Remember the first time you’ve ever done something new? Like a new job or a new school?
Feelings of excitement and wonder still feel fresh to you. New friends, new skills, new places. But then, there’ll come a point when you realize, it’s the same thing day in and day out. Monotonous, dry, and hollow.
The joy that you once had now faded away. And you can’t help but feel like there’s nothing anymore.
Here are some reasons why life can feel so meaningless.
You only chase hedonistic pleasures
Do you believe that money and all its buying power can make you happy?
Hedonism, or the pursuit of pleasure and sensual self-indulgence, makes sense on the surface. After all, isn’t life on Earth supposed to be enjoyable and fun? But in the constant pursuit of solely seeking pleasurable activities, you’d neglect long-term responsibilities that are far better for your mental health in favor of fleeting surges of fun.
Steve Taylor of the Leeds Beckett University, UK, says that merely having a good time isn’t the way to make you happy. It could even cause the opposite by perpetuating and delaying life contentment.
Instead, striving to form and sustain positive relationships and long-term self-development will help lead you to fulfillment. This is the good type of fulfillment that will naturally let your pleasure-seeking transform into to a much healthier form.
You stop yourself from doing that scary thing
Do you let your emotions tell you what you can or cannot do?
Growth is a frightening thing – the uncertainty, the rejection, and the exposure to vulnerability can be all too much for most people. But by holding yourself back, you limit yourself from knowing how far you can really go. The person you want to ask out or the job you feel too unqualified for? Do it, despite the fear. A ship is always safe at shore, but it’s not what it’s built for.
You obsess over your past
Do you limit yourself because of things you’ve done – or failed to do – in the past?
Whether it’s a lack of closure, sudden bad news, or a terrible childhood, you may feel the rippling effects of the past on your present self. While some of these thoughts are beyond control, replaying them in your head can have negative consequences.
Regain control of your mind by reflecting and noticing—not blocking—the thought. Realize that it’s resurfaced again—the pain, the uncertainty, the regret—and forgive yourself all the same. See the thought as a separate part of you, an old, unearthed relic—and then let go of the thought in a calm, comforting manner. You’ve grown now, after all.
You feel life owes you something
Were you ever told that you were going to be so many things as a kid?
In the early forgotten memories of our childhood, you’ve most likely done Piaget’s magical thinking in some form – which is a belief that by thinking of something, it’ll magically manifest. Like how a baby might think that food will magically appear on the table just because they wished for it to happen. But while you may have mostly grown of that phase, many adults do engage in forms of magical thinking to this day too.
If you are absolutely certain that your crush likes you back, even if they’ve never shown the signs, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead of pinning your expectations on the possibility of your future success, don’t be afraid to fail. Be grateful for the things that you do have for a more meaningful life.
You try to control what you can’t
Do you constantly worry about what others are thinking or doing?
Thinking far too long over something unnecessary that worries you can be energy-draining. Multiple studies show that overthinking can increase stress levels, reduce your creativity, and make you feel powerless when it comes to decision-making.
Instead, focus your efforts and mental reserves on the things that you can control. Change your mindset into something more empowering as well, something along the lines of “Now this, I can do.”
You don’t have authentic relationships
Do you find yourself wearing a mask every time you interact with someone?
If yes, feeling empty might feel all too familiar to you. But despite the comfort of solitude, one of the five components to having a fulfilled life is fostering a positive sense of social wellbeing with happy relationships. According to a study published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, people with healthy relationships experience better mental health and lower rates of morbidity.
Finding someone who cherishes your friendship is a precious person to keep. Nurture those relationships as often as you’re comfortable. If you don’t have any friends, get comfortable in your own skin and find someone who truly cares about you. They won’t always be the ones coming after you – so don’t be afraid to be the first person to come up and say hi. Don’t doubt yourself.
Do any of the traits above apply to you?
It can be hard to see past the clouded present that you may be facing. But know this: only you can decide who gets to control your life. A year can look very different from the last – so keep on making those small steps towards your growth. Your future self will be happy you did.
That’s all for now, Psych2Goers!
Taylor, S. Aug 26, 2017. Why Hedonism Doesn’t Lead to Happiness. Retrieved at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201708/why-hedonism-doesnt-lead-happiness
Hjort J., 5 Steps to Stop Thinking About the Past (in a Healthy Way). Retrieved at https://www.jimhjort.com/articles/5-steps-to-stop-thinking-about-the-past-in-a-healthy-way
Johnson, John A. February 17, 2018 The Psychology of Expectations. Retrieved at https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cui-bono/201802/the-psychology-expectations
Ries, J. 11/21/2019. Here’s What Happens To Your Body When You Overthink. Retrieved at https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/overthinking-effects_l_5dd2bd67e4b0d2e79f90fe1b
Society for Personality and Social Psychology. (Aug 29, 2014) Meaningful relationships can help you thrive. Retrieved at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140829084247.htm