You can either write it down on a notepad or save it as a text document on your smartphone.
This plan should contain how and when you are going to tackle the things that you found out in steps 1 and 2. I'm going to ask you to make this plan SMART:
- Specific: like going for a long walk every now on.
- Measurable: like taking at least 5,000 steps per day, at least 5 days per week
- Achievable: don't make your plan too ambitious, as this will only make it harder to get motivated on bad days
- Relevant: explain how you are going to work on the things that you diagnosed in step 1.
- Time-bound: when are you planning to work on this goal? Are you going to start right away, or after you've reached another goal?
You don't have to write it down like this, but I definitely want you to put a lot of thought in your plan. I can't stress enough how important it is to have achievable and measurable actions in your plan. You want to turn your sucky life around in the long run, so you have to invest in forming life-changing habits. Create your plan in a way that allows you to work on these habits one step at a time.
6. Keep track of your progress (a.k.a. track your happiness)
You've just diagnosed your issues and created a plan. Now what?
You can now start to work towards your goals. Something that is incredibly inspiring for some people is to see their progress every single day. This is what I call "tracking happiness". It's more than a shameless plug for this website though!
(if you hadn't noticed, you're on a website called Tracking Happiness at the moment ;-))
- Rate your happiness every day on a scale from 1 to 10
- Determine your happiness factors (the things that influenced your happiness the most, like work, stress, exercising, your family or the weather)
- Keep it up and learn
I really want you to try this out, especially since it will only take 2 minutes of your day. It allows you to track your progress, but also to find trends within your data. By tracking your happiness, you'll be able to find out which factors in your life have the biggest impact on your happiness, after which you can steer your life in a better direction.
I also use my happiness tracking journal to just write about my day-to-day life. There are a lot of benefits to journaling, which I discussed in my article on how and why to start journaling.
Anyway, if you want to track your happiness, then you can get started with my free and easily accessible templates right away. They are accessible in Google Sheets, which you can update with your smartphone, tablet, and computer. It's extremely convenient, and I'd love for you to try it out.
Get Our FREE Mental Self-Care Cheat Sheet
10 evidence-based tips to improve your mental health instantaneously when you need to take care of yourself!
7. Prioritize the people that you enjoy being with
As Chris McCandless - from Into the Wild - said prior to passing away:
Happiness is only real when shared.
While the exact influence of spending time with others varies per person and per day, it is commonly known that you need some form of social interaction once in a while to be happy.
I consider myself to be an introvert, meaning that spending time with others may actually cost me energy. You can lock me in a room for a full day and I might actually want to stay there longer. What I'm trying to say is that I don't mind being alone every once in a while.
That said, spending time with people I love has a huge influence on my happiness. Whether I'm with my girlfriend, family, or close friends, I almost always notice that I'm happier after spending time with these people. These people are generally my biggest factors of happiness.
The truth is, you have to get out there and be amongst others if you want to find sustainable happiness. Even if you don't feel like being around others, you should really try to meet up. You'll likely find out that you enjoyed it afterward.
However, it's important to spend time with these people in a setting that you enjoy. If you're anything like me, you don't want to meet up with your friends in a club (I absolutely hate clubs). If a quiet night playing board games together sounds more fun to you, make sure you meet up with others under these conditions. Don't associate and mix up good things (your relationships with the people you love) with potentially bad things (like spending time at a club).
8. Sleep more (seriously)
If you are currently unhappy, then have you considered that your sleep habits might be one of the main causes?
A worrying trend amongst millennials right now is that sleep deprivation is becoming more and more normal. You often hear phrases like "I'll sleep when I'm dead" or people bragging about how they thrive on 5 hours of sleep per night. And then there are people like Elon Musk that are becoming a role model by working 120 hours a week, and saying that 80 hours per week is manageable. This is insane, and you have to realize that sleep is a crucial factor for your mental health.
That's why I try to sleep as much as possible. And if you're currently unhappy, I really advise you do the same.
(I mean sleep as in actually being asleep and not spending time in your bed lying awake, these things are completely different.)
I've tested how much my sleep has influenced my happiness and noticed something interesting. I tested over 1,000 days of data on happiness and sleep to find out that:
- I've only truly been unhappy on days where I was sleep-deprived.
