“Be who you are, not who the world wants you to be.”
This week’s edition of Wisdom Wednesday addresses a few items related to the most important person in your life—YOU. I’m a bit of a hermit, spending a lot of time in my study reading, writing, and interacting on social media.
I enjoy interacting with people in public, like the gym where I workout or the coffee shops I frequent from time-to-time. I like people, but my focus is on my writing, reading, exercise, learning, and spiritual pursuits. I have learned over the last few years, since my retirement, that so many people are controlled by the society that surrounds us. In the U.S. we work harder and longer than most in other countries, we spend more money on stress-reducing drugs than any other country, and our population is less happy than other countries. This is a bleak outlook, right?
We Americans are the largest consumers on the planet. We chase after the glowing bobbles in the malls, we strive for bigger homes, newer cars, boats, new clothes, plastic surgery and all the rest. Why do we do this? Well, part of it is related to the advertising and marketing practices present every day in our lives. Wherever Americans go, we are bombarded with an advertisement. Advertisement on the web, social media, the radio, television, even our mobile phones. We buy things we don’t need, eat the wrong foods, use alcohol, tobacco, and drugs (prescribed and unprescribed). We take vacations and do so much that we return home more exhausted than before we left. All this purchasing causes us to borrow money in the form of credit cards, signature loans, shopping cards, and the like. This, in turn, drives us to work harder and continue to work to pay off all of these “nice” things, and before we know it we become slaves to the very things we thought we wanted. In the end, we’re still unhappy, we’re exhausted, we’re addicted to things we don’t want to be and we are overweight.
How do we turn this around?
It’s awesome to be connected to the world. It’s fun to have access to our books, music, friends, movies, and the rest on our phones. It’s terrific to be able to watch movies on our computers and interact with our friends on social media.
I’m not proposing that we shut all this down forever but taking some time away from our devices and our technology can be a much-needed relief and put us in a position to just relax and enjoy the moment.
If you haven’t looked at Minimalism, you might want to take a look. Minimalists propose only owning what they need and owning only the bare minimum required for survival. The claim is that the less you own, the less you have to take care of, the less money you’ll spend for just more “stuff”.
You can start with your closet. Really look. If you own clothes that you haven’t worn in the last year, donate them. The same applies to the other things you possess. I’ve done this myself and it is quite liberating.
Meditate and Practice Mindfulness
Taking the time to live in the moment is a relaxing and joyous act. Mindfulness is nothing more than paying attention. Enjoying your meals, enjoying the quiet, enjoying the experiences you have, enjoying the people you are with, are just some aspects. Really savor everything. You’ll be amazed how relaxing, centering, and fulfilling the act of mindfulness is.
If you have trouble with this mindset, you should try meditation. Meditation in its simplest form is nothing more than paying attention to your breath. Focus on breathing in and breathing out. This one act performed for just 10 minutes a day will garner some amazing benefits, along with training your mind to be more focused on the task at hand.
Realizing that what you have is all you need is liberating and calming. It also provides a sense of contentment that you may have not felt in a long time. Purposely express your gratitude each morning for a few minutes. You can say what you are grateful for or write these things down in a journal. By putting your attention on being grateful for the blessings in your life, you’ll be less likely to continue chasing after that next “thing”.
There are numerous benefits to exercise. Whether you lift weights, do Yoga, run, swim, or just take a walk, the benefits of exercise are huge. You can start by doing something as simple as stretching out in the morning and knocking out a few push-ups or taking a walk in the morning or evening.
Nutrition is the cornerstone of health. Take some time to learn about nutrition. Try focusing on eating whole foods (not in boxes or packaging) and cooking your own meals. You’ll find that you’ll spend less, the food tastes better, and your body will thank you for it.
Go to bed on time and avoid the electronics too close to bedtime. They will disrupt your sleep. Come up with a ritual composed of hygiene (hot shower), a little reading, meditation, or a nice cup of herbal tea. Your sleep is critical to your performance and health.
Reading and Learning
Too many of us read too little and stop learning after leaving school. Reading opens us up to new horizons, new ways of thinking, and it allows us to explore the thoughts of authors in different times and nationalities.
Learning should be life-long. There is always something we can learn to improve our lives, our performance at work, and even pick up new skills that will contribute to our well-being far into the future.
Become Your Best Friend
So many of us depend on others for our happiness. So many people need someone else in their lives to be happy. Don’t get me wrong, we are social beings. We need contact with other people. It is wired into the human psyche to interact with our fellow beings. The real question, however, is this: Are you happy with you? Can you be happy without that guy or gal in your life? I would argue that the answer to this question is yes. You can be happy with you and enjoy the solitude that being alone delivers. I’m not proposing that you dump all your friends. I am proposing that you take some time to get to know yourself. Enjoy you.
All these tools are easy to implement but are not a panacea. Only you can determine what you need, what will work in your personal situation, and what acts you can take (even others not mentioned) that will improve your outlook and happiness.
If you are happy with your current situation, leave it alone. If not, take some time to look around a bit to find some suggestions offered online, in books, or even ideas you could get from one of your friends or confidants. You’ll be glad you did.
Until next time…