Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share. (Filmed atTEDxHouston.)
This article was written by Adam Wosniak from encouragementfromastranger.com
Life throws us some curveballs from time to time. Other times, it tackles us to the ground. And sometimes, it just feels like we’re in the middle of a golf driving range being assaulted by hundreds of golf balls.
But enough about my weekend.
No matter how hard we try to be positive and happy with life, sometimes we experience periods where we simply feel like shit.
I’m not necessarily talking about clinical depression or other serious mental and psychological problems here. Nor am I talking about life and death stuff. For those things, you really should seek professional help.
I’m just talking about those periods where you feel like things aren’t going your way, and you’re just not having much fun.
From my own experience, this feeling can usually be traced to one or more of the following issues:
Sadly, we still seem to live in a society obsessed with working long hours, getting little sleep, and wearing all of that as some sort of badge of honour (more like a badge of stupidity, really).
Not surprisingly, over time this WILL catch up with you.
A lack of quality sleep (and/or a terrible sleeping pattern) has been proven to affect people quite dramatically.
You’ll end up impatient with yourself and others, you’ll make poor decisions, and you will eventually shorten your lifespan. Sounds like fun.
But, you know, “sleep when you’re dead”, right…?
Poor nutrition and fitness
Not eating enough, and not eating the right stuff has also been shown to have a negative effect on people.
Eating poorly for a lengthy period of time will result in less energy, poor health, and low enjoyment of life in general. So it’s time to put down that McQuadrupleBypass Burger…
Oh, and while you’re at it, maybe it’s time to get some exercise too!
Lack of downtime
Our work culture doesn’t put enough emphasis on the importance of downtime. At best, we might have weekends and two-weeks off a year. At worst, we virtually have neither!
But, again, studies consistently show that we NEED to have breaks and downtime.
We need to get away, take our minds off work, and relax. That relaxation might simply involve rest, or it might involve doing other activities and hobbies that bring you enjoyment.
Of course, if your day-to-day work is enjoyable (which should be the goal of it!), it’s still a good idea to unplug every now and then to keep your mind fresh. After all, the mind is like every other muscle. It needs regular rest to ensure you are at your peak.
Lack of prioritisation
This one is a big one because it can be present every hour of your day.
If you feel like you’re constantly juggling a million things at once, it’s going to be hard to NOT feel like shit eventually.
There’s just too much stress and distraction in trying to multi-task all the time. Besides, many studies now show that SINGLE-TASKING is far more effective, despite what society conditions us to believe.
So if you’re feeling stressed, it may very well be to do with this.
If that’s the case, the solution is not doing more.
It’s about prioritising the tasks you need to do, and realising that not every task is urgent, or even important.
Lack of laughter
If you feel like shit, there’s a strong possibility that it’s been a while since you had a really good laugh.
Time to trigger that funny bone again then (keep it G-rated people)!
Lack of human interaction
This one can be a big one. And it’s basically a feeling of isolation.
Even if you work in an office every day, it’s still possible to feel isolated. Many office environments can have a very stiff and artificial feel where no one is quite themselves, and as a result people don’t form genuine friendships.
One of the solutions to this (besides trying to work in a better environment in the first place!) is to pursue hobbies that interest you, and meet people that enjoy those same activities. You can do this online, or – better yet – in the real world!
Personally, I’m constantly amazed at how much of a difference just getting out and doing stuff with people can make to one’s mood. A simple bushwalk with friends, a game of cards, or a movie and some late night munchies can make a world of difference.
Hanging out with the wrong people
Having said the above, perhaps isolation isn’t your problem. Perhaps you’re surrounded by lots of people. But they’re just not the right people for you!
Perhaps they’re overly negative people who have some very warped views about the world. Perhaps they’re just not fun to be around.
In that case, it’s best to minimise your time with such individuals, and focus on developing friendships with people who are much more fun.
You’re not doing what you should be doing
This one expresses itself as a nagging feeling that you’re meant to be doing something else with your life.
Perhaps you have trouble getting up in the morning because you’re not particularly looking forward to the day’s work? Perhaps you’re bored on a regular basis? Perhaps your mind is constantly elsewhere?
If you’re feeling this, embrace it. Don’t ignore it.
Your body is trying to tell you something. Don’t wait until this underlying feeling literally starts making you sick. Start working on this issue now. Find out what your purpose is, and what you REALLY want to be doing with your life.
I know … easier said than done, right? Sure, but you have to at least TRY. Doing the same things every day won’t get you there though.
None of the above?
If you genuinely believe that none of the above adequately explains why you feel like shit, and presuming that you’re not suffering from some sort of trauma or mental illness, here’s something that might help you find out why you feel the way you do.
Get a piece of paper and a pen (get away from the computer), and start to make a list of absolutely everything you feel anxious or worried about RIGHT NOW, at this precise moment in time.
Keep writing until you can’t think of anything more. This might take 20 minutes, or it might take 2 hours.
Seriously, get it ALL down on paper, no matter how stupid you think it might be.
As you write, you’re not allowed to read back through what you’ve just written. No editing. Just keep writing the list. Keep going until you literally can’t write any more.
Once you’ve exhausted everything you can think of (eventually, you WILL run out of thoughts), you might start to feel a bit better. You have now LITERALLY put everything onto the page.
Now go get some sleep and look at the list tomorrow when you feel a little better.
The next day, with a fresh outlook, you can start to look back through your list a bit more rationally, and with less emotion. It just might help you see clearly what the problem was/is in the first place.
