Hustling can make you feel grand.
You’re productive, you’re on a roll, you get things done, bam! You keep yourself busy day after day, you tick off your to-do lists, and every completed task is one inevitable step closer to death.
Death? Why are you dragging death into this? I hear you say.
Well, the reason is simple — because you’re going the die. This is today’s reminder that with every breath you take, you lower the total count until one day you won’t have any to-do lists left to tick off. You’ll only have that one last breath.
It doesn’t have to be. All I’m doing right now is throwing away all the distractions that are jumping at you every single day, all the activities you engage in to forget about your eventual demise as well as your present state of living. I’m clearing the space. I’m bringing the focus back to you.
Breathe in, breathe out, you know the gist.
It feels nice to just be for a second. Humans have more than 6000 thoughts per day. That’s a lot. Our minds are constantly cluttered with so much rubbish, so many worries about the future or regrets about the past.
When we keep busy, we don’t have to think about all that, at least not actively. We throw our focus into the ether, grabbing onto any task that comes our way in order to just get on with the day.
You flow through life, carrying on, running away from boredom as if it was some sort of plague, and you rarely dive inside. You spend all your energy on the outside world.
Who has time to really dig deep into the core of who you are?
And there’s the answer: You do.
When I was writing down what I wanted to achieve this year, it slowly dawned on me that a simple list of real-world achievements won’t do the trick. It will certainly make me move forward on my journey in life, but how much of it will properly add to my happiness?
How much of it will solve my anger issues? Make me stop having ruminating thoughts? Deal with my relationship problems? Love my body more?
You guessed it. Precisely zero.
That’s when I realized that this year, what I really want to do is to…slow…down.
I want to take some time for myself every day. I want to take the effort that I put into engaging with the outside world and I want to pump it into what’s going on inside me — because that’s where everything that happens in my life comes from.
That’s where I generate my outlook on life, where I handle my emotions (somewhat unsuccessfully), where I cause my own suffering and create my own peacefulness.
When you think about it, it’s ridiculous that we spend so little time on healing our minds and properly analyzing what’s up when it’s literally the most important thing in our lives.
It’s time to change that. It’s time to take a long and hard look at yourself. And it’s time to invest in your mental well-being, to prioritise it, to study it, to focus on it regularly.
Here are a few ideas on how to do that. The headlines might be common knowledge, but how you conduct the practice itself is the key.
Express Your Emotions Genuinely
I think the root of my anger issues lies in the fact that I’ve never properly expressed my raging emotions. I always let it fester, quietly and patiently, until I became this quiet ball of suppressed anger that occasionally kicks into something with a whispered “Ugh!”
There are many feelings we push down in order to avoid conflict, causing a scene or having to explain ourselves to people. Unfortunately, that’s just what life in a society is — we should be polite and as nice as possible to some extent, even when we don’t feel like it, because other people might have nothing to do with our cranky mood. They don’t deserve your rage.
But you do. You deserve to express your genuine emotions. To own them.
Letting it out relieves you of the pressure of having kept it in for such a long time. It empties you of all the toxic waste and it lets you heal better.
Recently, I’ve started punching the air in an empty room when I feel angry. I punch and kick and shake and look like an idiot, but it’s an effective way of pouring the anger into the world without hurting anybody.
Exercise might also help, as well as screaming somewhere far away from civilization — when I finally do that, I’ll let you know how it went.
I bet it’ll be marvelous.
Journal in the Right Way
There’s journaling that doesn’t help anything, and then there’s journaling that can transform your life.
The first one works thus: You write about your day, about some of the feelings you’ve had, you mention what happened to you, what you want to do tomorrow, stuff like that.
The latter one is different. Sure, you can write about real-life events. The key here is to analyze the feelings that you have regarding it. Trace them to psychological behavior, to patterns, to your childhood. Look for the reasons that hide behind the obvious.
For example, I’ve journaled about how I’ve had recurring scenarios in my head where someone hurts me, and I leave. I thought it was just about abandonment issues, maybe about not having my feelings acknowledged well enough. Thanks to journaling and a further discussion with my partner, I realized it’s about power.
I go from being powerless to being powerful. To having control.
Since I realized this, I haven’t had such scenarios poison my mind. They’ve disappeared. I dug out the core of the issue, I looked it straight in the face and a lightbulb switched on in my brain.
Learning about yourself through journaling can do wonders for your healing journey. The simple act of knowing why you do what you do can make the habit itself go away because you suddenly understand and have more compassion for yourself.
Practise Daily Mindfulness
What do you do when you eat?
Two years ago, I started watching something every single time I eat a meal. A YouTube video, a TV show, a film, you name it.
It was a nice distraction and it killed the time, but what this habit has done is that it’s taken the focus away from my eating experience and directed it at yet another activity to keep myself busy. I didn’t think about the food I was eating. I munched on it fast without thinking.
The same applies to other activities — washing in the bath, doing the dishes, walking in nature. You don’t have to focus on just that one activity every single time you do it, however, it’s very grounding to fully focus on your body movements once in a while.
It makes you appreciate the present moment, it calms you down and it makes the task less of a bother, more of an interesting experience.
I like to have such moments every day if possible. I focus on my breath and my body, and I cherish what it feels like to be alive on a planet full of life.
It’s cliché, but not all cliché is bad. Some of it is actually really helpful if you open yourself up to it. Appreciating the present moment every day can make you go from a busy typhoon with anger issues to a calmer and more content human being.
Notice the small moments and the details. The beauty is all there.
Find a Relaxing Hobby
Many of us engage in challenging activities all the time. We work, we study, we plan grocery shopping and we estimate how much longer we can go without doing the laundry.
Doing something that lets your mind relax is absolutely refreshing.
Recently, I’ve taken up crocheting and I’ve fallen in love with it. The simple act of letting my fingers create a piece of clothing makes me feel creative and happy. The hobby itself can be challenging in terms of learning it, but as soon as your fingers remember the moves, everything becomes automatic.
Your mind can rest while your body creates something wonderful. The same can apply to yoga, exercise, coloring, or gardening. Find your own relaxing hobby. Turn off for a bit while also doing something that’s healthy and creative.
The world is busy. It’s totally understandable to forget about your own self for a bit because you’re caught up in all the mess that’s going on in your life.
However, trying to bring the focus back to yourself even for five minutes a day can drastically improve your life. It brings about gratitude, inner peace, and a fresh outlook on things.
It lets you see that whatever happens, you’re still a human being with a limited lifespan that’s breathing in and out on a small planet in infinite space, which puts lots of problems you’re facing into perspective.
With regular practice, you might even find yourself faced with fewer problems as you realize more and more that enjoying life and having close people that you love is the one most wonderful thing worth caring about.
So bring the focus back to yourself. You deserve it.