happy in unhappy situation burnout feeling stuck

Lost in an unhappy situation? Take the example of burnout. We seem to be miserable – No energy, the world outside is just messing up, the boss is trying to put all pressure, your family is expecting from you the impossible… Feeling stuck in career, no passion, you wonder why 8 hours seem an eternity… How to feel good even in such unhappy situations?

One question I would like to ask you is: Why do we need so badly others and external circumstances to feel happy?

A cup of ‘happy’

Let’s look at a cup of tea in front of you right now.

Do you recognize that when you are happy, this cup of coffee adds in your wonders of the day? We tend to think, “Oh, this cup of coffee makes me feel so good!”. The problem is, if you feel bad, this cup of coffee seems to be irritating. Are they two different cups of coffee? No, they aren’t. It’s the same cup. And it can be a cup of ‘happy’ or a cup of ‘unhappy’!

So apparently the cup of coffee is not the source of your happiness. Neither a house that you are dreaming about, nor another job that you want so badly, nor even your children or partner…

So where our happiness comes from?

Why there are bad days and good days?

A child asked a Zen master: ‘Why are there good days, and why there are bad days?’ The Zen master said: “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

When we meet each other in the morning, we wish “Good Morning”, and “Have a good day”. Yes, everybody wants a good day. But indeed the bad days or the good days depend a lot on ourselves. We have the power to choose. So, if you encounter a difficult situation today, take a deep breath and decide that “I choose happy”!

A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?

Albert Einstein

Supernaturally powerful

How about others’ fault of my bad days? Well, it seems to be of human nature to find the “fault” of someone for our misery, don’t you agree? I remember, during my burnout, I seemed to feel bitterness about my boss (Can someone relate?). I thought he was the source of my problem. One day, lost in this thinking, I suddenly told myself: “No, he was not. I was the source of it. Because I was powerful enough to make it different”.

So yes, being accountable for good or bad things that happen to you, really not an easy one!!! But I promise you, the day you can truly recognize that you are the source of whatever happens in your life, that day, you will feel supernaturally powerful.

How can I make my mother happy when she is angry with me?

That was the question a child raised to Thich Nhat Hanh. Don’t you realize that we all raise the same question for our whole life? How to make others happy when they are angry at us? As human beings, we all find the approvals of others so important.

The answer of the Zen master to that child was: ” When your mother is angry, you take a deep breath. You smile, and you are so beautiful with your smile. Your mother can’t be angry anymore” (Thich Nhat Hanh, Q&A).

Practice today self-care, be honest about what you want, spend time doing the things you love, and be not too hard on you. Cultivate joys daily so that you radiate your smile on people around you. And we can have the inner strength to cultivate our compassion.

“When others are angry, we know that the others have a lot of sufferings in them. If we understand that, we have compassion. We don’t suffer when they are angry with us, only when we are angry ourselves” (Thich Nhat Hanh, Q&A).

Feel good alone

But can I feel happy without others? Being far from my family, sometimes I had people feeling pity for me. “Are you spending Christmas alone? Will your children be happy?”

I replied, that indeed, I found this situation a great learning for my children. They learned occasions where it was great to be with the big family. But they also saw that we could also be equally happy when we were by ourselves alone. Our happiness does not depend on external circumstances.

We human beings seem to “continuously feel that something is lacking within ourselves and that the outside world can complete us” (Dumb little man). But this loneliness will never be filled from outside. Because you can be very lonely surrounded by many people. Once you have inner-peace, you feel good from within.

The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude

Aldous Huxley

The act of sitting down is a revolution

Ok. So now we know all about happiness! But, you will ask, “Practically, what is the one thing I can do right now?” How to feel good on good days and bad days? How to feel good alone? How to feel powerful? And how to radiate our joys to cure others’ sufferings?

Sit down, breathe and smile. That’s what zen masters will teach us. Meditation and mindful practices are powerful to cultivate our inner-joy. If you practice every day, being mindful of your feelings, that inner joy will come with time. The day you feel good alone, without the need for the company of someone or something outside of you, that’s the day you have happiness, from within.

Oh, one last thing! Post-its to put on your fridge today (don’t forget!):

  • I choose happy!
  • I see challenges as opportunities to learn!
  • I breathe and smile NOW!
  • I take care of myself, and
  • I’m powerful enough to make it different!

Read more:

6 easy things you can do daily to cultivate joy

6 easy ways to be happier: How to practice mindfulness in eating

Equanimity: How to stand out with a perfectly still mind

How to make the rest of my life meaningful?


  • Giang Cao Ho My

    M.A., Founder

    Mindfulness Garden

    Like what you read? More from Giang on Mindfulness Garden Giang Cao Ho My is a Yogi, Meditation Practitioner, and Spiritual writer.  Join her Mindful Tribe and practice Mindful living today - Slow down. Feel better for less. Cultivate our presence in anything we do. Fulfilled from the inside and spread love.