By Jeremy Godwin
Welcome to Let’s Talk About Mental Health; I’m Jeremy Godwin and every week I look at one aspect of better mental health and I share practical and straightforward advice that you can apply immediately to improve your wellbeing.
Today I’m talking about the role that satisfaction plays in your mental health and how to create a life that feels more satisfying — so get comfortable, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health…
Listen to the podcast episode now in the Spotify player below (or using your preferred podcast service; see below for links) or continue reading for the full transcript.
Watch Episode 48 of Better Mental Health on YouTube — in this latest episode I’m sharing five simple ways to deal with worry for better mental health.
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This podcast episode was originally released on 19 December, 2021.
Hello and welcome to Episode 110, and thanks so much for joining me!
This week I’m talking about satisfaction and I’ll be covering what satisfaction is (and what it isn’t), why it matters, and how to cultivate greater satisfaction in your life to improve your mental health and wellbeing.
Before we talk about that, I’d like to share a way that you can support my show. You may have noticed that this podcast remains ad-free and I intend to keep it that way, however the work I do here and on YouTube each week costs money. So, with that in mind, I have launched a Patreon where you can become a supporter of the show and help me to keep on talking about mental health each week! You can either become a General Supporter by donating a small monthly amount, or you can pay a little extra and become an Official Supporter which will get you access to exclusive bonus content, including the ability to submit questions about mental health and wellbeing which I will answer in a monthly video that is only available to Official Supporters (your question can be anonymous if you like and all reasonable questions will be answered). If you find the work that I do here on my podcast or on my YouTube channel (or both) to be helpful, then please consider becoming a supporter… doing this work takes time and money, and those behind-the-scenes costs continue to increase, so this is a way for me to continue the work that I do without needing to look at ads or sponsorships (which I would really rather not do)! If you’d like to support my work then you’ll find a link to my Patreon in the description for this episode on whatever podcast service you’re listening to me on, plus it’s linked in the transcript (www.patreon.com/jeremygodwin) and you’ll find it on my website at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au (it’s on the front page). Thank you for considering!
So, with that covered, let’s talk about satisfaction!
I am, for the most part, fairly satisfied with my life… and it has taken a very long time (and a lot of work) to be able to say that. Is my life perfect? Definitely not. Am I dealing with a number of challenges at the moment that are making things difficult? Yes I am. Are there things in my life that I would like to change or improve? Absolutely. However, in general, I can say wholeheartedly that I’m in a much better place than I was a few years ago, and that has come down to identifying how to create more of a sense of general satisfaction in my life rather than pursuing bursts of happiness… and I’ll explore that with you some more in a little bit.
Before I do that, it’s probably best that we get ourselves onto the same page about what satisfaction means in this context, so let’s begin with some definitions and let’s talk about…
What satisfaction is (and what it isn’t)
According to the American Psychological Association (or APA), life satisfaction can be defined as “the extent to which a person finds life rich, meaningful, full, or of high quality” (source: https://dictionary.apa.org/life-satisfaction) and it is closely related to quality of life, which refers to “the extent to which a person obtains satisfaction from life. The following are important for a good quality of life: emotional, material, and physical well-being; engagement in interpersonal relations; opportunities for personal… development [such as learning new skills]; exercising rights and making self-determining lifestyle choices; and participation in society.” (source: https://dictionary.apa.org/quality-of-life)
And you’ll find the links for that in the transcript at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes
‘Life satisfaction’ is a specific term used in the field of positive psychology (which involves the study of what makes us thrive as human beings); according to positivepsychology.com, “life satisfaction refers to an individual’s overall feelings about [their] life. In other words, life satisfaction is a global evaluation rather than one that is grounded at any specific point in time or in any specific domain.” Source: https://positivepsychology.com/life-satisfaction/
And that is also linked in the transcript. So the main thing here is that the idea of life satisfaction considers how you feel about your life in general, rather than whether or not you are currently experiencing happiness. Why the distinction? Because happiness is an emotion and emotions are fleeting, so that means it is highly unlikely you’ll ever experience permanent, never-ending happiness; it’s a much more fluid state because it’s anchored in what is going on in your life and around you at any given time, whereas ‘life satisfaction’ is a more broad type of overview of whether or not you are generally satisfied with where your life is at the moment and with where you are headed.
