Our self-help columnist Athena Laz is a licensed psychologist and the author of ‘You’ve Got This’. She works with women worldwide, helping them to create a life that lights them up! You can see her work here.
I love your column – Thanks so much for responding to me. I’m 26 and really struggling at the moment. No matter how hard I try, life always seems to take me to the same place. I put myself through university and thought that when I started working life would just come together for me. Now, I have a great job but I am alone and just always feel like something isn’t working… I fix one thing, only to have another thing break! When will it be my turn to be happy? – Noni
It sounds like you are exhausted, waiting for the perfect moment in your life when everything will align. Here’s the thing; ‘happily ever after’ is just a mental construct. It’s just a belief that we are often taught to accept as true. It’s the idea that once everything falls into place, that you will get to be happy and at ease. It’s an ideal utopian destination always set in the distant future. There’s also a reason that it’s always set in the future.
As you move through your life, new experiences will always be waiting for you – both the high and lows. There will always be another destination and another goal waiting around the corner for you – that’s the process, the journey. So if you’re waiting for the end point, you’ll miss the beauty of the middle.
So let’s work on this mental construct. How can you reframe this belief, so that you can start enjoying where you are at right now?
The unhappiness you feel is because you think that something is missing. This is linked to a common cognitive distortion known as all-or-nothing thinking. Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These errors in thinking are usually used to reinforce negative emotions — telling yourself things that sound rational and accurate, but really they only serve to keep you feeling bad. All –or-nothing thinking is believing that you can only be happy when everything lines up for you.
The great news is that you can change this right now by simply changing your thinking.
5 Steps to changing errors in thinking
- Start with recognising the thinking error for what it is – an error.
- Reframe the process. For example; can you see how far you’ve come? The 20-year-old version of you would probably have killed to be finished Uni and to be financially independent.
- Practice mindfulness. Thinking errors usually leave you feeling unhappy because they lock you into thinking negatively about either the past or the future- neither of which are actually happening right now.
- Lean into self-care and practice through letting go of perfectionism.
- Get a fresh perspective on your problems through gaining external counsel.
You can follow Athena on Instagram here and see more of her work at Athenalaz.com. You can also receive her free audio course, designed to help you develop a healthy inner dialogue. If you have a question for Athena e-mail her here.
Read more mind health.