Anxiety is the symptom, not the disease

Anxiety is just a symptom

Is anxiety a form of fear?

What is anxiety anyway? It seems like a lot of us deal with it on a constant basis without fully understanding it.

When I finally started to examine my own anxiety, trying to discover its roots, I was often surprised by what I found. In a way, I had started to like my anxiety. Like isn’t the right word, though. Maybe I’d just started to tolerate it, to prefer it to the alternatives.

Anxiety is such a meddlesome, sneaky thing. In my own life, anxiety has caused me to miss countless opportunities for growth. From social relations to  career and education opportunities, anxiety has made me back away from value once too often.

I’ve decided to finally tackle it head on. I won’t allow myself to be dominated by an irrational fear of life any longer.

What I want to write about today is how we can think clearly when we’re feeling anxious.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling more anxious than usual.

Part of it is because my skin has been getting worse. For those who don’t know, for the last few years I’ve been dealing with horrific skin problems, but I honestly thought it was over. Not so, apparently.

Apart from that, I’ve had a lot to think about at school, I bruised a rib at judo practice, and my girlfriend and I have been having weird conversations about our sex lives before we met (that’s an anxiety challenge for you!).

So suddenly I’ve found myself at the center of a series of coincidental, anxiety-provoking events.

Ah well. It is what it is.

Seeing clearly

What’s been bothering me about this the most, is the way I stop seeing clearly when I’m feeling anxious. Like, I start to imagine people judging me without an inkling of evidence. Or I start to project negatively into the future, ruminating on what could go wrong with whatever I’m doing.

Worst of all though, I feel like I’ve been alienating my girlfriend somewhat.

We talked about this at length last night, and I figured out that I’ve been projecting all kinds of thoughts onto her, without having anything to back them up. Thoughts like she must be cheating on me, or she doesn’t like me anymore, or she doesn’t want to spend time with me.

After talking to her about this, I realized that I was being incredibly narrow-minded by allowing myself to blame her for my insecurities. As with so many problems in life, this one stems from avoiding responsibility for my own life.

Instead of seeing things as they are, I look to some weird fantasy to comfort me.

What’s actually going on, is that I’ve been having a hard time due to my bad health coinciding with a lot of school work, and that’s made me more sullen and somber than I usually am. This change in my mood all of a sudden is bound to affect my girlfriend. And that’s exactly what happened.

Understanding

It’s okay now, though. I feel like we worked through this issue and I realize the fault lies with me. Not that I blame myself, exactly. It’s more that circumstances are such that life is a bit harder than I want it to be. But now that I understand what’s going on, I can take full responsibility for how I feel and actually change it.

This means, first off, taking my health into my own hands. The last few months I’ve been doing the keto diet, but I feel it’s time for a change. I’ve decided to start following an eczema diet protocol, drinking green juices and smoothies every day and just keeping a super clean diet, in order to finally get over these skin issues.

I’ve also decided to be more present. This is really what needs to happen.

Whatever’s going on in life, presence is paramount. I’ve caught myself a lot recently pining for the future, a future where everything will be magically better and easier. Well there is no such future. Life is f***ing hard, man!

And that’s not to diminish the exquisite beauty of life, either. But the true essence and beauty of life can’t be experienced when we aren’t present to it.

Key habits

I’ve figured out that there are many things that contribute to anxiety. It’s not just a “chemical imbalance in the brain” as I’ve been told ad nauseum. Well, technicalli it is, but it’s not necessarily something you were born with. Rather, our habits and circumstances contribute way more to how we feel mentally and emotionally than we normally admit.

Things like lack of nutrition, lack of exercise, being cut off from nature, or a hectic work routine. But wait, there’s more! Addictions to superstimuli like porn, video games and netflix have incredibly detrimental effects on our ability to feel calm and at peace. Additionally, an irregular sleep schedule and a lacking social life will also throw us out of whack.

It’s not a matter of finding a magic pill that will “solve” your anxiety. You need to solve your life! When you find true health again, your anxiety will melt away.

This is what I’ve felt in my own life, especially in the last few weeks. Although I definitely haven’t been perfect, I have been drinking green juices and smoothies every day, with no processed foods at all, cut out sugar, coffee, alcohol. I also finally managed to cut out porn, this time I’ll make sure it’s out of my life for good. I feel so much better.

The magic of taking responsibility for your anxiety

Here’s what’s lacking in our society today : the call for personal responsibility.

There’s such a nauseating emphasis on victimhood and blaming the one percent and finding out in what myriad ways you’ve been oppressed throughout your life (multiply this effect by 1000 if you happen to be part of a ethnic minority, gay, or female), that calling for people to take responsibility for themselves has started to seem unfair and even kind of nasty.

The truth is, though, so many of the world’s problems could be solved if people in general would stop waiting for somebody to save them. If we all were to take responsibility for our feelings, relationships, and our lives, just think what could be accomplished.

So although I’ve listed a few things that need to be addressed in order to overcome anxiety for good, here is the most important factor of all:

Decide to take full responsibility for the fact that you feel anxiety at all.

If you make this idea a part of your pattern of thinking, I guarantee you’ll feel better. It may even happen faster than you think.

Honesty is a miracle cure

Honesty is a miracle cure

In this post I want to examine the value of honesty in relationships, and the benefits of opening up to yourself and others.

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me emotionally. I had some very real and intense discussions with my girlfriend about our sexual pasts, and about the future of our relationship.

To be honest, what’s been the main issue for me recently has been insecurity. Somehow, just accepting and admitting that my girlfriend had slept with others in the past has been difficult for me.

But that’s why I wanted to have these discussions, because I wanted to examine these feelings and ultimately overcome them. Jealousy is rooted in insecurity, which is in itself a manifestation of fear.

Developing honest communication

Recently, I’ve tried my best to develop honesty and sincerity as a character trait.

Especially when it comes to my relationships. Especially especially when it comes to the people I love the most.

This approach is incredibly scary when you just start out. It certainly was for me. But developing the capacity for honesty has changed my life for the better in so many ways. There are and always will be things that are important to you, that will be difficult to discuss. This is just a part of life.

Learning to overcome the fear and being vulnerable in a relationship has multiple hidden benefits. Things start to become clearer. Your view of the other person will almost certainly change. And who knows, you may learn something about yourself that was hidden.

Expression of emotions is key

What I’ve found is that until you express your feelings, whatever they may be, you can’t fully understand them. You can try to intellectualize them, conceptualize them, but feelings seem to require expression to be fully resolved.

Our society is in many ways fiercely individualistic. So much so that we tend to forget that we are social creatures at heart. In fact, we are the most connected, most gregarious animals that have ever existed. When we look past this subtle fact, we’re in danger of isolation.

We try to resolve our issues by ourselves, we try to work through difficult feelings by thinking about them.

