Ask Dr. Z
July/August 2012 – Ground Hog’s Day Syndrome
By Laura Zipris, Psy. D., LMHC
Dear Dr. “Z”,
I am writing because recently I was describing the way I feel about my life to my friend and she said she thinks I am depressed. I don’t necessarily feel depressed, but I don’t feel happy either. Each day feels like the day before: I get up, get the kids ready for school or camp, do laundry, clean the house, make the dinner, bring the kids to their afternoon activities, eat dinner, then bedtime, then sleep than do it all again. That about sums it up! I would not describe my life as terrible or awful but it is certainly mundane and monotonous. Am I depressed and just don’t know it? Help?
It sound like you are suffering from a syndrome I like to call “Ground Hog’s Day” where each day feels like a repeat of the day before. You say that you are not particularly happy or sad but you certainly sound uninspired, as if you are moving through your life with little excitement, spontaneity, and joy. There are many people who live a life of routine and they don’t experience it quite the way you do. They seem happier, more engaged and more energized in comparison. Why the difference? It may be that these people are just born with a “higher happiness set point”; that is, they are inherently wired to be happier. Or, it may be that they have learned how to create more happiness in their life.
Studies have shown that we are genetically predisposed to a certain level of happiness. However, this only accounts for about half of the happiness equation. Surprisingly, our current circumstances only account for 10% of the equation and the remaining 40% was found to be in our control. That means we can greatly impact how happy we feel as we move through the world, regardless of our genetic make-up or life challenges.
You may not be clinically depressed Laurie but you are not living as joyfully as you could be. You can begin to make life better by learning to increase your ZESTFULNESS for life. One way you can do this is by engaging in a very simple exercise of just NOTICING. Yes, I am asking you to literally stop and smell the roses. Choose one pleasurable experience throughout your day and savor it. For example, it could be enjoying your first sip of coffee in your quiet house before everyone wakes up. It could be listening to your children talk about the excitement of their day. Or, it could be taking in how fresh your house looks, feels and smells after you have cleaned it. Just NOTICE: take in the sights, sounds, smells, physical sensations? What do you notice in terms of your inner feelings in that moment: pride, love, wonder, calm, amusement, contentment? Stop and bring some pleasure into your awareness each and every day!
Another simple zest growing exercise involves keeping a Gratitude Diary. Just write down five things a day that you are grateful for. This will help you notice the things you already have, the positive things you do in this world, and the wonderful things that happen to you. By consciously awakening to all the little pleasures that we already have in our day to day and by cultivating our gratitude for the things we have and do, we can begin to increase our zest for life, which in turn will give way to more happiness.
Other activities that may help to increase your energy, mood and zest for life include: incorporating exercise into your daily life, cultivating your social connections, reconnecting to your faith/spirituality, pursuing hobbies, and planning time in your days and weeks for self-care. Lastly, be spontaneous so that groundhog can go hide for another year!
Laura Zipris holds a doctorate in Psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in New York, as well as in Florida. Laura is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, a transformational approach that has been used successfully with couples around the world to help them to strengthen their partnerships, deepen their connection and reignite their passion for one another. Laura sees individuals of all ages and sexual orientations, couples, families, and groups in her office located in Delray Beach. For more information about Laura, please visit her website at www.drlaurazipris.com or to set up an appointment, contact Laura directly at (561) 558-7815.