Sometimes, there might be no problem at all! Maybe you were just having an off-day.
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day is not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and two cups of coffee.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him.
When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and fills it with golf balls.
He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured it into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls.
He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else.
He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “YES”.
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
“Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things – God, family,
children, health, friends, and favorite passions. Things, that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the things that matter like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.” he said.
“If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are
important to you…” he told them.
“So… pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Worship with your family. Play with your children. Take your partner out to dinner. Spend time with good friends. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the dripping tap. Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”
People are constantly at war with themselves. Unfortunately much of our lives are spent involved in this fruitless war. We are so self-absorbed and warped that we can’t even take the time to ask the guy next to us how he managed that smile on his face. We ourselves haven’t used a smile in months. We worry constantly about what other people think. How far inward can we get today? How many people can we crush to get what we want. It’s a selfish downward spiral. Obsession of self is another term I’m fond of. It leads to unhappiness and the “fork in the road” that you took was subtle. You made the choice to be selfish before you could even think about it.
Whatever happened to do unto others? What happened to helping your neighbor? I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s still here. It’s just not being practiced. So to you I lay this challenge.
The more time spent thinking and helping others, the less time you have to worry about Jimmy with the six pack and Samantha with the perfect legs. Every morning ask yourself this. Who can I help today? Do it with no thought of reward. Be selfless everyday. Happiness is guaranteed to follow. Here’s a shocker. Religion teaches these principles. I didn’t just go up in flames and you won’t either. It should serve as a reminder that these actions have been in practice for thousands of years with great results. We just have to remember it. Remember to help someone at some point during your “busy” day. You’ll be so much better for it. You might ask yourself how you can help others. Don’t be ashamed. I ask myself that.
You know how your roommate or spouse always leaves laundry in the dryer? Fold it next time and put it in his or her room. What about the single mother you see lugging groceries on your walk home? You see her so often. Take a minute and introduce yourself and help her with her bags.
There’s almost always a can at gas stations on the counter asking for contributions to certain charities. Since you just spent $2.85 on a large coffee why not put the change or at least a dollar in that can. It doesn’t matter what its for, you are helping someone else.
Lets look at that co-worker that is struggling to make ends meet. They always talk about it but don’t ask for help. Hide a $20 bill in their jacket pocket.
Send your parents a bouquet of roses without a card.
Then there’s the friend that always asks for a ride everywhere. Our first thought should be how we are lucky to even have wheels, the second thought should always follow with “Of course I will give this person a ride. I have the time and means to help them.”
These are just quick examples. You can think of more if you try. That’s the fun of it! You can never run out of ways to help another person. You can choose how much you help. But the real lesson is this: The more you concentrate on helping them, the less time you have to worry about your vanity, issues and bedevilment’s of day to day life. Trust me I know first hand. True happiness stems from helping others and quieting your obsession for what you don’t have. The former conquers the latter every time. Do you have the courage for the right battle?
Be kind to yourself.
Many times, I expect too much out of myself. My goals aren’t realistic and whenever results don’t match expectations, I get frustrated, discouraged, and restless. I want to force things. I feel a visceral impatience bubble up inside me. I can’t stand it. I want to be at the finish line.
Upon digesting and analyzing my feelings, it feels like fear. I’m scared I’m not moving fast enough. I’m fearful I’m not far enough along the path. I’m afraid that I’ll never get to where I see myself going.
It takes someone else’s encouraging words, a good night’s sleep, or some other disruptive force to knock me from my torrid trance. Progress takes time. Realizing that life is not a race helps. Keeping up with the Joneses has never had a positive connotation and for good reason. Stop making assumptions. Try to understand that not everyone judges us, abuses us, victimizes us, and blames us the same way we do to ourselves.
Don’t expect too much out of yourself. Just do your best, keep your eyes on the prize, and stay on the path you believe in. We are our own worst critics, and we deserve a life without the constant reprimand of our own thoughts.
Be kind to yourself.
Yesterday at our condo association, I looked on as two young children played games with their grandmother in the backyard. I saw the pleasure in their eyes and heard the thrill in their voices. The young girl repeatedly yelled out to her grandmother, “I NEED to show you something” with great urgency. She wanted to show the grandmother how she could hit a wiffle ball.
I looked on with a deep gaze and in that moment, I flashed back. I thought about how perceptions change, how things become duller and smaller, and how fun and excitement become more difficult to attain as we age. I reflected on how easy it is to get used to looking at something from one angle, how we can get stuck in our habits, and how we can get forget to be present in the mindless march of life.
I thought about life and what it means to be truly alive. I haven’t felt alive like those young children in many years. I thought about the pain involved in growing older: loss, grief, regret, sickness. I’ve used alcohol, nicotine, and drugs to try to squeeze more magical moments of youth from my life. The beneficial effects of drugs have faded. I realize now that through the aging process, our filter of experience changes. Our responsibilities grow, our lives become condemned with the unessential, and we settle for the futile.
I look to the lives of great ones, one particular great one, for advice on such diseasing thoughts. “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” –Steve Jobs.
I want to be a kid. I want to chase my dreams. I’m sick of the status quo, and I’m tired of living in the anguish of mere existence. I want to make a difference in the world because I know that the road doesn’t end when the final song has been sung. I regret every moment of my life where I have not pursued my passions. The only moment I feel childlike is in the moments where I chase what excites me. I will not allow this to continue. I choose my destiny, and it is to chase after all that excites my soul.