Do You Really Want Your Neighbor’s Wonderful Life?

Are you feeling angry? Tired?  Frustrated? Envious? Do you think you are working harder than ever, yet not making much progress?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone.

Millions of people feel that life is passing them by. No matter what they do, it is always the other guy who gets the promotion, buys fancy cars, and sends his kids to Harvard, while they are barely treading water.

Are they right? And if so, what is the solution?

Facebook version of reality

Beach Vacation

Beach Vacation

You “friend” people on Facebook. Or other “social media” sites. Then they send you pictures of their beach vacations, their happy and smart kids, their new cars. And here you are, struggling with the daily grind of your mundane life.

Disconnect

Anger often arises if you want something badly, and your desires are thwarted. Or you think you deserve something, and yet you end up not getting it.

Frustration commonly has similar roots.

Reality

The real world exists.

We want it to be a certain way, but it is a stubborn beast. It goes along its merry way, impervious to our desires. It defies our efforts to control it.

Sooner or later, reality clashes with our expectations. The results, if not put into perspective, can be disastrous.

Grown-ups’ problems

tantrumAs children, we are often pampered. If we want something, we go to our parents, and demand we get it. If we don’t get our way, some of us throw a tantrum.

And then we grow up.

Control and compare

The first clash with reality in an adult world comes through comparisons.

We look at our colleagues and our neighbors. And we feel envious if they are better off than we are. Because we feel that we are just as smart as they are, if not smarter.

Envy, if not dealt with firmly and rationally, leads to resentment, bitterness, and anger.

From here, where?

So you are upset. You are better (you think), but your colleagues get all the riches. You hate that.

angryWhere is this going to lead you? Anger, hatred, resentment … this is a recipe for sleepless nights and an acid feeling in your gut. Will this make you any richer? Will that Lamborghini parked next door find its way into your garage?

No, and no.

You will be no richer, and your outlook towards life is likely to get clouded. Your enjoyment of life will diminish.

So what is the answer?

We need less envy, and more clarity of thought, more empathy, more gratitude.

Think about it.

You envy your neighbor’s mansion, his big car, his fancy vacations. But they do not exist in a vacuum. They are often the end result of a number of decisions he made along the way. Decisions which you do not know about. Decisions that you might not have made if you had that choice.

Perhaps he studied hard while his college classmates were out partying.

Perhaps he toiled at part-time jobs while others were slumped in front of their TVs, sipping beer and devouring potato chips.

Do you want his whole life?

This is the real clincher.

Your neighbor’s life is a package deal.

LamborghiniYou drool over his car. But with it might come his son’s drug addiction, his wife’s loneliness and depression, the alimony he pays to ex-wives, and the grief he gets from them. If you want his car, you will have to accept his problems, too. Ready for the deal?

Pick and choose

That is what we want to do. We want the “Facebook” elements of others’ lives, but we want to steer clear of their problems, many of which we do not even know about. Life does not work like that.

Live happily ever after?

And even if you got your neighbor’s life, and his riches, then what? You will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after? Hardly. Life is not a Hollywood movie.

Where now?

You need a strategy to deal with life. Bitterness, envy, resentment, anger, and frustration are not strategies. They are symptoms. Symptoms that you are not happy in your own skin.

Accept reality

You are what you are. Sit down. Take a deep breath in. Look deep inside you. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Be grateful for what you have. You probably have more than a lot of the 7 billion or so people on this planet, especially if you live in the Western world.

Then take a cold, hard look at your problems. Is the lack of a Mercedes a real problem? Do you really need a beach house and several million dollars to be happy in this world? If so, mankind is really doomed.

What matters in life

Sooner or later, you will have to decide what it is that you really want. What will make you happy? What will give your life meaning? What will give you satisfaction?

If your answers deal with material things, you will always be disappointed. Kids will move out, and the large house will be mostly empty, except for stuff. Stuff that nobody uses anymore.

JunkThe car will lose its shine. The new car smell will fade. Eventually, it will go to the junk yard.

Stuff is temporary. Life is temporary.

The neighbor’s Lamborghini? It will end up as scrap metal one day.

So what should you do?

  • Remember all the good things that have happened to you.
  •  Be Grateful!

    Be Grateful!

    Be grateful for all of them.

  • Live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest. This is the only moment you have. The past is gone. The future is not guaranteed. So enjoy all aspects of the present moment. This is when you are alive. This is your life.
  • Focus on friends, family, love.
  • You have one life. It might not be perfect. But it is yours. Live it, instead of grumbling about it.

 

Want to be Happy Right Now? Try Gratitude

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Who does not want to be happy?

