Have you ever been trying to solve a problem for hours, only for the solution to come to you the minute you decide to give up?
Have you ever wanted something so badly, only to have it spontaneously come to you as soon as you stop wanting it?
This is what economist John Kay calls obliquity – achieving goals by aiming away from them.
But why does this happen?
Well for one, while most people think of human beings as things, it’s more accurate to look at us as systems. For example, microorganisms outnumber human cells by 10 to 1 – though they only make up around 1-3 percent of our body weight. Each of these microorganisms has its own goals, as does each human cell, and each system that these cells form. Circulatory, respiratory, digestive, excretory, nervous, reproductive systems and so on, all have one or more drives (and these are only the systems that we’ve discovered, or feel are worth labelling).
Any “thing” that happens in your experience – like letting go – is not an isolated event. It’s just the part of the system that you’re paying attention to. John Donne said, “No man is an Island.” And he was right. Unless of course, that island contains a complex ecosystem with multiple agents and influences.
We can’t let go of our beliefs any more than clouds “let go” of rain. The reality is that if letting go was really something you could do; you’d just let go of your problems right now and wash your hands of them forever.
But that’s not what happens. Instead, your mind clings onto the problem for as long as it can. You believe that you want to let go, and it feels like you’re trying to, but day-after-day you find yourself clinging to the same old problems.
Then finally, out of nowhere, there is a moment of relief – and we call this “letting go.”
Sometimes this relief is a partial realisation which whispers, “well this is way more complicated than I can get my head around, so I should just take a step back and relax.”
Other times it might be an overwhelming realisation which screams “none of this is up to you, there’s nothing you can do.”
But here’s the kicker.
The reason we hold onto habits is that the system of “you” still believes that it’s worth it to do so. Even if you “feel” like you want to let go, and you “try” to let go.
You didn’t come to let go by becoming the best letting-goerer (google it). Letting go was a result of the network of thoughts, perceptions, feelings and beliefs, concluding that letting go (or giving up) was the right option.
As long as that network is still convinced that it is in the best interest of the system, you’ll hold on.
Surrender isn’t something you do, it’s a by-product of seeing that a belief you held is false and harmful. This can take time, physical addictions are examples of situations where we can logically understand that something is harmful, but unconsciously, somatically, neurochemically – there is still an investment in the addiction.
A lot of goals in personal development (and under the guise of spiritual development), are actually a by-product of seeing the falsehood in long-held beliefs.
Compassion, for example, is what naturally results when we see that we’re not as separate as we once believed. Our separation and boundaries are purely conceptual, and an experience of sharing pain or pleasure with someone can make this very clear. Real compassion is spontaneous action that is free from any self-service. Being compassionate so you feel better, or as a form of virtue signalling is not compassion.
Acceptance isn’t taking a deep breath and saying, “I’m ok with this.” Then white-knuckling your way through the day. That’s simply pretending to accept. Real acceptance is the immediate coming to terms with the inescapability what’s happening right now. Whether you’re sick or in pain or just mildly uncomfortable, it’s already happening and it’s already here.
Peace of mind isn’t a result of attempting to force thoughts out of your mind. It’s what happens when the brain-body-mind system sees that thoughts are causing more harm than good, and there is more to be gained by giving thoughts less attention.
Happiness isn’t what happens when you get what you want. It’s what happens when there is an absence of interest or investment in the stories of your suffering which frees up energy that is used to engage in life.
So, where does that leave you?
Well, for one, I would recommend that you don’t beat yourself up for still having thoughts, beliefs and emotions that you would prefer to let go of. Instead, I’d suggest that you recognise that “it is what it is” and there’s nothing we can do about the fact they’re already here. This is clearly easier said than done – particularly with deep attachments.
I would also suggest that you don’t try to force yourself to let go. That will cause frustration. Instead, try and see why it doesn’t make any sense to keep holding on.
Maybe you’re worried about a comment a friend made about you behind your back. Instead of thinking “I wish I could STOP worrying about this.” Try taking a measured, stoic approach and see how it goes. “Why is this silly to keep holding onto?” “What do I get from holding onto this day after day?” “Can I really be sure that this is what they think of me?”
In short, don’t let go. Just see what subtle belief is benefiting from “holding on” – and challenge it relentlessly. Patience is useful because you can’t force yourself to let go of a strong habit overnight. Oftentimes they take a bit more time to unravel.
For more about questioning unhelpful beliefs, check out the following posts:
No, I’m not talking about a heart, or a lung, or a brain.
I’m talking about a story – a painful story. A story about a challenge that we have faced or are currently facing. Most of us have dozens of these stories. And you know what? These stories make it much harder to manage the unavoidable discomfort and pain that comes with a human life.
There are three challenges that we live with – but only two of them are necessary.
These challenges are discomfort, pain, and suffering, and for the sake of this article, I’m going to define them in my own way.
Discomfort is any negative feedback to your nervous system that is mostly unconscious. It may be that we are sitting awkwardly so our body shifts position. Or that someone says something that we don’t like, so we snap at them. Or even just that we feel hunger, so we eat. Discomfort is necessary to keep us alive.
Pain is a strong sense discomfort that recognised by our conscious mind. Consider times that we roll our ankle, bump our head or burn our hand on a stove. Some of us have chronic pain, such as arthritis, headaches or back pain.
Suffering is an existential pain that arises when the sensation of pain also becomes a painful story about “me.” This is the fuel for most emotional pain that we experience.
Put simply, what we tell ourselves about the pain, i.e. how we ‘own’ it, determines both how long the pain sticks around and the intensity with which it arises. If there was no story about the pain, and only a sensation, there would be no suffering. This is true for both acute pain and chronic pain.
When you look closely – through the lenses of direct experience or science – there is really little difference between the beliefs that cause emotional pain and the physical pain we feel. In fact, on a neurological level emotional and physical pain is actually processed in very similar parts of the brain: the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex.
Fortunately, we can start to break down these beliefs by questioning our thoughts. Not just once or twice, but over and over again, until they start to unravel.
Think about beliefs like a sweater that we walk around with and thoughts like the threads that make up the fabric. As we question the thoughts we are pulling at threads, until eventually the painful belief that we carry around with us just falls away. This is a longer process that requires more than what is contained in this article, but the following questions are useful starting points.
#1: What is the story I am telling myself about this pain?
If pain is in your conscious awareness, then there is almost always a story you are telling yourself about the pain. Maybe it’s something like “this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me” or “I used to be happy before I had this problem.” Whatever the case, if you don’t first identify the story then it’s very hard to question it, and you’ll go on assuming that it’s the reality, rather than just a painful story.
#2. How have I mistaken the story of this pain to be my identity?
Almost all stories have a degree of ownership to them. Anytime you notice the use of “I, me, mine” in a story about pain, then you’ve taken this story to be part of your identity. There are, however, different degrees of identification with our painful stories. For example, “My sore ankle is going to stop me from rollerblading next week” is more like a leaf on a branch, whereas “I’m just the guy in pain, everyone sees me like that” is more akin to the tree-trunk.
#3. Do I truly know how I’m going to feel tomorrow?
The degree to which we perceive future certainty over our stories of pain is also the degree to which we become anxious about the pain. If you look close enough at your experience of pain, there may be very little consistency. Maybe you have a headache and the pain wants to tell you “You’ll have one in the morning as well.” But can you really know this? Have there been times where you expected to have pain, but didn’t? Or you expected to not have pain, and you did? Pain can cause fear and fear causes anxious predictions about what tomorrow brings.
#4. If humility could talk, what would it say about this pain?
What role does humility have in dealing with pain? Well, it’s simple. On a basic level, pain tells our brain that we are in danger. An organism in danger is one that is forced to put itself first. In terms of a painful story, this is usually translated through the mind as “this shouldn’t be happening to me.”“I don’t deserve this.” Or “This pain is unnatural and unfair.” Humility, however, is the opposite of this. It is capacity to see that that discomfort and pain is everywhere in nature. It’s normal and it says nothing about who or what you are, or what you “deserve.” Does a shrimp deserve to be swallowed by a whale? Does a fly deserve to be caught in a spider’s web? Does a tree deserve to be struck by lightning? Maybe your mind will argue that someone or something (like a medical system) has wronged you, and that without their errors or malintent, you wouldn’t have this pain. But then that wouldn’t be humility talking, would it?
#5. Could I be less interested in this painful story?
Interest is the ingredient that keeps the painful stories going. Imagine your mind has a Netflix-like algorithm. The stories are only written if the viewer shows interest in them. If you stopped being entertained by episodes like “This isn’t fair.” “I can’t be happy while I’m in pain” or “When I get rid of this pain, everything will be ok,” then soon enough they’d stop appearing on your timeline, and eventually they would be discontinued altogether. The less interested you are in the stories about your pain, the less your brain will pay attention to it.
Question your painful stories and they will loosen their grip. In time, suffering will become a painful sensation and painful sensations may even become unrecognised discomfort.
How have you learned to separate pain from painful stories? Let us know in the comments!
There’s a part of you that is reading this with the hope that I will give you theanswer.
The answer to what, maybe you’re not entirely sure. But you can sense that it’s the answer you’re looking for. Something that will make you feel slightlybetter than you feel right now. Which is fair. You wouldn’t click on this article headline if you thought it was going to make you feel worse than now. Right?
Unfortunately though, we have a problem, you and I.
I’m not going to give you the answer you want. Frankly, you don’t need any more answers. Actually, you don’t need any more ideas at all.
But wait, isn’t this article just more ideas as well? No. Well, yes, but there’s an important distinction: my intention with this post is to subtractrather than add. By the end of this page I want you to leave you feeling a little bit lighter and more relaxed. Right after we cut a hole in the bottom of the backpack of beliefs you carry with you.
Let me be honest. As a writer and reader, I have been a repeat offender of the transgression I’m about to share with you. Likely more so than you.
