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Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It

Why Gen Y Isn’t Happy and What They Can Do About It

If you were born between 1977 and 1995, well, hello there, fellow Millennial!

Otherwise know as Generation Y, Millennials make up a very large chunk of the world’s population. In the US alone we are 86 million strong. And this generation, which is larger than the Baby Boomers, is going through an existential funk. In plain terms, Gen Y is pretty unhappy.

This generation is making a name for itself as one of the most unsatisfied generations of all time. It’s so bad that stereotypes symbolizing the Gen Y kid as unhappy, mopey, and “needy” have already popped up. Frequent criticisms include: “Millennials can’t be pleased,” and “Those kids are never happy.” And to be fair, we are pretty down in the dumps.

But I’ll be the first to defend us, and with passion. We have a litany of strengths: we are tech savvy, purpose-driven, confident, and ready to learn up on almost any skill. However, we also have our quirks, the biggest of which is that we are terribly unhappy with how life turned out. We are unhappy with our jobs. We dislike how we spend our days. We are desperate for something more in life and in our careers. While we have many things to be proud of, we don’t pay attention to them, and instead focus on what we don’t have or what others are doing and that we are lacking.

How Did Gen Y Get Here?

To be unhappy you need to have unmet expectations. That gap between what is and what should be is causing despair.

As Millennials grew up, our parents and teachers encouraged us to chase our wildest dreams. They instilled a deep sense of self-confidence that made us believe in the old PSA, “You can be whatever you set your mind to.” They reminded us that we were unique in our strengths and identities.

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That’s a great mindset, but one that can also quickly deflate you if you don’t see it materializing, which is what happened. Once grown up we saw that our smarts and skills were not enough to cut it in the “real world.” We had to prove ourselves all over again–sometimes starting from square one. The honors, A+ grades, padded extra-curricular schedule, and top-tier college degree weren’t enough to get us a high-impact, challenging job with a purpose. It wasn’t enough to avoid spending years getting coffee and organizing files. Or days burned making cold calls, reading a script a 14-year-old could follow.

The salt to this wound comes in the form of our smartphones and computer screens. While we toil away at a shockingly regular life, we see our friends share the best moments of their lives via Facebook and Instagram. All those pictures of Machu Picchu. All those check-ins to four-star restaurants. All those updates letting us know about their raises, or the cool project they are working on. The Joneses are not next door, but on the other side of the Update button. “Her life is so much better than mine. What did I do wrong?

So here we are. A confident and ambitious generation, survivors of one of the most intensely competitive school and job markets, faced with the not-so-flashy real world. Whenever we chafe at this, we are called “entitled.” Our high (possibly too high) standards are making us into trouble-makers. It feels like a dire situation, and that’s because it can be. That gap between expectations and reality is causing this deep unhappiness. It feels like it was all for naught; like everyone, including ourselves, were wrong about us.

Yet, there’s hope. By being aware of our reality, and why we feel how we do, we can start getting better. It all starts with describing the darkness, for once you start doing that you can distinguish it from the light.

Below are some reasons why Gen Y is unhappy, and how they can get beyond that point and live a more fulfilling life. This generation is a tremendous one, both in size and in uniqueness, and this malaise will not define it. It’s up to us to push beyond the funk.

1. Never Stop Searching for What Feels Right

If something isn’t working out, if your job doesn’t make you feel fulfilled, if your city is not your style, if your daily habits are not making you happy, realize this truth: you’re young enough to easily try different things on.

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Change will be hard, but in the grand scheme that is your life, it’s easiest when you are young. You have fewer commitments, less biography to reconcile, and tons of time ahead to experiment.

Any major change will lead to two things: you’ll either love it or get a little bit closer, or you won’t like it but can easily make another change. If science is right and most us will live past our 70s, then you have many many decades ahead to explore and expand. Don’t stop searching; keep trying on different things and beef up your knowledge base.

2. Be Kind and Appreciate

Your job may suck because it doesn’t challenge you. You may be in a role that is boring, or your work environment may not be what you’d expect in a workplace. And you’re right, that sucks. But that’s not the whole story.

There’s always an upside. Even in the most miserable times there is an upside, which is that it can’t get any worse. But most of us don’t notice that angle. We are just looking at the situation that doesn’t meet our standards. We are unhappy because there’s that “gap” staring right at us every day.

I recommend you ignore that gap. Yep, totally dismiss it. You won’t be able to get rid of it, but you’ll be best served by focusing on other things. Force yourself to focus on the things that are going well. Think about the things you have that others don’t (a job, an apartment, your health, your youth). Think about the things you didn’t have five years ago (more skills, more friends, more confidence).

These are easy to forget because they aren’t staring you in the face. No, they are too nice for that; they are kindly waiting on the side, hoping you notice them and appreciate the hard work that went into each.

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Part of being happy is being happy with what you have. That requires appreciation for your skills, your blessings, and your opportunities. This doesn’t mean you sit on your laurels and think everything is perfect (because you’re just lying to yourself and you’ll know it), but do stop every day and say, Thank you, to yourself. You’ve earned it. It’ll also make you breathe a little bit easier.

3. Notice the Noise

Let’s not forget the gap. That gap between what should be and what is drives most of our grief. But where did that gap come from? How has it become so loud that we give into it and ignore all the good stuff?

It got there because we listened to other people.

We listened to our parents who gave us a very strict definition of “success”: “Bill’s kid is so successful. He made over $100,000 last year…”

We listened to our peers who only share the best side of themselves on social media. Think: how often do you see any of them share pictures of their dirty room or how much they’re screwing up at their job? Yet you and I know that it happens.

We listened to society who told us that by age X we should have Y, and if we are doing things “right” we should look/talk/have XYZ.

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It’s all that noise that’s causing the trouble. It drowns out what we want, what is true to us. We are paying so much attention to everybody else that we don’t even know what we think about things like success, the good life, or our personal identity. The first step is to be aware that the noise exists. This helps distinguish it from our truth. Once you do that, you’ll realize how much that ruckus has driven your life thus far–and why it’s time to tune it out.

4. Expect a Bumpy Ride

Having personal goals sets us up for success simply by sketching out what we want. That’s powerful stuff.

But the fact that we want something does not change the path we need to walk to get it. It doesn’t take obstacles out of the way, or speed up the process. Our drive has one primary purpose, and that is to keep us making progress and pick us up after our trip ups. That’s it.

If you aren’t tripping or messing up, then you’re not aiming high enough. Your drive, that fuel tank that sits right behind your heart, is not being used well.

For the really audacious goals (those you daydream of) you cannot not have friction. Obstacles will always be there. It may be personal limits that you have to break through or other people trying to get the same thing, but there will always be some bumps and bruises.

Knowing this, of course, won’t make those aches you get along the way hurt any less. But it will help you see the grander picture. It will tell you that your drive is being spent on really awesome stuff. It might be a bumpy ride, and it may take longer than you thought, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less worth it. The best stuff is worth fighting for–sometimes it takes a lifetime to get it.

Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore/ via flickr.com

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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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