We are blessed with so much choice these days. We can pretty much work anywhere. Travel to places our parents couldn't. We can do so much with our lives; it's an incredible time to be alive. So why aren't we happy?
Too much choice has a dark side. It can overwhelm us. It can make us think we're not living the best life possible, which can only lead to anxiety and misery. It's a modern dilemma: the worry that we're missing out and should be achieving more, more, more.
Just know that you're not alone. These feelings are only natural. With social media and the Internet, cheaper travel and the ability to work remotely, it's not surprising we're feeling crippled by too much choice. But it doesn't have to be this way. If you want to be more settled and content, the following tips will help you feel more grounded and satisfied with where you are right now.
Count your blessings
As human beings, it's only natural that we aspire to have beautiful things. But when we have them, happiness is only temporary, and we want more. We might've saved for our 'dream' house, only to start looking for the next fantastic property. We may buy a shiny new car and start hankering after something more expensive. We're idiots. We take things for granted.
Learn to appreciate the things you already have. Don't feel guilty that you want more – that's part of what makes you human. Just acknowledge this and know that you have the power to count your blessings and be happy with what you've already got.
Know that the grass is never greener
Your house might have things wrong with it. You might feel that living in another city will be better. Or that a different job will solve all your problems. What you have to realise is that the grass is never greener on the other side. It'll most likely have the same amount of issues, potentially more, and you'll start wishing to be elsewhere again.
Instead, take small steps to make your current situation better. Can you make improvements to your existing home? Could you fall back in love with your hometown or city by discovering new places or local activities? Can you speak to your boss to make positive changes at work? It's all manageable.
But if small changes don't make any difference, and your gut is telling you to make a more significant adjustment, then do what you have to do. Changing your address or profession might be the best solution. However, if you keep wanting to change things too frequently, perhaps these external forces aren't the real issue – maybe it's time to consider why you feel the need to change.
Appreciate what's happening right now
Sometimes you have to stop and look around you. Turn your head to the sky and admire the clouds. Consider the smells of autumn leaves after a spell of rain. Feel the breeze on your skin and take a deep breath, appreciating how good it feels to be alive.
The 'power of now', as they say, is so effective it can melt all your troubles away. It's about living in the present moment and avoiding thoughts of the past or future. Read The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle for further guidance.
Ditch or lessen access to social media
People only share the very best of their lives on Instagram or Facebook. They don't take pictures of themselves cleaning the bathroom, or suffering from the flu in bed. They don't talk about difficulties or problems (unless they're after sympathy). It's only the best of the absolute best. Which means when you scroll through your feeds, you'll get this super unrealistic perception that everyone's life is perfect. This isn't the case.
Remove Facebook from your smartphone. Instagram too. Reduce the amount of time you spend scrolling. And find healthier distractions. Could you bake some bread? Read a book? Play a computer game, perhaps? Anything to escape and switch off, rather than be bombarded with constant 'perfection'?
Unplug a little more
While we're on the subject of being online, can you force yourself to unplug a little more each day? Because being offline will bring many benefits. You'll feel less anxious, for starters, because you'll give your mind a chance to relax and rejuvenate.
Instead, pick up a good book or get outside for some fresh air. And leave your phone at home – who cares that you won't count your steps! It doesn't matter. For further tips, read our handy digital detox guide.
Delete the Rightmove app
Unless you're looking to buy or rent a property, why are you wasting your time drooling over houses you can't have? Oh, you know what I'm talking about. You practically search Rightmove every day, seeing what £850,000 can get you (if only you had that kind of money). What a stupid way to make yourself miserable.
You're not alone. There are Rightmove addicts everywhere. They too suffer from this obsession.
Instead of endlessly searching for a property, why not appreciate your existing home? You don't have to spend a fortune. Some fresh flowers here and there will always cheer up a place. You could clean your curtains. Or freshen up your sofa with new cushions. Maybe even add some candles to your mantlepiece. I always find a good spring clean makes me feel happy – it's like I've got a brand new home again.
Stop buying new stuff
When you're suffering from too much choice, you might become obsessed with buying things for yourself or your home. You might feel the anxiety to be perfect and 'keep up' with everyone else.
First of all, if you're still using Instagram, unfollow any interior designers or bloggers. They will only make you feel inadequate as they share their beautiful homes or fashion outfits. Worse, they'll encourage you to spend. Secondly, be strict with yourself and ban any online shopping. You should instead physically visit shops if you really must purchase things – it'll stop you from going crazy.
Embrace new hobbies
If you find yourself becoming obsessed with browsing the web, checking social media or shopping, it's time to find a new pastime. Painting, knitting, crafting, reading, pottering, mending, making, exercising – even helping out at a local charity – anything to take your focus away from all that 'choice'.
By embracing a new hobby, particularly one that requires deep focus, you'll switch off and almost meditate, as your attention is on what you're doing and that alone.
Build a social network
And nurture it. The more friends you have where you live, the more grounded and happier you'll become. The more activities you enjoy with them, the less time you'll have to think about choice and whether you could live elsewhere or buy more things. Make an effort to put down roots and truly fall in love with your life.
Understand that this is it
Your life is happening right now. It's not waiting to happen. This is it. You won't necessarily be happier once you've got that new job, moved house or travelled to that place. The here and now is all you have.
As John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." Don't waste this precious time you have by wondering about all the other possibilities of life. That's a fool's game.
Embrace who you are, what you're doing, what you've got, and where you're living. Appreciate the small things. I'm not religious, but I'd like to leave you with the Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."