When all is said and done, my life is pretty relaxed. People don’t expect me to say that, but it’s true. The only stress I have is the unnecessary stress I make for myself. That is to say: I realized that a lot of whether or not you enjoy your day-to-day life has to do with the minute, often overlooked details. We’re so busy worrying about the big picture that we lose sight of what matters, what’s right in front of us. (And by “we,” I mean, that’s exactly what I did, to an extremely unhealthy degree, for many years.)
I mean every one of these points from the bottom of my heart. They may not all be applicable to your life, but could help if you’re in need of ideas. They have all worked for me and I hope they do for you as well.
1. Redefine your necessities and downsize. People are totally disillusioned about what they actually need to live. Doing so is one of the most cathartic, freeing experiences. Carrying those bags of clothes to Goodwill and selling the unnecessary furnishings and books that only clutter your space and mind is an unprecedented sensation. Get rid of all the crap you don’t need. Detaching from the physical is a liberating practice.
2. Stop consuming as a means of lifestyle. We live in a culture that bases a lot of it’s socialization and recreation around consumption. Too many people base their regular outings and activities around meals out and stores frequented. The thing about cleaning house (#1) is that you also can’t keep bringing more stuff in: “want not, waste not.”
3. Let your mind breathe. Not everything has a meaning, stop assigning it. You do not know what’s going to happen in the next hour, let alone the next year or five or 10. Let it unfold as it will. Creating timelines and predictions only serves to make you suffer. Let your mind take a break. Give it time and space to stop thinking actively and let it be, wander, daydream, let the thoughts come and go without assigning value.
4. Write down what you’re stressing about, and then start to work through it on paper. Now, this may seem counterintuitive, as though doing so will make it more real, but that’s often not the case at all. Once you can physically see the problem you’re creating for yourself in your mind, you realize how irrational it is, and writing through your fears is one of the only ways to let them go: by digging through their causes and figuring out what the root is.
5. Say thank you out loud. The easiest way to love your life is to be thankful for the little things in it, and saying out loud: “thank you for my job, for my friends, for my home” etc. is the best way to cultivate it. If you don’t have a mantra, that should be it.
6. Don’t assume you know what reality is. Most things are never as they seem. We like to predict. Even when we don’t realize it, we have an outlined trajectory in our minds of how things are going to go, what we mistakenly call “what should be.” It may seem scary to embrace at first, but eventually you realize that the potential supersedes the fear of realizing that anything could be.
7. Stop doing the “rounds.” I don’t know exactly how much time we all spend mindlessly clicking and scrolling through social media, but I imagine it’s a lot… and for what? We’re on autopilot at this point, subconsciously creating a mindset that’s unhealthy and anxiety-inducing. First that we need to be connected at all times, and second that we should live for the sake of how things will appear. Consciously limit your time with this stuff. You’ll feel better for it.
8. Make sure you get adequate natural light throughout the day. You cannot imagine how much of a difference this actually makes. Go outside. Work by a window. There are correlations between this and a happier disposition.
9. Cultivate a sacred space that’s beautiful and your own. Invest in the few things you do keep around you. A candle and a new throw pillow can change an entire room, and the more peaceful your surroundings, the more peaceful you’ll be.
10. Ritualize. Know what to do when you start feeling anxious. What to read, what to take, where to go, what to think about. Make your routines rituals and then start crafting them for the other things that crop up in life. How you manage work when you’re overwhelmed, how you handle relationships that are getting tense. Have a go-to game plan for these things. It makes the unexpected a lot easier to deal with.
11. Keep little things that remind you who you are within sight. I have photos with my brother and sister, books, a letter from a reader, a notebook, a candle and a flashcard with a mantra on my desk with me always. As soon as I’m feeling overwhelmed and my attention drifts from the screen, I’m distracted by something positive or inspiring.
12. Learn to not fill up every moment of your life with tasks. Lost is the art of genuine down time. There’s something to be said for being able to sit and enjoy your tea/coffee or read a book — and nothing else — for the afternoon. We all are in the habit of scheduling every moment of every day when that’s both impossible to adhere to and doesn’t leave room for possibility and spontaneity. Let go of the minute-to-minute schedule, but not the general routine (if that makes sense.)
13. Make a list of three things that matter to you, three people you want to spend time with, three things you want to accomplish. Start to evaluate how you spend your time and money by seeing whether or not your life aligns with what really matters to you. Adjust accordingly.
14. Have things to look forward to. Book a trip for the next season, make weekend dinner plans with a friend you’re comfortable with. Have ends to your daily means in mind when staying in the (stressful) moment seems all but impossible.
15. “Choose not to be harmed, and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed, and you haven’t been.” Realize that everything in your life is a matter of your own perception. You’re only as affected by things as you permit yourself to be.
16. Be more honest. The number one thing that destroys relationships the quickest is the inability to be honest, because the energy it takes to fake acceptance or enthusiasm with someone will wear on you quickly. Don’t spend as much time with these people, or learn to be honest. If you think about it, would you really want somebody in your everyday life who secretly, unbeknownst to you, is dishonest with you or just doesn’t want to be there? No. No you wouldn’t. Don’t do the same to someone else.