Do you ever feel as though your real life hasn’t started yet? As though you are building and building towards a perfect apex, when suddenly everything will click into place and the grey tones of inertia will bloom into vibrant whorls of colour? Do you feel like you are backstage, straightening your costume and rehearsing your lines, just waiting for your chance to go through the curtain and out into the dazzling light? Many of us, at some point or another, can feel this way. Like life is passing you by, while those around you are already treading the boards and basking in the applause.
But you are not alone. It is easy to think that everyone else knows exactly what they are doing, because that is how we package ourselves for the world. Life through a filter. Instagram has been shown to cause depression, because who wouldn’t feel like they are missing something if all you see is perfect bodies, perfect teeth and luxurious lifestyles. But that’s not what life is. The beauty of our existence is in the simple things, the real things. We are so incredibly lucky to be on this wonderful earth at all, and just by being born you have already beaten the odds a million times over. You deserve to enjoy it and make the most of it, so here are some small things you can do to feel as though you too are truly living.
Be In The Moment
Whether you are cycling along a river with the sun warming your skin, or listening to a bird sing while you drink a cup of coffee, take a moment to really soak it all in, to be present. Our lives are made up of millions of tiny encounters, decisions and experiences. It is not one thick straight line, but rather a shimmering network of fragments, each as valid as the next. If you see something beautiful, try to really see it rather than immediately reaching for your phone. Let it paint itself into your memories and become part of your very fabric.
Be Grateful For What You Have
I have never met anyone who has it all, for there is no all to have. It is too infinite to catalogue, the myriad of human potential. But no matter how little you feel you have, you still have something, and that something that you take for granted will be the dearest wish of another. You may not be happy in your job, but you could have a warm and loving family. You might not like the shape of your legs, but they take you from place to place, don’t they? You may not have a partner, but you are surrounded by extraordinary and inspiring friends. It is not your responsibility to be perfect, nor to ‘have it all.’ Enjoy what you have, and if you can grow and add to that, wonderful. But you are not a failure if you don’t.
Human connections are one of the keys to happiness. The UK has just appointed a Minister for Loneliness because the feeling of isolation can be so damaging to our mental well being. Being kind and loving to one another centres us and makes us feel alive, and receiving kindness and love makes us feel worthy. Compliment a stranger. Buy a sandwich and a book for someone who is homeless. Call your mother and tell her that you love her. Let someone go in front of you in the supermarket queue. Send a friend a care package with a handwritten letter. Be nice to your waitress. A little kindness goes a long way, a lot goes further.
Limit Social Media
Social media is a great way to stay in touch with friends who are overseas, or to feel visually inspired, but be wary of overdoing it. Wherever possible try to see your friends in person, or to talk to them on the phone, otherwise you can still feel lonely even with 800 ‘friends’ on your Facebook. Instagram, as mentioned above, has been strongly linked to depression, so if you feel yourself beginning to slide into feelings of unworthiness and low self-esteem while looking at the lives of others then turn it off. Try to take stock of what is really around you, look at the world through your eyes and not through a screen.
Set Yourself Goals
If you can’t shake the feeling that your life is on hold, give yourself some short and long term goals or projects to work on. It could be to learn a new skill, make a new friend, or to polish up on something you never quite finished. If you can see progress and results in something that you’ve put your mind to and worked hard on, it will help to colour in the gaps and give you a sense of being present. Life isn’t something that will happen in the future, it’s something that’s happening right now. Each little accomplishment gives you a new handle to hold on to, to grasp life in your hands.
I hope that these tips will help you if you are feeling a bit lost, and remember that a cup of tea and a chat with a friend goes a long way to mending the soul. If you feel that you may have depression then speak to your doctor, there is help at hand. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your loved ones, and if you see a friend floundering let them know that you will always have space on your couch and a bottle of wine in the fridge if they need to talk.