Let me start by admitting that I do not have a sociology, psychology, or economics degree of any kind, so what makes me qualified to talk about life coaching or happiness? I can only go off my personal experience and what has worked for me, and as someone who has been battling depression since I was thirteen, I can humbly say that what I’m about to share has helped keep me sane, happy and stable for quite some time, so maybe it can help you, too.
As an American, it often confuses me how so many of us can feel depressed, stressed and anxious when we live in the richest, most powerful country in the world. Even low and middle-class people in this country still have access to hot food, the internet, and probably have a TV in their home. We get so wrapped up in keeping up with the Jones’ and racing to spend our money on things we don’t need that we miss out on actually living life. Our only human experiences come from talking (or sometimes fighting) with people over the internet, and most of our social interactions come through our phones. Before the era of smartphones, going to a concert, party or social event meant spending time with friends and enjoying a moment together, now everything is just an opportunity to take a picture of what you did to show off to everyone you know in order to earn as many “likes” as you can. These types of interactions and socializing are damaging to ourselves and others around us, but we will get to that later.
If you have a roof over your head, food in your fridge, and a steady social life, but still find yourself feeling down more often than not, try doing these three life-hacks that will likely help your mental state and increase your happiness.
Delete/Deactivate your Facebook, Twitter, Tinder and other social media and dating apps for 30 days.
I realize there is no way I am ever going to convince you to delete all your social media apps forever, especially cold turkey, but maybe I can convince you to try for 30 days. There is nothing you can do to help yourself become more invested in the real world than getting disconnected from the fantasy one we have all created for ourselves on social media. When you spend every minute of every day glued to your phone looking at pictures of what everyone else is posting and checking how many likes your last post got, you let life in the real world pass you by, and that precious time being wasted will never come back. Trust me, there is always something better to do than aimlessly surfing the internet on Facebook or Twitter, and not everything needs to be recorded or photographed. You probably spent at least the first decade of your life without needing to prove you lived every single day, you can do it again now.
The same goes for dating apps. Dating used to mean going out to a popular public spot and mingling with the locals until you find someone that catches your attention and the two of you talk and try to create a spark. Today, “dating” just means opening Tinder, Scruff, Grindr, Bumble, or one of the zillion other hookup apps (that’s really all they are) and clicking on the hottest person you can find to see if you can sleep with them ASAP, and that usually ends with one person ghosting the other anyway. No one goes on dates to the movies, restaurants or cafes anymore. Everything is done at lightning speed, and when you get ghosted or you ghost someone else, you just feel more empty and hollow inside than you did before because the idea that romance is dead and all you’ll ever be is a hookup to someone gets reinforced with every failed encounter you have. Give yourself 30 days of freedom from all social apps, go out and experience the world that you are not taking full advantage of, and you’ll see how great life can be without needing WiFi to enjoy it. The stress and anxiety of always needing to post something or the jealousy associated with seeing others bragging about their adventurous lifestyles is directly linked to social media fatigue, which leads to feelings of depression and envy. Throw your apps over the cliff and let them take your anxiety with it.
Invest your time and money in experiences, not things.
We all need the basics — shoes, clothes, maybe a car — but do you actually remember getting truly excited and enthusiastic about going to the mall to purchase new shoes or a pair of jeans? Why spend $200 on a pair of fashionable new shoes when you can get similar looking ones for $25 at a thrift store that will last just as long? Or $150 on new Prada jeans when other stores carry the exact same jeans, without the Prada logo, for $20. When you work hard for your money and invest it in things, you are investing in the impulsive quick fix of feeling happy. Those new clothes, iPhones, designer shoes and accessories will bring you joy for a few days or weeks, but like all physical things they will get old and used, the sugar rush of having something shiny and new will fade fast, and you will need to buy them again. More importantly — all of those things are replaceable.