Which is a nice way to lead into the next part of this episode…
Why life satisfaction matters
And it matters because this is about quality of life, which determines how you feel about where you are today and, more importantly, the direction you’re heading in.
Here’s the thing. I talk a lot in this show about living in the present (which I will say yet again!), since the present is the only moment that we have for certain, but I also make a point of adding to that the goals of learning from the past and hoping for the future, and hope is what gives us something to keep on working towards, to strive for. I talked about hope all the way back in Episode 17 (which seems like an absolute lifetime ago, since it was released at the start of February 2020 and I feel like maybe one or two little world events have happened since then?!), and in that episode I said that “hope is the belief that things can and will get better” (and apparently I’ve now been doing this podcast for so long that I’m now quoting myself, so that’s an interesting progression and a sign that if you stick with anything for long enough then it will certainly get better!). ‘Quality of life’ and ‘hope’ go hand-in-hand, because if things feel hopeless then it can be almost impossible to enjoy your life moment to moment.
What does that have to do with life satisfaction? Everything. Because a huge part of being satisfied is believing that you are heading in the right direction, even if you may not be completely satisfied with where you are today. Because here’s the thing: life is constantly changing and evolving, and so if you are not satisfied with your life today then it is absolutely within your power to change it. Knowing that (and living it) allows you to steer your life in the right direction each day, and as you do that you see the effect of those decisions play out over time in a way that can improve your sense of satisfaction.
Let me share an example from my own life over the past couple of years, and let me say upfront that this is not intended to be a ‘humblebrag’ (you know, where you’re actually drawing attention to something you’re proud of) but rather a genuine reflection of just how excited I am about getting to do the work I do. I have mentioned in the past that the first week of this podcast, back in October 2019, I had a total of four plays (and one of those was me) and I thought that was the most exciting thing ever; last week I had over 30,000 plays and, to blow my mind even further, my show is now actually in the Health & Fitness podcast charts on Spotify in several countries; it’s in the top 30 for Health & Fitness podcasts in the US and Australia and the top 20 in Great Britain, and then it’s actually in the top 30 of all podcasts in the Philippines (so hello everyone that helped make that happen and thank you all!).
I am so honoured that it’s not even remotely funny, and I have been trying to process this over the past few weeks… and the reason I’m bringing it up here is that it’s an example of how you can change your life and do things you feel passionate about; it just takes time, effort and perseverance, and at the same time it takes figuring out what it is that actually makes you feel satisfied… and beyond that, it’s also about recognising that a lot of the things that we use to measure success — like, oh I don’t know, say the performance of your podcast — are all completely outside of your direct control (and control is something I talked about in Episode 48)… which might sound odd to say, since I’ve just been talking about my numbers, but I swear there’s a point in here somewhere (!) which is that you can create external measures of success but to do so you have to work on internal success above all things, and that’s what I’ve been focused on; doing work I love and letting the creative aspect of what I do be the main way I derive satisfaction from my work. It’s so easy to get hung up on all of those external factors, like downloads, and let that be your main focus (which is understandable, because it’s more tangible than ‘feelings’ and ‘satisfaction’), but external factors are completely out of your control (I mean, once I put an episode out I have very little control over whether or not people listen to it — or watch it, in the case of YouTube) and so true satisfaction has to come from within, rather than relying on others to validate your existence.
For me, it’s all about having a life that feels like I’m doing something meaningful with the time I have on this planet… and that means that it’s meaningful to me, rather than whether or not that applies to what others think about what I do or don’t do (and I covered meaning back in Episode 58). That’s what satisfaction means to me, and that definition is going to be different for everybody and that’s the great thing about being an individual; you get to decide on what a life of satisfaction looks and feels like for you (and I’ll come back to that idea in a minute).
