Ok, so it’s not a job ad.
I tried doing that thing where the entire article was written like one – but I was a bit stumped when it came to ‘Location’, because this way of thinking is big and therefore hard to pin down. The ‘Salary’ I had sussed, and I even whacked the word ‘exponential’ in there, which for 08.25 on a Tuesday morning with only one coffee in my system, I figured was pretty impressive!
But yes, this is about a way of thinking and a way of living. It’s about curating your own life so that the best, possible, you can grow, think, dance, explore, laugh, sleep and eat better. Pretty big claims, huh? Well… yes, but all entirely possible.
How many times have you heard the phrase ‘You are what you eat’? And how many times have you felt that to be true? It’s no surprise that if we eat junk for a few days, we begin to feel like junk, all sluggish and tired. Change the word ‘eat’ to ‘consume’ and you can start to see how the consumption of junk anything can begin to have an impact.
And I mean literally… anything.
In our current climate, this is perhaps the most obvious one. In 2018 adults in the UK spent the equivalent of over one whole day a week online, and I think anyone that has a Facebook account has found themselves mindlessly scrolling. It’s the same with Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIN etc etc, but because it’s perhaps the most common, I’m going to stick with Facebook.
Everyone seems to have a Facebook account, from your youngest relation to your oldest, from that person you met on holiday when you were six to your best friend – and for a long while it was the way we all connected with each other. I think my attitudes to it have changed a lot over the last eighteen months or so, and I feel that the tide is turning globally somewhat – partly because it’s kind of a vicious circle; everyone is on there so it’s great to be connected, but everyone is on there, so it’s feels like you are always connected.
However, we all still use it. I’m as guilty as the next person for scrolling down my feed whilst not really absorbing what I’m reading (not consciously anyway), and recent scientific research has shown that it is a little more complex than simply being bored or looking for a distraction. Dopamine and Opioid – two different compounds that are found in our brains neurotransmitters, have us hooked. This is an article on the subject which is quite an interesting read, but put simply – social media can give us the same hit as sex, or chocolate, or a hug. Even the ‘drive’ or the need to get those likes, messages and friend requests is driven by our innate need for dopamine.
Is it any wonder then that we spend so much time scrolling, and that we are also so undisciplined when it comes to taking time away from the site?
Recently though, I have made a little deal with myself. I am not ready (yet) to deactivate Facebook – however, what I can do is make it a nice place to be. When the option to ‘follow’ people came out, I must admit I was a little sceptical and wary – I didn’t want to be followed, I tend to keep my personal Facebook account pretty tight with security settings, so I quickly found a way to switch that option off! But, a good thing that has come out of having that option is that you can also unfollow people, people who are already on your friends list.
Now, I know that sounds terrible. Why have them on your friends list if you don’t want to see what they post? Weeeeeeeeellllll yes, I get that, but some people would be difficult to remove, for various reasons and it’s not that I dislike that person, or I’m not interested in them – it’s just that perhaps we hold wildly different views on something (that isn’t going to change), or perhaps they remind me of a part of my past that is difficult and I need to be in the right frame of mind to have those memories come up. Perhaps they are at a different place in their journey and some of their posts can be triggering to my particular sensitivities at a particular time or maybe it’s just as simple as they are obsessed with a TV series and I haven’t caught up yet and don’t want the spoilers. Maybe they constantly post memes, or cat videos, or links to sites that I don’t find interesting (these are all just examples, I have nothing against cat videos) but you get the idea. You can follow and unfollow at will and I’m not ashamed to admit that sometimes I do just that. I also only follow pages that I am interested in – the 2007 me that ‘liked’ every page going on this wonderful new site is, after all, somewhat different to 2019 me.
I see it as an act of self-care. We are each responsible for our own well-being and if I felt despair every time I scroll through Facebook because I have read 6 posts in a row about Brexit or Donald Trump, seen a few pictures of the Yulin dog festival or a fox hunt, watched an advert for new diet pills, read about a horrific murder from a news site and been reminded that I still have 3 episodes of that hour long drama that I now know the end of to catch up on then… I’m going to be feeling pretty crappy. I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to things; the news is important, awareness is important, activism and politics – they are all important and we should all be very aware of what is going on in the world we live in. But – and this is the crux of it – if they are not on our Facebook feeds, then we can choose when we read about them. By choice, I read a newspaper and I keep up with current affairs, but at times when I choose to, when I feel like I can deal with what I am reading, and this is rarely just before I am about to go to sleep or within the first 10 minutes of waking up – I’m an awful procrastinator when my alarm goes off, let’s just check Facebook quickly, eh?.
So, learn to curate your feed, and don’t be ashamed of it or think too deeply about it. I have zero judgement for what other people post – for some, it could be informative and I am well aware that some people are sensitive to things that others are simply not. Like how some people can watch gruesome horror movies and some of us hide behind a cushion and still have nightmares! But, I am able to control what I consume from Facebook, and the rest – and so can you.
Playlists… I love them, I am slightly addicted to them – and no, I’m not going to tell you to only listen to positive songs and to not listen to songs about heartbreak or loss or infidelity or confusion, because some of the best songs written are about other people’s heartbreak. But, be mindful about when you do listen to what you listen to.
Sadness, anger, fear and despair are very real emotions and we do need to feel those things, blocking them out and pretending that they don’t exist isn’t going to help us in the long term. Music can be very cathartic; it can be very cleansing and can evoke wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) memories. Music can make you feel less alone, it can bring comfort and joy and motivation when its needed most – many a time I have given my dog an entire rendition of Beauty and The Beast or Evita whilst cooking a Sunday roast, because it’s so much more fun to prance around the kitchen pretending to be Lumiere and offering him imaginary cheese soufflé, than it is to just hum along to the radio whilst peeling the eleventy billionth Brussell sprout.