I’ve easily read over 200 books on topics around self-improvement. I’ve also written 200–300 self-improvement related articles — myself!
Which is why I’m perfectly positioned to say what I’m about to say.
Self-Improvement is a fallacy, and I’ll tell you why.
All self-improvement boils down to one thing. The entire multibillion-dollar industry feeds itself on this principle: you are not ok with the present experience.
Self-improvement is an attempt to move towards a “better” state in which you will feel content with how things are. We call this state of being happiness.
If we watched a movie with a character who had everything we believed we might want (money, wealth, relationships, amazing experiences, etc) but that character was fundamentally discontent — would that be the happiness we want?
Of course not!
But herein lies the problem — we don’t need to improve anything to feel ok with right now.
“What’s wrong with right now if you don’t think about it?”
— ‘Sailor’ Bob Adamson
Let’s make it simple.
When we were young children, assuming we were healthy and living in a safe and loving environment, we were generally happy. Why? Not because we found the answer in some repetitive self-improvement book, or we went on an expensive yoga retreat, or we got a 20% raise at work.
It’s because we hadn’t yet accumulated all the ideas that get in the way of us feeling ok.
I know this because I used to run on the self-improvement treadmill all day, every day, and I never got where I thought I was going.
But when I started to strip away the following delusions, I could actually begin to feel the contentment I did as a child.
So without further ado;
Here are Six Common Delusions That Keep You Chasing Happiness Forever
#6. When I Figure Out Why I Feel [Down, Sad, Anxious etc.], Then I’ll Be Happy
This myth is debunked the second you see a baby smile. Do they need to analyse their emotions before they can experience joy? What about all the non-human apes; bonobos, chimps, gorillas? Do they need to figure out their feelings before they can run around with a grin? No, because happiness is something that is inherent in their natural state.
But not us. Not human adults. We’re intelligent and sophisticated. We sit with our thoughts, reflecting on our fears, our sadness, and our anxieties. Because on some level we believe that with just enough rumination we’ll get the magic answer that leaves us permanently fulfilled.
There is significant value in talk therapy, but not the value we expect. A coherent story might appear to release a bit of tension, until it doesn’t. Children fall over and cry, then they pick up their toys, and get on with whatever they were doing. They don’t analyse why they cried, whether they’re going to cry again tomorrow, if their crying means that they’re fundamentally deficient and should be banished to a life of time-out for the rest of eternity.
They just start playing again, and at some point, the residual effects of those tears vanish, and they’re blissfully content with the next moment. It’s not an unsophisticated approach to such emotional challenges, it’s very adaptive.
Children have less to worry about, yes. But that doesn’t mean their attitude is any less valid, it just means that it doesn’t come as naturally to us as adults. Somewhere along the way, we picked up the capacity to reason and reflect on our emotions. Now we think that the way to solve all emotional issues is to think our way out of them.
I’ll be happy when I work through all my past traumas.
I’ll be happy when I dissect every argument I’ve ever had with my mother.
I’ll be happy when I assess the symbolism in all of my dreams.
#5. I Should Be More Successful
There are two problems with this idea:
1. Many of us aren’t even sure what success means.
Success is defined as the outcome of an aim or purpose. If that is the case, how can I be more successful? I am not an outcome, nor an aim, nor a purpose. I am a process. The reason we even have the concept of success is for guidance. A successful ‘you’ is a location on a map, it’s a direction on a compass. Saying ‘I’ want to be more successful is like saying I want to be more north. But the earth is not flat, and you are not a single goal. Keep travelling north and you will keep having a north to travel to. Ad infinitum. Keep trying to BE more successful and you will keep having an idea of a successful you to move towards. Yet you’ll never quite reach it.
2. Why should we be more successful?
We think we should be more successful because of the misconception with our definition of success. We think success will get us somewhere. The second you think that ‘you’ are moving towards success, failure will creep up right behind you. That’s why upon achieving goals we often have an anticlimactic feeling “ok…what now.” It’s not because happiness was in the goal, or that it was hidden in the process of striving for a goal. It’s actually because in striving for a goal we placed ourselves in a structure in which we were allowed to stop thinking about happiness.
I’m not as successful as my [brother, mother, friend, work colleague, celebrity, athlete]
I thought I’d be more successful by this age
As long as I hit all my goals by 35, then I’ll be successful
#4. I Won’t Be Happy Until I’m My Best Self
This is another muddled idea that just ends up getting in the way. You hear other platitudes mixed in with this. Instagram captions might refer to it “Living my best life.” New age spiritual junkies use the term “Your highest self.” A silicon valley executive might even call it “Optimal functioning.”
Your best self, like success, is an idea. It’s a direction to travel in, a constantly moving target. It is not a place that you reach at a specific point in time.
What happens when you’re sick? When you age? What happens when forces outside of your control derail your ‘best-self’ plans?
This bullsh*t idea of your becoming best-self is not the benchmark by which you should choose to accept yourself. Your best-self is a noun. Your actual-self is a verb. In the stream of life, the points at which they meet are likely to be few and far between. Deciding that you can’t be happy with life until you are “your best self” is like saying an Olympic swimmer shouldn’t enjoy being in the water until they’re standing on the podium receiving a gold medal.
I need to live my best life
I need to live with NO REGRETS
I need to win, no matter what the cost
#3. I Could Be Doing Something More Important Right Now
Technically that statement is true. But so is “I could have been born an Emperor of Never-never land.”
Both of these statements have an equal material relationship to the present moment. That is, neither of them actually exist outside of our thoughts. The only difference is that you think that this statement might bring you closer to happiness, whereas you’ve been smart enough to accept the fact that you will never be emperor of Never-never Land.
Some people think that accepting that things are enough will turn you into a lifeless couch potato. That’s just a deficiency story taking another form. We don’t walk down the road to get milk and spend every step reminding ourselves where we are going and why. That would be torture. We can still move through life with goals and preferences without our happiness being contingent on them being met.
I should be more productive right now
I should be doing something more enjoyable right now
I need to make a REAL difference in the world
#2. Finding Happiness Is Difficult
We only believe that finding happiness is difficult because we still believe that happiness is something you find. You don’t find happiness, you only ever find fleeting moments of pleasure.
Lasting happiness is something that you uncover. Something that you reveal when you remove a series of beliefs such as those being presented to you here.
When you have a whole society looking in the wrong direction to find something, and a relatively small percentage stumbling across it, the perception of it being a rare jewel is likely to be written into the way of life. This is perpetuated by hollywood-esque narratives that are built into our popular culture.
A story is not an experience. Success is a story. My best life is a story. Fulfilment is an experience. And it doesn’t require fighting dragons, climbing mountains, making millions, seducing the boy/girl of your dreams, sacred pilgrimages or any other incredibly difficult fantasy.
Maybe uncovering happiness is actually quite simple. Like taking a deep breath right now and embracing the idea that this experience right now is enough. It may seemingly get worse in the future, or better, but that could be enough also.
Nah. That couldn’t be it.
I just need to achieve my life goals, then I’ll be happy
Finding peace of mind can’t be easy
I need to overcome my fears before I can feel ok
#1. I Should Be Happier Right Now
Which brings us to the last point. The deepest belief that gets in the way of your capacity for happiness.
The subtle but persistent idea that you should be happier than you are right now. Maybe no tool in human history has perpetuated this fallacy more so than social media.
Consider how crazy this is.
We open social media and look at 2-dimensional images of other people, intentionally curated by them. We then pretend that based on those pixels, we understand their 4-dimensional experience. And finally, we conclude that they have something that we don’t, and that something is wrong about our experience because of it.
It’s ok to want pleasure. It’s ok to strive for peak experiences. But these are moments that come and go. They mean nothing about our inherent value, how we should be feeling at any given moment, or our birthright to feel happy.
How about you? What ideas have got about the idea of happiness? Let me know in the comments.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BetterHelp, but all views and opinions expressed herein are my own. As a BetterHelp affiliate, I may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided.
BetterHelp Review (2020 Update)
We all know what loneliness feels like.
In June 2016, I moved to Barcelona, Spain.
At the time I was new to the city, and going through a difficult period with work. I was having back pain, my living situation wasn’t supportive, and I was starting to have real troubles sleeping.
All in all, I was really, really stressed.
In fact, at one point, I didn’t sleep for two nights straight.
As the anxiety grew, and depression started to set in, I began to realise that I needed help. But I was in a city where I didn’t have a group of friends, the culture was different to what I was used to, and I didn’t yet have a fluent grasp of the language. Did I really want to go through the painstaking process of finding a therapist?
Admittedly, I was being stubborn, and it wasn’t doing me any favours.
Then, one night as I was mindlessly scrolling social media – trying to distract myself from obvious concerns – I came across a Facebook Ad that seemed to magically (cough) read my mind.
“BetterHelp – Affordable online counseling that’s convenient for you.”
Like most of us, the majority of things I read on Facebook seem to go unnoticed. However, two words caught my attention: affordable and online.
I definitely needed someone to talk to, but I was resisting the idea of a traditional therapist. I didn’t want to spend MORE money on therapy, foolishly believing that I’d be ok again in a week or two (though that wasn’t going to be the case). Plus, I was already so busy with work, how was I going to find the time?
BetterHelp looked like something I could fit around my work schedule and it was the cheapest option available at the time. Plus they were offering a free week-long trial.
I thought I might as well, so signed up for their 7-day free trial and got started.
(Unfortunately this 7-day free trial is no longer available, but my readers do get a 10% discount off the first month!)
Note: In May 2018, I signed up for another month of BetterHelp – despite already having a therapist I talk to – I did so in order to see if the service was the same. The one big difference I noticed it that they have hundreds more therapists with a much wider range of expertise.
What is BetterHelp?
