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Not being able to enjoy yourself and feeling unhappy: what can you do about it?

Not being able to enjoy yourself: Why are we unhappy, even though we have the ‘ideal’ life? Your life looks perfect in the eyes of your friends, family and colleagues. You have a nice, well-paid job, you have a busy and nice social life, live in a beautiful house and have a healthy relationship.

So you don’t really have anything to complain about if you compare your life to the life of another. Yet, you can’t manage to be happy and enjoy everything you have (or what your environment believes you have).

Does this sound familiar? You’re not the only one. You definitely don’t need to have an extremely difficult life to not feel well. Having a – seemingly – fantastic life definitely doesn’t guarantee happiness. But why do you experience that nagging feeling, even though at first glance you have no problems in life whatsoever?

Are you even allowed to feel depressed without having a ‘valid’ reason for it? In this article I’ll explain the underlying reasons behind that crappy feeling and why ‘having it all together’ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re therefore satisfied with your life.

Not being able to enjoy yourself

Not being able to enjoy yourself consists of different characteristics. It’s possible you no longer can enjoy yourself, but you were able to in the past. It’s also possible because you can no longer enjoy yourself because you’re extremely busy with external factors. These are common complaints we hear from people. The opposite side of the coin is that once you’re able to enjoy yourself, you experience less stress! Nobody knows a stressful situation in which he/she could also enjoy him/herself.

Does the following sound familiar?

  • Not being able to enjoy yourself in general
  • Lately not being able to enjoy yourself anymore
  • Being unhappy often
  • Often experiencing a feeling of unhappiness
  • Not or no longer being able to enjoy the little things
  • And so on

If it does, this article will be worth your while:

Financial success doesn’t provide true happiness

Many people believe being financially well-off equals being happy. Money doesn’t bring happiness; it’s the oldest tale in the book that you must’ve heard a thousand times, but that doesn’t make it any less true. People still see a high income as the ultimate proof of a successful life.

This is of course nonsense, but we still all want that promotion, wait for the perfect job offer and we’re proud of the many years of work experience and all the diplomas on our resumes. Who are we actually fooling here? Of course we find money important. It’s a source of livelihood everyone needs.

But we also buy a car because we want to show that we’re doing well, not just because it’s a good car. Many people think the chance of happiness significantly increases once you have a lot of money. However, the opposite is true.

Not being able to enjoy yourself

Not being able to enjoy yourself because of financial worries

So it’s only logical to think this way, because money allows you to purchase the things you like. You ensure a stable environment to live in. having sufficient money also means you don’t have to worry about being able to pay the bills, and so much more. But does it also mean all your worries are gone? Of course not. And deep down, we all know this all too well.

But we still see making lots of money and having an important diploma as important goals in life. It gives us a false sense of security, telling us it’ll all be fine once we reach that goal. The reason is that we just like to have certainty in our lives.

That’s because it makes us feel safe. But once you’ve finally reached such a milestone in life and you no longer have any, or relatively few, financial worries, this certainty suddenly disappears. So we now might have the money, but we’re still equally unhappy.

Unconsciously feeling insecure

Another reason for having a feeling of unhappiness is that you’re actually very insecure. You might not even notice it. Everyone around us seems so confident, don’t they? It seems like nobody ever worries about who they are or what others think of them. This makes you even more insecure, because why is it that you actually do worry about these things? This thinking is wrong. Everyone is insecure to some extent; it’s just that nobody likes to admit it.

By the way, there’s a big chance many people feel this exact same way about you: you probably seem just as confident as the insecure people around you, even though you’re not at all. That’s just how people are – we don’t like to admit our weaknesses, so we overcompensate our insecurities. We don’t even like to admit these to ourselves. Many people don’t even realise how insecure they actually are.

Dismissing yourself

That’s a shame, because this insecurity can make you feel very unhappy without you even realising it. Many people dismiss themselves, because they want to be seen in a positive light by others so badly. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be liked and therefore always being nice to everyone, right?

