A lot of things have to go wrong to bring one to the point of saying “I hate my life”. Some of the circumstances are forced upon you. Other times it’s one’s own decisions that take you to rock bottom. Most often it’s a combination of both.
The opening line to Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. The phrase is relevant because a slightly different wording can be applied to individuals as well:
“Every happy person is alike; each unhappy person is unhappy in their own way.”
Only you know what’s brought you to this deepest end of unhappiness, where you’re stuck at the bottom of a hole trying to get out.
There is however one thing that heavily works in your favor. To diminish the pain, you don’t need to get out of the hole, at least not immediately. Simply by having a clear way out, and actively working towards it, your mind will work in the background to lower the pain to manageable levels. All you have to do is start.
Below is a list of 10 personal philosophies than guide your actions, science proven tips that bring happiness and wellbeing, and also methods to live on a day to day basis that can bring you closer to your goals.
17 methods to end your “I hate my life” phase
1. Be kind to yourself
A vast majority of people can’t wait for you to slip up and then criticise you for it. Whatever happens, don’t do their work for them and start criticising yourself.
Ultimately, the way you talk to yourself becomes the way you narrate your own life.
To make matters worse, if you constantly self-criticize yourself for being “stupid, a fraud, an undesirable, unnatractive” you will eventually come to believe your self-criticism.
As the saying goes, “a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth”.
Whatever happens, be kind to yourself. Even if you do make a mistake, accept the blame, but don’t try to spin the mistake as a proof of your bad character.
2. Good sleep improves your happiness and mental health
When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago. – Friedrich Nietzsche
Lack of sleep affects people in many different ways. When it comes to energy levels, the symptoms are universal to every person: the less you sleep, the more tired and exhausted you feel.
However, sleep also has a significant impact on your mood but in this case the effects can vary from person to person.
For instance, some people become irritable and short tempered. Others become stressed out much more easily. For many people, lack of sleep will bring about many more episodes of sadness and depression like symptoms, even if they do not suffer from depression.
That being said, for something we’re supposed to do for 25%-33% of our lives, sleeping well is surprisingly difficult. There are numerous sleeping habits involved that each need to be corrected or outright eliminated.
Sometimes, lack of sleep is an indication of a medical issue which requires specialized treatment.
In any case, do your best to sleep as much as you can. It’s better to live 16 hours per day at peak mental capacity, than 18 hours a day at a mediocre level.
3. Talk to people
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” – Robert Waldinger
Back in 1938, Harvard psychologists embarked on a study to document the health and well-being of 268 students over the course of their lives.
The study has lasted for a little bit over 80 years.
The Harvard researchers discovered that having strong relationships and friendships greatly helps in protecting one from mental and physical decline.
Not only that, but strong social relationships are a better predictor for happiness than social class, IQ, genes or money.
To put it another way, having healthy social connections. strengthen your brain just as exercise strengthens your body, as this TED talk from the experiment’s director proves.
But what can you do if your social network isn’t as deep as you’d like? Simply go out by yourself. Don’t do it specifically to make friends, do it to simply talk to people.
4. Exercise lifts depression, improves mood and energy levels
Exercise is such a potent mood booster, science has proven it can sometimes be as good as drugs and medication in treating depression.
In a now famous study, scientists discovered that exercise alone had an almost 90% recovery rate for people who suffered from depression.
By comparison, the control groups on medication and a combination of medication + exercise had only a 50%-60% recovery rate.
Exercise offers a ridiculous amount of benefits for the time you put in.
For instance, cardio will greatly increase your energy levels by strengthening your heart and circulatory system in order to cope with the strain of exercise.
People who exercise don’t tire easily in daily life because their bodies are built to cope with long exercise sessions.
For them, everyday life is like living on easy mode since it only uses maybe 30%-40% of their physical capacity.
But it’s not just energy levels. Exercise also releases chemicals that boost your mental wellbeing such as endorphins (reduces pain, stress, anxiety and improves sleep) and serotonin (mood booster, relaxation, and combating headaches).
The problem with exercise is that it’s very hard to get into, especially if you’re a more laid back person.
If this is you, don’t try to do too much all at once. Try running 1-2 kilometres once or twice a week and then build up from there. Same process applies if you prefer the gym to the running track.
5. Channel negative energies into a new project
One reason you might hate your life is because you accumulate many, many negative emotions. These emotions then sit inside you, like stagnant water.
The best way to get rid of these negative emotions is to channel them into a personal project you will enjoy.
