How do you know when you are unhappy?

This is a serious question. Using my self as an example I have been told I sometimes exhibit signs of depression. I think I am happy, I think I have always been happy. Lots of things in my life are not going the way I would like them to go and it has always been that way.
I suspect that some of my bad habits like smoking cigarettes and isolating around hobbies and things I tend to become compulsive about are my way f dealing with this, but overall I feel generally motivated, I rarely ever experience anger or sadness that I am aware of. So how do we really know when we are happy or sad? If our life has been level for the most part do we lack anything to compare it to?

Happiness is a state of mind. If you think you are happy, then you are. Doesn’t mean you’re sane, mind you ;P. Leave others to think about you what they will. IME, that alone leads to increased happiness, or at the very least contentment.

During my depressed days I wondered what it was like to be happy. I barely felt anything but tension and couldn’t imagine what happiness was like any more. If you feel happy, you are happy, and you don’t have to be delirious with joy to be feeling happy. Feeling content or fulfilled is a low-grade form of happiness and is a great thing to have day-to-day. However, if you feel restless and empty and go into bursts of energy or ambition as a result I wouldn’t say that was happiness but trying to deal with a lack of it. I always was able to tell my feelings apart and knew when I was just covering up my unhappiness by being productive, but for others it may not be so clear a line.

ETA: I’m not saying all productivity is done by unhappy people, but that some types of unhappy people often use productivity as a way to keep themselves afloat.

I don’t really know that I’m unhappy based on how I’m feeling. It is the content of my thoughts that let me know that I’m not doing well.

I never think about self-harm, suicide, or running away when I’m happy or content. I never think I’m a terrible, worthless person when I’m happy or content.

I always know when I’m really really depressed when the idea of saying “hello” makes me want to scream. I only want to be in my own little world when I’m not happy or content.

I feel what you are saying. For me the big difference seems to be if I am being creative or just busy. After my divorce 25 years ago I went through a period of just being heart broken. I didn’t want to be alone and I didn’t want to talk to anyone so I would just go places where people were hanging out and then sit by myself. I wasn’t productive or creative durring this period.

I wonder if happiness could be measured as a ratio to our level of acceptance? Or would that just be contentment which is likely one important aspect of being happy. Not having given this much thought until now I can see where my level of contentment might be a fairly steady 8 or even 9 on the scale while my level of elation fluctuates with how well other aspects of my life are going. I do have notable peeks and valleys in this area.

Thats a very good point that I had never really used to evaluate my state of mind. Ideally I like to Look forward to my days, I like to have goals for each day and I really feel good when I meet them. When things are not going so good I tend to focus on possible changes I could make in my life. Kind of like running away from home.

What really bugs me is when I feel I have taken my abilities about as far as I can go and from this point on it will likely be downhill. I will often rethink my strategies to remain viable as a senior citisen.

Normally, I am friendly, talkative, and social. When I’m unhappy, I’m none of those things. I’m not at all enigmatic, and anyone who knows me can tell immediately when things aren’t right in my world. Luckily, so can I. I have struggled with clinical depression on and off throughout my life and when I find myself drawing in, getting quiet, and staying home a lot, it’s time to take notice.

Speaking for myself, it’s not always easy to tell until after the fact. For me, just over a year ago I was in a pretty bad place, but I had been in a regular routine and things had deteriorated slowly enough that I didn’t really realize how far gone I was. I’ve dealt with depression on and off through my life and, other than when I really sink, I’ve managed pretty well with my workouts, schedule, social contacts, etc. However, at that time, I had gotten to the point where I had trouble going to sleep at night, getting up in the morning, losing interest in longstanding passions for me, etc.

Really, it’s not all that unlike having some long-term or chronic physical pain and realizing it when I focus on it or do something that agitates it, but it otherwise just sort of gets forgotten and subconsciously feeds into feeling miserable or not doing things I otherwise might have done.

That said, we all go through funks from time to time. Maybe life just happens to be raining on us for a period of time. That’s not a sign of depression or even general unhappiness anymore than someone smiling for a moment or laughing at a joke means they don’t have depression or are generally unhappy.

I can say now, looking back, just how far my depression had gotten, how close I got to it getting a whole lot worse, and just how thoroughly unhappy I was, but how much time and mental energy I’d expended convincing myself it wasn’t as bad as it really was.

But in all of that, I don’t think the right question is “am I unhappy?” That’s asking what you’re not, rather than what you are. So, instead, I try to look at it as “Who am I?” and “What am I doing to realize that?” It’s like taking inventory of a fulfillment in life. If you are working a job you love, great. If you hate it, what are you doing to change that? If you’re somewhere in between, what are you doing to improve it? If you’re an artist, musician, sculptor, craftsman, etc. what are you doing to pursue that passion? If you’re not, maybe you love reading or watching film or programming or traveling, what are you doing to pursue those interests? If you have a family, how much time are you spending with your spouse and kids? How time do you spend with your friends? Do you get enough time outdoors? How are you using your talents and knowledge to positively impact your community? All of these things bring us fulfillment, and if we can’t give satisfactory answers, then we need to make plans to reach a point that we have satisfactory answers.

And there’s still the simple stuff too. Do you get enough exercise? How’s your diet? Do you get enough sleep? Do you get enough quiet time or prayer or meditation (depending on your beliefs)?
For me, what really broke me out of that cycle, with the help of my friends and family, was looking at these sorts of questions. It had become a vicious cycle, where I had a job I hated, justified only by the fact that I liked my coworkers, but my boss was AWFUL. I was getting my workouts in, but they were getting progressively more difficult and less energizing. I was pulling away from my friends and family and passions as my energy just continued to disappear. Once the figurative bleeding was stopped and I had plans to find a more fulfilling career and make sure I make time for my friends and family and passions, things turned pretty quick. Depression is still a daily struggle, but as long as my life is moving forward toward fulfillment, it’s manageable.

I know when I’m happy. Doesn’t happen enough. I am unhappy most of the time in the sense that I lack happiness. I don’t know if that’s exactly the same as being unhappy, or it’s perhaps just non-happy. Then too, there are times I definitely know I’m unhappy, and too many of those. If you’re not sure if you’re unhappy I would say you are definitely not unhappy, but perhaps experiencing some non-happiness.

I know I’m unhappy when I have to actively push myself to be pleasant or to put a smile on my face for other peoples sake, namely my children or nosy coworkers. It is a chore and exhausting, and knowing that I’m faking it kills me inside even more. But right now, I don’t have anyone to talk about it with, no one to vent to, so I just deal and go forward.

I swear more, and I buy lottery tickets.

Unhappiness, for me, is usually work-related unhappiness.