BetterHelp is an online therapy service that offers live messaging, phone and video sessions with almost 2000 qualified counsellors, psychologists, therapists, and clinical social workers from around the world.
Their website states that their mission is: “Making professional counseling accessible, affordable, convenient – so anyone who struggles with life’s challenges can get help, anytime, anywhere.”
Before you begin you spend 10-15 minutes answering a psychometric-style questionnaire in order to match you with the right therapist. This is actually incredibly useful – I spent years bouncing between therapists before I found the right one, and this speeds up the process significantly.
You’ll be prompted to answer a series important questions such as:
Have you ever been in counseling or therapy before?
How would you rate your current physical health?
How would you rate your current sleeping/eating/ financial habits?
Are you currently experiencing overwhelming sadness, grief, or depression?
Are you currently experiencing anxiety, panic attacks or have any phobias?
Are you currently experiencing any chronic pain?
Do you consider yourself to be spiritual or religious?
Funnily enough, I’ve never had a therapist do this thorough of a background check with me. In fact, the questions about chronic pain and spirituality are two themes that have defined a lot of my own psychotherapeutic process, but these didn’t even come up in the first month of my therapy. It’s easy to put therapy and spirituality into separate boxes, but that need not be the case, obviously therapists meditate too!
After you’ve answered these questions you’ll be assigned a therapist who will introduce themselves and give you some worksheets to fill out. I found these very useful in helping me define what I wanted out of the therapy and to feel that I wasn’t wasting my time.
I changed therapists in the first week, simply on a hunch after reading their biography that I’d have more rapport with someone else. It took BetterHelp 24 hours to assign me a new counsellor to work with. (I actually have a friend that switched more than 10 times before he found the perfect therapist – and he swears that being this picky made all the difference).
Once you’ve decided on a therapist you can choose a time for a live session, whether you want to do directed messaging, over the phone, or live video, it’s up to you. However, if you decide on a time with your therapist, make sure you book that time through BetterHelp – otherwise, they’re not obligated to show up, or they may not remember (they typically deal with quite a few clients).
BetterHelp Cost/Pricing (Updated for 2020)
Compared to traditional therapy, BetterHelp is a bargain.
There are three tiers to the BetterHelp pricing and they also have an option for financial aid for some people that may not be able to afford it.
(Note: They slightly change their pricing structure from time to time – so you’ll see different costs all over the internet – it’s best check with them before you commit.)
Unlimited $40/week billed annually
Unlimited $50/week billed quarterly
Unlimited $70/week billed weekly
Many people ask how often they should talk to a counsellor or psychologist. In my experience, talking to someone less than once a week makes it really difficult to build rapport. Once a fortnight or once a month is fine once you’ve already established a relationship, but at the start, it makes the process slightly difficult and tough to get the ball rolling.
I chose to go for the monthly option, and I managed to fit in three phone calls with the therapist in that month.
They say unlimited live sessions but from what I’ve gathered they only really tend to offer one live video session a week. To be fair, it’s more than enough as they tend to answer any questions you have over text within 24 hours anyway.
What are the advantages of BetterHelp?
Cost. Cost is an obvious benefit of online therapy. Typically a one-hour session with a psychologist will set you back $100-150 USD, so with plans starting at $40 a week, you’re saving a lot of money.
Flexibility. Online therapy is a lot more flexible than traditional therapy. Whereas you’re often limited to a one-hour session a week – plus travel time – that fits into your the schedule of your therapist, online therapy allows you to take therapy from anywhere you have an internet connection. This was one of the main reasons I decided to experiment with BetterHelp in the first place. It’s all available on mobile so you can ask questions on the go as issues come up in real time.
Anonymity. Therapy can be an uncomfortable situation for many people. There are issues that you don’t want to talk about with a stranger. Many people from all walks of life still have to deal with a stigma around mental health issues, and therefore online therapy allows an anonymity that can help us get started on our journey to better mental health.
Easy to switch counsellors. When I decided I wanted a different counsellor with BetterHelp, it took less than 24 hours for them to allocate someone new. In face to face therapy, you have to do some research to find a new therapist and then call to book an appointment in the hope that they have an appropriate time available.
More goal-directed. I’ve had experience with three counsellors at BetterHelp, and from what I can tell, they tend to be a lot more exercise orientated. Before the first session they will give you worksheets to complete. These are built into the BetterHelp interface which makes them easy to refer back to later on. This is good because you can feel like there is a tangible benefit to the therapy, as opposed to traditional therapy, where you may not even get exercises.
Good for anyone outside their country. When you’re living in a foreign country it can be hard to find a therapist you can relate to. There may be an obvious language or cultural barrier that prevents you from building rapport and opening up in a way that’s necessary for the therapy to be fruitful and productive.
More frequent contact. In the culture of face to face therapy, it’s often not typical that you are able to message your therapist frequently throughout the week. This can tend to lead to a feeling of isolation, and that you don’t really have someone who’s trying to help. With the messaging function, your online therapist can give you direction and advice between live sessions, so you don’t feel like there’s you’re on your own the majority of the time.
Specialists. If you don’t live in a big city it can be tough to find a therapist who specialises in what you’re dealing with. This is particularly relevant if you’re dealing with something outside of the most common mental illness issues such as depression and anxiety.
What are the disadvantages of BetterHelp?
Rapport. Some people might try to tell you that there’s no loss of rapport between online and face to face therapy. I’m going to be honest with you, there is. The therapist I see now is online via Skype, and though there is trust in the relationship, that’s only been built after more than a year of sessions. When you first start online therapy, it’s not going to feel as it would were you in someone’s office – but a live video session does get close. The benefit of that is obviously anonymity, but it depends on your personality.
May need to try more than one counsellor. Because BetterHelp chooses a counsellor based on your initial questionnaire, you may not always get someone that you believe is a good fit for you. Fortunately, it’s easy to request a new one, and they are usually assigned to you in less than 24 hours.
Don’t always give immediate feedback. A lot of people go into online therapy expecting that they’ll have a friend to instant message any time of the day. Unfortunately, that’s not how this service works, which is fair enough, these are professionals with multiple clients and their own lives. Typically the counsellors at BetterHelp will respond at least once a day, so request someone on your time zone. However, if you’re looking for someone to chat to constantly, this isn’t the best place to find it.
You need to be proactive. This isn’t really a disadvantage, but it’s something I feel I should make clear anyway. If you don’t make an effort to book a time, you’ll still be charged the subscription. There are lots of people online angry that they’ve paid and haven’t had a session. The therapists aren’t necessarily going to chase you up, you need to ensure you’re setting
Is BetterHelp for me?
BetterHelp has more than 30,000 reviews that you can read on their website.
But the question is, would I recommend BetterHelp?
Yes, 100%. BUT.
There are two situations where I would recommend traditional counselling over an online approach.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a major mental illness – schizophrenia, bipolar, persistent suicidal ideation.
If you can afford the time and cost of traditional therapy AND would much prefer to speak to someone in person.
In my own experience, I have had both better and worse experiences than BetterHelp with face-to-face counselling. For me, it’s a legitimate option if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, stress or loneliness.
30 days of online therapy with BetterHelp was just what I needed at that moment in time. It helped me manage stress and anxiety, and knowing my history, I’m sure helped prevent me from getting caught in a long depressive episode. It provided a necessary support and was obviously worth every cent.
Was it life-changing? No. But I can tell you that it’s never ever worth risking falling into a depression, or prolonging your experience in a depression, when you have the option to seek help.
My personal experience with therapy has shown me that at the very least it can provide a structure to your mental health care that gives you a buffer against hopelessness. And at the very most it can provide important psychological insights that allow you to get through tough times and prevent future relapses.
Meditation has shown me that most of our resistance to therapy is simply out of fear and pride – and it’s a losing game that only ever prolongs our suffering.
My understanding of the neuroscientific implications of mental illness and therapy – through a Masters Degree in Applied Neuroscience – has shown me that the longer we leave mental illness untreated, the more our brain is physically damaged, and the harder it is to deal with in the future. The quicker we take action, the easier it is to heal, both now and in the future.
That’s why I’m recommending BetterHelp – not because it’s the be all end all, but because it’s a very useful service in the fight against mental illness.
Depression is a very serious illness that is unpredictable and can worsen unexpectedly, and very quickly. If you’re experiencing any signs of depression, I urge you to seek help. If you’re going through a tough time, don’t keep it to yourself, please reach out to someone, whether that’s BetterHelp or traditional therapy.
Your therapist will recommend that you commit to 4-6 months of therapy – but I understand that it’s a significant ask.
So I’m going to suggest that you give it a go for one month, and just see how you go. I’m an affiliate for BetterHelp, which means I get a commission if you sign up.
You used to be able to get 2 weeks free with BetterHelp, but due to the popularity they’ve changed that. Fortunately, if you use the link below you will be able to get a 10% discount on the first month.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BetterHelp, but all views and opinions expressed herein are my own. As a BetterHelp affiliate, I may receive compensation from BetterHelp if you purchase products or services through the links provided.
My jaw hit the floor when I realised what I’d done.
It was unbelievable.
At that moment I wished for one thing and one thing only. I wished that I was a time-traveller. I wished I could go back with what I know now and just do it all again.
Therapy, that is.
Yep, it’s a strange wish, I get it. But hear me out. See, ten years ago I had my first experience with a therapist.
It can probably be summed up in one word. Disastrous.
I walked into the room carrying a bunch of false beliefs about therapy, the therapist, the process and my role in it. Not to mention false beliefs about myself. So, after five or awkward, combative, yawn-filled, watch-checking sessions, I walked out — with a bitter taste in my mouth.
Disillusioned and angered by the whole process, I battled through five more years of low moods and anxiety before I even gave therapy another chance. On top of that, when I finally did see another therapist, I entered with many of the same destructive ideas and they unconsciously blocked my potential progress.