That’s probably the least effective way of dealing with difficult feelings.

The most effective way of resolving emotions

As anyone who’s experienced catharsis during heartfelt conversation with a loved one can tell you, it’s intense. The feelings you’ve been ruminating on for so long will gush out of you like a geyser. Subtle feelings that you may not even have noticed will rear their sometimes ugly faces.

In order to truly deal with an unpleasant feeling you must find a counterpart. You need to create a emotional loop with someone you trust.

Let me expound on the feelings of jealousy I spoke of earlier.

I wouldn’t ordinarily consider myself especially prone to jealousy. This has changed in recent months. I’ve recently realized that my compulsive use of pornography of many years, was a crutch that I used to escape the need to deal with emotional pain. Some do this with alcohol, others with heroin. Yet others with video games. The root of all addiction is unresolved emotional pain. More specifically, the inability to experience emotional pain.

I’ve now been clean for two months, and man! It’s been a roller coaster ride.

Unshakeable feelings

I’ve had really good days, and then I’ve had really difficult days. Days where I’ve had insane scenarios playing in my mind for hours at a time. For example, there was a three day period where I just couldn’t shake the feeling that my girlfriend was cheating on me. Even though I had no evidence to back it up, and even though she was as sweet as she’s ever been.

After three days of this constant ruminating on my girlfriends supposed infidelity, as you can imagine, I was absolutely mentally exhausted.

The feeling just couldn’t be shook! Or could it?

You guessed it. It wasn’t until I actually sat my girlfriend down and had a heart to heart conversation with her about what I was feeling that I started to feel better.

I didn’t accuse her of anything, and I didn’t ask her to explain herself or anything like that. I simply told her what was going on in my head. This was incredibly scary for me, because I kind of assumed that she would be very hurt, think I didn’t trust her, etcetera. But as I said earlier, when you start to practice true honesty, people start to surprise you.

My girlfriend is a wonderful person. She accepted my feelings and did her best to make me feel better. She had noticed that something had been up with me recently. In fact, she had even been worried that I was angry at her for something. That’s the danger of not owning up to your emotions. The people who know you and love you will always notice when something’s up.

Let me end this post by examining the effects of honesty on self.

The effects of lying on the soul

There was a time in my life where I constantly lied to myself. I told myself things were okay when they weren’t. I would fool myself into thinking that doing things badly, or lying, or cheating, was okay.

This has major psychological consequences. I like the way the movie Matchstick Men portrays this. The main character, played by the awesome Nicolas Cage, is a con man by trade. Every day, he lies and deceives. He doesn’t care who he hurts. Not coincidentally, he also has OCD, all kinds of ticks, and generally just feels terrible. At the end of the movie, he’s forced to stop his games of deception, and voilá, his OCD goes away and he feels way better.

Although this may be a simplified depiction of the effects of lying on the soul, to me it feels spot on.

The wonders of self-honesty

In my own experience, the more I manage to come clean to myself and (important) others, the more psychologically healthy I feel.

I would say that the major example in my own life has been stopping my porn addiction. For most people, hardcore pornography is anathema to their values. In my own case this was so. I would think I was a good person at one moment, and then indiscriminately search for brutal, degrading pornography the next.

When I finally managed to rid myself of my addiction, I started to notice all kinds of kinks and peculiarities of my psyche start to dissolve. My shyness has been steadily going away, and especially the constant sense of shame I used to carry with me.

Making an effort to be fully honest and sincere to yourself is the first step to emotional freedom. It’s also the only way to find true connection to another human being.

I wish you luck in your endeavors of honesty.

 

Mood, exercise, and mindfulness

A bad mood has consequences.

In the last few years, I’ve become a master of weathering out pain, depression, anxiety and general misery.

I dealt with a chronic terrifying skin disease which left me awake, in pain, all night every night. The days weren’t much better.

I’ve written about this before, so I’ll keep the descriptions to a minimum, but there’s one aspect to this illness that I haven’t talked about: I couldn’t break a sweat.

Well, I could, but it made my skin all over my body itch like crazy. And it wouldn’t stop until I’d scratched off the first layer of skin, leaving me a bloody mess.

This meant that I hardly exercised at all for more than 18 months. I would go out for short walks, do some very limited exercises and stretches when I could find the energy.

Before my illness became that bad I would cycle the 5 km to school and back every day, but at some point I couldn’t keep it up.

The reason I’m writing about this is to put the subject of this post into perspective, so you know where I’m coming from.

It’s common knowledge now that exercise and mood are very closely linked. I’ve been experiencing this first hand for the last few months, especially the last month or so.

After I started regaining my health, I found myself in a sort of limbo: I could finally exercise and sweat again, but the habit of going out for a run or working out was so vague that I had a hard time getting started.

In the last three months I’ve been going out for a short run and doing body-weight exercises daily, with a rest day every third day. I also started training in a Judo Dojo twice a week.

Becoming mindful of my mood showed me the importance of getting off my butt and exercising.

I’ve been amazed at the effects on my mood most of all. My body feels better when it gets to move around like the animal it is, but mentally I feel awesome!

Just now, I got back from a long day at the workshop at school, feeling pretty tired and a bit on edge. I started by having something to eat. That made me feel a bit better, but I was still feeling a bit down, and a bit anxious as well.

It’s weird, we think we know things, but we forget and forget and forget. Then we finally remember.

That’s what happened to me just now. I was thinking, trying to figure out what I needed to do to make myself feel better. After more than an hour I realized “oh yeah! I just need to move my body!”. And so I went out for a short run in the rain, and here I am.

Anxiety gone, motivation for life back (for now).

Another thing I’ve realized is the incredible effects of mood on our ability to mindful. When I’m anxious, angry, depressed or just stressed out, remembering to be aware of my body and mental activities becomes almost impossible.

That’s why we need to set up powerful, mood-regulating habits in our life. Daily habits. We need to learn to recognize states of mind, and how to respond to them. It takes time, but it’s totally worth it.

Exercise is obviously one of the most powerful habits you can incorporate. There’s really no debating the fact that your body is designed to move around, using all the intricate muscles and ligaments and joints that get us from one place to another. I think in some cases, it’s a matter of releasing pent-up energy. If we don’t, it starts to make us feel anxious, on edge, even depressed.

I learned the hard way. You know, when you lose the ability to exercise, you’ll start to miss it. I used to be very active as an adolescent, but in my early twenties it started to become an on-off deal. Sometimes I’d exercise regularly for months at a time, and sometimes I’d be a couch potato, playing video games or watching TV all day instead of going out for a run.

I remember thinking a few times “why should I exercise? I eat relatively healthy and I’m lean, so what is there to gain?”. Well, it wasn’t really until years later, at the point where I started exercising again after being ill, that it really clicked for me:

Exercise isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity.