That’s not completely true. It can actually make you truly unhappy and damage your self-image instead of improve it. Obviously you shouldn’t act like an unpleasant person either and never take your friends, family and colleagues into consideration. But going completely the other way and putting yourself in last place is just as bad. Your happiness shouldn’t be at the expense of the desire to be liked be others.

Feeling bad

You think it’s not okay to feel bad every now and then. Happiness is quite ironic if you think about it, don’t you think? The fact that everyone tries so hard to enjoy life as much as possible could make us feel worse and worse. That’s because desperately trying to supress your negative emotions can make you feel more depressed.

There’s nothing wrong with having a bad day every once in a while! By not bottling up bad feelings but expressing them you give them a chance to go away.

Not accepting reality

In our society we however often feel like that’s not allowed and we have to pretend everything’s always going great. Social media such as Instagram and Facebook are living proof of this. Because although you probably know deep down that your friends and followers are people with ups and downs, and their posts on social media don’t really reflect their actual lives, these still have an effect on you.

Admit it: how many times have you checked out pictures of those spectacular holidays, romantic moments with their loved one, beautiful selfies in which they really shine and delicious dishes of your followers and thought: ‘wow, I want to live a life like that’? There’s however a decent chance they look at your profile and think the exact same about you. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side. The reality is of course different nine out of ten times, and we of course know this, but it often will continue to have an effect on us.

Not being able to enjoy yourself

Not allowing happiness

Ask yourself critically: do you allow yourself to enjoy something? This might seem contradictory to the previous point, but although we always tell ourselves to be cheerful and to not admit to the outside world we also experience lesser moment, you also don’t seem to allow yourself to enjoy yourself too much. We might allow ourselves to go on holiday, but not to go all the way during that holiday and truly relax.

Instead, we often worry during these moments and think about work. Or you already worry about being back from holiday already. We seem to set a limit regarding how often we’re allowed to feel bad, how often we’re allowed to feel good, how intensely we can enjoy ourselves and how enthusiastic we can be.

The result thereof is always being stuck in the annoying centre, in which we don’t have it too bad (‘eh, I can’t complain, I think’ is a commonly uttered sentence), but we not at all feel good in our skin.

The small things in life

These limits you impose on yourself regarding how happy and how unhappy you’re allowed to feel also affect the threshold of when you consider something to be positive and feel happy about it. Enjoying the little things in life is no longer possible; everything has to be bigger, better, more fun, more spectacular. But it’s the little things that make life worth living. Think for instance about the amazing smell of fresh coffee in the morning while you put an extra thick layer of chocolate spread on your bread.

That super lame joke your colleague made and you secretly find hilarious. The sun shining on your face and the lovely breeze that follows. Your children who ask you to help them with their homework and are extremely grateful when they finally understand it after many attempts of explaining it to them. The piping hot bath water you enter after a long day at work. It’s these everyday things we often don’t even pay attention to that can actually put a smile on our face.

Having a love-hate relationship with work

Many people see working as a necessary evil. You can’t live without it, because work provides structure to your life. Work provides purpose, money to provide for yourself and your family and it’s mandatory. Your work however shouldn’t dominate your life and get in the way of your private life. Many people also just don’t like their job (deep inside).

The atmosphere on the work floor might not be great, maybe you have annoying colleagues or you believe your boss decides too much for you and you don’t have any freedom. Maybe you make too little money or you simply work too much. At the same time, work can also be a lot of fun and many people wouldn’t know what to do if they no longer had a job. Your work seems to both be your friend and your enemy!

The opposite can however also be true: maybe you feel very unhappy because you don’t have much going on in life and you’re bored. A job brings you into contact with others and keeps you busy. It’s about much more than simply carrying out your work; it’s also about how you plan your day based on your working hours and how your job gives you certain insights and experiences.

Working makes you feel useful, it gives your life that little bit of extra meaning. Not just working too little or too much can make you feel unhappy, it’s also important that you enjoy your work and it continues to challenge you. If you feel your job is starting to bore you, you might consider searching for a new challenge.

