The start of a new year is likely to involve a long list of resolutions. I myself have quite a few. This year the difference is that I have one long-term resolution (though I prefer to call it a goal or theme) that I’m focusing on, instead of sweating a bunch of small stuff. That is mostly to simply ‘Cut the crap’. Because I, like many, have gotten into a terrible habit of ‘never having time’, overthinking and constant worry (over what I am not quite sure of really). I have fallen into the trap of unfounded anxiety, existing in a constant spin of ‘things to do’.
Take a breath.
You don’t have to exist like this. A hurricane of uncertain dread. Good news: It is a new year, and with that comes a refresh. A clean slate.
Here are a few things I’ve learnt:
The human mind exists in a constant state of hunger for ‘more’. Many a time the feeling of restlessness is caused by a need for purpose. “The mind exists in a state of “not enough” and so is always greedy for more.”, says Eckhart Tolle, of Stillness Speaks.
When you are wondering aimlessly for just ‘something’, you exist in a state of never now. That means contentment will always continue to allude you.
So choose a purpose. A goal. Whether that’s ultimately losing weight, finding a new job or making more friends. Choose a purpose, start somewhere. Start anywhere. Whenever you find yourself lost, get to working on that, in whatever small way.
But remember, that time spent still is not time wasted. Sometimes you need to take a moment to just breath. Force yourself if you must. Give thanks for the things in your life, meditate, or simply close your eyes and take a fucking nap.
WHAT’S THE RUSH?
Often the cure for always rushing is simply to slow down. Just stop entirely, and start again slower. I often found myself rushing and not sure what I was rushing to. I’d speed through tasks and then find myself bored and aimless.
Occupy yourself with your actions.
That really just translates into being present in what you are doing. When you become mindful of your actions you become immersed in the moment, and in that moment time becomes malleable. It stretches or speeds up. That’s where the saying ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ comes from. But I find often , the moments when time feels infinite is when I am most content. You reach that by simply being where you are and occupying the moment that you are in.
It seems counter-productive but when you find yourself still and suddenly agitated the best thing to do is to “stay bored and restless”.
“When you are identiﬁed with mind”, rather than reality, “you get bored and restless very easily.”, says Tolle.
“Observe what it feels like to be bored and restless.”
“As you bring awareness to the feeling, there is suddenly some space and stillness around it, as it were. A little at ﬁrst, but as the sense of inner space grows, the feeling of boredom will begin to diminish in intensity and signiﬁcance.”
Refer to PURPOSE.
Once you’ve outlined what you would like to get out of the year, yourself or other areas of life, get rid of the things that no longer serve you. That includes worries and negative thought cycles. Kick 2016 worries out the door.
Declutter your handbag, then declutter your pockets, your cupboard and your room. Clear out your contact list and consider cutting out the people who negatively impact your life.
Often we say we don’t have time, and while it feels 100% percent true, it’s probably not.
The truth is, any free time I really had, I spent trying to calm my mind and then feeling guilty for neglecting people I loved. But you need to put yourself first in this regard. If you need a break, take a break.
Once you’ve done that, assess if the things that take up your time are really necessary, be it people or activities. Prioritizing what’s important can start with getting rid of shit that doesn’t add value to your life, or simply by waking up earlier to get stuff out the way.
Point is, it’s possible to have ‘time’. Time is what you make of it, and how you use it.
Next, declutter your mind. Write down your worries and things you have to do. Now organize your worries by: Can I change this? Can I control this outcome? If you cannot do either, cross it off. If you can, ask yourself: Can I do anything about this now? If not, it’s not necessary to be taking up headspace.
If you have to wait for an outcome to act on a problem, devise your course of action, and then let it go.
Organize the things you have to do by time and priority. You’ll find most things fall to the bottom. Ask yourself: Will the world stop if I don’t do the washing today?
Most people will say tackle the important stuff first. I say, start with the easy things- maybe 2 or 3. Then work on the big thing. If you don’t finish it, carry on tomorrow. It will be okay- promise.
I find journalling to be useful but you can practice the act of decluttering by writing in any form you find useful. It helps to put things into perspective and to rid myself of unnecessary worries. Write down all the junk, and then close the book on it. Tomorrow is a fresh start.
GET OVER YOURSELF.
You can often become too involved in your own thoughts socially when you find yourself constantly worrying about the impression you give, and how others perceive you. The liberating truth however, is that no one is really thinking of you. Not in a nonconsequential way. You still matter. It’s just that you matter more to yourself, than to others.
You, your image, your quirks, they don’t take up much time in other people’s headspace. That’s the truth.
Want to know something? They’re probably too busy worrying about how they’re coming off, and what others think too. You can solve this by taking the attention off yourself and focusing on the other person entirely. Ask them things about themselves, focus on their presentation, comment positively on what you see (clothes, facial features, a good laugh). You find that by trying to make someone comfortable in a new situation, you too become comfortable.
GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.
To live in the now is such an overused phrase and quite frankly, easier said than done. Overthinking is an easy habit to fall into. And that’s what it is- a habit. It can be kicked. At the crux of it, overthinking creates an illusion of control. That can be addictive. Get rid of the idea of control.
Understanding how the mind works can be very empowering. “Thinking fragments reality”, says Tolle. “..it cuts it up into conceptual bits and pieces.” This makes you feel like you understand what’s going on around you better, but this need soon overtakes the ability to be where you are, as you are constantly evaluating and boxing ideas and situations.
The easy way out? Perspective.
“The human mind, in its desire to know, understand, and control, mistakes its opinions and viewpoints for the truth. It says: This is how it is. You have to be larger than thought to realize that however you interpret “your life” or someone else’s life or behavior, however you judge any situation, it is no more than a viewpoint, one of many possible perspectives. It is no more than a bundle of thoughts.”
The bottom line is:
“When you no longer believe everything you think, you step out of thought and see clearly that the thinker is not who you are. [The thinking mind] is only a small aspect of the consciousness that you are.”
Written by Zoya Pon.
Feature Image by Sofia Bonati.