Do you ever find yourself on social media scrolling with a sigh?
I'm sure you have seen posts that make you feel like you could be better, that others are fitter, tidier thinner, more beautiful, wealthier, loved, or just generally happier than you.
This time of year can be the worst, when it looks like everyone is having a better time, with huge piles of gifts, perfect decorations, happy families, matching PJs, and beautiful happy children baking cookies.
It's not unique to Christmas of course, summer evenings at the beach, family BBQ's, birthdays, exotic holidays, cute kids, loved up couples, beautiful people and inspirational houses can have the same effect all year round.
There have been times where I've had to step away from the phone, when it all feels a bit too much. Times where I was perfectly happy until the beautiful happy photos slowly chip away at your peace and start to make you feel like things should be different, everything needs to be improved, that your relationships are not good enough and that everyone else is generally having a better life than you.
They say that 'Comparison is the thief of joy' and it is so true. Feelings of envy and jealously breed low self confidence and depression, which in turn will make you feel even worse about your life and perpetuate the cycle.
It's a hard habit to break, and one that I still battle with. I am happy with my life, and know I am very privileged to have a roof over my head, food on my table and family and friends around me. I have spent years trying to practice gratitude and instill the same into my children, and mostly I am doing OK. I am increasingly able to look at the beautiful photos and I usually smile to see that there is joy in the world and that the people I choose to follow are finding something to be happy about especially in this year where so much has been difficult to say the least.
The most important thing to remember is that all you see on social media is someones highlights roll, they only share the things they want you to see.
It can be hard to remember that though - I know from experience!
I once felt envious after seeing photos of a lovely family New Years Eve, and a pang of envy at the matching outfits, stunning decor, food, games and laughing smiling faces. They were photos posted by a friend of mine and a few days after we met and I commented on what a lovely evening they had. I then heard about the tantrum from the toddler, the snoring husband who didn't join in with the games, and the food that the kids refused to eat. I realised that I'd actually had a lovely night with my own family and yet again I'd let the habit of comparison steal my happiness.
Remember that for every perfect Instagram photo there are usually many more that didn't make the feed. The crying children, the messy house, the badly lit selfies, the list is endless.
Some of the least happy people in real life have the most perfect social media lives, you never really know just what the smiling faces are hiding, or if the pile of dirty washing is just out of the frame on the perfect tidy house photo. They used to say 'the camera never lies' that couldn't be more wrong these days.
Studies have shown that people are less likely to reveal their negative emotions and at the same time tend to over estimate the positivity of others. So as well as not seeing the full picture on someones feed, the tendency is to also distort the feelings behind it.
Once people tried to keep up with the 'Joneses' and their neighbours and now it's moved online giving us a window into many more lives and making it harder to separate the facts from the filters.
We just need to remember not to compare our behind the scenes and outtakes with someone else's highlights reel.