If we want to feel truly good in life, we need to exercise. Moving your body is like walking a dog: You may not feel like it, but the dog (your body) will thank you for it, and you’ll probably end up enjoying yourself anyway.

We do actually crave exercise on a physical level. It’s like hunger or the need to pee. Our bodies know when we haven’t exercised enough and it tries to tell us so. We just aren’t accustomed to deciphering the often cryptic messages that our bodies send us. Partly this is because we usually find some instantly gratifying substance or activity, like sugar, caffeine, television or porn to take the edge off, but the larger problem is a general lack of awareness of yourself and life.

As you’ve probably experienced, we don’t always feel hunger physically in our stomachs, instead we feel it emotionally via our mood. Sometimes we just feel angry for no reason, but if we stop, breathe, and eat a piece of cheese, we feel better almost instantly.

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Sometimes we get pissed off over something absolutely trivial, only to then miraculously feel better when we get some protein and fat into our stomachs. We don’t always put two and two together, but that’s because most people aren’t even trying to. Lack of awareness is the ultimate problem in society.

I guess the part that’s eluded me the most is the “stopping to breathe” part. It’s definitely the key to understanding what you need, because once we disengage from the emotion for a second, we get a chance to see the root cause.

That’s when we can direct our attention deeper, and see exactly what you need, in this moment, to feel your best.

When you feel your best, that’s when you’re best able to stay mindful of life.

This actually eluded me for a long time. At some point, I was sure that the way to spiritual enlightenment would be to completely separate my mind from my body, by ignoring all sensations, cravings, needs. After all, the flesh is evil, right? Nope.

That’s absolutely the wrong approach. By ignoring the needs of this sack of bones that we happen to be driving in this world, we are making everything more difficult for ourselves. A healthy body is the pillar that supports a healthy mind. We need to become aware of everything we do in our day-to-day lives. This isn’t a chore, it’s a gift. Expanded awareness is always the way forward.

When I’m exercising regularly, eating a completely clean, healthy, whole-foods diet, and I take care to be mindful of my mood, my meditation practice goes through the roof. Concentration is so much easier when all needs are met.

Meeting the needs of this organism we happen to inhabit is paramount in order to develop consciousness further. It’s a game of perception. Learn to understand what your mood is trying to tell you, and you will be rewarded.

Now, as you can imagine, when you get sick for a long time like I did (it’s not over yet, mind you), and you can’t exercise, socialize, or really do anything, you get depressed. In the same way a dog that’s kept in a cage gets depressed, even if you give it food and water.

I got depressed to the point of suicidal thoughts. It’s terrifying to think back to that time. Right now, I’m doing a lot better. My skin is still seriously f-ed up, but it’s gotten better. Slowly, everything seems to be getting better. But what really dragged me up out of the pits of despair was that I started doing Vinyasa Yoga. Intensively.

Even though I got itchy and needed to scratch a lot during yoga classes, drawing uneasy stares from other practitioners (I tried to stay at the back, in the corner), I decided that this was just what I needed to do. I would end the session with a freezing cold shower (even though the water burned in the cuts and sores from scratching so much), which would effectively end the itching for a while.

The point is, I finally took my bodily needs into account. And by doing that, even though my circumstances were virtually unchanged, and my skin was still uncontrollable, I started to feel better. Not just during yoga, but the whole day after, too!

It was like I’d finally been pushed to the edge, where I realized that I needed to exercise, among other things, or my depression would take me to the point of no return.

This epiphany, in turn, changed many other aspects of my life to the better. My situation was still very bad. I had quit school to focus on recovery a few months before, and I was living on disability. I had every reason to be bitter and depressed, but it’s as if a veil had been lifted. I started to get more optimistic about regaining my health, and instead of moping about all day, I started going outside more, into nature whenever I could.

I became more motivated to do what I knew needed to be done. I kept my diet clean, and I started to take way better care of myself.

Most importantly, I started to focus on living a mindful life. I started to develop the habit of slowing down, multiple times a day, in order to just breathe, and feel what was going on within.

In that way I’ve been able to weather the storm that I’ve been going through with my health, without giving in to despair. Mindfulness has truly saved my life.

This is all you need to know: Mindfulness saves lives.

Many people seem to think that mindfulness is just some kind of fad, or self-help gimmick. The truth is that mindfulness is very simple to understand, and it’s been around since time immemorial. In fact, it will be around for eternity. That’s because mindfulness is one of the pillars of consciousness. When we orgasm during sex, we’re mindful. We can’t help it! When we really get deep into a game of chess, we’re mindful. Whenever we’re in a flow state, we’re mindful.

The art of developing mindfulness in our every day lives depends on our motivation for becoming aware of the things that don’t seem to matter as much.

It’s really just deciding to be here, now, without fussing about the future or brooding on the past. If you make this mindset your own, the results are unimaginable. Awareness can’t be talked about, or described. It can only be experienced directly.

That’s what makes expansion of consciousness such hard work: We can’t be aware of what we’re not aware of!

In the context of this article, I’m talking about developing the capacity of being mindful of what our body is asking for at any given time. If this article has sparked some tiny amount of awareness where before there was none, I will be immensely happy.

When you get some experience with this approach to health, it becomes second nature. It’s like learning a new language, the language of your body.

May you be infinitely successful on this journey. I know for a fact that the more people allow themselves to live in the present, the better and more prosperous this entire planet will become.

The development of the individual is the key to the health, wealth, and happiness of society as a whole.

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Responsibility is power

You know, with great power comes great responsibility. That’s a great quote, but it has an underrepresented sibling:

With great responsibility comes great power.

I want to clarify a very important distinction: Responsibility is not the same as blame, or fault. Responsibility means so much more. The word itself contains the meaning, response-ability. The ability to respond. More than that, the competence to respond.

A drunk driver hits a loved one and kills them instantly. Devastating. It’s obvious who’s to blame, really. But who is responsible for the aftermath?

Who’s responsible for the ensuing depression, the sorrow, the empty spot your loved one used to occupy?

More often than not, people shirk responsibility. As if it’s something to be feared, something that weighs you down.

And in the common usage of the word, no wonder. It’s often used negatively. “Who is responsible for this?!” is thrown about in times of trouble. It’s often confused with fault. “Who’s fault is this?!” is often more appropriate. But even fault is relatively unrelated to responsibility.

Responsibility is voluntary, fault is not.

The drunk driver in the example above will always be at fault, whether he decides to take responsibility for what he’s done or not.

You may not be at fault for the bad things that life has thrown at you, but you can certainly choose to take responsibility for them. That means accepting things for what they are, forgiving whoever or whatever you perceive to be at fault (be aware though, perceptions can be deceiving), and taking action to make the situation better, in any way possible.

