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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 September 30, 2020

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Future

We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the present and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the moment when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or plans for the future?

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of living in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

The Importance of Living in the Moment

“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

Better Health

By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present can also improve psychological well-being[1].

Improve Your Relationships

Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them extremely difficult.

How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

Greater Self-Control

You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

Why Do We Worry?

Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

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Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

3 Steps to Start to Live in the Moment

Step 1: Overcome Worrying

In order to overcome worrying, we need to do two things:

Calm Your Mind

When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

Step 2: Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

Racing Mind

Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

None of us want to be in unpleasant situations, or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

So how do most people cope with painful emotions?

By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

A Wandering Mind

From the moment we are born (likely sooner) until the time we die, our body and mind are active performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

Outside Influences

Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy.

Step 3: Practice Mindfulness

So how can we live in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

Understand Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

This practice is highly effective, and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

Mindful Breathing

While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity. That’s it.

You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

Here’re some breathing exercises you can try to learn: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

Mindful Walking

Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking. But are we really?

Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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Mindful Eating

Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

Live in the present with mindful eating.

    Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

    So how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

    • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
    • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
    • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

    You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

    Mindful Activities

    Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

    Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

    You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

    Final Thoughts

    Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness, as well as get you closer to achieving your goals.

    Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

    Practicing mindfulness may be a bit challenging in the beginning, but I can assure you it will get easier.

    The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. This is what Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh calls the ultimate reality.

    More About Living in the Present

    Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

    Reference

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