It doesn’t really matter what that project is, as long as it’s fun and meaningful to you, and it transforms bad emotions into good ones.
It can be like a hobby: such as wood carving, stamp collecting, fixing electronics, drawing etc. Other times it could be furthering your education, such as doing an associate’s degree or going to college.
Other times, the project can be a more serious one, that brings actual improvements to your quality of life: fixing your house, building a small passive income source, learning a profitable skill, a new language and so on.
Again, it doesn’t really matter what the project is, as long as you enjoy it and it transforms negative emotions into good ones.
6. No more zero days
Not a philosophy, but more of a method to live life and achieve your goals.
The principle is simple: every single day you must do something to advance whatever goals you have.
It doesn’t matter how much or how little you work towards the goals, as long as you just do something.
It can be as little as 10 minutes, or as long as 10 hours. What matters is that you do something every single day.
If you want to learn a foreign language, try and practice for at least 10 minutes per day. If you want to write a novel, write down at least 1 or 2 sentences. If you want to finish a useful book, try reading at least one page.
If a day passes without you investing at least 10 minutes into your goals then it counts as a zero day. And you do not want zero days, ever.
10 minutes can seem like a negligible amount of time, but the point of no more zero days isn’t to make fast progress. The purpose of no more zero days is to build a philosophy of having clear goals, and working towards them every single day.
Do it long enough, and the results will come.
To use an example from maths, improving yourself by 0.10% every day, for 365 continuous days, would grow you from 100% (meaning baseline you) to 140%.
In just a single year, you’ve become 40% better. If you do it for 2 years straight, the figure will be 200%.
7. Remove negative people from your life
Some individuals are just downright terrible to have as friends, family or romantic partners.
They criticize, nag, “tell it as it is”, and will kindly remind you why you’re always wrong and they are right.
Sure, sometimes we need some friends to slap some sense into us. Unfortunately, some people misinterpret the words “friend” or “relative” to mean “punching bag” instead of “someone who has my back, and I have their back in return”.
Just as your own self-critical voice can pummel your self-esteem into submission, so too can your friends and relatives. Sometimes you may even have to quit a job to remove toxic bosses or colleagues from your life.
So take a step back, and either cut contact with the toxic ones entirely, or if that’s not possible, minimize it as much as you can.
As a plus side, you’ll now have enough time to make newer, better friends!
8. Recognize and reward yourself for the small victories
It’s easy to think that success means a singular, gigantic achievement such as selling a company for a million dollars.
But really, that’s not how success works. Instead, true success is mostly a very long sequence of small victories: selling the first product, having the first return customer, having the first breakeven month, the first profitable month (even if it’s just a dollar).
Of course, the example above puts things in business terms but the same principle applies to everything else: learning the first few words in a new foreign language, baking your first ever cookies, learning a new interesting skill.
Why is this important?
Simply because most people deny they have any sort of success unless it is a smashing one, that takes the world by storm.
This is unhealthy thinking, because it will never allow yourself to see how much progress you’ve made, that you have grown, become better and are actually making strides towards your goals.
Ultimately, you need to be just as clear-headed when noticing your small victories, as you are when noticing the failures.
Focusing only on the failures can prevent you from seeing the hidden progress in your life, and how to capitalize on that in order to reach true success.
9. The past you, the present you, the future you
Imagine your life is divided among three people: Past You, Present You and Future You.
Present You is who it is because of the actions of Past You. For whatever reason, Past You wasn’t able to give Present You a life that is enjoyable and fulfilling.
There’s no point in regretting that now, or being bitter about it. Past You is dead. It’s gone and will never come back.
But what you can control is whether or not Future You has the same problems and pains as Present You.
Look at yourself a year or two from now. Does the thought of being stuck in the same situation make you fly into a panic?
If yes, do your best to solve at least a few of your current problems, so that Future You can worry about other things, or be free to chase passions and other opportunities.
10. Don’t solve hard or impossible problems
Sometimes we get stuck on trying to fix problems only the divine can fix, like bringing a dead horse back to life.
Even if the horse isn’t dead, but in an induced coma for the past 2-3 years, there’s really no way it can return to what it once was.
We try to fix relationships that started out amazingly, and continued to be amazing for a good while after. But then something happened, and it started going downhill. Now it’s just simulated interest, if that. The only thing keeping it alive is the memories of time past and an ignorance of reality.
This applies to more than relationships. Sometimes we get hung up on personal, professional projects. You’ve invested so much time and effort into a job or your own company, that quitting feels like losing a part of your identity.
In the end, the best way to avoid these is to simply give up on them, move on from the sunk cost and open your eyes to the future.