You can’t replace that trip you took to Coachella last year with your three best friends, singing and dancing together under the stars to Radiohead, Lady Gaga, or Paul McCartney. You created priceless memories for life, and that picture of the four of you on your fridge at home (or — let’s be real — your Instagram feed) gives you a warm feeling of pure joy every time you see it. It takes you back to that moment and the endorphins you felt then are hitting you now. The same goes for when you and your best friend saved up and took a trip to Iceland to see the northern lights and got a white mud bath at the famous Blue Lagoon Hot Springs. Moments always hold more weight and value than something physical. If you decide to save money little by little simply by not spending it on a cup of coffee every day, or updating your iPhone when the one you have works just fine, it will hit you that every small cut here and there was worth it because it brought you to your vacation destination.
Even smaller investments that have nothing to do with vacations can be extremely beneficial. When your favorite singer announces a new album coming out next month, your excitement already begins to brew, and after the album comes out, the tour is announced. You save the date on your calendar when tickets will go on sale, and once again the excitement and anticipation builds. You buy your tickets in September for the show that will take place in November, and for the next two months you have something to look forward to. The show finally arrives, and in that two-hour time period nothing else matters. Your mind is in total bliss, and your worries about money, taxes, paying rent, getting a boyfriend or girlfriend, your next project at work, not getting enough sleep, are all put into a box in your mind and set aside. Right now, you are connecting with 30,000 other strangers inside of a giant arena, all singing and dancing to the artist you love. You look to your left and right and smile at your friends sharing that precious moment with you. The show ends and as you walk out of the venue, you tell your friends to stand with you under the bright jumbo screen with the singer’s image on it for a photo to forever remember this night. For weeks after, work and life don’t seem so hard anymore because you are still running on the fumes of euphoria from seeing your favorite singer live and forgetting about all your worries for a moment.
Months later when you drive to work, your favorite song by that artist comes on the radio and you immediately get taken back to that night with your friends. You remember the fun you had, the picture on your dresser of you and your friends under the marquee smiling ear to ear, and even the crazy outfits the singer wore when they sang that song live. Then you remember everything around that night — the Mexican restaurant you all went to for spicy chicken tacos for dinner before the show, and the fancy bar next to the venue you all stopped at after the show to mingle with other fans over shots of tequila to celebrate the unforgettable night.
When you look back on your life, all those material possessions will be irrelevant. Money can’t replace every trip you took, new friend you made, and memory you created; those will be with you until the day you die.
Stop comparing yourself to other people.
This goes back to the first point of deleting your social media accounts for a while. In the last fifteen years since social media has boomed, life has been less about living and more about humblebragging.
Humblebragging is nothing more than showing off but trying to make it look like you are not. A female friend posts a picture of herself on the beach in a tiny bikini giving off a provocative pose and captions it: “Aren’t days off the best!? Just wish it wasn’t so hot! Yikes!” She is pretending to complain that the heat is ruining her day off, but really, she just wants to show off her body and get people to comment how sexy she is. A male friend travels alone to Paris and posts a picture under the Eiffel Tower eating fine cuisine and giving a confused face next to the caption: “Who knew eating with the locals meant dining on snails!? Get me out of here!” Again, he is trying to make that moment seem like a silly inconvenience for his vacation, when the reality is he just wants to show off his 5-star meal in one of the most beautiful and expensive cities in the world.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others like them were supposed to bring us together and stay connected through the hobbies and art we like, but they have become nothing more than portals for people to show off. Every picture is just there to say “Look what I have that you don’t! Look where I am that you wish you were! Look what I’m eating that you can’t afford!” When you surround yourself with nothing but superficial people who only care about humblebragging and showing off, you can’t help but feeling jealous and comparing your life to theirs.
What you need to know is that despite all of the trips your friends take, the possessions they have or the fancy foods they eat, it’s all a lie. These people are not really this happy, adventurous or rich. The only reason they even post these ridiculously lavish images is to trick you, their friends and fans, into thinking that they live this luxuriously. I promise you, hop onto your Instagram or Facebook, find someone who’s profile is nothing but humblebrags, and follow them around in real life, and you will see for yourself how lame, boring, mundane and normal their lives truly are. Truly rich people are too busy living their own demanding lives to care about needing to post pictures every fifteen minutes to gain the respect and jealousy of random strangers or acquaintances on the internet.
