Are You (Un)happy?

Nicky Cullen
4 min readMay 13, 2022
Photo by Karl Edwards on Unsplash

Me asking you — a stranger — “are you unhappy?” has likely triggered something within you. And perhaps not in a good way? Unless you think I’m Willy Wonka here to present you with the golden ticket: Happiness.

It’s a polarizing question — one I suspect many loved ones would be terrified to ask regardless of whether they preface it as “happy” or “unhappy” for fear of the answer…


“Fuck, I’ve dug myself a grave here. Tell me more, I guess…”

To be “unhappy” is deemed negative because, well, “happy” is deemed positive, and they are quite literally the opposite. Go figure!

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Studies suggest if asked, “are you unhappy?” you will begin to evaluate your life, scanning for areas that confirm you are, in fact, unhappy. This bias applies to all negative emotions.

Cue every personal development blog or video…

“Do you ever feel lonely, anxious, depressed, isolated, disrespected, worthless, or angry?”

Well, duh, of course you do — you’re human!

However, you are now being primed for that negativity to be a focal point in your life. And that, consequently, can really fuck up your mental health!

It also happens for positive emotions, but happy, content people are useless in self-help. Misery is what they want pumping through your veins!

I’ll give you a personal example:

A friend I saw for the first time in years recently asked me if I was happy? I’ve probably been asked this question less than five times in my life, so I was shocked.

As I type, I’ve had a few laughs today, and I’m feeling happy. Not Willy Wonka happy — I’m content. A few weeks ago, when he asked me, all sorts of shit was going wrong — I was anything but happy.

Here’s how I answered him: “Right now chatting to you, yes, I am happy. But, in general, absolutely NOT. Here’s what I’m doing to remedy it…”

If he asked me, “are you unhappy?” I would have had a field day! But I was primed to take stock of what made me happy, not that which made me unhappy. It put me in a more positive…

Nicky Cullen

Stress Coach | Helping legend overcome anxiety and stress. 👉