At times, I forget how much I enjoy nothing. And by nothing, I don’t mean putting on a mindless tv show or watching my favorite YouTuber. I don’t mean using technology as an escape or activities as a distraction. I mean the exact opposite. I mean going for a walk without headphones in. Or driving in the car without the radio on. Or sitting on a bench at a park in silence. Or standing in my living room, leaning against the wall, looking out the window. I mean excluding myself from all external stimuli to pay attention to the thoughts running through my head. To spend time examining the feelings I’m having and stories I’m telling myself. To enjoy the slow rush of peacefulness that floods over my mind.
It’s weird to explain, but in these moments there’s this calmness I experience that I can only describe as serenity. It’s an untroubled, unstressed, unworried state. It’s a feeling of gratefulness and optimism. Gratefulness for the family that raised me. Gratefulness for the position I’m in. Gratefulness for the opportunity to experience this peace. And optimism that there’s still so much more left of it in my life. But it’s this calmness, this peacefulness, this serenity that can be increasingly hard to find in the world today. And I think it’s one of the more important concepts worth fostering and protecting.
Our Most Important Relationship
No matter who comes and goes in our life, or what jobs we have or lose in our career, or feelings we experience throughout time, there’s only one person that is there for all of it. There’s only one person who truly shapes our perspective, who determines our mood, who guides our attitude, who determines our happiness. And that is ourself. We will always have ourself throughout life. And the relationship we have with ourself is the most important relationship. If you were to spend five minutes, alone in a room, what runs through your head? What about after ten minutes? How busy are your thoughts? How much are you judging yourself? Are you comparing yourself to someone or something else? What about after thirty minutes? Are you enjoying this time? Do you like your inner dialogue? How would you describe the story in your head?
In Ryan Holliday’s book Stillness, he writes, “We limit our inputs and turn down the volume so that we can access a deeper awareness of what’s going on around us. In shutting up we can finally hear what the world has been trying to tell us. Or what we’ve been trying to tell ourselves.”
If we provide ourselves with the opportunity to perform self-observation then we can become more self-aware. We can understand ourselves on a much deeper level. And if we find that we’re unhappy, judgmental, or pessimistic… if we find that we’re not at peace with ourselves… if we find that we can’t sit still and enjoy the peace and calmness in our own head then how can we ever experience lifelong happiness?
In Anthony De Mello’s book Awareness, he writes, “We always want someone else to change so that we will feel good. But has it ever struck you that even if your wife changes or your husband changes, what does that do to you? You’re just as vulnerable as before; you’re just as idiotic as before; you’re just as asleep as before. You are the one who needs to change, who needs to take the medicine.”
Some Helpful Tools
Now, I’m not a psychologist, or a Buddhist, or a professional with any expert knowledge. So really, I barely have a clue what I’m talking about. But I thought I’d share some methods I’ve found helpful in providing myself with space to think. Some methods I’ve used to become more self-aware. And some methods I’ve found helpful in creating a more positive, peaceful mindset.
Minimalism has played a key role in my life simply by giving me more time. By limiting my physical possessions, there’s just less things I need to maintain. There’s less things that break and need to be fixed. There’s less things to think or worry about. All of that leads to more time. And by limiting my digital consumption (screen time), there’s less interruptions. There’s less time less time wasted on social media. There’s less time wasted on Netflix and TV. All of that leads to more time too. And by limiting my daily decisions, my time spent is more productive. I’m not trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast. I’m not scrambling to determine my outfit for the day. I’m not rushed to plan my workout session. By predetermining many of my daily habits, it creates more time. Simply by limiting physical possessions, digital consumption, and daily decision making, I’ve been able to create much more time and peacefulness in my day.
And I should add that minimalism has helped me reevaluate my value system too. It’s taught me that relationships, mental and physical health, education, freedom, and self-awareness are much more important to my happiness than the car I drive or likes I get online from posting a cool picture. And I think that’s been a valuable lesson for me.
I’ve also found meditation to be helpful too but not in the stereotypical fashion. I don’t sit on the floor with my legs crossed, hands cupped, and gazing softly into the horizon of the sun rising, waiting for spirituality to rush over and enlighten my soul. No, it’s usually nothing like that. Like I mentioned, physically it may be while I’m taking a solo hike or sitting on a park bench in silence. Mentally, it may be one of two things. One, it may be that I’m focused on quieting my mind. Letting thoughts come as they please but really focusing on letting them go. Trying to focus my attention of nothing. Literally, just enjoying the thoughtlessness if that makes sense. And two, it may be that I’m focused on my awareness. Just trying to learn more about what thoughts are in my head. What emotions am I feeling? What stories am I telling myself? I’m just trying to get a better understanding of who I am and what I’m experiencing. But meditation has been a great tool for increasing my self-awareness by utilizing self-observation.
Retraining Our Mind
And if there’s any recurring negative thoughts or problematic feelings I find through this process, I look to understand and change them. I think most people don’t realize how flexible our mind is. Although it’s not a muscle, it sure acts like one. When we place a demand on it, it evolves. And it’s entirely possible to start liking things we didn’t enjoy before. It’s possible to see the good in things we always use to see the negative in. It’s possible to mold our thoughts into whatever we find would serve us best. And here are a few of the ways I’ve found helpful in doing that.
- Practicing Gratitude: Each day, define three things you’re grateful for. There’s a lot to be grateful for and a lot of times we overlook it and don’t appreciate it. For example, it can be annoying when a lot of issues come up at work, but at the same time I’m grateful to have a great job where people seek my help to resolve issues. In this example, I’ve found ways to enjoy things that would’ve stressed me out previously.
- Performing Visualization: Visualize what it is you want. Figure out why you want it and determine if it’s worth wanting. For example, if I feel like my life would be better if I had a luxury house then I visualize having one and what exactly it would be like. And most likely, I’d be sitting on the same couch, with my same laptop, writing a very similar blog post. And that helps me realize that most of our desires come from external conditioning and not our internal needs.
- Stop Complaining: Try to go a day without complaining. Don’t complain about the weather, or your boss, or the traffic, or the news. Just stop complaining. In performing this, it’s helped me realize all the things we blame our suffering on and how little of it we have control over. And if we don’t have control over it, there’s not a lot of reasons to worry about it in most cases. And if we do have control over it, it’s much more productive to focus on fixing the issue than complaining about it.
I’m not sure if this post made a whole lot of since or flowed nicely from start to finish with actionable steps to get there. But, I don’t think there’s an exact step-by-step guide that can help with what I’m talking about. We’re all so different, with such unique perspectives, attitudes, and beliefs that not one thing will help with every person. And so I hope you found it helpful to see what’s worked for me. It’s been using minimalism to reclaim my time and reevaluate my values. It’s been using meditation to quiet my mind and gain a better understanding of myself. And it’s been using tools like visualization, or gratitude, or no complaint challenges to retrain my brain. And all of this has helped me create a better relationship with myself. A relationship that’s both healthy and happy.
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Hey, I am Brandon Zerbe
Welcome to myHealthSciences! My goal has always been to increase quality-of-life with healthy habits that are sustainable, efficient, and effective. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognition, Finance and Minimalism. You can read more about me here.