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Why We’re Still Unhappy When We Do Work Hard And Play Hard

Why We’re Still Unhappy When We Do Work Hard And Play Hard

Why aren’t we happy, even when we have a million social activities, a great job, and lots of nice stuff?

We work hard all week and look forward to the weekend, but then work just as hard at having fun (in order to forget the stress of our week and get as much as possible out of our free time). Often we’re more tired at the end of the weekend than we are at the end of the work week!

What’s the deal with our furiously paced and hectic lives?

As a generation, we’ve got more freedoms and opportunity, more equality, and more options for everything than ever before (ordering anything online and getting it tomorrow, getting food delivered at home at midnight, etc.)

Yet, we are also more on display than ever before and more competitive (by necessity) than ever before (with everything in the world being find-able on the internet, we are competing with everyone in the world; and anything we can find out or learn to do is something everyone else can find out or learn to do just as easily!)

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Thanks to social media and entertainment trends like reality television, we live in a world where all of us can see what almost everyone else is doing (or pretending to do) at every moment. We are constantly bombarded by images of successful or beautiful or happy people sharing only the best images or best moments (often artificially created for appearance sake) from their lives and keeping their embarrassing, difficult moments and failures to themselves.

We respond in kind, sharing only our most exciting and fabulous looking photos and making our everyday lives seem like something out of a magazine or movie. After all, if everyone else is having such beautiful, amazing lives and are so successful and happy, we can’t seem as if we aren’t, right?

We begin to care more about how we look doing things, or how people will perceive the things we do and the choices we make, than we do anything for its own sake. We forget to think about what we truly want and what will make us happy and instead talk ourselves out of (and into) the things that are more likely to be applauded and accepted by others. We work hard to get people to respect us and give us compliments or tell us how great we are or how jealous they are of our career/vacation/gorgeous boyfriend; but in fact, those compliments feel meaningless when we get them because they aren’t compliments on who we are. They’re compliments on how we’ve crafted our life to appear or how well we’ve sold ourselves in public.

This obsession with appearances and keeping up with everyone else around us leads us to constant dissatisfaction. We watch image after image and read post after post that put us into jealousy and panic mode all at once. So and so bought a new house? Got a promotion? Got engaged AND lost 15 pounds? Not fair, I want all of these things and don’t have them yet! I’ve got to get going…!

We look at these images and absorb these messages and think: Our hair isn’t shiny enough. Our thighs and stomach aren’t in good enough shape to be caught on camera in a swimsuit. Our clothes aren’t cute or hip enough. Our car is too old; we’ve got to get the newest model like everyone else in our position. We need a manicure/spray tan/new outfit/botox for those forehead wrinkles… before we get caught in anymore event photos with that cute young co-worker. We never ever say to ourselves ‘I’m good enough just the way I am, even if I don’t have exactly what this or that friend has. I’m happy with what I have and what I look like and where I’m at.’

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We are never fulfilled, because we are constantly making an effort to do more and be better. We forget to appreciate the moment and to love ourselves.

Not loving ourselves leads to our not feeling good enough for others to love us, which in turn leads to dating the wrong people and feeling insecure and unsure about whether they like us or care about us or love us enough. We refuse to admit that it’s our own job to fix the emptiness inside of us and that fixing ourselves first is the only way to be ready to fully love someone else.

It’s time to stop the insanity. Get back to the basics. Use common sense. Look inward and focus on things that truly matter: friendships, family, health, our passions,… love.

Imagine if, instead of spending an hour or two each day reading about everyone else’s fabulous lives and feeling inadequate, or participating in threads about unimportant things, we instead spent those hours learning a language, writing in a journal, reading a book, getting outdoors for some physical activity, or meditating?

What if we wanted less, and assessed what it is that truly makes us happy (hint: it’s probably not getting a new car because everyone else has one)? What if we stopped there and asked ourselves the following questions:

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  • Do we have a good relationship with our family?
  • Do we have a friend or partner who we love? Do we spend enough time with them and let them know how much they mean to us?
  • Do we feel good physically? If not, how can we fix that? More exercise? Better eating habits?
  • Are we drinking too much? Sleeping too little? Working too many hours?

Can we force ourselves to stop, be grateful, and not to desire so much stuff that we don’t need? To not let vanity decide for us what will make us happy?

We absolutely can.

Let go of the meaningless. Keep the meaningful closer. Make efforts not to be swayed or distracted by jealousy or feelings of inadequacy, but instead look inward, practice mindfulness and self-love, and simplify your life. Focus on relationships and health and happiness instead of material possessions, professional or social ‘status,’ and income.

Take a few minutes and think about what makes you the happiest. Who do you feel your best around? What in your life is making you the most unhappy?

Now focus on these things and make a plan. Do the things that make you happy and see the people that make you happy more often. Get rid of (or make a plan to get rid of over time if it’s something that is difficult) what makes you unhappy. Forget about whether changing jobs/careers/boyfriends will make you look less successful or popular.

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Start today.

Note from author: I quit a 14 year career just under two years ago in order to travel and to train myself in new skills that would allow me to get away from a career that was affecting my health, relationships, and happiness and to move towards a new way of life.

I haven’t bought new clothes in a year. I haven’t eaten at fancy restaurants. I haven’t been able to afford manicures or pedicures or spa treatments. I can’t brag about my promotion or how much money I’m making or the fabulous luxury trips I’m taking.

