Introducing a new content category: Intersections.
Intersections will cover the intersection between psychology, culture, and entertainment. Culture and entertainment can have an enormous impact on who we are, our lives, and our psychology. Movies, music, television, and other cultural events will be discussed in this particular category. However, the focus will be on individual experience, cultural consciousness, and psychology.
Minimalism Fights the External Battles Mindfulness Fights Internally.
Part of our cultural identity is consumerism. We are taught to consume. It is bred into us. We signal status, security, and purpose with what we consume, what we buy. I believe it’s a slow killer of the human spirit. Marketers use deficit advertising: ads giving us the impression we are not enough. It plays to our insecurities and fears. The idea we could be better if we only had Product X.
Minimalism, simply put, is the questioning of the function of material possessions in our lives.
Is it really worth it to spend our lives striving for more money? More things? More, more, more. What have we sacrificed for our things? How does the importance of material things compare with family, relationships, and community?
The documentary follows Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’ journey from corporate executives to aspiring minimalists. At a time in Millburn’s life when he was making a lot of money, he faced a personal crucible with the ending of his marriage and his mother’s passing. Turning inward, questioning the purpose of his life, he found himself buried in stuff. His recently departed mother’s house jam-packed with … stuff. The stuff he was now responsible for.
Millburn reasoned his mother held onto the stuff with the best of intentions. She was holding onto memories, moments in her life memorialized by stuff. But the stuff wasn’t the memory. The memories are inside us.
And so Millburn asked, “could life be better with less stuff?”
Shortly, Ryan Nicodemus (Millburn’s best friend) was on board after throwing a “packing party.” The party had Nicodemus packing his belongings as if he was moving. He would only open the boxes when he needed something. When very few boxes were opened, they knew they were on to something. And thus, their minimalism journey began.
A 2015 survey found that more than 30% of people are overwhelmed by the clutter in their lives1. Removing clutter can decrease anxiety, increase focus, and make you more productive2. Clutter is linked to poor eating habits as well as raised cortisol levels. The body is in a state of fight or flight at all times. The brain likes organization. It drains our mental energy to view visual clutter. People who live in clutter are less likely to correctly interpret the facial expression of characters in movies3.
I didn’t realize the impact of decluttering. There was a time when I had a paper tray stacked a foot high with mail and documents that I’d go through someday. (Yeah, Right). I had no idea what was in that stack. It was a big mystery. Eventually, I just threw it all away. Now, it is organized (trashed) right away. Important documents are addressed quickly.
Psychologists note individuals with anxious or avoidant attachment styles are more likely to be materialistic4. Attachment styles are developed during the interaction with parents and caregivers. Research suggests that many try to use materialism as a replacement for love and acceptance. Its clear materialism is linked with depression, anxiety, and self-destructive behavior5.
While an increase in materialism tends to decrease life satisfaction, a decrease in materialism has the opposite effect. Relationships and autonomy increase and the sense of meaning improves when reliance on materialism decreases.
This is Millburn’s story. Growing up poor, as an adult, he had a drive for material things. The drive led him to early success. As a result, his relationships, finances, and sense of purpose were impacted. When the glasshouse of materialism collapsed, he found little meaning in the material items that he strove for. In debt, he lived to work for the material items he owned.
In my experience, I’ve found materialism can be the result of a need for security. I’ve transitioned from materialistic behavior towards a minimalistic attitude and back again. I find that when I need peace of mind, I am more likely to be minimalistic. When I need a sense of security, I desire material things. You may see a comparable pattern in yourself.
Turn Down the Volume
The sheer volume of information placed before us simply cannot be properly processed by our minds. Much of this information is marketing, advertising for products and services.
As a result, we buy more stuff than we need, and our minds are overloaded. This, in part, causes us to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression. “Screen” technology only exponentially expands this issue. There’s too much!
Consequently, two movements have risen to combat these cultural realities. Minimalism, for the physical (generally) and mindfulness for the internal. These ideas are not new, yet have a powerful relevance in the here and now. Due to their popularity, it’s inferred there is a society-wide concern with the volume of information and it’s effect on our lives. The idea of minimalism allows us to turn down the volume on the physical items that surround and support our lives.
