Things That Can Chip Away At Your Happiness
The problem with 2017 is, there are now more ways than ever for your happiness to come under attack.
The good news is, all it takes is a little planning and foresight to protect your mental health from the dangers of our ever-evolving reality.
I've identified three current issues to think about in order to stay sane as the year unfolds. Following each problem is a quick fix to help steer you toward happiness.
1. You consistently unleash your animosity on social media toward people with opposing political views.
No matter what you think of our new president, the opportunities to spar on social media will never go away.
I can say with confidence that if you take the bait every time someone posts something you disagree with, your mood will suffer greatly.
The fix: First and foremost, the best way to manage your political anger is to channel your feelings into productive action.
For example, you could volunteer for a cause you feel passionate about or call your local congressman.
Also, know that a tendency to fling judgment across your Facebook feed will only promote unhappiness. Limit the amount you use social media as a way to express your anger and disapproval.
Small doses are fine, but constant policing of Trump's actions via social media posts will make you a miserable person.
Another way to cut back on depressive bitterness is to limit your consumption of pro- or anti-Trump media.
Michelle Obama was actually sharing the key to strong mental hygiene in 2017 when she said, "When they go low, we go high."
Keep fighting every social media battle, and you'll find yourself increasingly depressed and angry in 2017.
2. You let your screens run your life without any system of mental health checks and balances.
Your relationship with your screens is an essential topic to address in 2017.
Our personal technology is only going to get more accessible and appealing.
What is the number one risk of unchecked screen use? Social avoidance.
We are evolving as a culture to be less motivated to seek out face-to-face contact with friends. This has potentially devastating effects on your mental health, even if you have introverted tendencies.
The mental health benefits of in-person support and bonding are enormous (and obvious), but humans are leaning toward relying on text and video messaging as a substitute.
Our screens have become the primary attachment figure in our lives, like a parent who we cannot separate from. We pay a heavy price for this.
I love my iPhone as much as anyone, but I've learned there's a usage threshold beyond which my texting, browsing and picture snapping makes me anxious, irritable and sometimes downright miserable.
People who don't put their phone down tend to neglect either their own mental health or the health of their important relationships.
As we get deeper into 2017, the brain-ticking capabilities of our screens are only going to get harder to resist.
What most people don't realize is, the ability to delay gratification is one of the central keys to happiness. Your phone promotes a massive, irresistible pull toward satisfying all of your needs as they pop into mind.
The fix: Decide it's time to take control of your raging screen addiction and set limits on yourself.
The key is to create screen-free segments of the day. Put your phone in another room even for a half hour a night.
Shut off your phone when you're watching a show on TV.
Reduce your social media consumption by checking your accounts at predictable times during the day, as opposed to checking during every single mini-transition, like when you're in an elevator, on the can and between work tasks.
Learn to turn off audio alerts. They promote anxiety and ruin the quality of your attention.
3. You keep buying into the idea that you should only do what you love.
The millennial-esque command to only do what you love is a wonderful guiding principle for your career and for life in general, but it's also a dangerous one.
Why? Because that's not the way life works.
If you're constantly feeding yourself and others this philosophy, then life's unavoidable disappointments will be experienced more intensely.
Inevitably, there are enormous tasks you'll have to complete that you won't love, such as working a less-than-desirable second job to make ends meet.
Are you going to refuse to do this because you don't love the job responsibilities?
If you insist that you'll only do what you love, then life will be unnecessarily painful, and the world will be turned off by your self-entitlement.
Again, this is a wonderful guiding principle if you don't take it too far. Just know life demands that you commit to doing things you're going to hate.
You need these less-than-enjoyable tasks to serve as a contrast to the things you love. In fact, without knowing the emotional pain involved in doing things you dislike, the tasks you love won't feel so special.
The fix: There are two keys to embracing the uncomfortable parts of life.
First, you must adopt the philosophy of striving to go outside of your comfort zone. To accomplish this, you need to spend time thinking about what is actually within your comfort zone.
Then, look to stretch yourself to the point of at least mild mental discomfort. For example, if you typically stop running on the treadmill after a few miles, insist on going a quarter mile further just to show yourself you can break through self-imposed barriers.
These small mental victories will promote accepting the reality of pain in life.
Second, get to know your avoidance muscle, which refers to all of the ways in which you delay facing obligations and painful emotions.
How do you usually avoid what needs to be faced? Do you lose yourself in your screens? Do you rely on alcohol to temporarily shed the discomfort of reality?
Whatever your vices are, the way you relate to them must be modified. The most practical way to do this is to create degrees of avoidance, as opposed to unchecked escapism.
When you don't want to deal with a task that is begging to be finished, watch one episode of your favorite show, not four.
If you insist on having a cocktail the night before a frightening event, have one or two drinks and stop.
The idea is to establish grades of indulgence that make you feel in control of your avoidance muscle.
There are so many potential mental health pitfalls in 2017, but a little foresight can help you avoid so much suffering.