Live your best life
2023/10/23 | By Katarina Gaborova | Photo by Catalin Pop
We have all been there… making New Year’s resolutions, setting lofty goals, wanting to get fit, quit smoking, acquire new skills… But does the pursuit of perfection make us happy. Let’s find out more.
Sylvia, a talented, creative, smart web-designer in her late thirties found herself hiding in the toilet. The darkest and smallest space that she could find in her house. Hoping that nobody (especially her two daughters aged 3 and 6) would find her for at least five minutes.
“I need to catch a breath,” she was thinking, while scoffing the last pieces of some chocolate. “I don’t want my girls to see me like this,” she thought, while licking the corners of her mouth and feeling anxious, disappointed in herself and guilty… and all the while questioning her parenting skills.
Sylvia feels bad for eating chocolate while on a newly prescribed diet. She is nervous about an evening meeting with her boss. She has ‘failed’ once again for not hitting the gym even though she promised herself that she would start three weeks ago.
Sylvia picks up her phone and sends a message to her best friend, “I feel so fragile.”
Highs and lows
Studies show that most of us never make the designated ‘finish line’ of the goals we put in place. In fact, by constantly chasing bigger and better achievements, we end up putting more stress on ourselves and unknowingly contribute to our own unhappiness. With social media bombarding us with images of perfection and dream lives, it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap and feel as if we are in a never-ending race to keep-up and not get behind in life. The ticking clock in the back of our minds reminds us that if we don’t act fast, some opportunities will pass forever. But is this really the case?
According to positive psychology, we can actually achieve ‘great things’ and fulfill our resolutions whilst still feeling a sense of personal growth. All we need to do is say ‘goodbye’ to media pressure and comparisons and instead focus on our own personal journey towards happiness. Each one of us has a baseline level of happiness. It’s a combination of genetics (50%), our thoughts and actions or ‘internal state of mind’ (40%), and external circumstances that happen to us (10 %).
Sonja Lyubomirsky – psychology professor and happiness researcher – defines happiness as a state of satisfaction, contentment, positive well-being, joy, a sense of worthwhile, and a ‘life is good’ type feeling. So, instead of treating life like a race, we can choose to take it slowly and focus on improving our internal state of mind.
Following 20 years’ experience with positive psychology, below are some tips to help increase your internal state of mind and by default, your level of happiness
- Invest in experiences and adventures rather than materialistic possessions.
- Exercise for body strength to ensure optimal function and serotonin production.
- Practise gratitude by savouring the good things in life and expressing them.
- Invest energy in things you can change and help others – it makes us feel good!
- Prioritise relationships with family and friends instead of overworking.
- Evaluate progress and growth regularly vs. focusing on what is missing.
And remember every small step is a step forward, is beneficial, and is getting you somewhere. The key is to make changes mindfully while checking on our internal state of mind and having a supportive network. Each one of us is unique and moving at our own pace. Setting goals and resolutions and wanting to grow may be a great human journey but it should be a more mindful journey towards happiness. We need to consider our physical and mental well-being whilst prioritising meaningful connections. As with the right support, anything is possible and the journey towards happiness is achievable.
As for Sylvia, she finally caught her breath. She lifted her head up, brushed crumbs off her sweater, smiled energetically, opened the bathroom door, and started walking towards her little girls. It all turned around because she had looked at her phone and read her best friend’s response, “You’ve got this!”