And then the other bit that I think is important to talk about is the idea of living versus existing. So much of the stuff that we do doesn’t really add a lot of value to our lives, or it just serves to distract us from it, and when that happens we are pulling ourselves away from being truly satisfied and, instead, we’re kind-of just existing; just going through the motions. That’s why unhealthy coping mechanisms can easily send us into a downward spiral, because they lead us away from satisfaction. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather really live my life rather than just existing; I don’t want to feel like I’m filling time, but instead I want to be able to say that I have lived each moment as fully as possible no matter what I’m doing, big or small.
So today’s conversation is very much about recognising where you are today in terms of life satisfaction, learning from your past so that you can grow, and putting in place the steps to create the future that you want. How do you do all of that? Well, let’s get into the how-to part of today’s episode and let’s talk about…
How to cultivate greater satisfaction in your life to improve your mental health and wellbeing
Alright, so let’s first begin with a massive undertaking and that is…
Reflect — and by this I mean considering what ‘life satisfaction’ means to you and, more importantly, thinking about how satisfied you are generally with where you are today and where you are heading. So take some quiet time out for yourself, maybe grab a notebook and pen as well as something soothing like a tea or coffee (depending on what works for you) and ask yourself these reflection questions in a kind and objective way: How is your life going? Are you generally satisfied with your life today (even if there are some aspects you’d like to change)? Are you generally satisfied with the direction you’re heading in (again, even if there are some aspects you still want to change or improve on)? Note here that there is a big difference between wanting to change some areas of your life versus being dissatisfied with most or all areas of your life, and we need to start from this ‘bigger picture’ perspective first before we get into the micro-detail. Why? Because if you jump into the small details immediately then it can kick off a spiral of feeling crappy about yourself or your situation, and instead what I want you to do is to begin by thinking about your life as a whole; I know I have some areas I still want to improve on, for sure, but on the whole I’m fairly satisfied at a broad level and so that helps me to look at things in a more objective way (instead of just focusing on the negative; something I explored in Episode 90 about positivity). OK, so once you’ve taken some time out to reflect on your general life satisfaction, it’s time for my next point which is…
Get specific — and so now we’re going to get into the nitty-gritty micro-detail. This is about beginning to break down your life into different aspects that contribute to your sense of satisfaction, and looking at them in more detail. Do this by considering the following questions (and a quick reminder here that this is all listed in the transcript, which you’ll find on my website under ‘Episodes’). The questions are:
- How do you feel about all of the different aspects of your life that contribute to a sense of satisfaction, such as:
- your relationships with family and friends,
- the quality of your romantic relationship (if you have one),
- your work,
- your self development and personal growth,
- your health across all the main areas of wellbeing (physical, mental, spiritual, social, emotional and financial)?
- If there are some of those aspects of your life that you feel dissatisfied with, what are you doing to improve them one small step at a time?
- If you’re not currently doing anything to improve them, why not?
- Where do you want your life to go?
- In general, do you feel that you’re heading in the direction that you want your life to go?
- If not, what are you doing about it (or what could you do)?
- If you are, how do you keep the momentum going (especially if you’re prone to impatience like I am!)?
- In general, what are you doing to challenge yourself to grow a little every day in some or all of these areas?
This can be a very confronting exercise and I know that these are not easy questions to consider, because you’re effectively analysing your entire life and having a tough conversation about whether or not you’re on the best path in terms of what you want to achieve from your life… but as challenging as all of this is to think about, it’s definitely worthwhile because it has the potential to help you identify aspects of your current situation or the direction you’re heading in (or both) that need to be addressed. Which leads very nicely into my next point…
Identify options — and by this I mean coming up with ideas for how you can improve your sense of life satisfaction in general or in the specific areas you identified in the last step (or both). If you’re familiar with the concept of brainstorming, which involves generating ideas without filtering them, this applies here; in other words, I’m encouraging you to remember that there are no silly ideas… get out as many different ideas as you can on how to tackle those areas you identified. Consider what new things you can try, think about aspects of your life that you can simplify, think about external support that you might need, consider how you might be able to approach certain relationships differently, look at ideas for how you can tackle work issues (or think about looking for a new job or even a new career field)… just generate as many options as you can. And then, once you’ve done that, the next step is…
Refine — and by this I mean taking that list of options and picking a couple of things to try at a time; I suggest going for ideas that are simple and that you feel genuinely excited about (because that makes it easier to put them into practice and stick with them). I’m recommending to just do a couple of things at a time because too much change all at once can be overwhelming, and you need to allow time to see what might work versus what might not. Next…
Create a plan — this is where you get to take the ideas you just refined and put them into an action plan; in other words, decide exactly what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it and how often, and, most importantly, exactly how you’re going to do whatever it is. If you don’t know the exact ‘how’, then that’s an action in and of itself; identifying the how. Plans are simple, specific and time-focused, so make sure that you’re not coming up with a vague and open-ended idea but, instead, something really clear and tangible that you will do over a nominated period of time. I actually have an episode on planning and better mental health coming out in early 2022 (it’s going to be the subject of Episode 113 so that’s due for release on the 9th of January, so keep an eye out for that if you need a hand with the whole planning thing).
