The surprisingly difficult art of doing less
Taking secularization into account, the idea that we don't live in order to obtain some kind of salvation in the afterlife leads to the belief that we have to achieve everything we desire in the here and now.
If we miss out on anything in this life, it is seen as some kind of existential failure. Carried to an extreme, it is tragic because it's rarely a recipe for a good life.
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The problem with focusing on constant self-optimization is that it is a process without end. We can never say we've reached the full version of ourselves. We may feel that we are not (and can never be) good enough. We're never allowed to be happy and satisfied.
Also, it's not that you shouldn't become your best self, but the concern is that the self-help craze, with the drive to optimize yourself all the time, has become pathological.
In a way, depression is our way of reacting, withdrawing, and possibly metaphorically recharging our batteries.
There's so much pressure in modern society to perform and be productive, to be efficient, that we don't get time to recharge. This leads to sadness and loss of energy.
We should stop trying to adjust people to circumstances that are not worth being adjusted to. If people suffer from stress in an organization, try to look at how work is organized and change it, instead of referring them to something like stress coaching, or psychotherapies or mindfulness exercises that are really just treating symptoms.
These sensitive, intelligent, resourceful people should be out changing the world, not just sitting in therapy rooms trying to improve themselves.
The "pursuit of joy" seems to be the new buzzword to counter the fear of missing out phenomenon.
What brings you joy? Joy is pared with cleaning up our cluttered lives: from household clutter to life clutter.
We are constantly invited to do something, think something, experience something or buy something.
For every social event or task we say yes to, we run the risk of overfilling our lives. It may leave us feeling overstretched, overtired and overwhelmed.
There is often an underlying fear that prevents us from saying no. Perhaps we fear that we are not good enough. We find the compulsive "yes" might help us feel better. However, we cannot continue living at this pace.
We need to ask ourselves why we continue to do the very things that make us unhappy. Self-restraint and missing out are vital for our well-being.
Rumi, the 13th-century Sufi poet, compared emotions to unexpected visitors.
We're supposed to let them in and not hide from them, suppress them or pretend they do not exist.
In a society that promotes gratitude and positivity, there is pressure to suppress or conceal negative feelings.
But psychological studies reveal that acceptance of your negative feelings promotes emotional resilience, with fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Acceptance of negative emotions involves not trying to change how we feel but taking them for what they are.
Acceptance works because it blunts the emotional reactions to stressful events. In time, it can lead to positive psychological health.