Researchers for the Review of General Psychology have shared that people are not supposed to be satisfied.
In 2022 People Magazine, yet again, named its sexiest man alive. For those of you not keeping track, in 2022, Chris Evans was the sexiest man alive. People magazine has been naming its sexiest man alive since 1985; Mel Gibson was the first sexiest man alive way back then. Wow, how things have changed.
In all my years on this mortal coil, I have never been named People Magazine’s sexiest man alive. Some of you may be surprised by that. They have never met me, seen a picture of me, or sent their shock and amazement from a nicely padded room in the local mental institution; relax; it’s not a huge surprise. Nor is it a big deal.
In 2023, People Magazine will name another sexiest man alive, but, God willing, Chris Evans will still be alive. He’ll still be walking about, eating things, making sounds with his mouth, shooting movies, and all the stuff that alive people do. And yet, he will no longer be the sexiest man alive.
He will also not be dead.
This, of course, is just fantasy. Yes, Mr. Evans is an attractive man, and he surely has excellent qualities, but he also farts, leaves the seat up, and does things that human men do. Mr. Evans, and all those back to Mel, represent an imaginary ideal. We see them on the silver screen, and we blur the lines. We see them as heroes and super sexy because of their film roles. But then, when we see pics of them out “grabbing coffee in L.A.,” suddenly they are human, and we can’t wait for next year's sexiest man alive.
There is nothing wrong with fantasy. The dreams of wealth and, for some, power. The big house, the yacht, and maybe the sexiest man or woman alive in your arm. Won’t that make life perfect? No, it won’t. Your life will still be your life, but with more money and a good-looking bit of arm candy. That dissatisfaction will remain.
Dissatisfaction is hardwired
Researchers for the Review of General Psychology have shared that people are not supposed to be satisfied; they believe that if people experienced satisfaction and pleasure all the time, there would be no drive to seek further benefits or advancements. The human race was not meant to feel satisfied is the message being sent out.
They go further to share the four psychological factors that make satisfaction temporary. They are,
- Boredom. People will go to great lengths not to experience boredom.
- Negativity bias. Which is defined as a phenomenon in which negative events are more important and demand attention more powerfully than neutral or positive events.
- Rumination. This is defined by the need to continue playing bad experiences repeatedly, like chewing a piece of meat endlessly.
- Hedonic Adaptation. This is the fact that all sorts of things in life that are supposed to make us happy don’t. Or don’t for long. All desirable experiences are fleeting and transitory; eventually, we return to baseline satisfaction, which can seem dull after an exceptionally thrilling high.
So the cards are stacked against us, we will never be satisfied with our lives, and we’ll constantly be looking over the fence, coveting our neighbor's riding mower. We’ll always put this year's sexiest man or woman alive on our sexual freebie list.
If you’re dissatisfied with life, these researchers argue you’re normal. If you’ve never been dissatisfied, you’re at a disadvantage. They believe that dissatisfaction is responsible for our species' advancement, which may be true.
Look at history and think about sayings like necessity is the mother of invention. That necessity is subjective. Yes, it’s great that we can get in a car and drive somewhere to get there faster. But are we happy with that? If so, there would be one kind of car, the get you where you’re going car, but that’s not the case. Now you have to have a car that parks itself, has a home theater in it, and drives for you. Are those necessities?
The add-ons, the crossing the velvet rope, getting in free, being surrounded by flashing cameras and attention, are the things people see others experiencing and think, why not me? And this feeds dissatisfaction.
So, we’re hardwired to be dissatisfied; we should just quit, right? Nope, not true at all. And just because psychologists do the research cited here doesn't mean it’s a hard and fast rule. You can be and should be satisfied with your life. Here are a few tips on how.
Focus on the Positive Stuff
It is easy to get caught up in the negative. As we saw before, we dwell on the negative more than the positive. We have to have pictures of our vacations because good memories fade quickly. But, if we get cut off on the highway, we have that image locked in our minds forever.
Change that and make a concerted effort to focus on the positive. Don’t allow the negative to dominate; push the positive. When you have a negative thought or feeling, force yourself to think of a positive.
Also, we tend to silently or even outwardly bash ourselves when we make a mistake. Change that; instead of saying to yourself you’re an idiot, say, I love you.
