HealthZette

Don’t Miss the Silver Lining in Your Life Because You’re Too Busy Looking for the Gold

Staying healthy, happy and grounded means getting out and about — and navigating the social media world far more carefully

Amanda Ponzar, a wife and mother of two children in Alexandria, Virginia, has always been incredibly driven — in life, in business, and in her family life. The 40-year-old has worked hard since she was 14, pushing all the way through school and continuing to work while earning a bachelor’s degree in English, a master’s degree in media communications, and an executive education from Harvard University.

In 2006, she started working for nonprofits. “It was a dream of mine,” she told LifeZette. “I was volunteering so much on the side anyway, and I wanted to make a greater impact and use my abilities for good.”

She’s proud of how far she’s come and how hard she’s worked over the years at whatever she was presented with, such as raking blueberries on her grandpa’s farm, writing a book report, or simply cleaning her home.

But Ponzar says she would tell her younger self, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“I remember feeling pressure as a young person to succeed and perform, to win every award, do the best in school, be the best,” she said. “Much of that pressure, I put on myself. Social media today makes it even easier to compare ourselves, as we all see each other and see celebrities, too: [Their] job titles, houses, appearances, vacations, talents, popularity, kids, and more,” she said.

That constant chance for comparison is what Ponzar believes is adding to people’s stress and anxiety today — and among young people, especially.

Science may back her up. “Since widespread social media usage is a relatively new phenomenon, we don’t yet know the long-term mental health impact,” Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and business owner in the Columbus, Ohio, area, told LifeZette. “However, there have been some recent studies that link social media use with greater depression and anxiety.”

Bennett says it’s not all bad. For some people, the constant barrage of social media statuses challenges them to be better. Many people, however, simply see the idealized world others share on their feeds — and feel like they don’t or can’t measure up.

“It’s easy to look at the lives of celebrities and more successful friends and feel like a failure.”

“In the end, many people miss the silver lining in their lives because they’re too busy looking for gold,” said Bennett. “It’s easy to look at the lives of celebrities and more successful friends and feel like a failure. However, if most people looked at their lives with a greater sense of gratitude, they’d find a lot to be happy about.”

Bennett recommends three practices that have helped him ease up on himself.

Journal writing. “Writing down the blessings in my life has helped me see the good things I have and focus on them,” said Bennett.

Living in the moment. “By focusing on the joys of the present, and trying to fully live life without too many distractions, I stay grounded. It helps silence the critical voice inside me.”

Logging off. “This is especially important if you follow people on social media whose lives are supposedly ‘better’ than yours. Constantly seeing images of a lifestyle you want but feel you can never attain can lead to negative emotions. Spend less time on social media and more time on things that make you happy and grateful.”

Related: Social Media Worries for Your Kids? Put Your Own Phone Down First

Interestingly, Ponzar started journaling again about a year ago, and she began jogging this year, too. Journaling, she said, helps her reflect and also draw on her faith for strength.

Exercise is time she now makes sure to take, for her physical and mental health.

“I feel so much better running even though I don’t run fast anymore,” she said. “I had run since high school and then stopped because I work full time, plus I have two kids, volunteer, and have too much else to do, like many people across the country.”

Related: Celebs Who Curse on Social Media Have No Excuse for Their Bad Behavior

“It’s hard to squeeze exercise in with pets, errands, washing dishes, laundry, and everything else that comes in after the work day is done,” she continued, “and there is never a time when I have ‘nothing to do.’ So I realized I just need to take that time. It helps me be better in all other ways and has definitely reduced my stress.”

She adds, “You will not always be number one. Bad things will happen to you. But your performance doesn’t determine your value. Trust in that, and love yourself and be grateful for what you have and who you are. Don’t look for love, approval, or admiration from others. It is fickle — and a hunger that will never be filled.”

Carly Wilson is a freelance writer and photographer from South Dakota.