It means not waiting for someone else to help you, in fact it means not even wasting the mental energy on figuring out who you believe should make up for whatever happened to you.

If there is any way you can make it more likely that the person at fault will take responsibility, like calling them out on it, or actually talking to them, do it. But if there’s nothing you can do, let it slide. If amends are to be made, they will be made whether you brood on it or not.

I feel like this is a very key point. Sometimes, the best thing is for whoever caused a situation to take responsibility for it. It may be hard on them. Don’t take on somebody else’s responsibility unless you’re absolutely sure they’re adamant on not taking it.

However, when whoever is responsible shirks responsibility, you can decide to take it on yourself. This doesn’t mean that you start blaming yourself for what happened, but rather that you decide that you will do everything within your power to make it better.

This is no easy decision, but it can be incredibly impactful. Let me give you an example from my own life.

As I’ve alluded to in many posts, I have been very ill for the last two years. It was a major complication with a medication I had taken for a long timer, and at first I blamed doctors, pharmaceutical companies, hell, even society as a whole.

But two years is a long time.

I had time to see what all that brooding and blaming and hating was doing to me in the long run, and I didn’t like it.

I started to realize that if I ever wanted to get out of this mess, get my health back, and protect the people I loved from experiencing the same catastrophe, I would have to take responsibility for myself. For my own health, wealth, and happiness.

So that’s what I did, and here I am now.

My health is getting better every day, in fact every single aspect of my life has improved since the fateful decision to take on the great responsibility of being. That doesn’t mean that the decision itself allowed me to regain my health. It means that the decision to take responsibility finally allowed me to put in the work to find out what would.

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That’s the thing, really. All responsibility does is open doors for solutions. If your shirk responsibility and blame somebody else, you’re essentially saying that somebody else should fix it. Worse yet, you’re saying somebody else is the only one who can fix it.

It’s all mental, as with so much else. We create our own reality by way of our thoughts. This truth is becoming clearer to me every single day.

That’s not to say that taking responsibility for yourself is easy. It’s not.

It will always be easier to find a scapegoat, somebody to blame. Whether it’s defensible or not. There’s always somebody else.

This is a matter of personal development. We can only change that which we take responsibility for. The power of personal responsibility can’t be overstated.

Let me tell you about another time responsibility changed my life.

I’ve been addicted to pornography for years. My name is Tolli, and I am a porn addict, as they say. One of the definitions of addiction is repeatedly trying to stop an activity, without success, despite destructive consequences. Well, ever since I discovered that you actually could become addicted to pornography, I’ve been trying to stop. That was five years ago.

A bit more than a month ago, I decided that I couldn’t go like this. I ended up installing accountability software on all my devices, which would monitor my online activities and send a message to my girlfriend if I searched for porn.

Suffice it to say, that decision stopped the addiction in its tracks.

So you may be wondering, how exactly does responsibility fit into this story?

Well, when we take on responsibility for a bad habit, it becomes painfully clear what action needs to be taken to remedy it. In this case, the action that needed to be taken was simple : Asking for help.

I installed the software, and then I asked my girlfriend to help me overcome my addiction. Sometimes, the action we need to take involves other people.

So what are the potential long-term outcomes of developing this mindset of responsibility? Let’s explore.

You will develop into somebody who is truly proud of him or herself, your achievements and relationships, because you know that they were truly responsible for their development.

The suffering that comes from the helplessness of blaming others for your problems will disappear. You no longer look to others and expect them to fix the sh*t you get yourself into. This means you’ll also be more careful not to muck things up, if at all possible.

When confronted with disaster, you will be the pillar, the shoulder to cry on. Instead of adding to the burden of grief, you will be able to be there for your family and friends when things go awry.

You will be the strong, stable, focused person you’ve always wanted to be. In part, this is because whatever happens, you know that you can deal with it, however difficult it may be. Life will give you catastrophe at some point. It’s bound to come. It’s just a part of the human experience.

When that time comes, you will be a rock. Your integrity won’t budge. Your mind won’t fill with hate and blame. Instead your mind will generate possible answers and solutions.

Can you imagine a life where you took full, complete responsibility for everything?

When you start do implement this mindset, you will see improvements everywhere. And not just by accident; you will be the reason for those improvements.

Your health will improve because you decide to take responsibility for your diet. Your environment will become more organized because you take responsibility for the mess all around you. Your relationships will improve because you take responsibility for saying what needs to be said.

The potential is truly limitless. This is how we can find true fulfillment. We may not always be happy, but happiness is overrated anyway.

Sometimes the action that needs to be taken to remedy your situation will take hard work. Sometimes blood, sometimes tears. It may not make you happy in the short term, but it will give you a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Apart from fixing your problems, of course.

Let’s say you have a sh*tty diet. You take responsibility for it, and you start to eat clean, get rid of soda (poison water), and even start going for a run every day. Things seem to be improving, but suddenly you notice that your friends are starting to get weird. It’s like you’re shaming them for not taking responsibility for their bad diets by doing so for your own.

They start to gaslight you, make fun of you, call you a health freak (man, I hate that!). You know what needs to be done next.

You need to take responsibility for the fact that these people are even in your life in the first place. If you think about it, most of our friends are just friends by fluke. By chance. You didn’t choose them, mostly they’re just the people that stuck around, that happened to be in the same place as you.

Responsibility means ending those relationships that aren’t serving you anymore. Or maybe they never were.

It also means ending those inner thought patterns that no longer serve you. Many of us have experienced being ridiculed by the inner judge, depressive and anxious thought-cycles that seem designed to crush you.

Instead of going to a shrink and getting medication (which would be very irresponsible, to my mind, although I believe psychotherapy certainly has a place in all this), you decide to take responsibility for whatever’s going through your head at any given time.

That’s friggin’ hard to do!

This is where meditation becomes an invaluable tool. It’s really just a method of observing here, now. Instead of identifying with thoughts, as we usually do, you start to become aware of them as they come. With almost an outside view, a detached view of what is actually happening.

The more you sit down and just observe the thoughts going through your mind, the better you will understand what needs to change.

I try to meditate for an hour at a time, in the mornings and evenings, two hours daily. Sometimes this isn’t possible, but I try to make time for an hour of meditation at minimum. I’ve kept this up, on and off, for a few years, and the results would have been unimaginable to me before.

The main thing is to start where you are. I’m not suggesting that you start meditating two hours a day right now. You won’t be able to keep it up, and it would probably be detrimental to you in the long run. When I started, I literally did meditations lasting one or two minutes at a time. And that felt like a long time of sitting still to me!

That’s where I needed to start. It may be where you need to start.

In a world where nobody takes responsibility for themselves, you will be one in a million. You will become valued by everybody around you. People will trust you, and they will depend on you.