The result: thousands of dollars, down the drain.
Sure, sometimes it felt good to get some things off my chest. But was it worth it? Was I seeing things in a new light? Was I truly getting what I wanted out of therapy? It hurts to say this, but no, not at all.
Finally, I ended up with a therapist who I liked, and he not only took me through therapy, but he also taught me exactly what therapy was. Since then I went on to finish Masters in Applied Neuroscience (the neuroscience of mental health) and then trained to become a therapist myself.
When I sat at the other side of the table, it all became so clear — THAT is when my jaw dropped. Seeing all the misinformed ideas I had about therapy, I wished that someone could have told me this before I began my journey.
If I had known what I’m about to tell you, I’m confident I would have made much more rapid progress in therapy.
Anyway, what’s done is done. But I felt it would be a shame if I didn’t share this with anyone else who was going through therapy or thinking about doing so.
Here are 5 destructive beliefs that stop you from getting the most out of therapy.
#5. “I’m paying the therapist for their time.”
On one level this is the case. The therapist has decided to charge by the hour, or whatever the case may be. But on a deeper level, what you’re actually paying for is their expertise and the opportunity to make a change.Change does not happen in therapy, it happens what we call ‘integration’ — the day to day application of what comes up in therapy. That’s why it’s so important to do two things:
Reflect on your sessions during the week.
Reflect on your week during the sessions.
Tip: Keep a journal between therapy sessions to track your thoughts, emotions and goals
#4. “I’m not that interested in their background.”
Knowing the background of your therapist is vital. For the most part, you don’t need to know their academic achievements. But do you know the difference between a counsellor, psychotherapist, psychologist and psychiatrist? Or the difference between a cognitive-behavioural, person-centred, gestalt and psychoanalytic approach therapy. Do you want to be talking about your thoughts, feelings and emotions or would you prefer to analyse dreams and patterns in your past? Above all, you want to make sure that whatever your primary reason for coming to therapy is; depression, relationship issues, anxiety, trauma, or chronic pain, they need to have experience with it.
Tip: Do your research and choose something with experience and a style that sounds
#3. “The therapist is the expert.”
The therapeutic relationship is not a one-way street, it’s a collaboration. The therapist may be an expert when it comes to asking the right questions at the right time, and guiding the conversation, but they aren’t an expert on your emotions. I assumed that the therapist would ‘figure out’ whatever needed to be talked about, we’d get to the core of my issues and that would be that. But that’s not the case, to really open up, I needed practical radical honesty — the skill of being aware and truthful of what was happening in my body and mind at any given time. This required vigilance both in and out of the therapy sessions.
Tip: Be mindful of your feelings during the session and practice being radically honest with your therapist.
#2. “The morning is the best time for therapy.”
When I first started therapy, I just decided to do it in the morning. This was for no other reason than that it was more convenient for me. But the time of day you decide to do therapy is very important. We all run on circadian rhythms, which means our energy levels and mood fluctuate throughout the day. My problem was that I’ve always been what you might call a morning person, so when I talked to the therapist in the morning, I’d generally be in a good mood. I’d also tend to have one eye on the work day ahead, so I wouldn’t be fully present. One day, however, I had a session at 6pm, straight after a long, tiring day, and I was in a terrible mood. The therapist almost seemed surprised, he commented that I was much more engaged with the negative emotions I would talk about in the morning sessions. This actually made for a much more productive session than doing it in the morning before I’d met the challenges of the day. There is not Abest time for therapy, there is only YOUR best time for therapy.
Tip: Schedule sessions at a time where you think you’ll be most connected to your feelings and open to share them.
#1. “I’m not supposed to have a relationship with my therapist.”
This is the number one problem that almost no one outside of the therapeutic community knows. The second biggest factor — outside of external life events — that determines a positive or negative outcome with therapy, is the relationship between the therapist and the client. No you should not have a personal relationship with your therapist, but you should absolutely develop a healthy professional relationship with them.
You need to find a therapist that you 1. Like 2. Respect and 3.Trust. If you are working with someone who does not tick at least 2 out of 3 of those points, you will probably not get very far in therapy. The greatest therapeutic relationship I ever had (and the most progress I made in therapy) was with my FIFTH!!! therapist.
Tip: Do not just settle with the first therapist you talk to.
Can I Give You 7-Days Free Therapy?
Online therapy can help you with a lot of the problems I’ve just meantioned. That’s why I want to offer you a free 7-day trial with my partners at BetterHelp — the most comprehensive online therapy service in the world.
They give you a free psychometric personality quiz and match you up with an online therapist who has experience with your personality-type and particular issue. It’s far cheaper than most therapists, you can contact them over text 24-hours a day, and if at any point you don’t feel like the relationship is going well, you can request a new therapist and they give you one immediately. (In fact, I have a friend who said he went through 10+ different therapists before he found the perfect one for him — though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that).
VISIT THIS LINK to get a FREE 7 day trial. You may be asked to enter your credit card details, but you can cancel at any time.
(Full disclosure, I’ve used BetterHelp in the past and written about my experience HERE. I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe in it. The above link is an affiliate link, meaning I get a commission if you continue using BetterHelp.)
How to Explain Depression to Someone who Doesn’t Understand
Why is it so difficult?
You’ve taken the most important step. You’ve sat down with someone you trust. Maybe it’s a loved one; a partner, a parent, or even a child. You look them in the eyes and think carefully about what to say. Three seconds pass, five, ten, your mouth opens and…..nothing.
Or maybe it’s worse than that. You’ve pushed through the discomfort, trying not to trip over your words and have been able to muster some sort of an explanation (though you know it doesn’t even come close). A part of you waits intently for the perfect response to ease your pain. Instead, they’ve just looked back at you with a puzzled expression. You were trying to calm the thoughts and feelings of being different and disconnected, but in this moment, they’re louder than ever.
And so comes the tough question that I’m attempting to answer today.
How to describe depression to someone who doesn’t have it, get it, or understand!?
Depression isn’t even something that makes sense to you. How in the world are you going to make it make sense to someone else?
This post is a little different from what I usually write about here at Project Monkey Mind. It’s a little bit raw. But that’s because depression is a dark place, so it’s necessary to bring some light to it (terrible pun intended).
There is often a perceived stigma which makes people who suffer from depression not want to share it. This is unfortunate, because openness is what can lead to social connection and recovery. Stigma does not help the problem. In fact, it’s antiquated and serves no one.
Imagine for a second that you had a cold but you feared going to a pharmacy? Or you pulled a muscle but felt the need to avoid going to a physiotherapist? It would be incredibly frustrating, to say the least.
How To Describe Depression To Someone
When we try to describe exactly what depression feels like, there’s a sense that something important is getting lost in translation. To you, it may seem like they’ll just never understand, and to them, it may seem like it just doesn’t make any sense.
One reason it’s tough to share your experience of depression with someone is that it feels like you’re sharing a deep part of yourself. And not a part of yourself you’re proud of. It’s the part that you don’t like, the part that you don’t want the world to see.
It’s your weakness, your dirty little secret, the silent critic that can make you question every compliment you get, every positive experience you have, any sense of self-worth or self-confidence. It’s confusing, exhausting, ugly, and justifiably, not really anyone’s favourite topic of conversation. Sometimes you may not even know why you’re feeling so sad for what may seem like no reason at all.
One mistake that depression sufferers make when trying to explain their illness is that they get stuck focusing on trying to talk about their feelings. Which is natural, the feelings of depression are so strong, they draw all our attention to them.
Unfortunately, there are no words that can communicate the feeling of depression without the person having had a reference experience that would allow them to understand it.
Because it’s so foreign to most people that haven’t experienced it, the best way to explain it is with metaphors and analogies that allow them to relate depression to their own life experiences – like the Pharmacy example above.
Why is it important to explain depression?
Despite how difficult it can be to try and talk through depression with someone you care about, it’s incredibly important in the management of the illness.
When you’re going through a depressive episode, a lot of the time you can’t rely on your own opinion to point you in the direction of health. It’s therefore crucial that you have someone you trust who can non-judgementally help you see things from outside the bubble of depression. However, to get to that place of trust, you must first open up and allow them to at least begin to understand what’s going on in your mind.
“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” – Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees
Typically we think of depression as something for the depressive and the therapist to deal with. But it impacts not just the sufferer, but their friends, their loved ones and their wider community. So really, it’s an issue that needs to be managed and understood, by everyone. What I’m trying to do with this article is explain depression so that the loved one, be it a close friend or family member, can best understand what is happening, and how they can effectively deal with it.
How to set the ground for the conversation
Because talking about depression is hard, you need to make sure that it’s a conversation that you don’t need to repeat over and over again.
Here are some ground rules to start the conversation off on the right foot.
Make sure that the person you’re talking to knows that this is important to you
Let them know how much they mean to you and why you trust them
Let them know that the conversation is important and that it would be best if you can have it at a time when they won’t be distracted by their phone or other obligations
Make sure that you schedule a time to talk about it
Let them know that they don’t need to be worried
Be ok with silence and long pauses
What they need to know
#1: Our brains are working in very different ways
My brain is different from yours both structurally and functionally. In fact, chronic depression actually causes brain damage, which means if I’ve been through this before, there is a chance my brain has been permanently altered by it.
To be specific, during and following a depressive episode, the brain’s hippocampus and frontal lobes shrink, meaning it’s very difficult to regulate emotions and focus attention. The amygdala, which is activated when recalling emotionally charged stimuli, such as fear, becomes overactive – this continues even after recovery from depression. Also, susceptibility to stress is increased, and it’s possible that there can be some issues with memory.
There are several neurotransmitters which are responsible for mood, sleep, appetite, as well as stress and pain relief. During depression, these aren’t functioning as they are supposed to.
