Things Keep Getting Better...And That’s the Problem!
Today's emotional turmoil stems from the knowledge that people know things can be better. That idea is very recent in human history.
Humans have never had it easier.
The advancement in technology, medicine, travel and leisure, just to name a few, have enabled the average person to live a life that kings and queens from 100 years ago could only have dreamed of.
Yet depression and anxiety seem to be at an all-time high?
How have we made so much progress, yet remain so unhappy?
This question was recently answered on an episode of Beyond Belief with Dr. Stuart Firestein, Professor of Neuroscience at Columbia University and author of Failure: Why Science Is So Successful.
Dr. Firestein explained that happiness is a sliding scale and truly depends on one’s perspective.
He was asked to speak at a conference of cardiologists, and during one of the sessions a conversation arose amongst them where they lamented contemporary issues facing society and came to the conclusion that humanity is in a very bad place.
Dr. Firestein pushed back and asked the room to raise their hand if anyone would rather be sick 25 years ago than today?
Not a single person raised their hand.
With this in mind, he claimed today's emotional turmoil stems from the knowledge that people know things CAN be better. That idea is very recent in human history. For thousands of years, the ability to change one’s lot in life was practically unheard of. In the middle ages, most people didn’t even travel more than 12 miles from their home. But nowadays, change and advancement are expected. We KNOW things can be better, and when we don’t see it immediately, we become upset.
Dr. Firestein is pointing out that we need to change our perspective and be grateful for our lot in life. Appreciate that we were born at a time with unbelievable advancement and not at a time of serfs, feudal systems and no air conditioning.
Secondly, let's begin taking steps to change our problematic areas. It’s all within our power. Change is possible. It begins with a change in mindset and a commitment to take one step forward every day.
Click here to listen to the entire conversation with Dr. Stuart Firestein