Open up any social media app and you’re instantly bombarded with real-time updates about what your friends, family, and others in your network are doing.
Your friend from high school just moved into a glitzy new apartment, your coworker is getting engaged to her dream-come-true partner, your cousin’s crossfit membership is really paying off… and he isn’t being shy about it at all.
In a world where you’re connected 24/7, it’s incredibly easy to become fixated with everybody else’s highlight reel.
You might say we have a case of “Obsessive Comparison Disorder,” or a compulsion to constantly compare ourselves to others. Unfortunately, it can have damaging effects on physical and psychological well-being, with social media use being linked to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
Furthermore, studies show that millennial mental illness is higher than any other generation in history.
So how do we go about addressing this?
I spoke with one millennial who has been living with a closely-related mental health condition his entire life. Meet Ryan Dumont, a former OCD patient and the 25-year-old CEO of Dumont Innovative Technologies and the author of the upcoming book, “The Missing Peace: A Patient’s Guide To Recovery.” Dumont struggled with OCD for years until he decided to take matters into his own hands and develop a solution, partnering with Ben Stern, an ABC’s Shark Tank winner.
This week on the Unconventional Life Podcast, Dumont shares his firsthand perspective on how millennials can break free from both OCD and “obsessive comparisons” to live a more positively-focused life.
Find Something You’re Passionate About.
According to Dumont, one of the greatest reliefs you can find from the anxiety that comes with social comparison is in doing an activity you’re passionate about. “Realize that when you’re feeling anxious, you can choose to be unattached. Sometimes when we’re feeling anxious it feels like it’s never gonna end, you’re in this bog—regardless of how accomplished you are—and anxiety takes over. In those moments, what I would say is to distract yourself with something you’re passionate about, something that’s effortless and that puts you in a good mood. The anxiety will pass,” Dumont says.
The key in choosing an activity is finding one that provides instant and effortless relief. It should be a “low hanging fruit,” so to speak, so you can easily access it in times of distress.
Having a healthy, fulfilling activity you can turn to instead of spending excessive time on social media can be an effective way to help you live a more positive and productive life. Yale University found those who spend less time using social networks are more happy and healthy than those who use them often.
When you’re busy comparing yourself to others, it can be difficult to focus on anything else. To gain clarity and stillness of mind, Dumont recommends practicing a form of mindful meditation. “When your mind is racing, meditation can give you a sense of stability. You can say yourself, ‘I’m gonna sit down and relax and I’m not gonna think about anything I’m just gonna be in the moment.’” Being in the moment can pierce through the illusion of past or future worries, and help calm your mind and body.
Dumont says listen to soothing music and breathe deeply when you meditate to reap the greatest healing benefits. The objective of meditation is to detach from your thoughts and witness them objectively without judgment so you can cultivate deeper self-acceptance. As you become more comfortable with yourself, you may find you no longer feel the need to compare yourself to others.
It takes time to ingrain new patterns and habits, especially when the old habits supply us with a hit of dopamine. The longer you have been struggling with social comparison, the longer you should expect it to take you to reinforce a new, healthier habit. This is normal, and Dumont says it is important to keep a far-sighted perspective of your progress.
“Nothing happens overnight, life’s a marathon not a race,” Dumont says. “We’re so consumed with everything being instant gratification, we want our problem solved right away. Any obstacle you have is gonna take time, patience, hard work.”
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This article originally appeared on Forbes.com