And then my next piece of advice is fairly broad and it is: if there are areas of your life you are dissatisfied with, work on them proactively — so the piece here is about recognising that you can be super-satisfied in lots of different areas of your life, but it can take just one or two where things are a bit crappy to start dragging down your overall sense of life satisfaction. So based on that bit of annoying-but-true information, it’s important to tackle them in a proactive and assertive way because if you don’t, then they can have a tendency to slowly seep into other areas of your life until one day you wake up and realise you’re struggling.
And then, remember this: life is never going to be rainbows and unicorns all the time, and you will go through tough and challenging times, but the difference between a satisfied life versus a dissatisfied one is that, even in the midst of difficulties, you know that you are more or less heading in the right direction. If that isn’t the case for you, and if you’re finding it hard to summon up hope and optimism for the future, then it’s time to talk with someone (either a trusted loved one or a professional, such as a therapist or counsellor or both), because that sense of struggling can be an indication of mental health challenges like depression (and even if it’s not, it’s still no way to live and it will eat away at your sense of life satisfaction if not addressed.
Summary and Close-Out
Because when it comes to satisfaction and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: How satisfied you are with your life in general is up to you and it will have a direct impact on how you feel about yourself. It’s completely natural to have areas of your life that you want to improve — after all, the desire to do and be better is a huge part of personal growth and development— but, broadly speaking, your life is never going to be perfect, so satisfaction is to be found in embracing the good things already in your life while also choosing to work every day to change the things that are not satisfying, so that you can be the best version of yourself possible. Nobody can do that for you, but that’s not a bad thing because it means that you get to choose how your life will go and then you get to choose how to make it happen.
The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today?
Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by George Horace Lorimer, and it is:
“You’ve got to get up every morning with determination if you’re going to go to bed with satisfaction.”George Horace Lorimer
Alright… that’s nearly it for this week. Next week I’ll be talking about abundance. I made a comment back in Episode 103 (Let’s Talk About… Calm) about how the topics of these episodes — which I plan out several months in advance — have an uncanny tendency to be very, very relevant in my life the week that I’m actually working on it, and so I joked that I should do an episode about abundance and see what the universe might like to send my way. Well, after a bit of thought I actually decided that the topic of abundance was a really good one (especially since the episode will be the final one for 2021, a time when many of us are reflecting on the year that was and thinking about the year ahead) so I’m going to be talking about the true meaning of abundance in next week’s podcast. I’ll be covering what abundance is (and what it isn’t), why understanding abundance better matters, and how to identify and create more abundance in your life to improve your mental health.
I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 26th of December, 2021. And on Wednesday you’ll also find another brand-new episode of Better Mental Health landing on YouTube (so take a moment to subscribe to my channel using the link in the episode description) or head to letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au where you can also join my free mailing list for my weekly newsletter (and my website is also linked in the episode description on whatever podcast service you’re currently listening to me on).
And, as always, find me on Instagram at @ltamentalhealth where I post extra content daily.
Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time!
Let’s Talk About Mental Health is proudly produced by Reconnaissance Media, helping you find gratitude and meaning. For more information visit reconnaissancemedia.com
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