Now, I’m no life expert, but I’ve seen my share ups and plenty of downs in my life. Knowing that, I offer you these suggestions if you’re feeling down and out.
Your idea of success is larger than life.
In today’s fast-paced, industrialized, and super-globalized world, we have a legion of people whom we idolize as the pinnacles of success. Ask the average person to name five successful peop…actually, go ahead and name the five most successful people you can think of. I don’t know your answers, but I’m willing to guess that most Americans would choose people like Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Beyonce, and so on. The most famous of the famous and the richest of the rich. Too often, our views of success lie in reaching the finish line rather than enjoying the course. No sane person is happy through failure. Naturally, a failed endeavor will sadden even the cheeriest of us. Thus, if our ideas of success are consistently characterized by obtaining ridiculous amounts of wealth, power, or fame, we are bound to experience more failure than someone who bases their success on achievements just as special to them, yet much more attainable and, often times, more abundant. You can live your life chasing that next dollar, working yourself into the ground to get that big promotion, etc. But how can you ever be happy if what you are chasing is literally larger than your life. Break your grand idea of success into checkpoints and cherish accomplishing each one. While you’re accomplishing your life’s goal, have some personal side goals. Plan to write a book, draw a comic, write a song, or make a video and commit to seeing it through. Make sure you’re putting at least some of your energy into CREATING SOMETHING that you love and can cherish. Then, you’ll always have a little success to look back on with a smile!
You don’t workout.
Exercising is scientifically proven to literally force you to be happier. Working out causes the body to produce the endorphins that are responsible for physical euphoria and help maintain mental happiness. Also, working out regularly helps you establish goals that you are physiologically destined to reach and surpass if you maintain your schedule. A bad day can instantly turn into a not-so-bad day once you’ve set a new personal record in your 3-mile run. It also builds a winner’s mentality. Constantly setting and accomplishing goals conditions your mind to success, even if they are small successes. This will translate into other areas of your life and help you develop that killer instinct when you see your goal in sight and need that extra push to complete it. Finally, you’ll look great. Many Americans, and arguably anyone from any country, will be less happy if their body doesn’t look the way they want it. Creating a healthy image of what your body should look like and crafting every muscle and curve to look just like that is satisfying beyond measure.
You aren’t spontaneous enough.
So often I hear people complaining about lost opportunities and senseless regrets. Whether you saw that cute girl or guy at the local Starbucks and decided not to say anything or you had an opportunity to join that office softball team but were worried about embarrassing yourself in front of your coworkers, when you focus too much on planning every aspect of your life, you often succumb to unwarranted fears. The great hockey legend Wayne Gretzky famously said “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Well, that applies to all walks of life. If you talk to the cutie at Starbucks and she says “no”, you’ll be in the same situation as if you never asked him/her a thing, but there’s a chance he/she might say “yes.” Just go for it! Also, it has been proven through research that humans overestimate how impactful an event will be on their happiness. We think bad things will make us feel worse than we actually will, We think good things will make us feel better. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather take a chance at having a great experience to remember, even if I risk a little embarrassment on the way. Plus, both ladies and guys are attracted to confidence so go ahead and take the leap!
You never stop to just enjoy existing.
As an American male doing pretty well for himself, I’ve always been expected to go to school, graduate, get a job, find a wife, have a kid(s), and work to support them until I can retire. It wasn’t until I got to graduate school that I understood what it meant to truly live. I felt a huge load of stress and worry leave my body after I took a step back from all my goals and aspirations to just go for a hike, rock climb, write a book, or even just lay out on a grass field in the sun and just ponder the meaning of life and other philosophical mysteries. Sometimes, goal-oriented people can become so focused on the goal that they literally think every second is a second that should be spent driving towards it. This is true, but part of that drive is reflection and introspection. Are you even on the right path? Take a step back every once in a while and just relax. Think about the things that are important to you, outside of your career or studies. Are those incorporated into your goals? If not, find a way to incorporate them once you get back to the grind!
Your diet is terrible.
That occasional guilty pleasure may be a vital part of maintaining happiness and keeping goals, but too much of it can lead to some heavy unhappiness (pun intended). The same way that a great body can make you feel happier, that stubborn pudge can really bring down your mood. Exercise without a healthy diet can only do so much, in terms of creating the sculpted physique you may desire. Also, many of our guilty pleasures (fatty foods, sugary treats, alcohol, etc.) trigger the production of cortisol in the body. You may know this as the “stress hormone” because it is also produced when you are under a lot of stress. It can also create a sort of vicious cycle as it also increases fat production, impaired cognitive abilities, and a host of other negative effects that will, in turn, lead to more stress and more cortisol. Replace sugary treats with fruits and try cooking new recipes (be spontaneous!) so that you won’t get tired of the wholesale lean chicken breasts that you bought for your new diet!
You have unrealistic expectations of other people.
People are Humans. Humans are imperfect. Thus, the transitive property tells us that people are, in fact, imperfect. Sometimes, we find ourselves expecting our friends and family to always be there for us and to put as much into the relationships we have as we do. While it is important to only keep people around who want to be around and are willing to make a relationship symbiotic, it is also important to understand that people make mistakes. Hope for follow-through, but always expect that even your closest friend or relative just may not come through for you, for whatever reason. This doesn’t mean you have to treat them any differently, it simply means that you should always prepare to be disappointed and have a plan to recover. Makes sense, right. If you don’t have a recovery plan, not only will you be disappointed, but that disappointment will snowball upon itself as you rush to fix whatever mess you are in. To make matters worse, you may be so affected by the ordeal that you will hold a grudge and drive away someone who may very well be an important part of your life and happiness. So, when you’re evaluating your relationships, always leave room for human mistakes, because we all make them.
Many times, our unhappiness finds a way of folding over on itself. Our bad mood sends off angry signals to those around us and they, in turn, treat us in ways that may make us feel worse. This is why it is important to snap yourself out of unhappiness as soon as possible. Whether it is any of the previously mentioned issues or something totally different, fix it as soon as possible. Unhappiness can quickly slide into depression if you don’t make the proper changes to your life and outlook. Turn off the Netflix, put your work on hold, put down the Ben and Jerry’s and go on that hike that your friends have been raving about. Talk to that friend who couldn’t pick you up from the airport in 20-degree weather because he was wasted. Crack open that book you’ve been yearning to read and let your mind travel into a fantasy world, even if it’s only for 30 minutes to an hour. Do whatever you need to do to put a smile on your face. Life is a blessing to be enjoyed and, too often, we make it so much harder by worrying about material things or never doing the things we would love to do…well this is your chance. DO IT!