11. Do something you enjoy and forget a little about the problems
The feelings of hating your life can overwhelm you to the point where you don’t want to do anything else.
It’s very easy to feel guilty for wanting to disconnect yourself from your troubles, even for a short while.
This is a trap and you musn’t fall for it. Enjoy yourself, remind yourself of your hobbies and passions and dive into them. Call friends, go out, dance, go to the movies, play games. Do whatever you can to take your mind of things.
Putting distance between you and your problems will often lead you to the conclusion that they aren’t as big as you thought, or that you have resources and capabilities to solve them successfully.
12. Get a houseplant and name it
We humans have a biological and evolutionary inclination to enjoy nature. Our ancestors associated nature with resources, comfort, home and shelter. Even if we’ve moved on from the jungle and mostly into cities, the mental associations still remain.
An easy way to bring more nature into your life is simply to get yourself a few houseplants. They’re fairly inexpensive both to buy and maintain (unlike pets) but in return they remove 87% of toxins in the air and improve your mood, concentration and productivity and reduce stress levels.
Houseplants can even help to stabilize your emotions. Just like with pets, you can become emotionally invested in them and their well-being.
Simply having something to care for can give you a sense that something out there needs you, that you have something to live for.
13. Enter flow states to enjoy your activities
Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Chances are you’ve experienced flow states more than once in your life. It is a state of quiet enjoyment when you are completely immersed in an activity, such as playing a game, singing an instrument, reading a book and so on.
However, the cool thing is that you can use the same psychological mechanisms at work while playing a game to turn your entire life into a flow experience.
How does that feel like? According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi turning your whole life into a flow experience will make you feel calm, collected and give you a clear sense of purpose at all times.
When your whole life is a flow state, the problems you will encounter will not scare you, nor will they force you to turn back. Instead, you will quietly work to solve them, bit by bit, and enjoy the whole process.
Once you solve your problems, you will do something unusual: you will look for bigger, harder problems to add to your life because you know have the strength to triumph over them.
But why would anybody like more problems in their life? Because when your life is a flow state, problems are not problems, they become opportunities to grow better, stronger, happier. You’ll live your life by doing it.
One thing that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered in his research is that anybody can turn their whole life into a flow state: people with amputated legs or arms, dirt poor immigrants, middle class people, etc.
So what are the psychological mechanism that can turn your life into a flow state?
- Clear goals, that are very simple to achieve and can be achieved in a few days at most.
- Feedback, meaning you carefully analyze the results of your actions, and see if you can improve them.
- The task you have to complete must be just a little bit harder than your skills, so that it forces you to grow and not get bored.
To enter a lifelong flow state, you apply those three steps to everything that you do on a daily basis. By doing so, everything becomes a challenge, and an opportunity to grow and become stronger.
14. Change your life narrative with Adlerian psychology
To be a human being means to possess a feeling of inferiority which constantly presses towards its own conquest. The greater the feeling of inferiority that has been experienced, the more powerful is the urge for conquest and the more violent the emotional agitation. – Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler has many similarities to the great psychologist Sigmund Freud. The biggest difference however, is that Freud’s ideas have mostly been disproven, but Adler’s have been firmly integrated into the field of psychology.
According to Adler, most of the psychological turmoil and suffering we feel in life is caused by the mental stories we have about ourselves.
During the early childhood years, people create a narrative about their life based on how their parents treat them and other external circumstances. Once this narrative is formed, the person uses it to interpret and understand everything they do in their life.
For instance, imagine two children: one is raised to be confident as Conan the Barbarian. The other grows up thinking he is powerless like Quasimodo the hunchback.
The person raised with the confidence of Quasimodo will never really believe he is responsible for his great success. He will say his success was caused by luck, not skill. He will perceive failures as being 100% his fault, and further proof that he is an inferior person.
Later, in adulthood, when Conan the Barbarian has a great success, he firmly believes it was caused by his strength, confidence and intelligence. If Conan suffers a failure, he just claims it was a minor mistake, lack of concentration, boredom etc.
It is obvious that Conan the Barbarian lives a healthier mental life compared to Quasimodo, simply by how they interpret their lives.
At its root, Adlerian psychology wants to heal a person by changing the story of their lives and how they see themselves, from an unhealthy narrative to a healthy one.
15. Stoicism teaches grit and resilience
When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love … – Marcus Aurelius
It’s fair to say Stoicism is a philosophy that has been popularized to death, to the point where few people truly know what it is about.