Imagine a car honks behind you. You jump, your body tenses up, and once you realise it’s a car, you take a deep breath and try to relax. Then you keep walking, and another car honks, startling you again. Then another, and another, you try to stay calm, but eventually, you snap.
That’s what it’s like with negative thoughts when you’re experiencing depression. Every time you have a negative thought it plants itself in your body. You can try and relax and let it go, but another one pops up. You can try to stay calm, but at some point, you’ll spiral.
Your mind might seem like a calm country road, but at times mine is going to feel (and sound) like rush hour in Shanghai.
#2: There is a difference between what I know and what I feel
Don’t you know that you should think positive?
Don’t you know that stress kills?
Don’t you know that it’s not the end of the world?
I do. I definitely do. In fact, I understand all these things a lot better than most people. I’ve been forced to think about them because of the circumstances.
But while I understand intellectually that what I feel isn’t logical, the experience I have is very different. So, before you give any advice, simply pause for a moment and consider if what you’re saying might be perceived as condescending. Remember, no one likes a backseat driver.
Don’t ask ‘why are you depressed?’ and get frustrated if there is no clear answer. There is almost never a clear answer, sometimes there is no answer, it is incredibly complicated and every case of depression is different.
Try to understand that I’m not experiencing the same emotional palette as you. During a depressive episode;
Joy is transformed into lifelessness.
Challenge feels like overwhelm.
Fears and anxieties become paralysing.
Sadness is experienced as mourning.
#3: A lot of the time I’m making decisions from a place of tiredness and exhaustion
You know how when you’re tired you make bad decisions or get snappy? Imagine an extreme version of that.
Depression, for the most part, is incredibly exhausting, I’m spending a lot of mental energy simply trying not to succumb to negative thoughts. Even very basic tasks like getting out of bed or preparing a meal can sometimes feel incredibly taxing. Consider what it feels like to be stuck in quicksand, this is how moving through a depressive episode can often feel.
This also means I’m trying to be ‘normal’ in the midst of feeling tired, so if I slip up every now and then, try your best to give me a break.
#4: I probably feel guilty and scared
Guilt is one of the most common emotions that I’m going to experience. Guilt about not being happy when I have so much more than many other people, guilt about being annoying or a burden to my family and friends, and sometimes maybe even guilt for those moments where happiness is experienced.
It’s also quite a frightening experience. You’re literally seeing yourself transform into something that you didn’t think you were. The fallibility of emotions and moods and feelings and your own sense of self are revealed to you first hand. Most people live with the comfort that they can rely on their self-image and narrative – “I’m George, I do X in Y situations, I like Z” – because it’s comfortable. But when your brain chemistry starts playing games, you’re shown that this really isn’t the case.
You start to see behind the veil, that a lot of what you’ve worked for and a lot of what you believe in stand on shaky ground. What you enjoy one day could be taken away the next, and that’s something no one who hasn’t had that kind of experience could understand – nor would you really want them to.
#5: There are many lies that my mind will tell me when I’m in a depressive state
Probably the most practical thing you have to know is that because my brain is in such a state, my mind is going to tell me a bunch of lies.
These lies have little or no basis in reality, but they are dangerous, and when they come up they are going to feel as real as the fingers on my hand.
So, if you hear me saying any of these, please, non-judgmentally acknowledge that while they definitely feel real, they are just tricks of the mind.
I need to be isolated. The desire to be away from others is related to feeling like a burden. It probably stems from the urge to separate ourselves from the tribe when ill. But we’re not living in 150 people groups, and isolation only serves to deepen the depression and confuse those around us. Depression is self-perpetuating. Imagine someone who had a nut allergy was craving nuts. Isolation causes depression, but depression causes a craving for isolation.
The world doesn’t love or care about me. If I have moments where I only seem to perceive the worst in other people, don’t take it personally. My brain has ramped up its’ negativity bias so it’s very difficult for me to appreciate (and feel) care and love when I receive it. Ironically, it is care and love that can break through and challenge my depressive state, which is why persistence on your part is important.
These feelings will never pass. Memory is state-dependent (see mood-congruent memory bias), which means when I feel down, all I can remember is other times when I felt down and all I can imagine are other times that I will feel down. In this state, I won’t be able to picture a positive future – but I need to begin to construct one in order to get enough momentum to pull myself out of the rut.
I am my past. This is an extension of the point above, but essentially, I’ll be feeling that because I have had depression I will always have it.
I am these negative feelings. Instead of being able to understand that I am feeling depressed, angry or hopeless, I will start to feel that I am depressed, I am angry, or I am hopeless. Again, this is another example of me being frozen in psychological time, everything will feel stagnant.
I don’t have the strength to overcome this. The combination of exhaustion and hopelessness will try to convince me that no matter how many times I have found the strength in the past, this time I won’t be able to find it. It’ll be gone. Simple reminders can be surprisingly effective at dismantling this lie. Journaling is also incredibly effective.
Depression is my friend. This is one of the sneakiest lies that depression will tell me. Particularly if I’ve lived with it for a long time. Depression becomes familiar. If I’ve overcome this on multiple occasions, I’ve probably begun to see my struggle with the illness as a core part of my personality. This means that the prospect of losing depression altogether is almost like losing a part of myself, or a friend. Both you and I need to be acutely aware of this trick sneaking in, as it can result in subtle self-sabotage, such as not committing to the right medical treatment out of a fear that it will ‘change me.’
#6: I can still have good days
“Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.” – Alice Morse Earle
Because I have depression it doesn’t mean that every day is going to be terrible. And when I have a good day it doesn’t mean that everything is cured. I want you to celebrate the good days with me but don’t let either of us get too attached to them.
11 MORE Things People With Depression Want You To Understand (MUST WATCH!)
Letting someone know how they can help
Ask me what you can do to help. This is the most effective but often the most overlooked strategy. Just ask me! I might not know straight away, but an idea may come up in the next day or two or three. It also lays the foundation for me being comfortable enough to ask you when something does come up.
Watch out for and counteract the lies that depression tells me. Those sneaky lies above will come back again and again and again. I will ruminate over and over, and it will be hard to stop. It’s your job to outsource your healthy mind to me so I can know when I’m being tricked, but understand that this requires a lot of trust.
Acknowledge my experience. If I express my train of thought, you can respect how and why I might be thinking that way, but also explain how someone who isn’t currently depressed may think about it.
Don’t be scared to apologize. Don’t be afraid to say sorry if you feel you’ve said the wrong thing. Let me know that you’re not a clinical psychologist and that you’re trying your best to try and understand the situation, you’re only human and you make mistakes too.
Be patient. Patience is important because as much as I want to permanently overcome depression, my brain may have structural and biochemical differences which means even if I overcome it this time, I’ll probably experience it again. 50% of those who experience one episode will have another, whilst 80% of those who have two episodes will have a third.
How To Explain Depression to a Child
Explaining depression to a child is a challenge because it requires carefully considering their perspective. Children are often smarter than we give them credit for, but they do have limited, somewhat naive world-views, so introducing something as serious as depression can be difficult. The last thing you want to do is create unnecessary anxiety for them.
Here are some tips:
Speak to them on their level. Kids may not have the same emotional vocabulary as you. To help them understand it’s useful to use analogies and examples that are relevant to their world. Think about where they may have been exposed to sadness, maybe in cartoons or movies, at school, or through friends.
Be specific. When faced with uncertainty children will pick up on emotional cues from adults. Because you might be feeling down, the child may interpret the situation as negative or wrong and react with fear. Try to be clear about what is going on and what that means for them and most importantly, normalise it. Let them know this is something people go through and that’s ok.
Reassure them. After having a somewhat serious conversation with a child, they may be a little confused and scared. Calm them down and let them know that everything is going to be ok, some things might just be changing, as they always do.
How To Explain Depression to Your Partner
When people are in a relationship they tend to become intertwined. The most common reaction to depression in one partner is the other partner assuming they’ve done something wrong or that they’re deficient in some way. It’s important to clear the air and minimise anxieties so you can work as a team and not two anxious individuals.
Here are some tips:
Make them know it’s not about them. Because this is likely their first anxiety, it is the most important thing to do. Explain why depression happens and how it can be outside of either partner’s control.
Be clear about both of your needs. Relationships evolve and change with the people in them. To make sure the emotional adjustments don’t bring any unnecessary friction, be clear about how your emotions may be changing during this time, how this may impact your needs and theirs.
Show appreciation. Lastly, it’s important to show how much you care about your partner. Although it’s difficult for you at this time, it’s also difficult for them, and it’s important that you show them that you see that.
How To Explain Depression to Parents
Like children and partners, many parents are highly emotionally invested in how we feel. That’s why the process of describing depression to them also needs a little bit of extra consideration.
Here are some tips:
Let them know it’s not their fault. Some parents may look at the emotions of their children as their responsibility, so your depression may be an interpretation by them as a failure on their part. Be clear about the multitude of factors that may you to be dissatisfied with your life.
Try to manage their anxieties. When something is wrong that’s out of their control, this might cause a sense of panic, particularly in overprotective parents. Address their worries and fears directly and talk about any worst-case scenarios they may have running through their head.
Give them clear instructions. Tell them exactly what they can do to help you. This might just be being available to listen to your struggles or it could mean the financial help to pay for a therapist or medication.
Have you ever had an itch that you just can’t seem to scratch?
Maybe it’s just out of reach, maybe your hands were tied behind your back, or maybe you did scratch it, but it just kept on coming back.
In the beginning it’s just uncomfortable, but after a while, it’s almost like a form of torture.
But this itch doesn’t need to be physical. Sometimes it’s psychological. This discomfort is the same feeling we get when we can’t get something off our mind. When no matter how much we try to avoid it, this thought just keeps on popping up and playing itself over and over again.
Whether we’re thinking about someone we used to know, a future event we’re worried about, or an imaginary argument with a coworker, as time goes on this thing on our mind starts to bring us a lot of discomfort.
