Does your life feel like a series of mundane activities, dotted with occasional bursts of excitement? If so, it might be time to change your perspective – and learn to embrace the everyday. I met up with a friend recently who I hadn’t seen for a while. Once we’d established that we were both fine, in good health, and that our families, jobs and homes were all in working order, she said to me, ‘But I just need something exciting to happen.’ Instead of thinking, ‘So do I’, I actually thought, ‘Why? And what is “exciting”, anyway?’
We live in a society obsessed with fame, wealth and beauty. And it’s making us lose sight of the everyday, the mundane – and the pleasure that can be found in being in the present moment, no matter how humdrum it might seem to be. Michael Foley explains in his book Embracing The Ordinary (Simon & Schuster, £7.99) that there are ‘cultural factors such as the new obsession with celebrity that makes anonymous, mundane life seem worse than death.’
But would you really want to be living in your own version of a reality TV show, escaping from life by lurching from one drama to the next? ‘Escapism… by means of entertainment, travel, partying, alcohol, drugs or sex… does not work,’ Foley continues. ‘Soon the escapee is back in prison, even more depressed than before, and also very likely out of pocket, hungover, exhausted and afflicted by guilt, shame, dread and a nasty, state-of-the-art STD.’ Well, that sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? But it’s OK, it’s not actually our fault. Foley also reassures us that western history itself, and our preoccupation with religion, has made us pre-programmed to see the everyday as some sort of ‘suffering to be endured in order to earn a more rewarding existence in the afterlife.’
But what if you’re not planning on an eternity in paradise? I’m not, so I’ve decided to start taking pleasure in the everyday. Revelling in the routine. Leading a life that’s more – not less – ordinary. And it’s turning out to be the best decision I’ve made in years.
I spoke to Jessica Chivers, author and psychology-based career coach about this approach. ‘Finding joy in the mundane helps you to look at life ‘in the round’ and see that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s good. There isn’t that sharp contrast between the ‘good bits’ and the ‘dreary bits’ – more a sense of ‘totality’. This kind of attitude also makes you more appreciative – and more likely to make ‘downward comparisons’ – in other words, not wish for better for yourself, but rather see yourself as fortunate. And if you are more grateful for your lot, you will be more content. It’s a fact that people who are happy to do humdrum things are more relaxed and less stressed.’