I didn’t believe I was a cluttered materialist. Buying the stuff gave me joy if only for a fleeting moment. Others advised I’d feel better if I was organized and neat. I just didn’t believe I had the time to do it.
I do. And I did.
I feel much better, staying neat and orderly. (Of course, I can still be messy at times). Tasks like making my bed every day, folding laundry, and keeping the clutter off my desktop have changed my relationship with things.
After I divorced, I was surrounded by stuff! Everything you could ever want. At one point, I had a Mac desktop, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, and an iPhone all sitting on the desk staring at me. (Looking back, it was funny, I’d get a text, and it sounded like a siren going off!) They weren’t doing what they were supposed to do – making me feel good. It was just … stuff. I was buying for the feeling, the impulsive rush of the power to do so. It led to debt and disappointment.
In another way, minimalism frees us from the “keeping up with the Jones'” mentality. We can instead think “I have everything I need.” We can tell ourselves that it is okay if we don’t have ANOTHER thousand-dollar purse or the newest iPhone.
I like to point out that wanting is a psychologically stronger force than having. This psychological reality supports human survival in certain situations. On the other hand, it also drives addictive behavior. It’s never enough, the hedonic treadmill.
In the documentary, David Ramsey says, “You will never have the money to buy everything you want.” The mind will always drive you with wants. But the material things around you should have a purpose. This is very closely related to YOUR purpose. If there are many meaningless material items in your proximity, chances are there is also a feeling of meaninglessness in areas of your life. Minimalism provides you with the tools to start on this journey.
The documentary (Netflix) Minimalism: Less is Now is less than an hour (in true minimalist form). Though not a true minimalist (working towards it, however), I believe the ideas presented are a solution to many mental health and debt issues in our society. It is a great philosophy to provide meaning in life—a potential solution to the mindless behavior driven by marketing and overstimulation.
You were a little kid once—a starry-eyed, innocent child. You had dreams, big dreams. Maybe somewhere along the lines, you’ve decided you don’t deserve those dreams. (bullshit).
Instead of thinking that a new year’s resolution is a cliche, it just may be the opportunity to dust off some of those old dreams and make them real.
Life is just too damn short not to.
There are just a couple of days remaining in 2020. For many of us, this means new years resolutions. As 2020 was a tough year, 2021 promises to be a year of transcendence and growth. In many cases, this process starts with a resolution.
Half of us will resolve, yet less than one in ten will successfully achieve our new year’s resolution1. As we leave this year behind, the following are ideas that will help you navigate the next year.
Decide on Your Approach
In a recent study, researchers found that approach goals are more often achieved than avoidance goals. An approach goal is adding a habit into your life. (For example, waking up at 5 AM each morning.) An avoidance goal is subtracting something. (Like deciding not to eat chocolate.)2When making a resolution for the new year, it is more beneficial to add a habit or activity than to stop one.
Generally, there are three goal types: process goals, performance goals, or outcome goals.
Process goal: This type aims to create that habit that will drive towards the goal. IE. spending time writing each day.
Performance goal: Usually, these behaviors are linked with frequency or time and drive the behavior toward the goal. IE. writing for twenty minutes each day.
Outcome goal: Focuses on the end result, or outcome. IE. to finish writing the novel3.
The most popular resolutions are associated with losing weight and physical fitness. Challenging goals lead to higher performance levels4. Set challenging goals to raise the likelihood of achievement.
Write it down. Research shows that those who write down their goals and resolutions are more likely to follow through on them5.
Now, decide what type of goal is necessary for your resolution (make sure it’s an approach goal). Make sure it’s sufficiently challenging. Then, write it down.
Why do you want this to be your new year’s resolution?
Do you want to make more money? Do you want a bigger house? Do you want a better body? Do you want to lose thirty pounds? Why?
Who are you doing this for?
How will you feel when you achieve your goal?
The choice of resolution must clearly align with your values and something that you truly care about9. Things in the nice to have category will not qualify.
You have your resolution(s) written. Now write 1-2 pages on why. What does it mean to you? How will you feel when it’s achieved? What will potential failure look and feel like?
Question: Why do new year’s resolutions fail?
Answer: We underestimate our reactions when things get uncomfortable6.
