Hi there again!
I’m going to be vulnerable and share a bit about some of the changes I’m trying to make in the way I live my life. If you’ve read my recent blog update on my life, you’ll notice that I started to learn about the way my mind works and how that affects the way I live my daily life, the choices I make, and the relationships that surround me.
Over the past few months, I noticed that I was going about my everyday life either in a haze of chaos, thrown into endless worry about things that may or may not happen. You know that phrase, “life is short, live in the moment”… well maybe its cheesy, but there’s a reason its a common saying. I’ve realized that I go one day to the next either passing by the little things distracted by the endless information at my fingertips or by being anxious about things that are out of my control.
When I started to think about it, I realized that my personality is anxious and because of a combination of things that have happened in my past, I tend to dwell on certain situations longer than I should, and let other moments fly by without sitting in them.
I began reflecting on many situations that had happened in the past recently, and long ago, and I started to see a pattern. This pattern showed me something that I was embarrassed to admit until I read how common it is. Then it hit me, what is the point of trying to create a social platform where the purpose is to connect with and helping other people, if I’m too afraid to do just that?
Did you know, that the sale of books related to anxiety soared 25% through the past year at Barnes and Noble, according to CNBC? What I’m trying to say is that I realized that general anxiety is something people, including myself, battle head to head with everyday, and I’m tired of playing a never ending game of Whack-a-Mole with negative thoughts and worries (Scott and Davenport).
This brings me to my new series, ‘Living Mindfully’. I’m beginning this section in the hopes that it will enrich my life, and help me navigate out of my comfort zones. Mindful living acts as a reminder to take a more wholesome approach to staying present, and recognizing the moment as I’m in it, without worrying about the next.
I’ve just started doing this through the help of three books, ‘Declutter Your Mind: How to Stop Worrying , Relieve Anxiety, and Eliminate Negative Thinking, ‘The Mindfulness Journal, supplemented by F**k Anxiety.
Declutter Your Mind
I’m beginning with the foundations of the first book, Declutter Your Mind, which focuses on how our thoughts determine our outcomes, and the methods we can use to clean up the mental clutter to help us focus on being more mindful.
One of the biggest factors this book focuses on is how thoughts can improve the quality of life when you learn how to control your mind. In doing that, it will open a door to the vastness of opportunities thats closeted behind the clutter.
So, our thoughts determine our outcomes, but there are ways that we can alter these outcomes to improve the quality of life by learning to declutter. This book brings up four main reasons of mental clutter that I want to get into before explaining the way you can reduce your negative thinking, including:
- Daily stress
- paradox of choice
- Too much “stuff”
- Negative Bias
These four causes fill up space in our mind that contains us from being inspired to new possibilities and present in our current moments. These causes are the background noise of your life, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Whether they are negative or positive, these thoughts clutter your mind, just like when you have too clutter building up in your home.
Cause No. 1: Daily Stress
This is pretty straightforward, but worthwhile to touch on anyways. The book says, that an excessive amount of stress is the primary reason people feel overwhelmed in their lives. When you put this stress on top of legitimate problems and worries in your life, often people can lose sleep, have head or chest pain, and an upset stomach. When there is too much negative inputs and decisions that need to be made, our minds search for escape routes, as if your finding emergency exits in a fire.
Cause No. 2: The Paradox of Choice
In our free country, one of the highest values is the freedom of choice. However, sometimes when you have too many possible choices, this can lead to greater indecision, anxiety, and discomfort. More choices will give you more options, but the process might not necessarily make you happy. Women can definitely relate to this one: you know when you’re going to a friends house to get ready, instead of bringing a single outfit, what do you do? You bring an entire bag of possible combinations of outfits you can wear, depending on what everyone else is wearing. Sometimes its fun, but it can get overwhelming if you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see. What once was a quick, ‘lets get dressed’ turned into an agonizing 20-minute excursion.
In the book, it highlights an article that appeared in Vanity Fair, discussing the logic behind a limited wardrobe. Did you ever notice that President Obama only typically wore gray or blue suits. He did this because he wanted to pair down the decisions he had to make regarding his wardrobe, since there are too many other more important decisions that needed to be made.
Cause No. 3: Too Much “Stuff”
We fill up our homes with gadgets we never use, clothes we never wear, and books that build up dust and create clutter. Our inboxes overflow and we have a constant stream of updates and information about anything from articles on new recipes to the next ‘kiki’ video. All of this extaneuos stuff sucks our time and produces negative and anxious thoughts.
Everything feels urgent. We often feel like we don’t have time to declutter because we are too busy consuming new information or doing this, that, and the other thing. Decluttering our stuff and cutting back on time spent honing in on our devices can help eliminate some of this anxiety and negativity.
Cause No. 4: The Negativity Bias
But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized the voice in my head – the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember – was kind of an asshole. – Dan Harris
This section of the book begins with this quote, and I just love it so much, I had to include it.
The ‘negativity bias’ is simply the idea that our brain reacts stronger and has more sensitivity to unpleasant news and information. This means that we are hardwired to overthink, worry, and view situations more negatively than they may actually be in reality. Any negative thought that enters your mind feels more real, therefore you tend to accept it and sink into it. But you don’t have to accept this predisposition, because the opposite is mindfulness.
Mindfulness requires your brain to stay out of the negative clutter, detach our thoughts, and focus instead on the present moment. The concept is simple, but changing your thoughts means breaking a habit, which is always easier said than done.
This requires patience and practice to retain your brain, and focus on living mindfully.
The book goes through four areas of our lives in which we can use new habits to living mindfully. Stay tuned to the next post in this series, and we’ll dive right in.