The “I’ll Feel Better When” Trap
Many of us have been caught in the “I’ll feel better when…” trap. This is when you say or think things like, “I’ll feel better when…
I graduate from school
I lose these last 10 pounds
I find a new job
I find my idea partner
I make $100,000
I finish this project
But what if that thing never happens? Or worse yet, it does, and you don’t feel better? What then?
The problem with this kind of thinking is that it focuses on the future which is unsure and unknown. Focusing on the future rather than on what’s happening right now in your life, can lead to anxiety and depression.
Your life is right now! It’s not at some vague point in the future when you have no problems. Chances are once this problem you’re experiencing now is done, another one will come along and take its place. And that’s ok. Really. I know it sounds trite, but life really is a series of ups and downs. The ups make the downs bearable, and the downs, well they make the ups noticeable and feeling good. The combination of the two brings balance to your life.
Coping with what Life Throws at You
One of the best ways that I’ve found to deal with life’s ups and downs is to practice living in the here-and-now with an appreciation of the moment that is happening right now. This is what makes up the essence of mindfulness living. The ability to appreciate what is happening right now in your life and in you.
How To Live a More Mindful Life
1. Notice what’s going on around you right now. Try not to be distracted by the problems you’re having at work, the fact that your mother-in-law is coming for a visit, or that your kid is failing math. Just notice what is going on right now. This can be a difficult thing to do in a world that values multi-tasking and putting the needs of everyone else before your own, but for a least a while each day, take time out to literally smell the roses, listen to your kids, enjoy a hamburger, or to actually watch your TV program.
2. Give yourself permission to have your own needs and to fill them, even if everyone around you isn’t perfectly happy! This goes hand in hand with #1 above. Do NOT let guilt over caring for yourself stop you from doing so. If you have trouble with this, bring it up with your therapist.
3. Practice gratitude. There is something right now in your life to be grateful for. In fact, there are probably several things. People or animals that love you. Things that bring you pleasure. Accomplishments that you are proud to have done. Your health or a physical attribute. Nice weather. This can be something so tiny as a blooming flower or something huge like a loved one's return to health following an illness. Whatever it is, take a few minutes a day to really notice it and to reflect upon your gratitude. This simple exercise can change your whole attitude.
4. Accept things as they truly are right now, not as you’d like them to be. This doesn’t mean that you can’t work to make your life better, but rather that you accept life as it is really happening right now. Even if you are currently in an abusive relationship or an equally horrible reality, accept it for what it is. Once you have fully accepted what is happening, then you can start working to make changes and improve your life. Living in denial will not bring you happiness or peace.
5. Accept that some things are outside of your control. You can not fix everything, and you can tie yourself up in knots trying. Try asking yourself if this problem or situation is something that you have control over. If it isn’t, then learn to let go and accept. It is very freeing. Allow other people to take care of their own problems.
6. Take a social media break! There is nothing that wastes time more than social media. You start with checking your messages, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent the entire evening watching tic-tok clips. Yikes! Social media also can make you doubt yourself and your life. Other people usually don’t post their failures or write about their faults. Because of this, you end up comparing your very real, very human existence to someone else’s very idealized version of their life, and guess who comes out looking inferior every time!
If you find yourself playing the “I’ll do better when…” game, try some of the steps outlined above ad see if they help. If you want someone to talk to about it or if you’d like more information on this or on depression treatment, please contact me by following the link. I’d love to hear from you!