No one wants to be unhappy. Each of us is looking for lasting fulfillment, even if our end goals might be different. Still, many of us fall into patterns that fail to serve us, and from where we stand, we may not be aware of how much these behaviors are holding us back.
We all have basic emotional needs, which can be hard to meet while juggling hectic schedules, worries over current events and fears over financial struggles. When we develop poor coping strategies, we may dig new ruts for ourselves in place of smoother paths, leaving us with more hurdles than shortcuts.
Most of these traps are easy to fall into, but the damage they often leave is devastating. Here are some of the worst offenders.
It’s good to have something to look forward to. A quiet weekend, a fancy dinner out or even a well-deserved vacation can go a long way to recharge the body and energize the soul. It’s also important to appreciate the moment no matter where you are.
People who suffer from destination addiction learn to thrive on anticipation, which means their heads are never really fully in the present. Even worse, the incessant need to seek out the latest and greatest of everything can lead to strings of failed relationships and patchy employment records.
Destination addicts can improve their overall happiness by shifting their focus. Placing an emphasis on gratitude rather than constantly taking inventory of all they don’t have could make a world of difference.
Allowing Social Media Too Much Influence
Life was so much simpler before MySpace and Facebook had to add new social dynamics to the world. Now, Instagram, Twitter and a host of other websites force much of the population to stay connected nearly 24/7. They also impose expectations no one growing up reading “Teen Beat” could have anticipated.
Children, particularly girls, are susceptible to the effects these websites can have on self-esteem, but adults are also at risk. Many of us have become conditioned to base at least some of our happiness on social media “likes” and comments to our posts. We may become depressed if we don’t get the reception we want, or we might compare our lives to the idealized images influencers are portraying.
We can keep charge by limiting social media use (or even cutting it out completely) and reminding ourselves that even the biggest influencers must deal with reality once the cameras shut off. No one’s life is perfect; some are just better than others at pretending that theirs is.
Lacking Goals and/or Purpose
Ever feel like winning the lottery might solve all of your problems? Those of us who know the struggle might feel like we’d never know another care in the world just as long as we could end our money worries. If only life were that simple.
While it’s true we can’t focus on higher endeavors without first meeting our basic needs, we also need fulfillment on a most fundamental level. Added leisure time might give us the opportunity to pursue personal interests, but most of us need more than that. We need to feel productive. We need to contribute to something greater than ourselves; that’s why so many seniors and disabled people who can’t commit to full-time jobs volunteer their time instead.
Everyone needs a reason to get up every day. If yours is still missing, it might be time to find it.
Working in the Wrong Profession
Just because a job can keep a person fulfilled, that doesn’t mean clinging to the wrong one will be enough. We also need to be in synch with our work. Someone who’s an architect at heart might have the skills to work in other areas of artistic or graphic design, but they won’t be feeding their sprit. Find your true calling, even if it means a career change. You can’t be truly happy in the rest of your life if you hate your job.
Worrying Too Much About Politics
The political divide has grown into a chasm over the past few years, and even moderates are feeling the pull to one side or another. The biggest issue is that the majority of what the common person is fighting about—be it on social media or among friends and family members—is either completely irrelevant to their immediate personal lives or is something wholly outside their power to change.
Ultimately, the majority of what we end up debating is spin, if not altogether fabricated, with the sole purpose of keeping us divided. If we remain preoccupied with what all the terrible people on the “other side” are doing to ruin our world, then we fail to address the real, immediate issues the fat cats want us to remain blind to: That we’re struggling to cling to so many failed systems that are actively eroding so many of our lives, but too many wealthy entities are making too much bank to consider allowing anything to change.
Worst of all, feeding in to all that insanity makes people angry. It makes us want to argue; we exhaust ourselves over these spun-up issues, so we have no energy for anything else. It doesn’t matter which extreme we’ve adhered to, we’re ready for a fight because the opposing side is that bad, and this one issue is the straw on the camel’s back.
Arguing with some random stranger over Facebook isn’t going to change anything. Neither will sharing a snarky meme or getting in a heated debate during the family’s Thanksgiving get-together. Want to effect real change? Get involved in local politics. Volunteer your time. Put your energy into something worthwhile that means something to you. Think about how incredible this world would be if each of us found a way to contribute toward the greater good rather than taking turns screaming idly into the echo chamber. We can change the world for the better, but it takes every one of us doing our part and working to raise one another up and out of the darkness.
We live in a beautiful world filled with incredible people and countless wonders to enjoy—so why waste a moment of it being unhappy? We’ve each been blessed with the most amazing gift, even if parts of it might be marred by hardship. Some pitfalls do more to threaten our wellbeing than others, but minimizing the biggies can go a long way in expanding our overall happiness.