Today is Blue Monday: statistically proven to be the ‘blueist’ day of the year. We’ve partnered with Mindful Chef ambassador Dr. Aria expert in mindfulness and long-term health, to help you banish the January blues. 1. The happiness paradox When economics professor Richard Easterlin turned his attention to the study of happiness in the 1970s, he found
Today is Blue Monday: statistically proven to be the ‘blueist’ day of the year. We’ve partnered with Mindful Chef ambassador Dr. Aria expert in mindfulness and long-term health, to help you banish the January blues.
1. The happiness paradox
When economics professor Richard Easterlin turned his attention to the study of happiness in the 1970s, he found a surprising paradox: while richer countries tend to be happier than poorer countries, happiness levels do not rise over the long-term as a country’s income increases. In the US, real incomes have grown in the last seven decades and yet happiness levels have flat-lined. In the UK, mental illness has been on the rise since the early 1990s. While there is ongoing debate about whether life satisfaction accompanies economic growth, there is data that challenges the fundamental assumption that money buys happiness.
On a daily basis, so much of our time and energy is focused on our financial progression and other outward markers of “success.” The importance of money, fame, status and power is embedded into our social fabric. We’ve become consumed with our careers, often to the detriment of our mental wellness, physical health and close relationships.
As a high-performance psychologist, I’ve worked with individuals at the top of their professional game in the entertainment industry, finance, and sports. These men and women often have achieved global fame, industry recognition, and amassed fortunes into the tens and hundreds of millions. However, all too often, even at the peak of their “success”, rather than experiencing inner contentment and fulfilment, there is fear, anxiety and dissatisfaction. Net worth does not equate to self-worth. Material comforts do not fill the void and eradicate the feeling that something is “missing” from life.
2. The two paths
There are two paths in life: the external and the internal. The external centres on our career and material circumstances. The inner journey relates to emotional and spiritual growth and fulfilment. Both are important. Both are worthy in their own right. However, whether we’re conscious of it or not, most of us expect outer success to bring inner peace. We fall into the trap of becoming fixated on the external. We jump onto the hedonic treadmill, striving to attain and achieve more while staying in the same place emotionally and spiritually. If we wish to have stronger mental and physical health in the long-term, it’s crucial to progress on both paths. The issue is one of balance.
3. Make it a daily practice
The ancient Stoics recognised the importance of taking a little time each day for quiet contemplation: to prepare for the day ahead or self-reflect on the conversations and events that passed. Marcus Aurelius, the last of the Roman leaders known as the Five Good Emperors, created this space each morning. Seneca, another Stoic philosopher, would self-examine before bed. This practice forms part of the art of living, wisdom and self-mastery.
Without a framework for managing the stresses of everyday life, few of us carve out the space necessary to clear our mind, learn from our experiences and have greater control over how we respond to what life throws at us. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, websites and TV programmes compete for our attention. Although we’re more connected than ever by the internet and social media, we’re missing a true sense of connection to the things in life that provide us with deep meaning and fulfilment. Somehow we’ve lost our way, prioritising financial and technological progression over our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
This is why my dear friend and fellow psychologist Dr. Seth Gillian and I wrote A Mindful Year: 365 Ways to Find Connection and the Sacred In Everyday Life. We wanted to find a simple, practical way to help one another, and others, find the way back to a deep sense of satisfaction and connection. For one year, starting on January 1, the two of us wrote to each other every day, taking turns as we composed 365 practices drawn from mindfulness and cognitive behavioural therapy. Each practice highlights a principle that encourages greater connection to the most important aspects of our lives.
Over the course of the year, we returned time and again to the themes that inspired us to embark on this journey together: compassion, authenticity, love, and simplicity. We found these practices to be life-changing over the course of the year as we dealt with major health issues, deaths, and nearby terrorist attacks as well as the ordinary ups and downs of adult life. Our mutual encouragement and daily mindfulness practice helped unearth the sacred over and over, on good days and very difficult ones.