Americans live in the wealthiest country in the world with the most opportunities at our fingertips, yet we are still unhappy. The 2016 World Happiness Index rated the U.S. the 13th happiest country. Out of the 12 that ranked higher, only Norway had a higher GDP per capita.
Unhappiness is a virus rapidly permeating every aspect of our lives. The television and the internet are the hosts for this type of virus. Turn on the news at any hour of the day and it is a relentless drip campaign of negativity, one fatal car crash after political scandal.
Our social media accounts are wonderful tools for observing others who are having more fun, making more money, and doing much better than we are. Instagram and Facebook are the highlight reels of everyone’s life. Everybody is posting their eighty-yard touchdowns and buzzer beating shots, never their fumbles on the goal line or game losing turnovers.
A study from 2016 surveyed 1,787 adults ages 19 to 32 and found that those who used social media the most were at the highest risk of being depressed.
The constant need to keep up appearances can be suffocating in today’s reality TV era of society, and losing the sense of who we are in the rat race is effortless.
This past weekend I got together with two friends I haven’t seen in a while. We convened at what others have raved as one of the hotspots in town, and walked through tables lined with pretty people all seeking something different yet specific, out to the patio, which held what we really desired – a wonderful view of Los Angeles. Smoke and laughter drifted by our table, and as we reminisced about past memories, our roaring laughs became a full-bodied contribution to the scene.
Stories of past events that are forever set in stone in our own personal history books were exchanged with more warmth and spirit than the obligatory chore of keeping up with our current situations.
Intermissions of these episodes were marked by a silence that would settle the mood, broken by one of us commenting on the surrealism of the whole setting. Acknowledgement of that comment didn’t have to be spoken; it was intuitive between the three of us. We knew where we had come from.
We all had our own struggles; I was out of college about a year and was using my degree to stock shelves at a Tilly’s. The job was seasonal and I was soon unemployed, there was little stability or certainty in any area of my life. Through perseverance, faith, and most of all the guidance of others, I found my way into writing, which is my passion.
But everyday I remember the emotions I felt when life was uncertain and somewhat grim. That is my truth, as much a part of who I am as my name and telephone number.
My greatest fear today is not losing what I have, but forgetting where I came from. When I remember those dark days of solitude, I have gratitude for everything in my life. If I forget, I could have all that I dream of, and not be able to enjoy any of it.
I am guilty of losing my way and deviating from my moral compass. I created a character I thought I was supposed to be in the world, and played that role until I had a moment of clarity where I realized how unfulfilling it was.
I looked at who I was, both good and bad attributes, and from that I saw an honest picture of who I was. If I want to be comfortable and truly happy I need to face both, and be willing to work on the latter.
The effects are immediate; it is amazing how many of our problems are solved just by simply identifying them. The more difficult aspects of ourselves take time to work on, but at least we have gained an awareness of them.
A big part of finding my truth and being aware of it was sitting in silence with myself, which is something I try to do on a daily basis. I completely disconnect from the world for a small amount of time each day, sometimes as little as ten minutes. I turn all the electronics off, leave my phone in the other room and sit in silence with myself. It was a strange experience at first, but it is one of the most significant practices I’ve come to rely on.
We can’t be anyone but ourselves, despite what society tells us who or what we ought to be.