Every moment, you have a chance to change your life to the better. Don’t worry about missed opportunities, because every moment is an opportunity.

The future is now, as they say. What you decide now will create the future. The future is nothing but the result of our decisions in the present.

I’ve decided to go fully on board with this philosophy. The fact is, the way you do anything is the way you do everything. Meaning, do everything as well as you can, and you can do anything well. I look forward to keep discovering the benefits of this mindset for myself.

I’ll end with a particularly poignant quote:

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.

Marie Curie

Good luck on your journey.

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The most effective way to overcome depression

Throughout my life, starting shortly before puberty, I’ve had episodes of deep depression. Depression is common. Most of us have first hand knowledge of it, or somebody close to us does.

The mind is incredible. It learns to process data from this crazy reality incredibly efficiently, to make life easier and more fulfilling.

This attribute of the mind is what allows us to use language, tools, run from danger, think rationally and so on. But as with all things, it has two sides.

The mind is incredibly good at developing habits. Whatever it repeatedly does, it gets better at, and whatever it is becomes easier.

The dark side of this aspect of the mind is that while we can and do develop useful and good habits, we also develop negative habits that hold us back.

In my experience, depression is the result of the highly negative habit of dwelling on unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or events.

These thoughts, emotions, and events almost always originate from our memories of the past or predictions (speculations) about the future.

Depression can only arise when we’re overly focused on the past or future.

The reasons for depression are simple, but dealing with it is anything but.

As anyone who’s had to deal with bouts of severe depression can tell you, getting out of the negative thought patterns that arise seems absolutely impossible.

Whatever our circumstances, whether we’re chronically ill, or we feel stuck in life, or we feel unloved, or whatever they may be, our reaction to them is a choice.

A difficult choice, to be sure. When I was dealing with a horrific illness for the last two years, choosing to be unhappy and depressed was way easier than choosing to be happy.

In fact, choosing to be happy at that point was impossible for me, because I wasn’t even aware of the fact that I had a choice.

As the saying goes, you may not be able to control the wind, but you can adjust your sails. We don’t choose our circumstances, fate does. But we do choose the way we react to the cards that fate deals us.

So this is kind of a paradox.

Am I saying that people who are depressed are simply choosing to be depressed? In a sense I am, but it’s not that simple.

When we’re depressed, we are naturally inclined to be in that state. If we suffer misfortune or just sink into a pit of negative thought patterns, depression is the natural result. We feel like we have no choice.

As with all things, if we aren’t aware of the all of the possible choices presented to us at any given moment, the hidden choices might as well not exist.

Imagine a sparrow who for some reason thinks it’s a cat. It’s standing in the middle of the road, and a car is speeding towards it. It’s too late for the sparrow’s short legs to run out of the way, so he should just fly straight up, right?

Well, remember, he thinks he’s a cat. He isn’t aware that he has the choice of flying out of the way.

So he gets hit by a car.

Surreal allegory aside, we humans are worth more, capable of more than most of us could ever imagine.

We have such inherent power that it’s hard to believe.

We can literally change reality with our thoughts. We imagine something, and then we create it.

We are creators.

When we’re suffering from depression, we’ve forgotten our true natures, and we’ve become ignorant of our powers of change and creation.

In the spirals of self-doubt and destructive thought patterns, we’re unaware of our capacity to change our circumstances.

Depression is characterized by a dreadful feeling of utter hopelessness. Hopelessness towards the future, jaded with regards to the past, and ignorance of the present moment.

Why do I say we’re ignorant of the present moment when we’re depressed? Surely we’re feeling the pains of depression in this very moment?

That much is certainly true. The pain of depression is our only anchor to the present moment, but we ignore it. We ignore the sensations of the present in exchange for ruminations on the past and future.

We project our current circumstances into the future, and we dwell on the mistakes of the past.

This causes pain in the present, but as it goes untended, it stays unresolved.

The way to overcome emotional pain is to fully feel it.

When we decide not to run away from our pain with our medication of choice, be it a substance, porn, TV, sugar, cigarettes, sex, whatever, and instead we sit down and consciously feel what’s going on in the here and now, our depression will start to lift.

Keep in mind, this is a process.

This is in no way a quick fix. It is, however, a permanent fix. Or at least a permanent tool, which can be used as effectively in future bouts of depression.

So what are we doing here?

There’s a term for this process: mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the act of remaining aware of the present moment. Remaining aware of whatever you’re doing here and now.

There are a myriad benefits to practicing mindfulness, such as reduced stress, clarity of mind, stability of mood and, for the purposes of this article, lifting of depression.

I feel like mindfulness has a lot of woo surrounding it, even these days, when it’s become a popular word often thrown around in the spiritual, self-help or even fitness communities.

There’s really nothing supernatural about it (well, I guess it depends on what you call natural). Calling it a method or an activity is a bit misleading, since in itself, mindfulness isn’t a doing, but rather a being.

What I mean by this is that you can be mindful at all times, whatever it is that you’re doing.

You can be mindful of walking, eating, talking, thinking, writing, having sex. getting drunk, your emotions, bodily sensations, any mode of operating as a human entity.

Being mindful is being aware of what you’re doing, feeling, and thinking.

You don’t do mindfulness.

When we get sucked into that headspace, that gnawing negative thought cycle, it feels like we can never get out. It feels like resistance is futile.

The longer we allow the state of depression to drag us down, the more complacent we become, and the more difficult it becomes to get out of the pit of despair. Believe me, I know.

I should say that for me, mindfulness hasn’t been the cure for my depression, but more of a catalyst.

When I managed to become truly mindful of my mental state, and then made that awareness into a habit, I proactively started to research ways of making myself feeling better.

I researched all kinds of exercise, diets, breathing techniques, meditation techniques, psychology, and environment design, in order to set up a life that would be conducive to happiness, health, and fulfillment.

This is key.

Use mindfulness to break the depressive state. Then, before it manages to close in on you again, develop a new habit.

You may already be meditating, or eating relatively healthy, or you may be the worlds laziest couch potato with not a single good habit to talk about.

Whatever your circumstances, they can most certainly be improved.

If you don’t already meditate regularly, that’s the habit I would recommend you instill first. The benefits of regular meditation are so enormous that they outweigh all else.

After meditation, I would recommend cleaning up your diet and exercising, starting a journal, and going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, in that order.

There are plenty of other great habits to start, like deep breathing, cold showers, nofap, and so much more.

But don’t get overwhelmed!

The key here is to start small. Trying to kick-start a two-hour-daily meditation habit from the get-go is a recipe for disaster.

Trying to start a habit of writing five pages in your journal will meet a similar fate.

Listen, always start according to your circumstances. If you’re physically ill, starting an intense exercise regimen won’t be a good bet. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise though!