But I’m the happiest I’ve been in over 10 years.

Featured photo credit: youth.sg via youth.sg

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

How to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

Let’s be honest. When you’re going through a difficult time in life, doesn’t it drive you crazy when someone says, “just be optimistic”?

Everyone has that one overly-optimistic “Positive Pam” friend who sees the good in everything. Trying to find anything to be happy about when you’re struggling feels unrealistic.

The question remains: “Why is it difficult to pull upon happy thoughts when everything in life feels like it’s falling apart?”

Well, the root of the problem lies in the brain. Your brain isn’t designed for happiness because its focus has always been on promoting survival, it saves the happy chemicals (dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin) for opportunities to meet a survival need.[1]

While all of this is true, it is still possible to train your brain to be optimistic so that you can find the silver lining amidst life’s greatest adversities.

You Can’t Be Positive All the Time

Before I talk about how you can do this, you must realize that you aren’t expected to be positive 100% of the time. You’re human and life happens.

Have you ever had a solid plan in place, and then life comes along and says, “Let’s explore rock bottom for a while instead?!” You’re allowed to feel sad, angry, or negative sometimes.

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However, the trick is making sure that you don’t live in this place for too long. Disempowering emotions serve their purpose in the short-term but can become destructive to your overall quality of life in the long-term.

When it comes to thinking positively, I think a lot of people have a skewed understanding of what positivity should look like. You don’t have to sing in the rain or smile 24/7 to be deemed a positive person.

Appreciating the smallest of things can work wonders for your mindset, such that, over time, you start wiring your brain to seek out and expect more positives. This speaks to the power of having an attitude of gratitude.

Research has shown that gratitude can improve general well-being, increase resilience, strengthen social relationships, and reduce stress and depression.[2]

The more grateful you are, the happier you are.

So, what does all of this mean? Well, happiness won’t always be your automatic response. Rather, it’s a choice that you have to make every single day.

3 Ways You Can Train Your Brain to Be Positive

Similar to any habit, your brain conditions itself to think and behave in certain ways through repetition. Thus, if you engage in daily rituals that enhance your positive thinking, over time you will rewire and train your brain to become more positive.

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Let’s talk about 3 ways that you can train your brain to be positive:

1. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Your mind is a powerful tool – you can either fill it with positive thoughts or negative ones. The average person has thousands of thoughts per day, 80% of which are negative, and 95% of which are exactly the same thoughts as the day before.[3]

If you’re like most people, you probably spend a lot of time in your head. This is where your inner critic loves to hang out and try to convince you of all the reasons why you’re not good enough or why things won’t work out.

Not surprisingly, if you play this disempowering record over and over again in your head, eventually you will start believing it.

People get into trouble when they define who they are based on how they think. You are not your thoughts, so don’t believe everything that you think. This is why it’s so important to practice challenging your negative thoughts.

The next time that you have a thought that doesn’t serve you, stop and reflect upon whether or not that thought is accurate. Once you determine where the fallacy is in your thinking lies, step back and ask yourself, “Is this thought building me up or tearing me down?” If it’s the latter, reframe the negative thought to a more empowering one.

The fastest way to change your life is to change your narrative. Small shifts in your mindset can trigger a massive shift in how you perceive yourself, others, and the world.

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2. Surround Yourself With Positive People

Your success in life is determined, in large part, by your environment. If you want to be an optimistic person, you have to surround yourself with optimistic people. End of story.

As Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Take a moment and think about your close circle of friends. Are they inspiring and driven people who uplift and empower you? Or are they lazy, negative, and toxic?

If it’s the latter, I hate to break it to you, but it’s time to find new friends.

When you surround yourself with positive people, you’re more likely to adopt empowering beliefs and see life as happening for you instead of to you.[4]

Decide who you want to be and find people who embody those traits. When you raise your standards, your circle will change and so, too, will your life.

3. Make Your Mental Health and Well-Being a Priority

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a drastic increase in mental health issues. The isolation, fear, uncertainty, and economic turmoil that people are facing around the world is a breeding ground for psychological distress.[5]

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Given the current state of our world, there has never been a more important time for us to make our mental health and well-being a priority.

The question remains, “How do you stay positive when everything sucks?”

It’s all a matter of perspective.

We know that the mind and body are connected. If you ignore one, the other one suffers equally as much. Research has found that taking care of ourselves physically and mentally can influence our happiness and train our brains over time to be more positive.[6]

Looking after your mind and body means creating a daily self-care ritual, consisting of eating healthy foods, exercising, meditating, doing yoga, staying connected with friends, journaling, reading, and practicing affirmations, to name a few.

Anything that helps you manage your stress and connect with the present moment is key. Even in the most challenging of times, it is always possible to find something to be grateful for. By choosing to focus on what is good in your life and what makes you happy, you will grow stronger in the face of adversity.

Now Is the Time to Train Your Brain to Be Optimistic

Your mindset is everything. Thinking positively is as important as your skills or talents. We cannot always control our outer world, which is why it’s imperative to cultivate a strong inner world.

How you respond to adversity will determine your success in life. Have faith, trust in yourself, and believe in what is possible. When you think positively, positive things will happen.

More Tips on How to Be Optimistic

Featured photo credit: Dayne Topkin via unsplash.com

Reference

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