As a writer and storyteller I frequently find myself analyzing the lives of other people, and extracting the best behavioral patterns to apply to my own life. The reason I do this is to expand my universe and develop my taste regarding what it means to live a good life. Because, you don’t know what you don’t know. If you possess a narrow outlook, you’ll miss what else is out there, eliminating ideas and experiences that could dramatically improve your circumstances.
In conducting this research, I’ve noticed a couple things. First, life is full of emotional peaks and valleys, good, bad, great and horrible days. Our emotional status is in constant flux, which for those stability-craving people, can be quite scary. To cope, we habitually seek ways to mitigate the extremes of our emotional range.
Our bodies can do this naturally. E.g. if you injure yourself, the wounded area just goes numb. Even psychologically, we can enter states of denial if the truth becomes too painful. I don't know about you, but numbing my feelings isn’t my idea of optimal living.
If you want to feel alive, more so than you’ve ever felt before, experiment with not numbing life. To help, I've identified five common sources that, if you let them, will take the spring from your bungee. I try my best to avoid them and results have greatly improved the way I see and experience the world.
This is arguably the biggest offender. I admit, I do enjoy the occasional movie, and the excitement of getting caught up in a compelling story. BUT, it’s so important to remind yourself the stories and characters you see on the screen AREN’T REAL. Producers do a really good job of making it look and feel real, but it’s not.
At the end of a long day, sometimes the best feeling in the world is to just plop down and watch something “dumb”. After all, our minds deserve a break too. The problem is that we usually don’t regulate these breaks, and one thirty-minute program can turn into an entire night of binge-watching Netflix. “I think I’ll watch that YouTube video my friend sent me.” Hours later.. oops.
Just be mindful. It’s a bit easier for me because I don’t own a TV. That’s one way I’ve mitigated this from numbing my life. But if you must, don’t randomly flip through channels. Pick or record your program, and set a fixed time-window you want to allocate for watching.
Programming exists to sell you stuff. That’s it. Networks don’t work without ads. And, the most-watched shows command the highest price for advertising, e.g. The Super Bowl. Television is a wonderful source of entertainment, but I don’t believe I was born for the purpose of sitting and being entertained. My life’s work is about creating, not consuming.
Some stress-relieving alternatives to TV: cooking, reading, walking, jogging, writing, playing music, painting, calling a family member.
Alcohol and Other Drugs
In 2014, I stopped drinking alcohol. After suffering from prolonged hangovers, I thought cutting out alcohol would be a healthy challenge for myself. Now, over a year later, I don’t even have to think about it, I just don’t drink.
Why? Alcohol is a depressant. Its effects take the edge off a bad day or breakup, induce a carefree mindset, and make for a wonderful social lubricant. But any time you chemically alter your consciousness, via alcohol or any other substance, you create a new reality under the influence of whatever you’ve consumed.
If used responsibly, moderate consumption of alcohol shouldn’t harm your life, in some circumstances it may even enhance your experience. Personally, I’ve seen too many of the damaging effects of alcohol when abused, and it’s not something I feel comfortable risking. Dependance on any substance can originate from an innate feeling of “not being enough” and when that altered state is achieved, it relieves that itch.
But, life can be amazing without the extra chemicals.
Negative people are the black holes of energy. There are so many articles and books that will tell you that you’re the product of your environment, or your five closest friends. So, if you surround yourself with negative people, they'll drink your enthusiasm for life like a thirsty kid and a glass of ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer day. Gone.
If you have friends going through tough times, I’m not saying run away. In fact, help your friends as much as possible. The negative people I’m referring to don’t have tough times, because they’re chronically begging for sympathy. These people are never content. They’ll find the fault in absolutely any situation like it’s a Where’s Waldo book and there’s a prize to be won. Eventually, this lack of appreciation will rub off on you.
Misery LOVES company, and negative people want you at their pity party. I strive to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, and possess enthusiasm for what they do. You don’t always get to pick the people in your life, family, bosses, etc., but you can, to a degree decide who you associate with, and to this I say, choose wisely.
Nothing of significance begs for attention. THIS JUST IN, “the news” wants your attention. Like the sexy television dramas, sensational news stretches truth and sells reality for money. I know quite a few people who love spreading news, sharing every controversial article on social media, always claiming the world is coming to an end. Don’t be one of these people.
If you read five positive things and one negative thing, which one makes a bigger impression? We’re wired biologically to concern ourselves with negative info. Which is why I don’t seek news. I have enough things to worry about that I don’t care for looking for things to get myself worked up.
You can’t believe everything you read or hear on the news. There should be a disclaimer to digest with a healthy dose of skepticism. Much of media is used as a pawn for some higher agenda. Before you react to something, ask yourself if there’s a logical reason for your reaction. Is there anything you can do? Most of the time, news reports on past events, metaphoric water under the bridge, and there’s no reason to get so upset.
Staying informed is important. Subjecting yourself to sensational stories and negative drama is not.
If you take one thing away from this article, remember this. Your health is the combination of your body, mind, and spirit. Absolutely no amount of wealth is equitable to health. And if you sacrifice these things for material objects, you unfortunately won’t be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Better to be poor man with a fishing rod than the dead owner of a fishing company.
You know that achy feeling when you have a cold, sitting with a pile of tissues, unable to taste, or speak without sounding like you’re going scuba diving? How great is your ability to experience life when you’re confined to a mattress? Time is the only luxury, and if you cut it short with some sort of Faustian bargain for your health, you’re making a poor deal.
You don’t have to run marathons to stay in shape. There are plenty of activities you can do to improve and maintain your health. Take frequent walks, go for a jog, do pushups every day, meditate, surround yourself with positive people, listen to motivational tapes, take deep breaths, or a moment to relax, don’t consume fried food, avoid large quantities of sugar, drink relaxing tea, etc.
I want a long life, and only when we’re healthy - physically, mentally, and spiritually can we partake in the best of what it has to offer.