Go for a walk, do some pushups, and for god’s sake, do it in nature if you possibly can.

The internet is more than saturated with information on everything. Be selective, but be persistent. Research everything that could possibly help you work through your depression and into a more stable, happy mode of being.

Sustained well-being is actually possible! You may not believe it, but it’s true. There are people, sharing this same reality, who feel good almost all the time.

If nothing else, you should strive to be one of them.

After you get the hang of being mindful of your state of being, you should never stop.

You should aim for mindfulness to be your default. Mindfulness is the key to sustained well-being. It’s not the only thing to strive for, but it’s one of the most important.

When I first discovered mindfulness, I might as well have been sleep-walking in life.

I wasn’t aware of anything.

Everything was foggy, everything was unclear.

Life happened to me, rather than me actively participating in life. It’s stunning to me, looking back on my life, how much time I’ve spent being hardly conscious of my own existence.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from being mindful every second of every day, but that is what I’m aiming for. It’s hard work, rewiring your brain that way.

You must learn to become mindful of your thought patterns.

This is probably the most important aspect to overcoming depression.

Take time out of your day to just sit down, and after a brief warm up of mindful breathing, move your awareness to your thought-space.

This feels weird at first, if you’ve never been consciously aware of this space before, but you’ll get used to it, and you’ll probably come to love it.

The thought space is that place in your mind where your thoughts pop up.

Notice that you don’t actually generate your thought, though you can do that with conscious effort. Rather, thoughts come to you.

This point is important. The thoughts that come to you are the results of mental habit.

With conscious effort, these thought patterns can be changed. If you’re often feeling depressed, chances are your thought patterns are generally highly negative.

This is obviously not good. The first step to changing this is becoming mindful of the thoughts themselves.

The thing is, we think we’re conscious. I mean, here I am, right?

We’re actually semi-conscious, most of the time, at best.

We’re on autopilot, almost all the time. We’re creatures of habit. We find a routine, and we stick to it like spaghetti to a wall.

The art of becoming conscious of our unconsciousness is the path to happiness and fulfillment.

Be mindful of your thoughts, and notice what’s going through your mind. Don’t try to change anything yet. Just becoming aware is half the battle.

Be especially aware of thoughts pertaining to yourself.

Now that you actually know what you’re thinking about yourself, it’s time to instill a habit of changing these thoughts as they arise.

The two absolute most effective ways of training yourself to do this is starting a journal and writing in it every day, and affirmations.

Check out the posts I linked to above, and then research some more online. Knowledge is power, my friend.

This is an uphill battle. Maybe even a up-mountain battle. But it’s the most worthwhile battle you can ever undertake. The battle for your sanity.

Collectively, we need to take responsibility for ourselves.

We need to realize that, while circumstances may be crappy, while our bodies may not be functioning properly, while we may be battered, beaten and betrayed, we can still take responsibility for our reactions to life.

This means doing everything we possibly can to improve our lot in life.

Small steps, by all means. Just a little bit at a time. But every single day, seek to make your life just a tiny bit better.

I hope with all my heart that this article will help somebody climb out of the horrific pit of despair that is depression.

Know that I feel your pain, and I know it’s hard, but you can overcome this

 

5 reasons to be grateful right now

I tend to worry a lot about the future, about being good enough, about not being where I want to be.

I find it incredibly important and soothing to just remind myself how much good is in my life.

That doesn’t mean life can’t improve, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues that need resolving.

But it means that you can cut yourself some slack, and just enjoy the positive for a change. Here are five reasons to be grateful right now:

1. You are capable of reading this article!

You have eyes that work. You’re literate. You probably have a smartphone or a PC to read this on. ‘Nuff said.

There are plenty of people who are blind, have had no opportunity to educate themselves, and who don’t own a single thing apart from the clothes they wear.

Not to make you feel guilty, but that’s definitely a reason to feel grateful.

2. You have time to read this article!

You have enough free time to browse the internet, searching for fulfilling articles and videos (or just to pass the time).

You’re not breaking your back in a coal mine from dawn to dusk like the peeps of 150 years ago.

You would have been lucky to get 6 hours of sleep per night, and there was no concept of minimum wage, workers’ rights or even workplace security!

So take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief and head on to reason number three.

3. You’re not in danger of being attacked by a wild animal (hopefully)

There are a lot of problems in modern human society, but thankfully being mauled by a panther is not one of them. At least in the vast majority of cases.

One of the reasons for our perpetual state of stress and anxiety in life is our highly evolved biological system for evaluating danger and hopefully escaping it.

And a big part of that danger for our prehistoric ancestors were predators. Lions, tigers and bears. Maybe the odd dinosaur thrown in the mix.

So life may still be difficult, but at least we can not worry about being eaten alive.

4. You have access to the vast stores of information of the internet

You can learn about anything. There may be a lot of bad information, but with a little know-how, you can learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

You can learn all there is to learn about engineering. Or medicine. Or psychology. You can study the history of philosophy, carpentry, plumbing, you name it.

University degrees are fine, but knowledge is power.

In all eras of human existence, up until the last twenty years or so, knowledge was incredibly limited, and as were the means of communicating it.

In the middle ages, if you wanted to learn to read, you had to either be one of the lucky 0.001% of people born into royalty, or you had to become a monk or nun.

And even then your reading would have been mostly limited to the bible and its derivatives (at least in Europe).

5. You are conscious

You have something, without which none of this would exist. You are a conscious being. You’re not a rock. You’re not empty space, or a rotting piece of wood.

You were fortunate enough to be born. You are a human being. Your potential for spiritual growth is limitless.

Whatever may be wrong in your life and in the world around you, know this: The fact that you’re here at all is the most valuable thing you will ever encounter.

There is so much to be achieved with consciousness. Infinite possibilities reside in the human incarnate.

It’s quite easy to forget this simple fact, to feign ignorance about it. But your value as a conscious being cannot be overstated.

Each of us live in our own reality. We play the main role of existence, each one of us. We have our ups and downs, and we have a purpose to fulfill.

This is a game. A long, complicated game.

We can certainly be grateful for the chance to play it at all.

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3 ways to supercharge your self-discipline (that may surprise you)

In recent years, I’ve managed to become very disciplined in my life.

If there’s something that needs doing, I rarely procrastinate any more.

I don’t call in sick due to laziness or lethargy, I don’t skip workouts, I don’t skip meditation sessions.

I still want to improve my discipline even more in the coming weeks, months, and years, but I’m pretty happy with my progress so far.

In fact, just yesterday I was comparing my way of thinking with today’s, and it’s just amazing.

And to be honest, I know exactly what made the most difference in building this habit of discipline.

