Life Satisfaction: It’s not all about your bank account

You might as well admit it now, because I know you’ve done it. That’s right: I know you’ve Facebook-stalked someone from your past to see how they’re doing. Bonus points if they’ve gained weight, got divorced, gone bald or someone tagged them in a really, really unflattering picture.

I’ve done it, I’m a little embarrassed to admit. And when I saw some of the achievements that high school friends (rivals) have attained, along with other life milestones, I don’t know what felt worse: The fact that I had allowed myself to be reduced to Facebook-stalking, or that the dirt I was trying to dig up was, in fact, not so dirty. Only makes me hate my high school even more.

What does it mean to be truly satisfied with your life? Does it mean having enough in your bank account, just enough on the scale, and more than plenty on your scalp? Somewhat, maybe, maybe. Here’s what data from our Life Satisfaction Test reveals about people who are not satisfied with their life, and who feel that something is still missing:

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  • They are more likely to struggle with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, which often go undiagnosed and untreated. Many admit that going through daily life is an emotional struggle.
  • They also tend to struggle with body image issues, and lament over the way they look.
  • They don’t have a strong support network, especially during difficult times, and often feel alone. Their relationships are often filled with strife.
  • They are more likely to have a pessimistic attitude toward life, and tend to expect the worst. Many don’t hold much hope for their future, and tend to feel that it’s best not to get their hopes up, because they almost always end up disappointed.
  • They lack a raison d’être – a pet project, a job passion, a hobby – something that offers a sense of purpose. This leaves them feeling directionless, even worthless.
  • They are not living their passion, feel stuck in the 9-to-5 grind, or haven’t achieved the career success they were hoping for.
  • They tend to have low self-esteem, and focus on their faults and failures rather than their strengths and successes.
  • As in the Facebook-stalking issue I alluded to earlier, they have a tendency to compare themselves and their lives to others.
  • They tend to have underdeveloped coping skills, which makes it difficult for them to overcome stressful situations, and along with that…
  • …have difficulty letting go of regrets, carrying emotional baggage with them wherever they go.
  • They have an “external locus of control” and feel like a puppet in life’s play, powerless to change things.
  • They don’t take pleasure in the small joys in life.

Interestingly, money woes were lower down the dissatisfaction list. In fact, even the satisfied people admitted that they worry about their finances sometimes.

I’m not without my own ups and downs, and if I were to detail all the aspects of my life that I am chronically worrying about or that I am not content with, this would turn out to be a really long blog. Besides, I’d rather focus on the good, however small, than the bad.

Here are some tips I can offer to help increase life satisfaction – and trust me, being the hard-headed, over-analytical, cynical perfectionist that I am, if they work for me, there’s a good chance they’ll work for you:

  • Let it out. A study on life satisfaction and negative life events revealed that people who wrote out what was bothering them or who talked things out with someone showed an improvement in mental health and life satisfaction. So when something is bothering you, don’t keep it locked up inside. A problem can often feel like less of a problem when we can share that burden, so to speak. Release all your negative feelings and thoughts in a journal. Talk to a trusted friend, a spiritual leader, a therapist, or join an online community that focuses on helping others get through personal and emotional difficulties. There is always help out there.
  • Develop an attitude of gratitude. It seems to be human nature to focus on the negative – just turn on the TV to the latest news reports. Rather than focusing on why we’re all “going to hell in a handbasket,” why not focus on what’s going right? On the one hand, you may not have a great deal of money in your bank account, or your ideal partner or body. So what do you have? Two eyes to read this. A heart that beats. A sunset. Friends. A car. A home. A really great sandwich. Really dig deep and find all the things that you are grateful for, no matter how minor they may seem.
  • Take practical steps to deal with mental health issues. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, loss or any other psychological difficulty, take the steps necessary to resolve it. Life satisfaction will seem all the more difficult to obtain if you don’t overcome these obstacles first. Therapies have come a very long way in the past few decades and show very successful outcomes for numerous mental health issues. Get the disorder in order, and then get your life in order.
  • Find your raison-d’être. Whether it’s a hobby, raising your children, training/fostering animals until they’re adoptable, creating art or music, baking, gardening, tutoring or volunteering, find something that adds meaning to your life. This sense of passion will make you feel renewed, and help you realize how special and important you really are. Not to mention the fact that you will be making a positive impact on someone else’s life.
  • Read inspirational books. There’s nothing more inspiring than reading about people just like you who went through the same hardships you did and still managed to come out on top. It gives you hope and a reason to keep trying. Check out Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”, Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life”, Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha”, Barbara Delinksky’s “Uplift: Secrets from the Sisterhood of Breast Cancer Survivors”, and Nelson Mandela’s “Long walk to Freedom”, to name just a few.

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Insightfully yours,

Queen D

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