If You’re Going To Compare Yourself To Others, Do It Like This

Today, I was feeling a little down.

I checked my financial accounts, and it reminded me most my friends make more money than I do. Then, I spent the day coding on the website, getting it ready for the launch of the new forum (coming very soon!). I struggled at points and it reminded me of so many people I know who are better developers and web designers.

By the end of the day, I’d accomplished a lot, but I wasn’t very happy. Ever experienced that?

As they say (not totally sure who they are, but supposedly they say it), comparison is the fastest path to dissatisfaction. Compare yourself to others and risk never-ending unhappiness!

Well, maybe not. According to some psychological research, comparison can actually make you happier. But, you have to do it right. Here’s the trick…

According to social comparison theory, comparing yourself to others only hinders your happiness when you compare to those above you. If you compare in the other direction—downward—you can actually improve your self-image.

Now, if you’re thinking, “Hey, that’s not a very nice thing to do, either,” you’re partly right. Looking down on others to improve your own mood is no way to live.

But recognizing there’s a whole contingency of the world who, for many reasons, are worse off than you are forces a new perspective in your mind. It’s called gratitude. And  a lot of research shows being grateful for the things going well in your life—and even the opportunities to overcome hardship—can significantly improve your happiness.

When I remembered this, I made a little list in my journal of all the great things going on in my life that many people wish they had:

  • A great, safe place to live
  • A wonderful fiancé
  • Amazing travel experiences
  • A job I never get tired of
  • Etc.

It immediately boosted my mood. Happiness: achieved! But you can go even further.

In a study published in The Journal of Social Science And Medicine, Dr. Carolyn Schwartz divided 132 people with multiple sclerosis into two groups. The first group received unconditional moral support for their disease from another person. The second group provided that support.

Participants were followed for several years after the study ended; guess what they learned: those who gave unconditional moral support to others—even though they suffered from the same disease—experienced considerably better health outcomes.

If you’re looking around now and seeing a world full of people who have it better than you, you may just be looking wrong. Consider, instead, all the things you do have, and compare that to everyone else who lacks. You just might find yourself a little more grateful and, as a result, a little more happy.

And if you have a problem you’re struggling with, find someone with the same problem and help them with it. The research says you might actually end up healthier. And that will definitely improve your life.