Here are the three things, in reverse order of importance, that I’ve done to become more disciplined in the last few years:

1. Decide to do everything as well as you possibly can

When I started to strive for excellence in all aspects of my life, meaning not only the things I found important, but also menial, tedious, and boring things like doing the dishes, hanging up laundry, cleaning toilets, sweeping floors, clipping toenails, everything.

What this really implies is that you put your full attention on whatever it is you need to do right now.

Another name for this concept?

Mindfulness.

When I started to become mindful of even the least exciting activities in my life, and attempting to do them as well as I could, a funny thing happened:

I started getting better results with the things that were actually most enjoyable and most important in my life.

I wasn’t really expecting that to happen, to be honest, so as you can imagine I was pretty thrilled with the results. And I still am.

So apply yourself fully to whatever is at hand, even if it’s dirty work, even if you wish you were doing something else. Do it as well as you can and that discipline will seep into all aspects of your life.

2. Start a journal

This may not seem very related to developing stronger discipline, but in fact it’s one of the most effective methods I’ve discovered for doing just that.

What happens when you start a journal, at first, is nothing comes out.

You try to write, you may even sincerely want write, but you just don’t know what to write.

I know that’s what happened when I started keeping a journal.

There was a definite learning curve, to be sure, but once the journaling wheel starts rolling there’s no stopping it.

In my life, keeping a journal has become a self-perpetuating entity. What I mean by that is that it’s become so instrumental to keeping my life on track that stopping is no longer an option.

Quitting journaling would be paramount to quitting life at this point.

And we can’t have that.

So what should you write about?

Well, dig in there. Start by writing just what you’re thinking. Or what you think you’re thinking. Do that for a full page, even two.

Now you’ve gotten in the groove, start figuring out what’s weighing down on you.

Everyone, at all points in life, will have some problems or issues that need resolving, or aspects of themselves or their relationships that need improving. Without that, life would be just about meaningless.

But the thing is, if you don’t know what’s wrong, how can you possibly expect to know what needs to be done?

You see, in many cases, procrastination is simply a result of not knowing what needs to be done or why it should be done in the first place.

It’s been many years since I started keeping a journal, and I’ve kept many kinds. Voice recorders, digital journals, and plain old paper.

They all work, and each has its advantages.

Although it’s been a long time since I started, I still clearly remember many instances where I solved major life issues (or at least figured out what needed to be done, which is half the battle) just by writing about it enough.

Relationships that needed ending, bad habits that needed to be rooted out, thought patterns that needed optimizing or disintegration.

Journaling is the best way I’ve found for life optimization.

It’s like defragmenting your mind. Like alphabetizing the file cabinet of your brain.

It let’s you discover what’s important and what’s not, and what needs letting go, and what needs letting in.

So find 15 minutes every day to write down what’s going through your mind, and reap the benefits.

3. Daily meditation

I left meditation until last because it’s the habit that has most improved my discipline in the last five years.

If you only take one thing to heart from this article, let it be this: Meditation can open doors in your life, the existence of which you cannot conceive.

If you apply yourself to meditating every morning and every evening, all aspects of your life will become clearer.

The discipline required to sit down, even for as little as ten minutes, and follow your breath or your bodily sensations, is immense. Especially if you haven’t done it before.

But it becomes easier with time.

And you will find that discipline in all other areas will also become easier.

You see, meditation is, in part, an exercise in discipline.

Over time, as you meditate more, you’ll want to meditate even more.

And in my experience, the more you meditate (at least up until the 2 hours daily mark), the more your discipline will develop.

Meditation is sometimes uncomfortable or painful and often mind-numbingly boring, although the deeper you go, the more interesting it becomes.

My point is, the discipline you need to exercise to consistently sit down and subject yourself to pain and boredom is immense, but the results will speak for themself.

Start a habit of daily meditation today. Start with five minutes, and work yourself up from there.

It’s not rocket science, it’s actually very simple.

Just sit down and observe. Observe your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, without engaging or judging.

Or follow your breath. There are tons of great articles and guided meditations out there for free, so there’s no excuse not to start.

Believe me, it will be the best change you ever make in your life.

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You think you know what you need. You’re wrong.

A few years ago, I thought I knew what I wanted from life.

I thought I knew what was best for me.

In fact, every single year I laugh at how sure of myself I used to be.

Things change. Sometimes things happen the way you want them to, but mostly they happen in unimaginable ways.

Three years ago I saw myself living as a hippie backpacker, hopping from this hostel to that, meeting new girls in every port, counting pennies, working as little as possible.

Pleasure was my ultimate goal in life.

Respect was up there as well, but back then I didn’t know what respect meant.

I may not have had a plan for the future, but I sure as hell knew what I wanted here and now. I was sure of it.

Fast forward six months, and, as is the way of life, I got a devastating existential kick in the face.

I watched my expectations crumble around me through the tears in my eyes.

Lightning struck.

I found myself in an ever-tightening vice of a little-known, even-less-researched, nightmarish illness. It was related to medication I had been taking for a long time.

Better yet, it seemed that the illness would be chronic. At least two to five years, I found out.

The five stages of grief. I went through them all.

Denial

It couldn’t be that bad for me. Exceptional cases of this illness resolved themselves in two to six months. Surely I must be one of the lucky ones. I wasn’t even hoping, I was certain.

Anger

After half a year of crushing pain, sores, insomnia, isolation and nightmares, I started to get pretty pissed.

Why can’t anybody do something for me!? Why can’t this be fixed?

Bargaining

I started buying all kinds of supplements, I changed my diet again and again.

I ate only steamed vegetables and white rice for six weeks. No salt, no spices, no animal products, no sugar, no chocolate… No coffee or tea, nothing really.

Try it, and if you don’t get depressed I’ll send you a medal.

Depression

After trying everything I could possibly think of to end my suffering, to no avail, color faded from the world. Meaning was nowhere to be found. Why bother at all?

Suicidal thoughts became frequent, and even welcome, guests.

At this point I was still in school, barely scraping through, on a special deal with my teachers so I didn’t have to come in every day. Even so, I had no interest in what I was doing. I was totally burned out.

Acceptance

The point of acceptance only came at around the eighteen month mark. I was still hopeless, I thought there was no way I would regain my health and live a normal life again.

However, I started to accept my lot.

This was the hand I had been dealt in life. Better do what I can.

I quit school, and spent all my time researching what I could do to get better. In fact, I finally did find some remedies that seemed to work!

After a few months of giving myself the rest I needed, I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My symptoms got markedly better, the black smoke of depression started to lift.

I started to exercise a bit. I felt confident enough to leave the house once more.

It finally looked like I would be able to climb out of the pit the universe had pushed me into.

A few months after that, I felt well enough to walk the eight hundred kilometers from the Pyrenees in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I made a pilgrimage.

It marked a new chapter in my life. I finally felt like I was gaining some control over my fate once again.

