• The Hopefulist

The #1 thing causing you unhappiness

If I asked you the #1 one cause of your unhappiness, what do you think that would be? The answer will surprise you. It's social comparison. It's that feeling you get when you believe people have more than you do and it affects you in so many ways that you don't even realize. It's getting harder to stay away from social comparison with all the media and apps we have available to us and they can feel addicting so it's hard to walk away.

But before we delve into the newest forms of social comparison, let's revisit some of the avenues that have been causing us unhappiness for some time. The biggest one...is that huge flatscreen in your living room. There are all kinds of studies that show the more television you watch, the unhappier you are. We've all likely heard this at one time or another. BUT it may not be due to the reasons you think. I've been harping on this theory of not watching other people's lives since the start of The Hopefulist. I believe you need to get out there and live your own great story. Sitting and watching other people's lives (real or dramatized) is not going to make you happier. It is a source of entertainment. It can be used to relax. It can be used as a source of enjoyment. But once you get past a certain amount of hours per day it becomes a detriment to your life. I have always thought it was merely because you are watching other people's lives instead of living your own but it turns out there is more to it.

I'm learning in my Yale course that social comparison is one of, if not the main source of unhappiness. We just don't want other people to have what we don't. And we don't even realize it to the extent that it happens. They show all kinds of studies like...if you had a choice to make 50 thousand dollars a year at your job while everyone else made 25 OR you can make 100 thousand dollars a year while your co-workers made 150, the majority of people chose to make less money as long as they made more than their peers.

Here is where it gets really interesting. When it comes to comparison...we need to consider all the variables. Meaning, in their example...the professor says she should be comparing her salary to other professors at Yale and that would be a reasonable comparison. But it turns out, our mind doesn't work that way. Our brain just sees everything around us and compares it. So, the more Kardashian's, Real Housewives and Millionaire fiancee you watch in your life, the more you are comparing your life to theirs, reasonable or not. I can't speak for you but my lifestyle is no where near those people I just mentioned so watching them live their lives is just making us feel bad about our own.

Now, the social media aspect makes all of this so much worse. Even if you don't follow celebrities in this forum, you are still likely feeling like people have better lives than you do. Why? Because people only showcase their highlight reel! Nobody is posting pictures of themselves sitting on the couch binge watching Ozark and stuffing their face with food. Not only are celebrities making you feel bad about your life and all you don't have but even Karen, down the street looks like she's living better than you. And you know you are better than Karen! Keep in mind that Karen probably took 52 pictures before she settled on the one she shared with the world.

There are actual studies that show the more you use Facebook, the lower your self esteem. Why? Because we are constantly comparing ourselves to what we see, whether we realize it or not. This is why people have been harping on the media (mostly magazines) for the choices in images of women they put on their covers. If all you see is women who are a size 0 or 2 and you compare that to your size 8 or 10 body...yes, you are going to feel like you don't measure up. This is why there has been a push to change this dynamic because it is a main source of why girls as young as 6 feel like they don't look good enough.

So, what do we do? Limit our social media consumption. The same with television. As much as we may enjoy certain shows, be aware they may be making us feel bad about ourselves. I remember when the show Desperate Housewives was popular and thinking at the time....these are women in their 40's? This is how they look? When do we ever get to let go a little bit???? But again, it's a television show. It's not real! But our brain doesn't recognize the difference. Get out in front of the t-v a little bit. Read a book instead. Or get some exercise. Or start a project. At least try to pay a little less attention to those who are likely to make us feel less than by comparison. Snooze Kim Kardashian for 30 days. See if your life has drastically changed without your daily check in with her. I have a feeling you will be just fine. You can still go check out her feed whenever you feel like it but it won't constantly be in your face, all day, everyday. Give it a try. You may just realize you don't need any Kardashian's in your life at all!

I will end with my favorite phrase...stop watching other people's lives! Go live your own great life. And for goodness sake, stop comparing yourself to others. Comparison is the death of joy! It truly is. And we don't even realize we are doing it so take yourself out of the situations where that happens. I think you will feel a lot better. It's hump day! We've got three days of the 30 day challenge under our belt. Please tell your friends about #hopefulistchallenge. 30 days to feeling bettter! Now, go make today, your best day yet.

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