Not being able to enjoy yourself

Suffering from energy guzzlers

Do you know the feeling that someone in your environment seems to just drain all the energy you have? That someone constantly affects you with his or her negativity, to the point that you become negative and unhappy yourself? You might enjoy seeing this person, it’s just that he or she puts you in a worse mood. Someone like that does more harm than good. Make sure you surround yourself with people that do give you energy and inspiration.

Not being able to enjoy yourself because of an unsafe domestic situation

This is of course easier said than done if you live together with the people that make you unhappy. That’s for instance the case when you have difficult roommates, your relationship isn’t going too well or if you’re in a bad domestic situation in which you never feel perfectly safe. Sometimes you’ll have known the people you live with aren’t right for you, but you don’t dare to make changes to the situation out of a fear for the effects a decision like moving out or ending a relationship could have on your life. The unknown is something we are all very afraid of, deep down.

Still, do you prefer to remain in your current situation and be unhappy or do you want to take that risk and possibly have a much happier and more positive outlook on life because you pulled the plug from the energy guzzlers that made your life so much more difficult?

Being busy all the time

Another problem that stands in the way of your happiness and everyone seems to be bothered by nowadays is feeling there’s never enough time. I explicitly say ‘feeling’, because in many cases not having enough time is not even true! The problem often is that we fill all the free time we have with energy guzzling activities, because we feel ‘that’s how it should be’. Maybe you don’t even feel like going out with your friends and you actually want to take some time to rest.

We greatly underestimate the importance of rest. There’s nothing boring or weird about consciously making time for this! Sleeping in, taking a nice, long bath, meditating, taking a nap, enjoying a massage, listening to music or just doing nothing at all. We definitely don’t do it often enough. So don’t be afraid to tell people ‘no’ more often and have some real me-time, because there’s a big chance you’re taking on too much.

Not being able to enjoy by living in the past too much

In addition you might live way too much in the past and the future, like a lot of people. Bad idea. People who live in the past constantly experience the regret about choices that were made a long time ago. You can’t turn back time. Constantly worrying about the future is also bad. After all, you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s good to be prepared, but it’s many times more important to start enjoying the here and now.

As you can see, the answer to the question of why you’re happy often concerns a lack of balance. It always has to be the one extreme or the other. The ultimate key to happiness is actually finding and maintaining the golden mean. That’s unfortunately easier said than done.

Drinking more than is good for you and emotional eating

You drink more than is good for you, or you’re an emotional eater. Emotional eating or drinking alcohol can both be a cause or a consequence of feeling unhappy. Of course, everyone enjoys a drink to relax or eats too much once in a while. But there’s clearly more going on if you feel like you need that glass of wine or that cupcake in order to escape the negative feelings.

At a certain point you could get the feeling that drinking or eating is the only way you can feel happy in your own skin. The funny thing is that the opposite is true; if you get rid of an addiction, you’ll notice you will feel much better than without that substance.

Not being able to enjoy yourself because of an addiction

The word ‘addiction’ might sound heavy, but it absolutely isn’t. The fact that alcohol and food are symbols of cosiness and pleasure in our society makes us unaware of how quickly ‘a little’ turns into ‘too much’ or to ‘addicted’. As you can see, health and happiness clearly go hand in hand.

It’s not just drinking too much alcohol or eating your stress away that can make you unhappy (and is in turn a result of not being satisfied with your life), your sleep also greatly impacts the way you feel and think. Conversely, being depressed could also significantly alter the quality of your sleep. Staying awake a lot of nights or sleeping poorly can have a direct effect on your mood.

Not being able to enjoy yourself

Psychological problems in the family

Depressive feelings can also run in the family. If your parents, brothers, sisters or other close family members have psychological problems, you run a greater risk of developing these in the future as well. This is a solace to some people, but makes it all the more difficult for others. But it’s not always on you if you’re feeling poorly. Even if you have the perfect life and no underlying problems you’re unaware of, you could still be affected by depression, a burnout, an addiction or another psychological problem.