- Sleeping more isn't directly correlated to being happier, but the odds of me being unhappy are much bigger when I am not sleeping enough.
I want you to know that sleep is one of the biggest factors that influences our mental health. The problem is that sleep is not as glamorous as other factors, such as exercising, sex, social interactions, and your career. The effect of a good night's sleep on your happiness is far more difficult to measure than most other factors. But that still doesn't change the fact that your sleep is crucial to your mental health.
If you are currently feeling unhappy, then I recommend you include "improve sleep habits" as a part of your action plan.
You can make this more specific by writing it down like this:
- I want to (try to) sleep for 8 hours a day on average
- I want to go to bed at 23:00 and wake up at 07:00
Those are goals that you can track every single day. You can download sleep tracking apps on your smartphone (such as Sleep as Android) in order to track your progress! I've been doing this for 4 years now.
9. Make other people's life suck less
On your pathway to a less sucky life, you will probably encounter a lot of people that are dealing with similar issues like you. I want you to consider the possibility of being a source of happiness for these people. Yes, even though you feel that your life sucks right now, that doesn't mean that you can't have a positive influence on somebody else's life!
You see, humans tend to move in groups. We tend to unknowingly copy the behavior of others, and as some of you might know: emotions can be contagious!
If your partner or close friend is sad or angry then there is a possibility that you will feel that emotion as well.
The same works for happiness.
Your happiness can actually radiate to other people. Your smile has the power to bring a smile to someone else's face! How can you put this to practice?
- Smile to a stranger
- Try to laugh when you're around others (not in an awkward way!). Laughter is one of the best remedies for sadness.
- Do something nice for somebody else, a random act of kindness
- Make a compliment to somebody else and notice how it affects their happiness
Why would you want to focus on the happiness of others while you're the one who's struggling to be happy?
It's easy: Spreading happiness will make you happy as well. Teach by doing, and you'll learn something for yourself as well.
Happiness is truly a subjective feeling that has a lot of myths, biases and different strong opinions. People say it can't be measured, it's a waste of time to pursue it and that happiness is not really measurable at all. I've further detailed my definition of happiness in a separate post.
Despite all this, there is one interesting aspect of happiness that most people agree on, and that's:
When you are trying to make others happier, you will paradoxically find happiness yourself.
10. Be grateful for the things that don't suck in your life
You've probably heard this one before, but I'm still going to include this in my list of remedies. Practicing gratitude can have a great effect on your mental health, as shown by numerous studies. I've covered the topic of being grateful and how it influences your happiness in this in-depth article.
How can you practice gratitude?
- Thank your family for everything they've done for you
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Look back at your happy memories and be grateful for those memories
- Think about and focus on the positive things you have going on in your life
I find that remembering good memories helps me maintain a happy mind. Thinking back about that time that I laughed my ass off about something silly brings a smile to my face. This is something I try to do daily, whenever I find a moment to stand still and think about my life.
11. Accept that you're only human (and don't give up after a bad day)
So you had a bad day? Or maybe a terrible week in which you didn't do anything to improve your situation? Who cares!
We are only human, so we're bound to experience a bad day every once in a while. It's important to realize that everybody occasionally experiences a string of bad days in their life. What you need to do when this inevitably happens:
- Don't let such a thing set you back.
- Don't interpret it as a failure
- Don't let it stop you from trying again tomorrow
You see, eternal happiness does not exist. Sure, we can try to be as happy as possible every day, but we have to accept that unhappiness is something that we have to deal with on occasion. The truth is, happiness doesn't exist without sadness.
So what if you screwed up your plan today? Fuck it! Just do your best to get back into shape tomorrow.
If you've made it all the way down here, you hopefully have some inspiration on how to fix your current situation. You have to know, however, that it will take hard work and discipline to fix your life. There are generally no shortcuts when it comes to finding long-term happiness.
It's a marathon, not a sprint.
If you've ever caught yourself saying "my life sucks" and managed to turn it around, I'd love to hear your experiences about it! What worked for you?
Or do you desperately want to improve your current situation? Tell me about it in the comments below, as I'd love to turn this into a conversation!