At a certain point, what we want is to be done with it. To let it go and bring our attention to something else.
To understand how to get something off your mind, you need to understand how the mind works. Although it’s an incredibly complex piece of machinery, there are certain general attitudes that the mind seems to follow, which we can use as principles to guide our behaviour. We could even think about these attitudes as different goals or personalities.
The mind is:
A problem-solving machine. Because evolution has allowed us to develop a mind for problem-solving, it always wants a new idea to ‘figure out.’ Where there are no problems it will create one.
An addict. The mind finds what it likes and it sticks to it. Worries are addictive because they give the mind something to chew on.
A fake scientist. The mind likes to believe it uses flawless logic to study the world. At the same time, it will often act in incredibly irrational and unscientific ways (like creating fake scenarios and playing them on loop for hours). You can use this to your advantage though. By proving the mind wrong, it will lose momentary interest.
A reflection of the body. The mind follows the body. Quite simply, when you are sick and in pain, you don’t have the same thoughts you have when you’re healthy.
A reflection of emotions. Emotions may be considered psychological, but they happen in the body first and foremost. Over 130 studies have shown that even intentionally changing your facial expressions – such as smiling – can change the thoughts you have.
Not reality. The mind likes to draw maps of reality. When we forget that our thoughts are just interpretations of reality, we can get caught in mind traps that are hard to get out of.
So, now that you have some idea of how the mind tends to function, you have some context for the ways to stop thinking about something. Once you test these out you’ll see that some of them are more difficult to begin with but more effective in the long term.
For example, take the thought “I’ll never be able to write a book .”
This is an example of polarised thinking (also known as black-and-white thinking). It could be reframed as “I don’t feel I can write a book now, but maybe in the future, I’ll be more confident in my writing.”
The mind loves novelty and drama. If you have something that you can’t take your mind off, it’s basically your brain’s way of choosing the most interesting channel on the internal TV. If you can find something that’s a bigger, better, more exciting and hopefully healthier way for your mind to play with, then try and focus on that. That’s why it is good to find a hobby, hobbies keep us engaged and leave less space for us to learn how to stop caring so much about things that aren’t that important.
#8. Convince your mind that you’re bored of it.
This is very hard to do, but if you can master the art of indifference, you’ll be free from a lot of stress. One way to do that is to look at the thought until it simply becomes boring, though for people with serious anxiety, this is very challenging. Another is to recall the thought that’s stressing you, and to intentionally feel a sense of boredom when you do so. This will condition your mind to associate boredom with the thought and through time it will be given less energy.
#7. Move towards it
Similar to the point above, this is difficult. However, it’s useful to consider that it’s actually the avoidance of a thought that makes the mind say “oh this must be interesting if I’m using all this effort to avoid it.” When the thought is looked at honestly, such as in therapy or while journaling, the mind labels that story complete and boring, and moves onto something else.
#6. Challenge it
This isn’t always a long term solution, nor is it effective in the midst of very strong feelings. However, proving to your mind why something is wrong is one way to lessen its grip over you. For example, if you’re worried about someone having judged you for something you said or did, you can slowly and logically look at the situation. Are they really judging me? Isn’t it more likely that they’re actually indifferent? What would actually happen if I said the wrong thing? Have situations like this been forgotten in the past?
#5. Make it worse
To make something worse requires a little bit of skill. First, you need to be reasonable. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or anything that puts you in danger, you don’t want to make it worse. Second, you need to be able to focus on the feeling of discomfort associated with the thought. If you can’t stop thinking about what someone texted you, you can focus on this sensation – maybe butterflies in your stomach – and try to enhance it. You’ll see that in doing so your resistance to the thought seems to drop away, and although it may not be a nice experience, you’re not in danger like your mind would have you believe.
#4. Love it unconditionally
To love something unconditionally is to appreciate it exactly as it is. Again, this is not easy. But where you can find compassion for your thoughts and feelings, you can find love. You might not like your thoughts, but you can be sure they’re your brain’s way of trying to protect you.
#3. Get into the body
If you don’t believe that the body governs the mind, try this. Think of a worry, something that feels heavy, something that won’t go away. Now go and exhaust your body – even just 10 minutes quick running on a treadmill will do. When your legs start burning, or you start to get out of breath, try to think about your worry.
#2. Slow your breathing down
In meditation and yoga, the breath is fundamental. Breathe is the root of life, and the way we breathe influences the entire nervous system, as well as the body, emotions and thoughts. Slow, deep breathing will slow the mind and create calm thoughts, quick, unbalanced breathing, will signal to your brain that it needs oxygen because it is in danger. There are a ton of other benefits to deep breathing which I’ve covered in detail before.
#1. Do something creative
Most people are familiar with the brain lateralization – the fact we have a right brain and left brain which each perform overlapping but distinct functions. The left side of the brain seems to be more focused on problem-solving, which can lend itself to obsessive thoughts and rumination. The right side of the brain is more open, intuitive and creative. That’s why art can be therapeutic, it gets us into the right side of our brain.
It’s not always easy to get something off your mind. No matter how much will power or focus we have, there are certain psychological tendencies that can keep pulling us back. That’s why these techniques have been designed to go with the flow of the mind, rather than fight against it.
What experience do you have trying to get something off your mind? Let me know in the comments!
“Life is like a boxing match, defeat is declared not when you fall, but when you refuse to stand again.” – Kristen Ashley
Everybody has had the experience of feeling defeated and discouraged. There is a universal resonance with the story of the hero who was down and out, ready to quit and give up. It’s natural, we’re all human beings.
The word defeat comes from the Old French desfait, meaning to undo, to reduce to near nothing. When we feel like we’ve lost something, our energy is drained, and it is this lack of eagerness that we feel when we say we are defeated. But just because we feel defeated, it doesn’t mean that we are. Our energy naturally ebbs and flows, and while your brain might tell you that you want to quit one day, it’s likely to turn around after a good night sleep and say something completely different.
Feeling defeated means that first and foremost you have something you were up against and you lost. This may be a goal, a relationship, a health problem, school, work, or any other challenge.
To be defeated means that you have a sense that you’re down and out. The challenge in front may even appear to be insurmountable. Remember, the feeling is not the fact. Just because you experience an emotion it doesn’t make it a reality. For example, when the body is sick we often find ourselves impatient, negative and close-minded. The same is happening when you are exhausted, your mind starts to create images of a version of you that has lost.
For that reason, it’s important to stay motivated. To read positive quotes and be inspired by people who have overcome the same challenges that you’re going through.
The following quotes and sayings, should you be willing to look deeply into their meaning, will help you to see things from a new perspective, and hopefully inspire you to push on and keep going.
Quotes about feeling defeated in life
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The world isn’t sunshine and rainbows. It’ll beat you down if you let it, and nothing hits harder than life.” – Rocky Balboa
“I accept this defeat with humility and courage, and I welcome the next challenge with open arms.” – Anonymous
“Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.” – Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali was widely considered one of the greatest boxers of all time, but even he suffered several loses. The difference is, he never chose to take any individual defeat as final. Ali always waited till he regained his strength and came back to face his challenges even after his loss to Leon Spinks, even after being stripped of his boxing license for opposing the Vietnam War.
“Perhaps someday I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.” – Sylvia Plath
“We are never defeated unless we give up on God.” – Ronald Reagan
“Setbacks in life are opportunities to perform at a new level.” – Willian Cranch Bond
“The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” – Rainer Mike Rilke
“Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
“In the end, everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end.” – Fernando Sabino
How do I get over a defeat?
Getting over a defeat requires patience, time and focus. Here are five tips to help you overcome a setback.
Define the enemy. When we say that we feel defeated we are presuming there is something that has defeated us. If we don’t even know what that thing is, it means that we don’t have clarity over our emotions. Sit down and really meditate on why you feel this way. Did you get rejected at a job interview? Are you trying to work on a project but you can’t muster the energy? What it is that has you feeling beaten?
Define failure and success. If you have now decided that you feel defeated, then you need to define what success and failure looks like. Take for example the case feeling like a loser at work. What does success at work mean to you? What does failure mean? How can you try and win when you don’t even know what it is that you are losing?
Reframe Your Situation. When we feel like giving up, like we’ve lost and no longer have the energy to continue, it’s important to take a step back and get some new perspective. Instead of saying, I’ve lost. Say, I feel defeat today, but tomorrow is another opportunity to get back on the horse.
Paint a picture of what success looks like. You cannot move forward without knowing which way to go. Once you’ve defined what success looks like, paint a clear image of the scenario in your mind. Some people call this positive visualisation. Your mind is attracted to what it knows, play a successful scenario in your head over and over, like a musician rehearsing a performance, and you’ll start to unconsciously gravitate towards optimism.
Inspirational quotes about feeling defeated
“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.” – Marcus Garvey
“Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful.” – Zig Ziglar
“The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” – Chinese Proverb
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.” – Nelson Mandela
“True defeat only happens if you stop. If you never stop, you’re never truly defeated.” – Anonymous
“He knows not his own strength who hath not met adversity.” – William Samuel Johnson
“Defeat your fears and you can never be defeated.” – Jeffrey Fry
“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” – Marilyn vos Savant
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man, true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway
“See any time you feel pained or defeated, it is only because you insist on clinging to what doesn’t work. Dare to let go and you won’t lose a thing except for a punishing idea.” – Guy Finley
“The defeat in your head is not the same as the defeat in your heart. If your head tells you to stop, try listening to your heart.” – Anonymous
“The gospel is for the defeated, not the dominant.” – Tullian Tchividjian
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
How do I stop myself from discouraging myself?
When a strong emotion catches hold of us it can create habit patterns in our mind. For example, negative emotions can create the habit of feeling like you’re not good enough. Unfortunately, there’s only one way to overcome the habit of discouraging yourself; do the opposite. You need to positively encourage yourself, over and over again.
