‘Do you ever get a little bit tired of life
Like you’re not really happy but you don’t want to die
Like you’re hanging by a thread but you gotta survive
‘Cause you gotta survive.’
-Numb Little Bug by Em Beihold (2022)
While this song is highly recommended for the rainy day when your new dress got splattered with mud, when you missed the bus and when you ran late for an important meeting - feeling this way all the time is…concerning. Perhaps you need a reminder that there is so much satisfaction to be had in life (or that you need a different playlist. Seriously, the song is great for the ears, not mental health. For free serotonin try Happy by Pharrel.)
Truth be told, we have imbibed a very skewed mentality regarding self-satisfaction. Somewhere along the way, we learned that by becoming the best employee, the best parent, the best child, and the best friend possible, we can be truly content. You may have found by now that things don’t exactly work that way. So where are we going wrong? This simple diagram, called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, can help you out.
There are five levels in this hierarchy. To determine which level you are at, simply see which level depicts the needs you are constantly working to meet. The bottom level depicts human survival needs like water, food and sleep (basically everything you would need to survive on a deserted island). The next level shows the human needs that must be met to live in the modern world, like money, housing and security. These two levels are called Basic Need Levels.
The next level depicts human emotional needs like love, companionship and personal relationships. The succeeding level shows achievement and success, which meets the human need for self-esteem. These two levels are called Emotional Need Levels.
The highest level represents Self-Actualization, symbolising the realisation of one’s fullest potential. At this stage, one is completely satisfied and content with oneself, gaining a sense of purpose and inner peace.
This is the level we all aspire to reach to become truly content and happy. But most of us are trapped in the two Basic Need levels - we constantly chase money, security and rest without advancing to fulfil our emotional and self-actualisation needs. What we need to do is advance to the next levels. How can this be done? Through self-care and personal growth. Here are five ways to start your journey towards Self-Actualisation:
1. Happy mind = Happy you:
When your leg is fractured, what do you do? You don’t slap a band-aid and run a marathon (I hope). You take your mom’s homemade remedies of questionable reliability (far better than scientifically validated lab-tested drugs, amirite?). You take bed rest, and you eat and sleep well. Your mind works the same way. When it is overwhelmed, stressed or disturbed, it might seem easy to ignore it and keep going. Choose to stop, pause and heal. Your mind is your CPU - don’t let it overheat.
2. Sweat out the stress:
Burnout is contagious in this fast-paced competitive world. Keep stress and exhaustion at bay with simple, short exercises. No time (or energy) to hit the gym? Park your car farther away and walk to your destination. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Put your favourite (happy) song and jump around. Consistent small habits will go a long way in reducing stress and keeping you active.
3. Finding your own joy:
In the rush to succeed, you forget to pause and smell the flowers (unless you’re allergic, then maybe stick to fake flowers. Or candles. Or gluesticks - whatever smells nice to you). Remember to attend your kid’s school play, go shopping with your friends or visit your parents. If people overwhelm you, find activities you like to do to recharge. Curling with a good book, listening to music, taking a long drive and baking are some simple ways to bring joy into your life again.
4. Upskilling yourself:
When you are ready, put on your learner’s cap. Look for new courses, degrees and learning platforms to update and improve your abilities. You can spend as little as ten minutes a day learning something new that can serve you for a lifetime.
Remember - education is an asset that cannot be depleted and continuously benefits the learner. It creates a sense of achievement and opens doors to new and exciting opportunities. Always keep updating your knowledge base to remain informed, be mentally active and reach your true potential.
5. Pushing your boundaries:
The comfort zone is, well, comfortable. But it is nothing more than a dead end. Eventually, it becomes uncomfortable and harder to leave. Now is the time to get messy - try something new and scary. Take that swimming class you want to join, even if you are terrified of the water. Fix that broken sleep cycle by waking at 5 and going for a brisk stroll. Little habits can break negative attitudes and tendencies you didn’t even realise you had. Start small and stay consistent. If you succeed, you will soar. If you fail, you will learn today and soar tomorrow. No one can make you grow except yourself - and no one is stopping you except yourself.
Scottish Qualifications Authority, UK
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