How Using the ‘It Could Be Worse’ Approach Can Drastically Improve Your Life

Your alarm clock startles you out of bed and you’re already pissed off.

It’s 7:30am on a Tuesday and you can’t find anything to wear for your 9-5. It takes you 13 minutes to find that shirt your sister borrowed that one time. Now you’re late – shit! Rush out the door, skip breakfast. Traffic is more backed up than usual; is there an accident?

Thirty-seven minutes after sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic you arrive at work. You’re already drowning in paperwork and have seven voicemails. Lindsay makes a comment about how shitty the coffee is, the coffee you happened to have brewed when you came in. Your boss strolls in way later than you and John from finance disses the coffee now, too. Endless conference calls, seven meetings, and what feels like 200 email correspondences later and the day is finally done.

On your drive home, your friend calls you and you get into a fight about not inviting her to wine night this past Thursday. It turns into something bigger than it should have and she hangs up on you (how dare she!) You get to your apartment door and, FUCK, you forgot your keys on your desk.

Could this day get any worse?

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Yeah, actually, the day could be a lot worse because, well, nothing really happened. I’m not going to get all Nietzsche-y existentialist here but, honestly, none of it really matters. When I say that I mean there are just so many other huge issues that make the aforementioned day a big ball of nothingness.

But contrary to what I’m proposing, Neil Young did say it best: “Though my problems are meaningless, that don’t make them go away.”

I think that at the end of the day, we analyze our lives in a postgame manner; we’re more aware of how small certain things are, but it’s the present moment that we’re having trouble with. For example, during an argument with a loved one or friend, it’s hard to pause, take a deep breath, analyze the entire relationship and come up with an easy resolve because that’s not entirely human. We sometimes act out of impulse and emotions, which in turn makes our “problems” become “PROBLEMS!”

In an effort to be a modern-day zen hippie I’ve developed a mantra of sorts to remind myself just how small I am. Whenever I feel like my problems are even remotely important, I “step back.”

This idea of “stepping back” isn’t just one-step – no, it’s as far back as I can go. When I start my days, I brush my teeth and look at myself in the mirror. The first thing I notice is I can see myself; I have the gift of sight.

Next, I take a deep breath because I am in no way restricted by disease or disability. I check my phone and no matter the context of the emails/texts that my family or friends have sent, I have family and friends. When I’m late for the subway and I’m running for it I remind myself that I can run. When I get to work and things are instantly getting me down, I pull up a Google Maps image of my workplace. I then start zooming out… and zooming out, and out, and out as far as I can.

And when I can’t zoom out anymore I Google image search the universe, galaxy, planets, black holes…

I’m not an astrophysicist or Neil deGrasse Tyson’s niece; it’s just that this kind of dramatic disassociation of my “problems” makes me realize that

1. most things are meaningless and I am but a speck in human existence and

2. I should be extremely grateful for the things I do have.

Minimizing the importance of these anxieties does not make them go away, but it does calm me when it’s time to solve/deal with a concern.

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The whole “it could be worse” thing is how I live my life and deal with whatever shitstorm comes my way.

Maybe it’s not for everyone. Hell, maybe some think it’s too depressing to live by the idea that they’re not important – after all, we are millennials and everyone’s told us we are extremely special.

The healthiest way to deal with stresses or problems, however, is to have the right perspective.

In order to see a situation for its entirety, it’s important to take everything in your life into consideration. So take a step back and you’ll be ahead of the game.