I currently have a Power UP playlist – which is made up of songs that make me feel good and motivated; some are embarrassing, some are pretty powerful, some hold some wonderful memories – and there are a couple of power ballads and musical numbers to screech at the top of my voice in the shower. If I need to get shit done, I put this on. If all I want to do is curl up and nap but I know I need to do something, I put it on. If I’m cold, I put it on and prance about.
I also have a Slow and Calm playlist. This has the sadder songs; the heartbroken indie boys, the music from sad movies, the instrumentals that pull at the heartstrings and songs that get you right in the feels, it also has perfectly happy songs, but ones that are a little gentler. Sometimes, I listen to this on the bus either to or from therapy; sometimes in the bath if I have had a rough day and sometimes just if I want a good cry!
I have also started to create a playlist that has more meditative music on – chants, nature sounds and gentle instrumentals. This I listen to when it’s still dark outside and I’m getting ready for work. It helps to wake me up and sets my frame of mind for the day. Power UP is too much, Slow and Calm might not put me in a great mood – but something neutral, something gentle and that I relate to relaxation and calm and setting good intentions, is a good way to wake up to the world.
You will know what works for you and when it works for you – but again, like with Facebook and social media – it comes down to options and giving ourselves the choice and knowing when we can handle certain things and when we just can’t. For me, if Mary Lamberts ‘Sum of Our Parts’ and Phoebe Bridgers ‘You Missed My Heart’ played one after each other – I’d be an emotional whirlwind!
‘You are the company you keep’…. Well, yes and no. Kind of? I’m very on the fence with this saying. We are all our own people – for example, just because someone I spend time with is of one political persuasion, doesn’t mean that I am. Perhaps it is not meant quite so literally, but I like to believe that most of us have courage in our convictions and that sometimes it is our differences that bind us. However, I do know and appreciate that different people can have very positive or very negative influences on us.
This can be dependent on many factors and it can vary from situation to situation. It also won’t always be glaringly apparent, someone doesn’t have to make you feel angry, or upset for them to have had a negative impact on you. They could perhaps leave you feeling just a little unsettled, or under-confident. Perhaps you are more tired after spending time with some people than with others? Certain people may trigger uncomfortable memories or emotions – either because they are part of our past, or they exhibit behaviours and tendencies similar to those that we have experienced before. Maybe certain people encourage you to behave in ways that afterwards leave you feeling embarrassed or like you haven’t been in control…
It isn’t always possible to curate the company we keep. Workplaces, extended friendship groups, families – they all contain people who could potentially be difficult for us to spend time around. But, we can observe our own behaviour and our own reactions to uncomfortable situations with other people, also, in observing our behaviour it is also important to check in with ourselves and ensure that we are not the negative influence. It can be an easy trap to fall into, especially if we have been spending time with people of that ilk. Perhaps it’s easier to recount the six things that went wrong at work, rather than that one thing that went right (we all do it!), maybe our minds have been elsewhere and we haven’t picked up on certain cues that have told us that someone is feeling uncomfortable, or we have inadvertently spent the last 45 minutes talking about ourselves and not let anyone else get a word in edgeways.
We are all made of energy – and physics 101 tells us that we have positive and negative energy at play in the world around us, constantly. As humans, this energy is no different and it can have a big impact on us as individuals. Recently, someone who I feel has quite a negative energy about them spent some time in my home and afterwards I physically cleansed the space; I opened windows, I cleaned, I washed the clothes I had been wearing and the sheets I slept in afterwards. I used sage to clear the air and I meditated to a very calming, positive guided meditation to ground myself and take back some control over the energy in my home. It helped me feel like that encounter was fully over, it had finished and I could move on from it.
It would be wonderful if we could all float around burning sage and meditating at the drop of a hat – but, sadly, we are not there yet. However, there are small things that we can all do every day to keep our own frequencies on track and to minimise the impact of these negative emotions.
Grounding is very important – I will write more fully about this over the next couple of days, but this can be done quietly and calmly if needed. Meditation is also a very handy tool, as is just repeating certain mantras to yourself, even if it is silently. When I was growing up, my mum had a close friend and if something was beginning to upset her, she would quietly say to herself ‘I will not receive this’ and envisage herself holding up her hand as if to halt whatever was coming her way.
But, if you can, it is perfectly ok to quietly and calmly move away from these people. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, who want the best for you and who you can learn from – I promise you, they are out there.
Well… everything else! Once you start making positive choices and decisions about how you spend your time and who you spend it with, you will open up a whole new world of possibilities. Healthy choices are like throwing a stone into a lake – the ripples spread outwards. Just as it would be nonsensical to do an hour’s worth of cardio and then eat a burger, it would also make little sense to create positive energy around you and then go and participate in an activity that you know will drain you and leave you feeling depleted. What we read, eat, watch and say becomes us over time – and it doesn’t even have to be the things we say out loud, it can be that little internal dialogue, the curious and constant thoughts that fill our quieter moments. Curating what we consume allows the positivity to flow freely, it brightens our minds, expands our thoughts and builds our connections with others, it also helps to keep us as the wonderful individuals that we are and were always meant to be.
So do it with passion and without shame, look at it as a radical form of self-care and of protecting that little ember inside of all of us that keeps the fire going – and one day you may just find yourself ablaze with light.