Quotes for when you feel like giving up and quitting
“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.” – Steve Jobs
“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” – Og Mandino
“Tough times never last. Tough people do.” – Robert Schuller
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong
“When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better we can bear a hardship today.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
“When you feel too positive to be doubtful, too optimistic to be fearful, and too determined to be defeated, you are undeniably on the way to success.” – Dr Prem Jagyasi
“But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Ernest Hemingway
“Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits.” – Richard M. Nixon
“You are not a victim. No matter what you have been through, you’re still here. You may have been challenged, hurt, betrayed, beaten, and discouraged, but nothing has defeated you. You are still here! You have been delayed but not denied. You are not a victim, you are a victor. You have a history of victory.” – Steve Maraboli
When You Feel Like Giving Up
Bible quotes about feeling defeated
The themes of battle, victory and defeat run consistently throughout the bible. Whether you are Christian, Jewish, agnostic, or atheist, you may still be able to find comfort in these words which have served so many people in history.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crush; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” – Corinthians 4:8
“For we live by faith, not by sight.” – Corinthians 5:7
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” – Thessalonians 2:11-12
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” – Lamentations 3:22
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.” – Corinthians 16:13
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” – Psalm 34:19
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Romans 8:31
“Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” – Hebrews 10:35-56
“Taste and see that the Lord is god; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8
When You Feel Like Quitting
Want More Inspirational Quotes From Project Monkey Mind?
Maybe you’re an empath and caring comes naturally. Maybe what you care about seems to have some control over you and it’s difficult to let go. Whatever the case, caring too much is no longer serving you, and you want to no longer care.
But how do you do it, how do you not care?
Well, to start you need to ask some questions of yourself, and the first question to ask is actually pretty obvious.
Why do I care so much?
It’s painful, right? A part of you clearly wants to let go of this worry. You’re tired of thinking about the relationship, the ex, the anxiety over your work, the concerns about what people think about you. But even though you want to stop caring about these things, on some level you’re still chasing them. They’re still occupying too much space in your mind. Draining you, day by day.
There are a number of reasons you continue to care, but let’s take one from evolutionary psychology; the modular mind.
See, different parts of the brain link together to make up a series of networks. Each of these networks have different drives or goals, also known as different modules. Because the aims of these modules can contradict each other, you end up in self-conflict.
Take for example the issue of a toxic relationship. Your drive for security (for yourself) can seemingly push you away from your partner, while your drive for care (for the other) can push you towards them. You have a natural empathetic drive to help and protect, and you don’t want to hurt the other person, but by staying in the relationship you’re keeping yourself in a state of insecurity and anxiety. It’s a catch-22.
When you care too much, it means you have a strong attachment to whatever you are fixating on. Fortunately, our brains are, at least partly, rational. By going through each of our attachments, and the drives that are creating them, we can convince our brains that we don’t actually need to keep caring about the thing that’s troubling us. Less care = less investment, less investment = less energy wasted. When we are drained of energy we feel low, when that feeling becomes persistent, we call that depression.
To truly not care about what people think, you need to go through your worries, one by one. We’re deeply social creatures, so the most intense attachments we have are almost always personal relationships. The stronger we feel for someone and the longer we’ve known them, the more intensely we seem to care, and the more power they seem to have over us.
“If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”
I’ve come up with seven steps to not caring that are based on principles of psychology and neuroscience. It’s good if you can go through these with a pen and paper and take notes on what comes up. If not, just thinking about it or talking about it with someone (or yourself) will also be useful.
7 Ways To Stop Caring
Recognise that you care. If you don’t even know that you care, it’s pretty hard to stop caring – you’ll simply be in a state of resistance or denial.
Recognise why you care. There are a whole host of valid reasons why you care and we touched on some of the psychological and biological ones earlier. Try and see how your brain, body and life experiences might be causing you to care too much.
Accept why you care and that you care.Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is based on opening up and welcoming unpleasant feelings in order to prevent our minds from becoming fixated. When we avoid the fact that we care, we are actually signalling to our brain that what we (unconsciously) care about is worth the energy invested in avoiding in!
Identify reasons why it makes more sense not to care. This is where we bring in our rational mind to start to convince the brain that it’s actually more beneficial for us to not invest so much energy in worrying about this thing.
Remind yourself of these reasons frequently. When you’ve gone a long time caring about something, there is a reconditioning that needs to take place in order to reverse the habit.
Condition yourself to relax every time you notice yourself worrying too much. This could actually be number one on this list. Caring about something is largely held in tension in the body. The more you can relax, the less of a grip strong emotions have over you, it’s that simple.
Practice the art of ‘not caring.’ Not caring isn’t just a vague attitude, it’s actually something we embody with our actions, feelings and eventually our thoughts. Put yourself in situations that show that you don’t care, and sooner or later your mind will follow suit – fake it till you make it.
How To Stop Caring About Someone
This is a real challenge. Other people can often feel like a part of us, so letting them go is like losing a part of ourselves. Something you may want to consider when going through the steps above is to look at what this person represents for you. What need are they fulfilling? Could it be fulfilled in another way? For example, maybe you want to care less about the negative comments your boss makes, but you know she holds power over your income – so there’s a sense of security invested in her.
How To Stop Caring In A Relationship (or about your ex)
A romantic relationship is one of the strongest attachments we have, because it represents so much to our personality, our sense of self and our survival. A big way to break out of the habit of caring for someone is to put yourself in situations where you rely on your independence to solve problems.
How To Stop Caring What People Think Of You
Almost everyone is concerned with how they are perceived in social situations, at least to some extent. One way to stop caring what people think of you is to recognise why it’s better to not be so worried about it. A lot of the times our ideas about what people think about us are completely out of line with what they actually think. Also, their ideas (like ours) are constantly changing, so it doesn’t make any sense to try to obsessively manage your social image.
How To Stop Caring About Work
Work, like relationships, represent a lot for many of us. What we do for work is, in some ways, who we are. It’s what we do every day, it’s how many others may judge our success and worth, and it’s how we provide for ourselves and our families. So how to not care about work? First of all, try and be relaxed as possible at work. We naturally get tense in uncomfortable situations and that tricks our minds into caring more than is necessary. Another important thing to consider is to accept that you are emotionally invested in your work, but recognise that it doesn’t define you. Try to look for other ways that some of the needs that are met by our work might be fulfilled with other things in our life.
Ok, so there you have it, a comprehensive guide that shows you how to stop caring. Mind you, while it is simple, it’s not easy. A large part of stopping the incessant worry is simply practice over and over again. Practicing accepting why you care, that you care, and practice the art of not caring.
What are you caring too much about? How have you learned to not care? Drop a comment below and let us know, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
It was 2011, and I was staring at my bedroom wall. My mind was empty. But not empty in a clear, focused, meditative way. It was just dull. It was like someone had gone into my brain, turned down the colours and muffled the volume a little bit. I was sick and tired of my life and deeply exhausted.
The thought of standing up and going to make lunch was weighing down on me. Literally. The idea itself felt heavy. It physically felt like getting up to prepare some food was going to take all the strength I could muster. All I could think of was how exhausted I was.
“I’m Sick and Tired of Everything in My Life.”
I was tired of my life. Sick and tired of people. Sick of being depressed and constantly feeling tired. Tired of everything.
I picked up the phone to call a psychologist. I couldn’t do this anymore.
It rang once – I quickly hung up.
“I don’t need any help!” I naively told myself. But I did, I definitely did. It was about to be the worst week of my life.
I picked up the phone again, it rang twice – I hung up.
“Sh*t! I need to do this I thought.”
Again I dialled the number. It rang once. Twice. Three times.
Actually, I’ll come back to that in a second….
Let’s go back. Well, forward I guess. Let’s go forward to what I know now, and back to what I was missing then.
I’m Tired of Life
Typically, when we’re tired of everything, it’s not because of one single event. It’s usually the effect of a number of different experiences or situations that tire us out just a little bit. The cumulative weight of each of these saps our energy until we are exhausted. Exhaustion is uncomfortable, and the minds translates this discomfort as “I’m sick of life.” Also, interpersonal relations are a huge emotional investment, which is often why we become so tired of people. This is made worse when it’s hard to explain how we’re feeling when we’re depressed.
To restore balance and overcome our exhaustion we need to make some adjustments in our life. Most of these changes are small, and some, where necessary, are big – and all of them make a difference.
The following 6 suggestions are the most important to consider when you’re sick of life.
What to do when you’re tired of everything?
Tired of this world?
When we get tired of life, one of the mistakes we can make is to compare ourselves to others. It’s easy to look at those who appear motivated and driven, and start to wonder why the same attitude doesn’t come so easily to us. If we take this a step further, we may believe that other people have some huge meaning driving their actions, and even this is exactly where we’re lacking.
Enter the find-your-passion culture.
The last twenty years have seen media and entertainment littered with the message that we all need to find passion and purpose. We need to do something meaningful and leave an imprint on the world.
Not only is this idea unrealistic, but it can create a lot of anxiety. Telling someone they need to find a world-changing passion to get them out of bed in the morning is like telling them they need to drink a $400 bottle of Kona Nigari Water every time they need quench their thirst. Maybe there are a handful of people out there actually doing it, but you’ll get almost the same result by continuously sipping filtered tap water.
So what should you do? Find micro-meanings. This means you find something that is meaningful ‘enough’ to drive you to the action. Nothing more. You don’t need to be driven by a purpose that will hold value over your entire lifetime, you just need something that is worthy enough of taking the first step.
Apply for one new job because there is enough purpose in the potential pay increase to submit the application.
Start a diet for one day because you’re motivated enough to see how it goes.
Go for a ten-minute run today because you’ll feel better after getting outside.