True Stoicism, the one practiced by Epicurus and Marcus Aurelius, isn’t for everyone. But for the right person, and the right personality, it can make a significant difference when it comes to quality of life.
The basic tenets of Stoicism say that everyone has a part to play in the grand scheme of Nature and Universal Reason.
As such, Stoics seek to find emotional clarity and inner strength in their life, so they can fulfill the role Nature gave them.
In order to find emotional clarity, Stoics must learn to control and dominate their emotions.
This emotional control applies both to “good” emotions (such as love) and “bad” emotions (hate). This is because all emotions in cloud our judgement and prevent us from seeing the correct path Nature wants us to walk on.
Not everyone will resonate with Meditations or stoicism. Stoic philosophy requires you to accept you have little free will, and that your life is mostly predetermined.
Taken to its conclusion, Stoicism requires you gladly accept and cherish all of the hardships life gives you: poverty, illness, loneliness etc. These difficulties were given to you by Nature, and it is your purpose and duty to carry them the way Nature has intended, even if they can make you shout “I hate my life!”.
16. Find inner peace and enjoyment with Taoism
The journey is the reward – Taoist proverb
Taoism is an ancient Chinese religion and has some similarities with Stoicism.
The main precepts of this philosophy / religion describe how to live in harmony with the Tao, the source of all that exists and the rhythms of the Universe.
Taoism is different from Abrahamic religions such as Christianity or Judaism in many ways, but there are a couple that might interest Westerners:
It does not have a God. To use a pop culture analogy, the Tao is more like the Force in Star Wars rather than Zeus.
Its ethical system is much more relaxed than that of Christianity, Islam or Judaism. Taoism is less concerned about “doing good acts”, since the ethical emphasis falls on becoming a good person who lives in harmony with himself, nature and others.
The concept of wu-wei is another important Taoist concept. It is an ambiguous term, but the gist of it is that one should “act without intention”. In Taoism, the Universe has its own flow and direction, and every action you take should flow with it. This means one must let go, and let their actions flow naturally.
If you “act with intention”, your action might go in a different direction to that of the Universe. This then creates disharmony and can lead to unintended consequences, some that might have led you to say “I hate my life”.
Other important tenets of Taoism are creativity, spontaneity, humility, compassion and moderation.
17. Becoming a Nietzschean Uberman
Friedrich Nietzsche is a polarizing figure in the history of philosophy.
To understand why, first you must look at the period in which Nietzsche lived, during the latter half of the 19th Century. At the time, Christianity still had a choke hold on people’s morality and limited their freedom to behave as they wanted.
Nietzsche detested Christianity, and this is reflected in his writings. His ideas urge a clean break from the past morals, in order to create an entirely new hierarchy of values. As a result, his opponents accused him of wanting to break the moral anchors of society and unleash chaos.
One of the central elements in his philosophy is that of the Overman, or Ubermensch in German.
The Overman represents a new moral goal for mankind, where it seeks to completely break away from past values in order to embrace a new set of beliefs focused around progress and advancement for the human species.
This sounds reasonable on paper, except when you realize that “progress” can mean very different things depending on who you ask.
In order to completely sever the connection to the past, Nietzsche argues that “God is dead”. In the old system, God was the central source of moral values. By killing God, you kill all of the values attached to him. This then creates a moral void that has to be filled by the values of the Overman.
Becoming an Overman is a long, difficult and painful process. But the pain is necessary in order to give meaning to the eventual success. To climb a mountain, sometimes you will have to descend a valley first.
Most people are not capable of reaching the status of Overman, so they create all sorts of justifications as to why their current life is good enough, and requires no evolution.
And finally, to fully become an Overman, you must not only completely embrace the pain and suffering of life, but also enjoy it.
This is because Nietzsche’s philosophy contains an important concept called “the eternal recurrence” which states that practically everything that’s ever happened will repeat itself over and over again infinitely. Thus, if life is pain and suffering, and your life will repeat itself infinitely, then you might as well learn to enjoy the pain since it will happen anyway.
If you’re saying to yourself “I hate myself”, then you’re in a tough spot to be in. But it’s just a temporary situation. Things will improve. The things you’ll do to pull yourself out of this situation, will also help you prosper in the long run.
Maybe it was fate. Maybe it wasn’t. Yet for some reason, your life had to take a sharp detour through a dark place, before you reach the fun parts again.
But you will pull out of it, in time. And then you can look back and say “Man, what a ride. Sure glad I’m out of there. I didn’t like those times, and I probably didn’t need them. But for sure, they made the better person I am today.”