top of page
  • Isabelle Morley, PsyD

The Limits to Optimizing Your Life

There's nothing wrong with trying to live the best life possible, but be careful not to fall into this one trap which could actually make you less happy.




We all want to live our best lives full of meaning, love, purpose, and happiness.


We also live in a self-help culture that encourages us to take control of our destinies and make it happen.


We try to balance work with our personal life, invest time in hobbies that bring us joy, spend time with family and friends, and manage any negative feelings so that they don't take over.


And all of this is good, except it can go too far.


As we try to optimize every aspect of our lives, it's important to know the limits and set realistic expectations so that we don't find ourselves frustrated with the fact that we can't make everything better.



There are Some Things You Should Optimize

There are absolutely times when you should try to make your life better. Don't like your job? Look at openings and start fixing up your resume. Feeling tired and sluggish all day? Try an earlier bedtime, no electronics before sleep, and exercise.


Find the things that are within your control to improve, and improve them.

Find the things that are within your control to improve, and improve them. Make a better schedule for yourself.


Create good habits and routines.


Prioritize what really matters to you.



Start with These:

  • A good, consistent sleep schedule

  • An exercise routine

  • Limiting technology use, especially social media

  • Setting boundaries around work

  • Creating a regular meditation practice

  • Prioritizing time with friends and family


These things will make your happier and make your life better, and they are worth the effort to optimize. The first thing you should do is get your sleep on track, since sleep is one of (if not the) most important regulator of our mood and energy.



You can be doing everything right and still have some really crappy days. The truth is, living a grounded, healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you get to bypass having negative emotions.


But You'll Still Have Bad Days

You may find that despite checking off the list, you still have days when you feel stressed or sad or angry or overwhelmed.


What gives? You've got a great sleep schedule, a job you're pretty happy with, a relationship that's fulfilling, and maybe even a hobby or two that you enjoy, but some days you still feel behind in life, annoyed at your partner, unable to relax, or lethargic.


This a normal part of the human experience and, unfortunately, you can't erase all the bad feelings.


Unless you're feeling heightened negative emotions persistently (for 2+ weeks, for example) or they're interfering with your ability to function normally, which would suggest an underlying physical illness or mental health issue, it's likely that you're just feeling normal human feelings.


You can be doing everything right and still have some really crappy days. The truth is, living a grounded, healthy lifestyle doesn't mean you get to bypass having negative emotions.


Don't get upset with yourself over this! It doesn't mean you did something wrong or that you need to keep fine tuning every aspect of your life.




Mindfulness is the Answer

Instead of feeling like a failure or being disappointed that you can't avoid these feelings, try mindfulness instead.


In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware of your experience. It is immersing yourself in the present moment by noticing all the sensory information (what you see, smell, hear, etc.) and being fully in tune with your thoughts and feelings.


In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware of your experience.

If you're feeling stressed, lean into that feeling and fully experience it. Where do you feel the stress in your body? What thoughts are crossing your mind? What expectations are you putting on yourself that are exacerbating the stress? Can you allow yourself to experience the moment in full awareness, without the pressure to feel differently?


Let the thoughts and feelings come and go. Observe them without attaching to them. You'll be surprised to find that the hard feelings are easier to tolerate and quicker to pass if you practice mindfulness instead of avoidance.



And Stick With the Healthy Habits

If you're sleeping a solid 7-8 hours a night, exercising regularly, keeping up with friends, and turning off your computer at 6pm every night, then keep it up!


Sure, you'll still have frustrating days or moments of anger, sadness, or any other negative feeling. But that doesn't mean what you're doing isn't worthwhile or working.


There is no final endpoint with taking care of ourselves and living healthy lives. It's a constant practice in self-care, and learning how to navigate the challenging feelings when they inevitably arise.



תגובות


bottom of page