It’s very rare that someone who is successful and driven found a purpose that lit a fire under them overnight. What happens 99% of the time is that these people have built momentum over years and years by continuously focusing on what was right in front of them.
Find a micro-meaning that is enough to take the first step towards building momentum – don’t look for a magic reason to change your situation.
How to get started:
List 5 things you want out of your life right now.
Break them into the smallest possible step you can imagine.
Write down why you would be motivated to do each of these 5 tiny-steps.
Choose one to do immediately.
Constantly feeling tired?
Replenish Your Energy Levels
We are both physical and mental beings. A lot of the time when we say we are tired of life, we do so with the conviction that it’s impossible to find meaning or purpose in our situation. The reality, on the other hand, may just be that our bodies and brains are simply in need of rest.
There are a number of ways to improve your energy levels. A lot of the time when we get sleepy during the day, it’s because we aren’t respecting our bodies natural rhythms or we are eating the wrong kinds of foods, or more commonly, too much food. Counterintuitively, restricting your diet with intermittent fasting can improve vitality by reducing the amount of energy our digestive system needs to spend.
There are countless ways you can optimise your energy
Drink more water
Optimise caffeine intake
Optimise your sleep
Change your diet
Practice Intermittent Fasting
To look at these in more detail, check out this article on supercharging your energy.
How to get started:
Track your energy level every 3 hours for 3 to 7 days (the longer the better). You can simply write a number out of 10, and if you’d like, 1-2 sentences about how you feel if you’d like.
Pick ONE thing that you could do to replenish your energy levels.
Introduce this new habit and continue to track your energy levels for 7 days.
Watch for a difference, and if you don’t find it helps you can leave it be. Though do your research, some changes may take longer for the benefits to kick in.
Keep trying new things every week and seeing what works best for you.
Only try ONE thing at a time to ensure that you know which change is having a positive impact.
Too Tired To Care?
Emphasise the right Motivation
There’s a good general rule when it comes to what you want in your life. The more an idea is talked about by a mass audience, the more it becomes shrouded in ambiguity and the more we lack a clear definition of what it truly is. The result is that we may end up chasing something that we 1. Don’t understand and 2. Wouldn’t want if we did understand.
Here are some perfect examples:
Unless we define these terms clearly, we may not actually know what we want.
To one person happiness means having a stable situation and avoiding excessive negative emotion, to another it means having an abundance of rich experiences, even if that means a lot of stress. To another, health may mean being comfortable with their body image, competing at a high level in their sport, or simply avoiding regular illness.
Case in point – as I write this, the first paragraph of the Wikipedia page for motivation has the following quote “an individual is not motivated by another individual. Motivation comes from within the individual.”
Who is to say that that’s the case? A significant part of our drives as humans are social, and we’re constantly being influenced by one another. It’s clear then that there is already a lot of ambiguity around the idea of motivation.
So let’s define motivation as it relates to being tired of life.
A very simple and clean definition is that motivation is a reason behind your drives and actions. It’s very common for someone to say ‘I’m not motivated” but that’s somewhat of an oxymoron, because, using this definition, to move is to be motivated. Even in the deepest of depressions a part of us still motivated to breathe air and go to the bathroom. You’ve been motivated enough to read this article this far.
So you need to find the reasons behind your actions.
How to get started:
What you really mean when you say “I’m not motivated” is that you’re not driven by what you would like to drive you and in the direction you would like it to drive you.
So what you really want to ask is
What do I want to be motivated to do?
Why do I really want to be motivated to do that? (you may want to ask this question 2 or 3 times to get to the real motivation)
How can I emphasise the reason behind that motivation?
What do I want to be motivated to do? I want to be motivated to go for runs five days a week.
Why do I really want to be motivated to do that? So I can feel healthy.
How can I emphasise the reason behind that motivation? Write down five ways in which confidence can improve my life and five ways that I’ve displayed confidence in the past.
Remember that a lot of untangling motivations comes down to clarifying what we want by repeatedly asking questions. We are motivated by dozens or even hundreds of different beliefs or ideas that we have about the world, and once we are more aware of these, we can use them to our advantage.
Understanding how motivation works can be amazingly useful. If you’ve got a minute to spare I highly recommending watching this video by ASAP Science.
Sick of Everything?
The human brain, in some ways, functions like a camera. We’re constantly needing to zoom in and out, depending on the context, to make sure we get things done. For example, when you’re at work, you need to act in a way that the project you’re working on is the number one priority in your life, otherwise you won’t dedicate the time and energy to it. However, this doesn’t mean it is the number one priority, it doesn’t mean its more important than your family for example.
Imagine a businessman who dedicates a lot of time to his job, to provide for his family. He succeeds and they live a comfortable life. But he’s still so zoomed in on the work, that he’s lost perspective around how important his family is, and he unknowingly starts to neglect them.
Sometimes we simply lose sight of what matters. We focus on our body image because we know it will improve our confidence, but then we improve our body image, become slightly more confident, but continue to be focused on improving how we look.
The same thing happens with worries and concerns we ruminate on.
How much money do I have?
Am I in the right job?
How can I improve my relationship?
Do I feel passionate enough about my life?
These are valid concerns to have in certain moments, but we need to ‘zoom out’ every once in a while and place them in the context of our entire life.
How to get started:
Write down three things that are frustrating you about life right now.
Try to look at things that you’ve focused on for a long time and may have lost perspective over – the more time we spend on something, the more we tend to lose perspective.
Rewrite them from the perspective of 1. Your most negative self and 2. Your most positive self
Realise that you have a choice in what perspective you take on your circumstances
Life is Exhausting
You Must Find Structure!
People rarely understand just how important structure is to energy levels. When we don’t have a solid structure or schedule, it’s hard for our bodies and brains to know when to exert energy and when not to. When you don’t wake up at the same time every day, or you inconsistently take naps during the afternoon, this can be very detrimental to your body’s natural rhythm.
We see this commonly with people who want to retire, but when they do so and their days no longer have structure, they may have an emotional slump.
How to get started:
At the end of each day, write down three things you NEED to do tomorrow.
If you’re not currently employed, these can be absolutely anything, but you need to take them as seriously as you would an important work project.
Split your day into three sections, all focused on these activities. Fill in the gap with smaller activities.
Tired of People?
Time To Find REAL Love
Finding love doesn’t necessarily mean falling in love in the Disney-esque romantic sense. You don’t want to simply find another attachment. My definition of love is that it covers three things. Attention: when we love something, we direct our attention towards it and become aware of its subtleties. Affection: the object of love receives positive emotions from us. Action: we act in a way that expresses our love.
If you can find a partner that you love, great. But you can also begin to practice loving what you already have in your life; sports, music, relationships, hobbies, foods, movies etc.
If you love cooking, you will: 1. pay close attention to the ingredients as you prepare a meal, 2. do so with a good attitude, 3. make cooking a priority in your life.
If you love your children, you will: 1. Pay close attention to your children, their likes and dislikes, 2. Express affection towards them, 3. Act in a way that is in their best interest.
Carl Jung said:
“What did you do as a child that made the hours pass like minutes? Herein lies the key to your earthly pursuits.”
When we are in love with our work, relationships, or hobbies, we fall into the flow state more naturally and more frequently. In fact, the flow state has been found to be one of the most significant predictors of a happy life.
How to get started:
Finding something to fall in love with is probably the most difficult task on this list. However, there are a couple of things you can do to make it come a little easier. Be open-minded. When something interests you, give it a try. A lot of the time we don’t realise how much we will enjoy something until we have some experience with it. Practice concentration meditation. This will help you accumulation new knowledge and skills quicker, and fall into the flow state more consistently. Commit to something. Some things we don’t like at first simply take time, commit to something for a few weeks and if you don’t like it, try something else.
BONUS: How I Got Over the Worst Week of My Life
So where were we? Oh, that’s right.
“I don’t need any help!” I naively told myself. But I did, I definitely did. It was about to be the worst week of my life.
I picked up the phone again, it rang twice – I hung up.
“Sh*t! I need to do this I thought.”
Again I dialled the number. It rang once. Twice. Three times.
“…H-Hello?” I mustered.
But before anyone could even answer, my pride swiftly returned. I hung up.
“I don’t need ANYONE’S help!” Yes, I did, yes I definitely did.
My parents were going through a separation, I was three years into a degree that I realised I didn’t want, I had an active social life but was feeling incredibly lonely, I had no idea what to do with my life, and persistent injuries were keeping me from exercising.
I didn’t book the appointment with the psychologist that day. But I needed it. A lot was going on in my life at the time. I was barely coping.
And then the straw that broke the camel’s back.
24 hours after I hung up that phone, a friend of mine was in a car crash – and he didn’t make it.
It was a shock to the system that I couldn’t seem to shake. My emotional wellbeing seemed to spiral down. I couldn’t focus at university, I wasn’t hungry, I was exhausted, I was getting headaches and stomach aches, and I was extremely tired of my life. I spent six months I was just going through the motions.
In the end, I did see a psychologist (but that’s a story for another day), and I managed to get enough momentum to pull myself out of that slump.
Here are ways that I took the above ideas to heart:
I ate healthily and made myself to go to the gym. (Replenished Energy Levels)
If I had interest in anything at all, even for 5 minutes, I read about it. (Micro-meanings)
I constantly journaled, looking deeply at what I really wanted out of life. (Right Motivation)
I watched lots of documentaries about people who had dealt with hardships and overcome them. (Perspective)
I made sure I new overslept or took naps, and allowed myself leisure time every night at the same time. (Structure)
I didn’t find real love in this time, but I read a book by Stephen Batchelor called Buddhism Without Beliefs, which would spark my deep interest in spirituality and completely change the way I saw the world.
These examples may not work for you, but if you can apply these principles to your own life, you’ll be able to find new energy and vitality that can help to turn around feelings of exhaustion and get the necessary momentum to change your life.