Consequently, planning is paramount. Decide ahead of time what action you’ll take in certain contingencies. For example, if you plan to run daily and experience shin splints, what action will be acceptable to keep you on track? Bicycling may be an option7. Putting a plan-b, an if-then clause in the plan can dramatically increase the likelihood of following through8.
Planning lapses may help reach the overall goal8. The reasoning is that often when a lapse occurs, the event can trigger a complete loss of motivation and a feeling of failure. This can be avoided by building in a “lapse”. It is important to not overly rely on will-power9. This psychic energy is used in our daily lives to a great extent and is finite. When it is depleted, it is unavailable until recharged.
Develop a method to track your progress. Not to change your behavior directly, but indirectly. Track to build self-awareness, to see the state of your habits in relation to your goal11. Put time on the calendar to look at the stats. Consider relevant questions such as Am I on track? What are the obstacles/challenges? How can I simplify the process?
Manage expectations. Break the resolution down into smaller parts. Don’t expect instant results. (There is a reason it is a new year’s resolution!)
Don’t Go it Alone
Having the support of your social circle is vital to achieving your goals10. An accountability partner can help you stay positive through a shared desire to achieve your new year’s resolution. It requires some vulnerability – another to witness your potential failure. Yet, the support can go far to ensure that you stay accountable for what you set out to do.
Simply having someone to share the journey with can have a powerful positive impact in keeping engaged with the goal12.
The Tension Between the … You’s?
Considering aspects of different identity theories, ponder the dichotomy between the narrative-self and the experiential-self. The narrative-self is the idea that there is an evolving story told to oneself as a function of identity creation13. (This is also referred to as the remembering self). In contrast, the experiential-self is the part of our consciousness experiencing the present, the current experience.
When difficulty is experienced in achieving a goal, there is tension between these functions. The narrative-self decided that we’d take on the resolution. The experiential-self is having difficulty in the present moment living up to the story the narrative-self would like to be true. The solution to bridging this gap is becoming more self-aware. Many strategies exist to facilitate greater self-awareness, including meditation, taking psychometric tests, and requesting regular feedback at work.
When planning, make it easy for your experiential-self. Understand that our subconscious judges an experience by the best or worst part and the end of the experience14. That being so, make sure to really enjoy the best part of the approach goal and arrange the events so that the end is thoroughly delightful.
Breaking It Down
Decide your approach- write it down.
Think about why-write it down.
Plan-contingencies, lapses, etc.
Ask for support.
Become self-aware- Ease tension between experiential and narrative-self.
Just look at you—cute little kid, deserving of the world. There’s only one you and you (may) only get one try at life. Honor your inner child, honor yourself, and go after it
Daily, @whoareweblog on Instagram, a thought-provoking quote is posted. It is intended to shift paradigms, inspire, and/or give perspective. Often, personal experience is considered in searching for quotes. Just as often, society’s experience is considered. Here, We dive into the top 8 Life-Saving Quotes of the Day posted in the year past.
“God Have Mercy on the Man Who Doubts What He’s Sure of…”
Bruce Springsteen is the perfect place to start due to his philosophical lyricism. The lyric “God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of…” is the last line of the song “Brilliant Disguise”. The line stands apart, barely intelligible as the mystery’s final pondering between two individuals romantically involved. But the line hits a broader chord.
It is my belief that many of us ‘know’ certain things. These ideations may be difficult to reconcile. They may require a complete change in life or an uncomfortable confrontation. And so we doubt, often to our own detriment. We may need to confront the conversation with our significant other about the relationship. We may need to quit our job and pursue something with more meaning. We may need to move to a warmer climate, take a vacation by ourselves, or step down from CEO to barista to feel connected to life once again.
This beautiful Idea inspires courage and certainty, self-knowledge and hope. And perhaps most importantly, forgiveness at the times we lack the courage to go in the direction of our dreams.
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us….”
Gandalf the Grey so poignantly explains to Frodo, attempting to quell his despair. This may sound obvious or trite. In times when in the greatest despair, the simplicity of this idea is the remedy. Gandalf restates the idea that the quality of life is 90% your reaction to life’s events. It’s about what is done. Additionally, there is a boundary of time.
