by Andrea Blundell
Have you spent your life wishing it was, well, another life altogether? Are you absolutely convinced that if only you could change your appearance/job/city/relationship, you would be perfectly happy? You might have grass is greener syndrome.
What is grass is greener syndrome?
Grass is greener syndrome means that you have an inability to feel content with your life as it is, and relentlessly seek something better.
Not an actual mental health diagnosis, it can still be a serious psychological issue that negatively affects your daily life.
[Has grass is greener syndrome left you so run down and low you don’t know where to turn? Book a Skype therapist today and talk to someone who understands. ]
Is it really grass is greener syndrome or something else?
If you are actually in an unhealthy or even dangerous relationship, or a job that goes against your personal values, then it will be thinking about the present that causes you anxiety. Grass is greener syndrome means we ignore a present that is generally fine, and then find all our anxiety by thinking about the other scenario we think we are missing out on.
As for just being jealous, then you’d want what someone else has, but know it’s out of reach. Grass is greener syndrome sees you sure the other thing is possible, if only you could figure out how to get it.
Symptoms of grass is greener syndrome
Signs of grass is greener syndrome can include:
Why is grass is greener syndrome such a big deal?
Aren’t goals a good thing? How can wanting a better life be bad?
Yes, goals are actually something that add to wellbeing. They give us a sense of purpose and achievement.
But grass is greener syndrome is rarely a goal but instead a habit of attention driven by hidden low self-worth. And it doesn’t lead to a sense of achievement, but to spinning our wheels.
We are so obsessed on focussing on what is wrong with our life and right with ‘over there’, we are immobilised by overthinking.
If we do actually move towards the life we think will be better, we just end up focusing on what is wrong with that situation, too. We find a new ‘something better’, and start the cycle all over again.
In fact grass is greener syndrome can contribute to:
So what can I do if I have grass is greener syndrome?
1.Identify where you learned this habit of attention.
Did a parent always complain and see things as never good enough? Or, worse, were you taught that you were never good enough just as you were? Is your grass is greener syndrome you still trying to impress your parents? Did you grow up in poverty, and take on a core belief there is never enough? Or did you experience childhood trauma or neglect? Are you always looking outwards to avoid the pain inwards?
When we learn the root of the issue, we can start to see how the real lack in our life is not external, but internal. The more we work to find inner satisfaction, the less our need to find external satisfaction.
2. Learn balanced thinking.
Grass is greener syndrome causes ‘cognitive distortions’ – thoughts that are not reality-based and are often extreme. And extreme thoughts lead to negative feelings, which leads to negative actions, and all combines to create depression.
So how to stop the negative spiral? Take a sheet out of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and change negative thoughts to more helpful ones. Learn the exact process in our article “Balanced Thinking”.
3. Get gratitude working for you.
Gratitude can help you appreciate what you have, instead of seeking what you don’t. The trick is to write things down daily. And choose things that actually give you a sensation of feeling good over things you think you ‘should’ be grateful for.
4. Learn and practice mindfulness.
Whereas grass is greener syndrome has you stuck in a future you never reach, mindfulness pulls all your attention into the present moment.
And the present is the only place you actually can make choices and create change.
The bonus? Mindfulness is evidence-based for lowering stress and anxiety. Better yet, it’s an easy tool you can learn yourself – try now, with our free “Guide to Mindfulness’.
5. Find the barter point.
Coaching helps clients to identify what they would have to give up first to get what they want (yes, everything has a price). So if you think your life would be better if you had that sports car, what would you have to give up? Your nights out where you spend enough on drinks that you could cover a car payment? Your time in front of the television for time spent starting a new ‘side hustle’ to earn more? And how green does that grass look now?
6. Taste test.
Here’s the thing about grass is greener syndrome – often we are secretly more in love with the torture of feeling like a failure than with having the thing we actually claim we want.
Stop the addiction to feeling bad by getting a taste of what you want as soon as possible, which acts as a ‘reality check’. If you are convinced life would be perfect if you worked in film, volunteer for a day on set. If you think the moment you are skinny is the day your life begins, spend a day with a skinny person doing exactly what they do, including their diet and exercise routine. Is it actually all you dreamed of, or does your present life suddenly seem a whole lot better?
7. Talk it out.
Not just with friends, who might be sick of hearing about how your life is never good enough (like we mentioned, it causes relationship problems). But with a counsellor or psychotherapist who can help you get to the root of all this dissatisfaction, and inability to commit to the life and people right in front of you. They can teach you how to shift your perspective and start to make choices so you feel better in general.
Ready to make your life here and now the place to be? We connect you with London’s top therapists in central offices. Not in London or the UK? Find a UK therapist on our booking platform or try Skype therapy which works from anywhere.
Have a question about grass is greener syndrome? Ask in the public comment box below.
Andrea Blundell is the lead writer and current editor of this site. She grew up with a ‘grass is greener’ parent that meant a childhood with endless moves in search of the perfect life, and has spent her adulthood learning to appreciate the grass she stands on. Find her on Twitter and Linkedin.