However, most of us are confused about what that means. We often choose the wrong ways of trying to achieve happiness, spending a lot of money chasing transient pleasures. And we are reluctant to do some simple, and often free, things which can bring about lasting satisfaction.

Gratitude brings happiness

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Most people tend to overlook the established fact that gratitude is a crucial component of happiness.  Regular inclusion of grateful thinking into your life can change the way you look at the world. This has been shown to boost happiness levels significantly.

Gifts

No matter how little you have, if you think carefully, you will find gifts that others have given you over time. Life is one of them. Whether your life is ideal, or less than that, it still is a wonderful thing to be alive, at least for the vast majority of us. Except for some people with serious mental health issues, and some with other tragic circumstances, most human beings would choose life over death.

How did you get here?

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The human infant is quite helpless. Turning him or her into a functioning adult requires significant effort from numerous people: parents, teachers, friends, community members, relatives. It is naïve to think that you became successful just because of your own hard work.

Acknowledging that, and expressing gratitude for it, is nothing more than accepting reality. This is the first step to developing a healthy attitude to life.

A spark from another

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“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

-Albert Schweitzer

The sense of awe

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Look around you. The sky is amazing, as are the stars. The sun rises every day, and shines upon rich and poor alike. If you have ever enjoyed a sunset at the beach, or looked at majestic mountains, or just walked in the moonlight, you are bound to feel a sense of awe. If you believe in God, thank Him for the miracles of nature. If you do not believe in God, you can still feel grateful for an opportunity to enjoy nature, often free of charge.

Everyday epiphanies

“Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”

-John Milton

Good in the world

There is good in this world. There are good people, who perform good deeds. There are good things, many of which are free, such as the air we breathe. A self-centered view of the world can lead people to believe that they are the center of the universe. However, gratitude helps us to acknowledge that there are forces of good in this world outside of ourselves, and that these people, these forces, and these things can make a huge difference.

Of course, evil exists, too. And it is talked up all the time. Not too many people think and talk about the good that exists. Turning our attention to that can cause a paradigm shift.

Shift in focus

It is normal for human beings to think of themselves first and foremost. This is an attitude which promotes survival. But taken to an extreme, it becomes a damaging selfishness, which can color our attitude toward everything.

Gratitude allows us to shift our focus from ourselves to others, and encourages us to become more appreciative citizens of a global community. This is not just mumbo-jumbo. A grateful attitude has important, well-documented benefits.

More happy, less depressed

Research studies by Robert A. Emmons, PhD, suggest that gratitude leads to an increase in happiness and a reduction in depression.

Emmons is a leading researcher in the field of gratitude.

Gratitude journal

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Keeping a journal in which people regularly jot down things and people they are grateful for has been shown to improve the health and happiness of users.

Interestingly, it appears that writing down your feelings of appreciation and thankfulness even once a week in a journal has beneficial effects.

Sleep better

A study published in 2011 in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being revealed the positive effects of gratitude on sleep. People who keep a gratitude journal, and spend even 15 minutes a night writing down grateful sentiments tend to sleep longer and better.

Stress, optimism, immunity

The research of Dr Emmons suggests that feelings of thankfulness enable people to deal better with stress and other day-to-day problems.

There is also a link between gratitude and feelings of optimism. And there is some suggestion that optimism is linked to better immune function.

Better health

People who regularly express gratitude tend to exercise more often, and report fewer physical symptoms. In general, they admit to feeling more healthy compared to other people.

Teenagers

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A 2010 study in the Journal of Happiness Studies showed that high school students who are grateful have higher GPAs. They also have fewer signs of depression or envy.

Other studies reveal that grateful teenagers are better behaved in school and more hopeful.

Relationships

Gratitude and friendship go hand in hand. Grateful people recognize the positive contributions others make in their lives. As such, they tend to connect better with other people and have stronger personal relationships.

Athletic burn out

The journal Social Indicators Research published a study in 2008 showing that athletes who were grateful had higher life satisfaction and team satisfaction, and were less likely to suffer from burn out.

Conclusion

  • A world-view that begins and ends with oneself is unlikely to lead to lasting happiness.
  • Acquisition of material goods is unlikely to cause permanent joy.
  • Long-term satisfaction with life often requires a shift in the way we perceive ourselves and the world.
  • Developing and practicing a sense of gratitude has been shown to promote happiness and a feeling of well-being.
  • Even if you have very little, you can find something or someone to be grateful for.
  • Research into gratefulness has documented several physical and mental health benefits.

Call to action

  • Think of people who have helped you get where you are in life.
  • Appreciate what you have.
  • Keep a gratitude journal and write in it at least once a week.

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