This will take a while, as we already know we’re wired for dissatisfaction, but like a house, we can rewire our minds.
Find your personal stress relief
What soothes your personal savage beast? Figure that out. It can be anything, playing the piano, taking a walk, or doing volunteer work. Anything that soothes your mind puts you in the moment of right here and now and calms the negative thoughts. Then make it a practice to do this stress-relieving activity every day. Eventually, it will become a nice habit, and life could become more positive for you.
Take time for yourself
Mental health is a serious problem that people sort of joke about or feel sly about. Taking a mental health day is sometimes necessary, and you shouldn’t be coy about it. Knowing when you’re at the point of throwing up your arms, chucking everything out the window, and doing something to prevent that is wise.
If you take your mental health seriously and give it the attention it deserves, you’ll eventually get more comfortable saying, no, I need to take care of myself. With the pandemic, the work-life balance has shifted, maybe for the better. People are less willing to live for their job and are looking to simply live. Making your life all about work can lead to severe levels of dissatisfaction.
Your actions, your responsibility
When the shit goes down, it’s easy to say not me, not my mistake and blame others. That leads to feelings of guilt, anger, and remorse. Instead, own up to the mistake and examine it later to see how you could have done things differently. In this type of situation, you move from blame, usually negative and counterproductive, to self-examination, correction, and moving forward. Again, chewing that piece of meat leads to dissatisfaction. Dealing with the situation in a positive, progressive manner and moving forward keeps that dissatisfaction at bay.
They say to walk a mile in another person's shoes, but really all you need do is walk from your desk to the copy room. We all make mistakes, and we all hope that someone will be kind, understanding, and human when we do. Be that person. Make the choice to put yourself in their shoes and understand what’s going on. The knee-jerk is to judge and be angry because the mistake has been made. Put your knee down and take up your compassion. Once you see the world from another’s point of view, you’ll realize we’re all in this together, and from time to time, we need understanding. Spread that, and it will return to you when you most need it. And, you can be satisfied that you helped someone stay off the ledge and understand that we are not our mistakes.
Examine Your Friendships
This one is tough, but you need to do it. Who are the people that inspire you, lift you up, support you, be thankful for them and send them a little note telling them why they are essential in your life. For the rest, take a long honest look. Are they dragging you down, filling you with negativity, always gossiping, and picking people apart? Are they making your life better and more positive, or are they an albatross around your neck?
You don’t need a huge break-up or a scene; just remove them from your life. It’s likely that they won’t even notice. Most deeply negative people are also narcissistic and notice very little outside themselves. You’ll feel more satisfied if you don’t have that negative rock around your neck.
Step Away From Social Media
Disrupted sleep, lower life satisfaction, and poor self-esteem are just a few negative mental health consequences that researchers have linked to social media. Funny that a platform that is supposed to connect us and give us access to endless knowledge makes most of us depressed and dissatisfied with our lives. Stay off it for a week and then check in with yourself; how do you feel?
A week away, even a day away, is a path to more life satisfaction; you’re not comparing yourself to others, and you’re not getting caught up in envy and frustration. Stay away and then moderate your social media time, you won’t miss it, and you’ll be more satisfied with your life.
Look at What You Have
We are often so busy looking over the fence at what they have we need to remember to stop and think about what we have. Do that. Look at what’s good in your life and be thankful for it. It will awaken the feelings you once had when you got the job, got married, bought the house, the first car, etc.
Look at your relationships; are you giving them the attention they deserve? It may seem small, but having something like a sexual freebie list, no matter how fanciful it is, affects your partner. Perhaps you’ve built a life with this person, and now you’re saying you would jeopardize it for a night with a Maxim model or Chris Evans. Side note to Mr. Evans, I have nothing against you; I think you’re a terrific actor; you just happened to be the sexiest man alive so …
A garden grows when it’s cared for; the same holds true for your life. It’s never going to be perfect, and happily ever after is kind of nutty. Stop looking over the fence and look at your own garden. Are you caring for it enough? Be careful; blink, and you could lose everything you’ve been building in a flash. Cherish what you have and who you have, and think more positively, and your satisfaction levels will rise. No matter what the psychologists think.
I may never be the sexiest man alive, but I am the sexiest man in my apartment. That counts.