That girl who posted a picture of herself in a tiny bikini on the beach only did it because she is fishing for compliments about her body, because the truth is she probably has low self-esteem and cannot feel beautiful inside unless she is constantly reminded by friends and drooling strangers on the internet how beautiful she is on the outside. That guy taking a trip to Paris probably has a very demanding, stressful job which for all we know causes him to be tough and nasty to people in his daily life, so he takes extremely expensive vacations to forget about how lonely he is and make everyone think he is single because he is always on the go and no one else can keep up, when really he could just be a jerk no one wants to be around.
There are actually businesses whose only service is to provide people settings to take luxurious selfies. For example: For $191.00 you can pay a business called Private Jet Studio that owns private planes to let you onto a fancy jet and a professional photographer will take pictures of you looking out the window dramatically or sipping wine glasses with your friends without ever taking off or going anywhere. They provide you with a makeup team, props like fancy champagne bottles, designer jewelry and accessories, and gold-plated silverware. They even provide a full wardrobe so you can make multiple clothing changes just so you can take a new picture with each outfit and post one new picture every week to make it seem like you are constantly traveling in private jets over several weeks or months. How self-centered, narcissistic and conceited do you have to be to shovel out almost two-hundred dollars for a picture of traveling…instead of just traveling.
You are always going to find someone who has it better than you do, that’s just life. Even the most well-off person you know will have someone more well-off than them who makes them jealous. You bought the new iPhone X with 64 gigs of data; your co-worker bought the new iPhone X Plus with 156 gigs of data that can work at speeds fast than yours. You are taking a weekend trip to the beach next month; your roommate is taking a two-week trip to Australia to surf and go on a safari. You bought the cheapest tickets to the Rolling Stones concert in the high-up nosebleed seats; your friends from Apple and Google each got luxury suites for free with dine-in service and access to meet the band after the show. Most of us would see these as losses because we are too busy noticing what we are not getting instead of the fact that we have a new phone, are going to take a fun trip, and have tickets to a sold-out show tens-of-thousands of people would kill to get into. Stop seeing the glass half-empty and be grateful you even have a glass at all.
If you live in America, unless you are jobless and living on the streets, you are already in the top 10% of the world. If you live and work in or near a major city, have access to water or food within minutes, don’t have to worry about starving or getting robbed or kidnapped, you are in the top 4% of the world. If you make more than $50,000 a year, have no illnesses or disabilities, you are in the top 2% of the world. Stop being blind to what you have just because someone else has it a little better. The next time you hate your life or want to complain about something, just remember that anyone living in poverty, crime, or jail would happily trade lives and bodies with you in a heartbeat. If there is a God and they heard you whining about how miserable your great life is, and said to you, “Okay (your name), if you don’t like this life how about I switch you with this starving famished child in Ghana, because they will happily take your life off your hands, that okay with you?” I guarantee you’d straighten up in an instant and say, “No thanks! I’m happy now! I’ll stop complaining!”
Politicians in America like to talk about “the 1%” when they try to sell you their plans to make your lives better, but they never tell you another truth we sometimes forget which is we, all of us reading this now, are in the top 10% of the world. Again, no matter how nice your life is, you will always be able to point at someone who has it better. How about instead of pointing at the people above, take a look behind you and see the vast majority of people of the world pointing up at you, and remember while we all have problems and “bad days”, you are still more fortunate than most.
Why do hot dogs come in packages of eight while hot dog buns come in packages of six? Whether or not you get a bun, just be happy you can always get a hot dog.
About the Author:
Brian Moniz is from San Jose, Calif. He studied filmmaking and writing at San Jose State University from 2010–2013 and got his bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film. Throughout his high school and college years, he worked as a music and movie journalist and critic. Having only recently come out of the closet himself in 2014, Brian enjoys writing about LGBTQ issues. His only regret when it comes to his sexuality is that he didn’t come out sooner.