I didn’t get what I wanted. Life didn’t give me what I thought I was entitled to. I got pure horror instead. I was given a reminder of my mortality.

And you know what?

I wouldn’t change a thing.

I never did get what I wanted, but by the grace of something higher than myself, I got what I needed.

Life is tricky. It’s not really what it seems. It’s an illusion of endless layers. We live and we learn. We learn through experience.

We’ve all been smacked in the face by life, and if you’re young enough or lucky enough to have dodged it, someone you love and cherished has been.

And anyway, life will get you too.

I may sound harsh, but it’s nothing to fear. It will be difficult, painful, and you will suffer. But, if you stay conscious, you will also grow.

And that’s why you’re here.

A habit of excellence

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Will Durant

We all get lazy from time to time. I know I’m guilty of more than my fair share of laziness.

With that being said, I’ve been striving to stop myself from being lazy.

Well, maybe not completely, I still have bouts of being glued to the sofa, with no energy or incentive to do anything. But at least I’ve been striving to stop myself from being lazy when it counts.

Ironically, I’ve recently realized that every moment counts.

Every moment is important, as is everything we do. Everything.

I started to grasp the enormity of this idea this summer, while working as a ranger in a national park in the north-east of Iceland.

Now, the job of a ranger is interesting, fulfilling, and varied in many ways, but there are also plenty of chores. Plenty of work that needs to be done where you can’t help but thing “can’t someone else do it?”.

Bear in mind that an Icelandic ranger is a whole different creature from the stereotypical armed U.S. Park ranger with a hat.

In Iceland, rangers are certainly guarding and protecting natural reserves, but we also take care of all maintenance in the park, information centers, and campsites.

That means I’m mopping floors, picking up trash, working the cash register and scrubbing fecal matter off toilet seats that should have been replaced decades ago.

Nobody likes cleaning toilets. Well, maybe someone does, but it’s certainly not my favorite activity.

I’ve worked as a ranger for seven summers, and up until now, when it came to the grunt work of hauling trash and cleaning grime off bathroom walls, I would half-ass it.

I would do it poorly, as fast as I could, often leaving the situation just barely better that it was before.

I’m not really sure what changed this.

This summer, it just clicked. The idea that “the way you do anything is the way you do everything“.

I realized that half-assing anything meant half-assing life. And I couldn’t have that.

So I scrubbed like I’ve never scrubbed before. I left the toilet seats so clean that I could see my reflection in them. I picked up all trash I laid eyes on. The park was squeaky clean whenever I was around.

I didn’t stop there. I decided to practice excellence in all areas. When I had rude customers, I swallowed my pride and compromised with them. When people did stupid things, I still treated them with respect.

I came in on time, every single day.

I used to regularly get tired and lazy before, and just call in sick when I didn’t feel like working. Well, I didn’t take one sick day this summer.

I started building a habit of excellence.

I’ve kept it up after I started school. I come to class on time. I come in every day. I do everything I’m required to do, and I strive to do it well.

I’ve seen how deciding to be excellent at the chores I enjoy the least, I start doing better at the things I feel are most important.

I think excellence can become a habit. In fact I’m sure of it. We’re not born disciplined, we develop discipline. With every single act of disciplined excellence, we become more disciplined, and our lives become more excellent.

This is a call to all of you lazy bums out there (myself included) to get off your backside and do what needs to be done, and to do it well.

 

 

Anxiety only slows you down

Okay, maybe not all anxiety. Anxiety in the face of seeing a truck flying toward you at a hundred miles per hour will probably speed you up and make you get the hell off the road.

At some point in human history, all anxiety probably had a purpose. Make sure the fire doesn’t die, don’t be too loud so you don’t attract predators, get back to the hut before dark.

Anxiety in the face of survival and self-preservation is important, obviously, it always has been and always will be.

However, I think we can mostly agree that the majority of the anxiety we feel day to day in the modern world (at least in the west) is unnecessary and often harmful.

Being late to work or school makes us anxious, even though it’s nowhere close to being life threatening.

Being ridiculed or rejected in social situations often leaves us feeling pangs of anxiety, even though the true consequences are trivial.

Sometimes we’re anxious, chronically, for long periods of time, months, even years, about things that are so physically distant as to be virtually nonexistent subjectively.

I’m specifically referring to the mass media, like news outlets and football games, soap operas and crime thrillers.

Granted, being anxious in a dramatic way, via a good movie, is a great feeling, and knowledge about how the world works and what’s going on in the far corners of our planet is certainly important.

But binge consumption of television shows, 24 hour news networks, and a seemingly ever-increasing amount of obnoxious football fans leaves chronic anxiety in its wake.

And don’t get me started on the super-stimuli, like sugar, porn and video games. There are things that we do in the modern world that are so incredibly stimulating that we get desensitized to the simpler things in life, like exercise, social interactions and healthy food.

We are then only able to find pleasure in these specific substances and activities, which leaves us feeling anxious and empty the rest of the time.

Mind and matter aren’t as distant as we like to believe. What goes on in our mental space, and in our emotional space, affects our body, and vice versa.

This is obvious through a little self inquiry. Discomfort in the body, like feeling to hot or being in pain, has a very noticeable effect on our concentration and mood.

Likewise, as anyone who has ever dealt with depression or anxiety will know, a heavy or manic mood will destroy your ambitions and leave you feeling lethargic and weak physically.

The reason I’m drawing attention to this is to illustrate the point that anxiety literally slows you down, like a weight on your shoulders. Physically.

Anxiety is exhausting mentally and physically. We all know this. After feeling anxious all day in anticipation of a musical performance or making a speech, when it’s finally over, we crash down in post-anxious bliss, ready to chill out and go to sleep.

Therefore, minimizing or eradicating anxiety in our lives will leave us with way more energy to work on the things that truly matter to us, like expansion of consciousness, exercise, study and family.

Now, how this eradication of anxiety is to be achieved is simpler than it seems, although it will most likely require a lot of time and energy. I haven’t yet been able to fully rid myself of my own anxiety, so I can’t really say how long it will take.

Anxiety seems all-encompassing while it’s got its claws dug deep in your mind, but the mere act of becoming fully conscious of it, becoming aware of body sensations and mental activity, is often enough to calm you down and allow you to deconstruct the situation.

This is mindfulness. A word that’s thrown about a lot these days. There are good reasons for its growing popularity, but I feel like it’s often misrepresented as something that you do, whereas, the way I see it, it’s the direct opposite.

Mindfulness is learning to not do, to not think, and to just perceive what’s going on directly.

I’ve written a few posts on mindfulness in the past, like this post and this one.

I’ll keep you updated on my own deconstruction of anxiety, and I hope you’ll leave a comment if this seems at all relevant to your own life.

Until next time, much love.

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