The average human lifespan is seventy-nine years. That’s 4,108 weeks. In your first ten years, you can’t do much about your living conditions. That’s 520 weeks of life. By the age of twenty, you’re beginning to find your identity. That’s 1,040 weeks, more than 25% of your life. By the age of thirty, you begin to understand who you are and what is sought. There’s still some exploring left to do. At thirty-five, there’s kids, bills, a mortgage, and a 401k – you’re a grown-up. That cost you 1,820 weeks. Without offending anyone, let’s say the last nine years of your life, you may not be as mobile and able – that’s 468 weeks. That totals at 2,288 weeks.
Time is limited. Are you deciding properly what to do with the time given?
“And those who were dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
The individual experience is unique. Many of the ideas that now guide everyday understanding were initially seen as insane. Consider Galileo. Essentially, labeled foolish, an absurdist, and a heritic by the powers that be. His life, reputation and livelihood threatened by his notion the earth was not the center of the galaxy. Instead, he suggested the sun was the center point. Galileo knew this to be true by the evidence he gathered, the measurements and observations made. He was dancing – but no one could hear the music.
This is true for many. Intuition suggests something not evident and we ignore or subdue it because we can’t be seen “dancing”, at least when no one else can hear the music. This idea reminds us to know what we know and know it to our core…the world will come around.
“Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.”
Vanilla Sky (Abre Los Ojos) is a wonderful movie. In the main character’s dream of a perfect life, his love, Sofia, presents this fantastical idea. The idea reveals we are not what we’ve done. There is little to be done about past actions. We have only the present and the future. The idea is fascinating, freeing us from past guilt and allowing us the opportunity to learn.
The idea served as a gateway to the concept of mindfulness. Each moment is a moment of transition, a moment of change. The extent of that change is in our power to control. Also, the moment is passing – you’re in a moment, right now. Right now, there exists an opportunity to change course, to begin again. In the comfort of this thought exists peace and hope. In Sofia’s certainty, an opportunity for healing and growth.
“The quality of your life is more important than the destination of your life.”
Sam Harris is a modern-day philosopher. Stark and unforgiving, his certainty is sometimes daunting. However, here he points to a softer idea. Humanity hurriedly makes its way, rushing and plotting the way through life. Yet, when the perceived destination is reached, there is often a disappointment. This is because there is still a drive to arrive at another destination.
Combining elements of the hedonic treadmill, mindfulness, and gratitude, this quote plainly points out that our drive forward has the ability to distract us from the place we’ve arrived. And at times, there is the need to reorient that drive towards the quality of the current stop on the journey. At a level deeper, enjoying the “now” will only make it easier to enjoy the “then” – our destination. After all, the place you currently occupy was once a destination, right?
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
I recently experienced this as a personal phenomenon. I came across a book (doesn’t matter which) that connected me with deep parts of myself, revealing long-forgotten desires, hopes, dreams, and personal truths that I long had forgotten. Art does that. It reorients the way we see the world, ourselves, and our relation to it. From these different vantages, we can see into different cracks in our spirits, our souls. Like finding coins in the couch or a twenty in a pair of jeans, this discovery and rediscovery bring us to life.
Though many times in my life I’ve experienced this, this quote from Sharon Begley reminds me that something out there will awaken my spirit once again, though its eternal death seems imminent. Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. Find it, and rekindle your spirit.
“Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Dylan Thomas forever changed the way I felt about words. He is very earthy in their use. The unique way he put words to the experience of human emotion has never been replicated. In this poem (aptly titled: Do not go gentle into that good night), Thomas gives a holy rendition of the perseverance of the human spirit. Against all odds, against all rationale, against the foe of death…fight.
Perhaps one of the greatest features of the human spirit is perseverance. Against insurmountable obstacles, the illogical, emotional predilection to overcome, defeat, and outlast is universally admired. The poem stirs the instinctual human belief that there is no unconquerable enemy, no miracle too large to occur, and no hope too great to hold. All is possible through the perseverance of the human spirit.
Thomas asks us to hold all these fires close to our heart and conquer the darkness, to fight for life and the magic tenacity of the human spirit.
“If life transcends death, then I will seek for you there. If not, then there too.”
These words are uttered by Arjun in the second novel in the Expanse series, Caliban’s War. The words, an expression of his undying love for his emotionally unavailable, politician wife. A certainty is expressed in the love he has for his wife. A lack of rational thinking in the matter is purposed without thought. There is something admirable about this level of devotion. Another piece suggests a hope of love’s eternal binding: the suggestion that love itself is eternal, the human desire for eternal life.