It’s often hereditary. In case of depression it’s possible your brain simply doesn’t produce enough neurotransmitters that create feelings of happiness. The most familiar ones are serotonin, dopamine and noradrenalin. These substances provide feelings of happiness, of warmth and love, and stimulate the pleasure centre in your brain.

Not being able to enjoy yourself because of a depression

People who suffer from a severe depression that can’t be sufficiently treated by therapy alone, often also take antidepressants. These are drugs that ensure these neurotransmitters remain available in the brain for longer in order to better experience your positive feelings. These antidepressants unfortunately don’t work for everyone and they can have numerous side-effects.

These drugs could for instance cause weight gain because they increase your appetite, they lower the sex drive and make it more difficult to reach an orgasm. They can flatten your feelings and make you tired more quickly. This is why doctors are often reserved in prescribing these drugs.

Besides, physical exercise and playing sports turn out to have a greater impact on your happiness. Moreover, a simple pill doesn’t mean all your problems are gone. In order to really be able to enjoy life, you need to find the underlying causes that keep you from being happy.

Being unhappy and not telling others

The people around you probably don’t realise right away that you haven’t been feeling well for a while and/or going through a more difficult period in your life. Especially if your life seems ‘ideal’ and ‘perfect’ at first sight, and you try to keep up appearances that everything’s going well, even though this is not the case. Pretending you have no problems however doesn’t get you anywhere. It often will lead to you isolating yourself from people, which will make you feel even worse.

In addition, people around you might not be able to understand it when your behaviour suddenly completely changes because of your mood, and they don’t know your unhappiness is the underlying reason for this. People might even start treating you worse if you feel bad, because they think you’re acting unpleasantly towards them or that you’re simply not a nice person.

Maybe they think it’s actually going very well with you, because you always try to act like things are going better than they actually are. In reality, your friends and family can help you enormously when you’re feeling down.

Not being able to enjoy yourself because of loneliness

You should also not forget that isolating yourself from everyone else can be extremely lonely. And loneliness will make everything worse if you’re already depressed.

Many of your underlying problems might even be fixed with the help of your loved ones. After all, they can provide you with a new perspective and offer solutions you might not have even thought of. Or maybe you can tell them to do things to make it a bit easier for you.

Surround yourself with the people who want the best for you and you know will support you even if things aren’t going well. However, don’t forget that even with all the knowledge you’ve gained from reading this article about the reasons you don’t feel happy, all your problems won’t just disappear. This article simply lists the possible reasons behind these feelings and doesn’t offer any direct solutions.

Not being able to enjoy yourself: the solution

If you’re unable to enjoy yourself, you regularly feel very unhappy, it’s best to find practical help. The proven recipe is the BERG-method. Tackle your unhappiness and start doing things that are meaningful to you. Do you feel like you can’t do it on your own?

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Training and coaching

Milltain provides training and coaching for private individuals and organisations. Our team consists of 35 coaches and trainers who have now helped thousands of people struggling with stress and burnouts.

Milltain for private individuals:

Are you stuck in life because of stress or a burnout? We developed an effective online programme that is fully focused on the complete recovery from a burnout. More than 2000 people have successfully completed this training!

Movement and nature play prominent roles in this training. Recovery is a process that contains peaks and troughs, and that’s something we know all about. Our highly experienced coaches provide you with active support.

Learn more: Stress and burnout coaching

Milltain for organisations:

With the help of a team of experienced trainers, Milltain supports organisations in the prevention of stress and the (re) finding of work happiness in the workplace. A single burnout can easily cost an organisation € 70,000 (or more!)

In addition to financial suffering, the human suffering is great. Not only for the employee but also for close colleagues who have to deal with the blows. Before long, you find yourself in a negative vicious circle.

Get long-term absence and stress among employees under control with the help of our highly effective team training via Zoom or a similar tool.

This training has proven to be an international success for both managers (leadership skills) and employees (dealing with stress).

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About the author
My name is Ruud Meulenberg. Owner and founder of Milltain and Meulenberg Training & Coaching.
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