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If you ask your friends and family, “How happy are you?” you’ll likely receive a huge variety of answers. Even better, ask yourself. You might notice that during middle age – our 20s to 50s – our happiness has huge potential to dip down quite low.
During youth and our later years, we tend to be at our happiest. How can we reign in on this during those middle years, though? After all, we spend quite a bit of transformative time there.
Happiness isn’t just a surface-level smile and saying we ARE happy. Happiness is tied to our hormones, the quality of life, affected by chronic conditions like depression and stress, and is associated strongly with the length of our lives.
If you’re unhappy, you are actually more likely to die. Here’s what you can you do to increase both the quality and quantity of your time on earth? We’ve got a few pointers.
Here’s where you have to really find some middle ground. It’s easy enough to avoid having expectations for the simple fact that it ensures the notion you will not end up disappointed, but we should expect a baseline of comfort and satisfaction in our lives; financial stability, respectful relationships, good health and basic amenities.
Where do we draw the line?
Unhappiness bubbles up in a few ways when our expectations are out of the ballpark. For example, putting our happiness in the hands of others is a bad idea.
We inherently set expectations of those people, and when they don’t follow through with them, we are upset. The bottom line is that we cannot let our happiness rely on things that are outside of our control.
Next time you’re banking on something to make or break whether you’re satisfied with the way things are going in your life, think, “Can I control this?” If not, don’t let it control you.
Don’t hustle too hard
Our 20s, 30s and 40s – the years in which we are less likely to be consistently happy – are often marked by career-driven endeavors and the subsequent stress of it all.
From going to school and establishing our path; to seeking out higher positions in companies or entrepreneurship; to managing hobbies, fitness goals and extracurricular investments, we are susceptible to allowing the hustle to hustle us a little too hard.
There is no substitute for hard work, and sometimes, it does pay off whether financially or emotionally. Hard work can lead us to places of less stress and more fulfillment plus financial stability and quality relationships that contribute to happiness; hard work can also lead us to burn out hard.
Dedicate yourself to what you find important to your success but schedule in breaks. Work can be fulfilling, but we have to remember to live in the meantime.
Don’t let your social life, travel goals, family life, hobbies or the plain ol’ days of doing absolutely nothing take a backseat at the expense of more money or more power (things that don’t actually make us happy!)
Placing urgency on everything
Instant gratification offers up a lot in terms of what is perceived as happiness, but that isn’t always the case. Between our phones and computers and the constant connectedness with wearable devices that buzz every time someone wants to reach us, we have this huge fear of missing out.
All of a sudden, everything is important, urgent and needs immediate attention from social engagements to emails from your boss. Let’s take a deep breath here – not everything is THAT important.
Keeping up with the demands of others, the inherent demand we place on ourselves and the need to do everything right here, right now is impossible to say the least.
There’s no doubt that a cluttered mind, a cluttered calendar and a cluttered to-do list are a huge time suck, thus leaving less time for things that are actually important. Furthermore, our time is in close ties with our happiness.
Carving out more for you and what you actually want to prioritize is vital. Turn off email notifications, cut ties with people who demand too much of your time for too little in return and work through your to-do list at a healthy, relaxed pace.
Cutting toxic ties
If you’re still experiencing tons of drama in your social circle, within your family or with colleagues at work, it’s time to make some changes.
Naturally, drama is considered something that only invades our social lives when we’re young, but some people thrive on turmoil and emotions, and they’re only going to bring you down.
So, what can you do about it? Well, our first tip suggests to let go of anything that isn’t within your control, so those toxic relationships are absolutely one of those things. The factor that you can control is how you interact with those people, if at all.
Think about relationships that bring unnecessary problems or stress into your life. It’s good to help friends and family when they need it, but some relationships become too one-sided over time.
Relationships are a two-way street, and if you have friends who are constantly taking without giving back, it might be cutting into your good vibes a bit too much. Moreover, friends who are consistently negative with constant complaints can bring you down even if you’re a positive person otherwise.
As they say, we are a combination of the five people we interact with the most; make sure those people are the ones who make you better.
Too much media influence
There is no doubt that social media can dictate our thoughts throughout the day. In the name of constant connectedness, it instills priorities in us that weren’t there before we scrolled past something we felt inclined to respond to.
In terms of toxic ties, it makes it easier than ever to hold on to them without even trying to. It also fosters unrealistic expectations because it makes it incredibly easy to stack ourselves up against one another.
As we scroll through our Instagram and Facebook feeds, we see what people choose to photograph or divulge. Often, this is the happy moments of their days – promotions, new haircuts, weight loss success, pretty views from the beach, cute photos of the kids – the stuff we want other people to perceive as real.
The truth? We’re all just living life, and social media is the highlight reel. While there is some reality to it, we have to form a healthy detachment from social media in order to harness in on NOT letting it take away from our happiness.
Consider weekly or monthly social media detoxes, cleaning up your friends list, or just following more people who spread authenticity and inspiring content.
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Music, mountains, dogs, travel, food and friends.