All healing occurs first at the level of the mind. Our mind is the vantage point from which we interpret life and create our own meaning. In order to heal the mind, we must first be able to access it, a task which is easier said than done.
The problem is, we actively fill our lives with habits that help us avoid paying attention to the thoughts and feelings which rest in our minds. These mindless activities serve as a distraction to our ability to connect with our inner-self. Through my own pursuit for happiness and connection to higher consciousness, I’ve become more and more aware of the seemingly minor things we all do to avoid being mindful. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, these are the major areas I have become aware in my own life (PSA: Sorry about the long post, friends. I edited a LOT out and intend to write individual posts on each topic, but these are all habits I've recognized in myself and felt them all important to share):
(Dis)connection through Scrolling & Swiping. I think we’d all be somewhat disgusted if we added up how much time we spent staring at a screen (if you use an iPhone and want a quick reality check, use the guide under the photo). I’m as guilty as the next when it comes to using technology as a way to numb and escape reality, as a way to seek affirmation and approval, and as a way to connect with others. It’s almost unavoidable, but that’s no excuse. While technology can impact our lives and allow us to connect with others in some seriously cool ways, it also serves as a completely terrible substitute and interference to forming meaningful relationships with others...and with ourselves.
The social and psychological data I’ve seen on how younger generations will be impacted by technology and social media is pretty heartbreaking. I’m already watching as it takes a toll on my generation’s ability to form meaningful relationships, be emotionally present, and communicate in mature and respectful ways.
Though I’m not able to completely shut off technology for an extended period of time, I’ve set an intention to be more mindful and on purpose with using technology and social media for now. I do plan to do a detox soon; I’ll keep you posted on the details and results (maybe you’d even like to join too!).
Obsessing over our careers. A few years ago, I was working at a job that I was really committed to. I loved the company and what it stood for. The thing was, I placed far too much importance on that job and its relation to my own happiness. I never went anywhere without my laptop. If someone from the organization would call, I’d drop what I was doing and answer the phone. I let my perceived success - the accolades I received, my pay, my title - directly impact my sense of self-worth. I wanted nothing but to get to the next level there; to earn more respect, to get more money, to get another pat on the back. While some might consider these the marks of a good employee, I look back now and realize I was an employee who had placed far too much of my own happiness in the hands of something outside of myself. What resulted was a version of me that was emotionally drained and never satisfied because I was always chasing the next milestone assuming it would make me feel more valuable.
I left that job nearly three years ago when the Universe presented me with a different plan. I still don’t know if I fully understand the purpose of that plan, but I do know that I can reflect back on the level of obsession I placed on my career years ago and see how it directly impacted my search for happiness. With all of the importance I placed on work, I was unable to devote meaningful energy to myself and my own personal development.
Of course, it is important that we invest appropriate energy into our careers. However, we can choose to focus on how we might show up fully and do our best work each day in whatever job we are doing, yet recognize it is not a direct reflection of our own value. As my teacher Marianne Williamson says in her book The Law of Divine Compensation (which you should definitely read if you are interested in transforming the way you view money and work), “Our value individually is determined not by what we do, but by the consciousness with which we do it.”
Mindless spending. Go with me here, we’re about to get a little woo-woo: money is a form of energy. You must put intention into both how you create it and where you send/spend it in order to be “healthy” financially. Yet, it’s also common for us to generate and spend money with little intention; even using money and spending as a way to be in control when other areas of our life are uncertain or dissatisfying. Though the phrase “retail therapy” is somewhat of a joke in our culture, it is actually very real. We spend money on experiences and things as a substitute for happiness (or to avoid sadness).
Personally, I’ve always been financially dependent. I’ve had a job since I was old enough to work and financed college, grad school, vehicles, and my first home without any support. I’ve always thought of myself as financially savvy and was even considered an expert in financial literacy early in my professional career. In fact, I had created a false reality where I saw myself as capable and educated on the topic, but wasn’t actually living out my intentions. Though I am, indeed, incredibly savvy and capable, I had been choosing to be rather mindless about my relationship with money. It’s a similar concept to subconsciously feeling healthier by having a home gym and knowing how to use it, but choosing not to (it’s a real thing, look it up).
By no coincidence, the Universe brought my own mindlessness in this area to my attention in perfect timing (as it always happens). Through this, I became both tremendously grateful and eagerly willing to see my relationship with money differently (I’ll provide more thoughts and lessons on this topic in future posts as I think it’s quite miraculous).
Binging. I’ve been very candid on my blog about my own experience with overindulging in alcohol...and my decision to quit drinking in order to feel better and support my own personal and emotional growth. While I wasn’t addicted to alcohol, I recognized that drinking had become an obvious distraction. It was a mindless activity that I kept up because drinking is socially acceptable. However, alcohol is just an obvious tip-of-the-iceberg when it comes to the many of areas in life where we binge and overindulge in order to numb ourselves or subconsciously avoid healing and growth.
While we can also spend our time devoted to indulging in food or drugs or other substances in excess, I’ve become most recently aware of how reliant I had been on television as a way to escape. Of course, this is the purpose of TV; to transport us to a place where we can live temporarily in a world outside of our own. My concern is that we’ve now made it both easy and acceptable to binge for hours or even days - literally checking out of the real world. While I don’t think this is a concern if done in moderation, I’ve noticed how common it has become to obsess over show after show; always having a series to binge in your cue.
I was once in the habit of sitting down to enjoy a show while eating dinner (as if the characters were keeping me from eating alone). Then, one episode over dinner would turn to two, then three; until it was bedtime and I’d accomplished little else. This year, I’ve set an intention to spend my time on activities that push me towards goals, focus on personal connection, or accelerate my own growth in some way. With that, I’ve barely turned on my TV in months. While I have little to contribute to the conversations about The Bachelor during social hour, I find that I’m living life much more on purpose than I was when I’d regularly binge watch shows.
The presence of technology and social media, our career, money and material wealth, and occasional overindulging all have their place in our lives when integrated mindfully. It is absolutely not my place to judge others on the importance they place in these areas (truthfully, I’ve had to work hard enough not to judge myself). But, I do want more for myself and for us all. Often, I find we engage in these activities because they entertain and distract us or give us a sense of happiness. However, a sense of happiness is just that: a sense; a fleeting feeling which is not sustainable or true.