If I'm ever unhappy, it's usually because something is happening that I believe should not be happening and I am dwelling on it to the point of discomfort.
This is called "mental rebelling" and how bad you feel when you are rebelling depends on what your psychological baseline considers "normal."
For example, if you view the baseline for your finances as having $5000 in the bank, having $3000 is going to make you feel bad. But if you view your baseline as having $1000, then $3000 is going to make you feel good!
Spencer Greenberg over at Clearer Thinking has outlined ways to reset your psychological baseline — with acceptance and gratitude — to improve your mood and be happier with reality as it is.
To give another monetary example, suppose $100 accidentally fell out of your wallet while you were walking, and now it is gone. You're beating yourself up for having lost it, and are continuing to search the streets you walked down for the money even though it's become abundantly clear you won't find it, and you're feeling really bad about it.
Acceptance in this situation might look like:
- Fully acknowledging that the $100 is gone
- Noting any negative self-talk ("I'm such an idiot") but letting those thoughts drift away without getting stuck in them
- Experiencing the full psychological loss of the money right NOW (not trying to delay the feeling of loss or deny it)
- Acknowledging that you can survive without the $100
- Attempting to move your baseline (the state you were in when you had $100) to be one that doesn't involve having $100, so that not having this money feels normal instead of bad. You want to get yourself to the mental state where suddenly stumbling on the $100 would feel like gaining $100, not feel like simply restoring you back to the prior baseline!
Shifting your psychological baseline can also be achieved with gratitude. By reminding yourself that not everyone has the good things you have, that you may never have had what you have now, or that you won't have it forever, you can move your baseline below the way you currently perceive it. Then what's real starts to look like a gift, rather than something merely neutral. Your food feels like more of a gift if you remember not everyone has enough food to eat. Your loved ones are more precious when you remember that not everyone is around people they love.