The quest for happiness in life is a difficult journey fraught with peril and responsibilities.
In our quest for happiness, in seeking that which we want from life, it is all too easy to feel trapped by our ambitions, successes, failures, and responsibilities.
Sometimes these things are imposed on us by outside forces. Other times they are things we impose on ourselves to attain our goals.
The goal of not feeling trapped by life should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, because there are so many paths to a happy, successful life that there isn’t a good reason to not strive for something healthier.
Healthier, not necessarily “better.”
Because better can be the wrong word when you think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, you cross the fence, and then find that the grass is only greener because it’s fake.
That’s why it is important to work on these things in your own mind, to create your own path, and free yourself from the feelings of being trapped in your own life.
How do you do that?
1. Live below your means.
Marketing and advertising largely promote this unending treadmill of the pursuit of happiness.
The implication is that you need to earn more money to buy a bigger house, buy a better car, take out loans to attend your dream school, buy these name brand clothes, buy fancy new electronics even though what you bought last year is still perfectly fine!
On and on and on and on it goes.
Living below your means gives you a freedom that people in constant pursuit of stuff cannot have.
After all, you still need to work those hours to make those credit payments so your stuff doesn’t get repossessed.
There’s a term that some people use in high earning, high sacrifice careers called, “the golden handcuffs.”
They make a lot of money, but they are imprisoned by that money to keep up with the lifestyle at that level of income.
That is a trap you can avoid by living below your means.
But we have to look in the mirror sometimes, because no one else can do the work for us.
3. Strive for a healthier lifestyle.
A healthier lifestyle pays dividends throughout numerous areas of your life.
Not living a healthy lifestyle will negatively impact your quality of thoughts, emotions, and life.
Simple things like cutting back on what unhealthy foods you put into your body, getting a little exercise regularly, and getting an appropriate amount of sleep can dramatically improve your mentality and perspective.
Sleep is the foundation of a healthier lifestyle. It’s in the deepest stages of sleep that our brain produces the chemicals that help maintain our mood and balance throughout the day.
If you’re not getting enough or appropriate sleep, your moods and emotions are going to suffer for it.
Food and drink are fuels to keep you going. They are nourishment for your mind and keep you energized through your day.
A simple change you can make is to drink less sugary, caffeinated beverages and more water. That little change can provide big improvements in your mental and physical health.
4. Embrace change when you find a situation is no longer serving you.
A life well-lived is going to be one of growth and change.
It’s not something that you can avoid if you are trying to live a positive, gainful life.
You’ll be making changes to your perspective, working on your mental and emotional health, and you’ll find that you outgrow certain situations and people.
Outgrowing a situation is hard. Outgrowing friends and family is much more difficult.
That doesn’t mean you should start running and leave everyone and everything behind.
What you need to look at is if the situations and people in your life are meaningful additions.
You’re going to feel trapped if your friends are toxic people who act badly. They can end up dragging you back down and screwing up your progress.
Not everyone wants to improve. Not everyone wants to try or even consider that they might be a problem.
Some people are content with swimming in their own misery because it’s comfortable and change is scary.
You’ll need to embrace change and look forward to the opportunities it brings you if you want to free yourself from feeling trapped.
5. Learn to say no to people and situations.
The ability to say “no” is an important skill to develop.
There is always something going on, someone always needs help, there are always responsibilities and things to accomplish.
You are only one person in a world full of actions and happenings. If you don’t learn to say no, you will find yourself getting locked into responsibilities that may not necessarily be right for you and your life.
Furthermore, people will absolutely take advantage of your inability to say no.
They’ll turn to you because they know you’ll say yes and they can leverage that against you to foist more onto your shoulders.
You have to be the one to prevent people from taking advantage of your kindness or willingness to help out, otherwise you will find yourself shouldering many burdens that are not yours.
It’s perfectly okay and healthy to say no.
In fact, it’s the only way to keep from getting trapped under a pile of responsibilities that are not yours.
6. Do more things that make you happy.
What makes you happy?
Is it something traditional? Something a little weird? Something you feel judged for, like you couldn’t or shouldn’t be doing it?
So long as it’s not hurting anyone, do it anyway.
People love to pass judgment for not acting in a way that they think is right, but who are they to judge you and your life?
You have the right to pursue happiness and do the things that make you happy.
Devoting the time and energy to those things is an important part of self-care.
Life is full of negativity and monotony. Sometimes, the monotony can feel even worse than the negativity, because it can leave the impression that things are going to be stagnant.
That’s why it is so important to take time to explore, do the things that make you happy, and live in a way that makes sense for you and your perception of the world.
That may not fit the stereotypical mold that the people around you or society expects from you – and that’s okay.
Your happiness and freedom are not for the rest of the world to judge.
7. Inject some spontaneity and creativity into your life.
People are not machines that are equipped to deal with a rigid, iron-clad schedule of things to do until the day they die.
Sometimes the feeling of being trapped is not related to actually being trapped, but the perception of being trapped because of the monotony of life.
You may find yourself in a regular routine if you’re working a regular job with bills to pay, mouths to feed, and responsibilities.
But is that the kind of person you are?
Most people aren’t.
Most people need some excitement, creativity, and spontaneity in their life.
Find ways to seek some of that out.
It doesn’t need to be complex or expensive. Take a walk in a local park, go for a drive, create something for the sake of creation.
Make these small adventures a regular part of your weekly schedule to give your mind some reprieve from the doldrums of “responsible living.”
8. Seek professional help from a certified mental health professional.
There are many reasons a person may feel trapped in life. The reasons may not be something simple and easy to navigate.
Feeling trapped in life may also point to depression or other mental health problems that a person may be experiencing.
It may be worthwhile to talk to a certified mental health professional about what you’re feeling and what’s going on in your life if you find that you are having a hard time shaking the feeling of being trapped.
Life doesn’t need to feel like a bore and a chore – but it can definitely take some time and focused effort to replace negative feelings with healthier habits and a life that empowers you, rather than feels like a burden.