In the context of the story, Arjun serves as his wife’s only tether to the chaos and irrationality of her own humanity. She relies on him to provide this, as she struggles to stand above the fray and manage humanity.
The excerpt serves as a reminder that the true beauty of humanity may be in our chaos, thoughtless devotion to love and the magic of the experience.
Loneliness is at an all-time high in our society. Now, we enter a holiday season socially-distanced.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, holidays surrounded (physically) by family seem less and less a good idea. As the pandemic reaches a peak, we are more likely to be physically and emotionally alone. Survey data (pre-pandemic) reports that almost half of participants sometimes or always feel alone1. What’s more, the root cause is identified as social isolation or the lack of social connection. Loneliness is associated with mental and physical health issues, from depression and dementia to heart failure and stroke2. For those of us with a mental illness, the holidays tend to just make it worse3.
On the other hand, the potential for spreading COVID to family and friends is an imminent risk this holiday season. As a culture, we put a high value on our large family gatherings and holiday parties. Yet, it may be best we don’t get together in the same ways this year as we have in the past.
If you’re not visiting family this holiday season, you may be experiencing loneliness. Here are some suggestions to stave off loneliness, anxiety, and depression during this holiday season.
Rumination or Deep Thinking?
There is ample evidence that repetitive negative thoughts are detrimental to your mental health4. This is called rumination. It is essentially our stress response (meant to seek our harmful stimuli and protect us) on repeat. In this context, negative thoughts about not visiting with the family will only worsen the situation. The stress often associated with rumination tends to make our physical health decline as well. This negativity bias kept our species alive for thousands of years, yet in a pandemic, it’s driving our anxiety4.
The idea of deep thinking implies a distance between our thoughts and feelings. It is the act of observing our thoughts for their quality. Also, there is the issue of intent. Deep thinking is a very intentional practice. Rumination is primal, fear-driven, and compulsive.
What can you do to break the cycle?
Go for a walk.
Set time for solving the problem
Reframe your thoughts...I won’t get to see the family this year, but just think how great it will be when I do next year.
Show gratitude..to yourself. Write down three things your grateful for, even in the midst of this pandemic.
Gift Giving: Make it Meaningful
Giving has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, provide greater life satisfaction, and even a longer life5. Getting crafty and making the gift, for example, painting, textiles, and creative writing can also greatly impact well-being and life satisfaction6. Additionally, making the gift provides more meaning in comparison to simply buying the gift.
Just … Breathe
Mindfulness practice can have an eternity of benefits. Focusing on breathing techniques and meditation can help in many ways8. Mindfulness practices have been shown to reduce loneliness6. By simply setting aside ten minutes a day and settling your body and mind with deep breathing can reduce negative emotions7. Taking a moment to pay attention to what’s happening inside and outside of your body, lessens stress and anxiety levels. In addition to reducing loneliness, mindfulness can improve social connections in social situations that do arrise9.
Be Aware of Your Reactions
One of the benefits of mindfulness is building awareness. When becoming aware of emotions, become aware of their triggers. Embracing a non-reactive habit to emotions yields a decrease in their negative affect10. Significant experiences of change and loss will cause feelings of grief. These elements are common this year, especially this time of year.
Reset Your Expectations
Often, there is an idea in our minds of how things “should be.” This year things will certainly be different. Come to accept this fact, yet understand that achieving a connected experience with your family and friends is still possible. Though it may not be in a traditional fashion, we sometimes conceptualize the holidays. Making internal adjustments such as embracing a Christmas zoom call provides the experience of connection that is sought10.
Also, social comparison is almost always a poor idea. Don’t allow yourself to compare your experiences to others. If you feel triggered by social media (or hell, your next-door neighbor) pictures from others’ holidays, don’t permit yourself the comparison. We are coping with the frustration, loss, and lack of normalcy the last year has brought upon us.
Take Care of YOU!
During the holidays, many of us have a rare opportunity to reflect. This may arise in the form of longing. The longing for family, friends, security, or family can put us in a state of loneliness10. Practice self-care. Understand you will need some time, space, and tools to reorient your mind and emotions to your current circumstances. I hope the above offers a doorway to the tools that will help in a time of need.