Look around. How many people do you see smiling? I mean, honestly smiling. At their son's baseball game. In the grocery store check-out line. Sitting at a stoplight. While having dinner with their family. Working out at the gym.
I live in the south, in a place where people are known for being friendly and waving to strangers. And maybe it's just because we're coming out of a long winter, but everywhere I look, everyone I meet, everyone I hear about is depressed. (Sidenote: How many anti-depressant medications can you name just from advertisements alone?)
It's just plain awful how sad everyone appears to be.
Barely any laughter.
People quickly scurrying away.
No one really taking any time to savor the moment at hand. No one feeling happy and alive.
Just existing, moving from one thing to the next, like robots in an eternal school cafeteria line.
That is not what I expected out of life. It's not how I was raised. I was raised with the idea that anything is possible. That good things come to those who wait and who work hard. People whistled while they worked. The music on the radio seemed peppier. Strangers held doors open for others and even rushed forward to grab the door for someone struggling with a heavy load.
Now, everyone looks down- either at the ground to avoid eye contact or at their phone.
If a stranger tries to strike up a conversation with you, it's awkward and it's easy to feel annoyed because you were busy surfing on the ‘net.
You barely have any energy to get out of bed, let alone function at home or work.
You're always hungry, always eating, and yet you never feel full.
You're always behind. There's always too much to do, despite 4G and and instant chats and more information than you could ever use in the palm of your hand.
But I'm preaching to the choir. You already know this. But why is this happening?
What's Really Going On?
I don't think there's just one answer to this. Instead, I think there is a smorgasbord of reasons. Here are just a few possibilities:
- People aren't outside as much anymore. There's just something amazing that happens when you are outside. From the sunbeams to the buzz of hummingbird wings to the smell of honeysuckle to the sound of a babbling brook, there's magic outside, not to mention Vitamin D absorbing into your skin from the sunshine.
- Food doesn't contain the same nutrients as it once did. Forget GMO's, Monsanto, and processed food. Even the carrots and green beans don't have the same nutritional value as they once did. In 1963, carrots had 37 mg of calcium, 23 mg of magnesium, and 341 mg of potassium. In 1999, they had 27 mg of calcium, 15 mg of magnesium, and 323 mg of potassium. Across the board, even the healthy foods you're supposed to eat aren't giving the same yields as they used to promise. Your brain can't help you function without essential vitamins and minerals, let alone keep you happy and at the top of your game.
- Everyone is either sleeping less or not sleeping as deeply. Light pollution keeps people from sleeping well. Images of the earth from space over the years show how much light is increasing across the planet. Your body can't make the melatonin it naturally produces in the evening hours in order to induce sleep. Factor in the numbers of screens in your home and within reach, and the amount of light increases. Without good sleep, you're a walking zombie.
- There are more time demands on everyone. Every cool new app now means that you have no excuse for not getting something done. Life was already too short to fit everything in during one lifetime. Now there is even more stress to do everything.
- It's easier and harder to be connected to those you care about. Thanks to social media, you can be better friends with someone from around the world that you've never met, while ignoring family members who live in the same county as you. Families in my office complain how they never eat dinner together anymore, and if they do, there are phones dinging throughout the entire meal. Some families even prefer a text to alert them that it's time to leave rather than standing at the bottom of the stairs and yelling. And without an emoticon, you never know just what tone a text message was written as. 😉
- It's easier to compare your life to the Jones' now. Before, you had to live next door to the Jones' to know if they had a boat or a new sofa or had just taken a new vacation. Social media now gives you an insider look at what is going on in the lives of people you haven't laid eyes on in years. Facebook posts can have more propaganda than the Cold War ever had, and it's easy to think that everyone else is living a grand life based on what they share.
While you can't make everyone around you perk up, you can make a change in your own life. Pick just one specific thing in your life to do differently. The smaller and more specific, the more likely you are to be successful in making your change to live a happier, fuller, less stressed life.
And for the double bonus, comment below with the change you're going to make so all of us can keep you accountable and on target to reach your goal!