Exercise is a funny beast that most of us hate. There are those who make going to the gym their life, but there are the rest of us too, who try to rationalize walking to the fridge as a decent amount of physical exertion for the day. It’s natural, afterall. Excercise is uncomfortable. It’s hard and it feels weird when you aren’t already fit.
However, getting out there and being physical every day is amazing for you. It lowers your risk of practically every disease, makes you more attractive, and improves your psychological staye! Working your muscles makes them stronger, and lowers the chance of things going wrong. Furthermore, people who practice self control by working out also tend to eat more healthy too, since they’re exerting all that effort in the first place. It helps your mood too, not only that day, but overall! There’s plenty of studies out there, and practically all support the thesis: exercise is a vital and wonderfully beneficial part to include in one’s routine.
The problem is, of course, that we hate it. Especially in America, it tends to come down to those who exercise like crazy and those who don’t exercise at all. We tend to go for the extremes, when it’s not a competition! We don’t need to look like models. We don’t need to be super muscular and thin. All we need to be to healthy, and that can be accomplished through small habits, building up to something moderate and sustainable. It’s good to want to be healthy, but actually do it. Get started. Start working out. If you don’t want to deal with the looks, work out in your room or a private space. Go for a bike ride if you have the means. Walk for a bit if you can. Be healthy for you, because it will make you happier, prettier, and stronger. People may do as they may, but you might just save your future by putting that effort in.
Our bodies and feelings are connected, not in some mystical, intangible way, but in a manner that directly affects our everyday life. Smiling makes us more prone to becoming happy, punching things makes us angry, and nodding your head yes makes you more likely to agree; many times our physical actions reaffirm our emotions and make them more powerful. While we like to think of our minds as powerful rudders that guide our bodies, our emotions and physicality are more like two oars on the same boat.
Thoughts mean nothing by themselves. Yet, because they are connected to our bodies, they mean everything. Sure, thinking about killing your boss might not make you kill them. However, it would be foolish to assume that the culmination of those negative thoughts doesn’t impact you. Where we focus is what we value. What we value is what we end up putting our time and effort into. What this means is that you can’t say you value honesty and spend most of your time lying. You can’t say you value kindness and be cruel to people don’t do what you want them to. You can’t say tomorrow you’ll be different if you didn’t put in the effort today.
Or rather, you can’t act in that hypocritical way and expect anything to change. The basis of solving or changing anything is realizing there is a problem. Only by seeing the mistakes you’ve made can you begin to fix it. If you truly want to be better, you have to begin thinking the right way and acting the right way. If you really care, that will come out in how you behave. And you can do this! It’s terrifying to admit your errors. Looking at where you are and where you want to be is like staring up at some colossal giant who’s ready to smash you under their heel. But Jack Beanstalk is the hero at the end of the day. If you want to make a difference, you can. You do it a little bit at a time, making little changes, slowly but surely becoming better than who you were before.
Almost everyone has tried to write a book at some point in their life. It might be three pages long and half developed or it might be a full three page novel they can’t stop editing. If you ask someone what they would like to write a book about, practically every single person can think of something they’ve secretly been working on mentally. However, there obviously isn’t a book on the shelves for every person who wants to write one because they usually don’t even find their way onto paper.
There’s lots of reasons why a book doesn’t come into fruition. The person forgets the idea, they discard it, life gets in the way and they don’t work on it, they complete it and never get it published, they try to get it published and no one wants it; there’s so many things that can sway a book from publication. The big factor, though, is the individual who wants to write it. We don’t write books because we usually don’t have the self-control to do so. It’s not that the idea isn’t big enough, or that the plot isn’t developed enough. It’s the fact that we have to put our heads in the game on a daily basis and work on it until we make the idea big enough and the plot developed enough.
Not everyone is a writer, and not all writers are good at what they do. Writing is an incredibly difficult task, trying to get at the barest bones of communication. You don’t have to work on a book in order to feel successful in life, but we could all improve our self-discipline. It doesn’t matter what you want if you don’t do anything to get it. In some areas, writing a book is easier than other tasks because you can measure how much you’ve done through page number, word count, or chapters completed. So give yourself a measure! Make a checklist and fill out your goals. Don’t let your ambitions be unrealized, but seek them out every day, because every day is a gift.
The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.
Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.
When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.
Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763
For social beings who by nature need communication and contact, we have a really bad habit of isolating ourselves. We would prefer to hide behind social media, small talk, and our own self-doubts rather than try and make connections. Socialization is hard work, even for extroverts. You are a bubble of experiences, ideas, thoughts, temperament, and genetics and you meet another bubble that has all its own experiences and beliefs. Who knows if youre bubbles overlap? Trying to find similarities is frightening because people don’t always click right away.
Making friends means being vulnerable, and vulnerability is uncomfortable because it means not being able to predict the future as well. Even something as minor as revealing you love dogs: what if they hate dogs and have had traumatic experiences with them? It’s unlikely, but the more personal the topics get, the more risky it is to share them because you don’t know how they’ll react. As much as social anxiety is seen as over reacting in our culture, it’s actually not that unreasonable when you consider how socialization puts identity and sense of self at risk.
We like focusing on the ‘good stuff’, especially in American culture. We like feeling good, looking good, and being happy 100% of the time. When we talk and risk oursleves, we demand and expect payback for that socialization risk. Yet sometimes the result is awkward and embarrassing. It’s not required to be pretty and it usually isn’t smooth at all. In fact, it can be uncomfortable and unsatisfying. Talking to other people is hard, that’s proven by how entire college majors are dedicated to simple communication.
It’s okay to be socially awkward, everything gets better with practice. It’s okay to miscommunicate something, you’ll keep at it and they’ll eventually catch on. It’s okay to not know what to say, you’re not a mind-reader. It’s natural to have some difficulties when bridging the gap between two entirely different lives. Keep at it! Keep taking risks and communicating with people. Closing ourselves off socially is starving ourselves of a basic pyschological desire, so stay fed! It might not always seem worth it in the moment but it is in the long run.
Not all passions are equal in the eyes of our culture. People who care about TV shows seem somehow “less” or more frivolous. That arises from the fact that it usually doesn’t require a higher degree of education or complex thinking to watch it. Furthermore, spending all of your time thinking about a show takes away from thinking about something more valued by our culture. However, I’d like to try and change that view point just a bit: why do most people care more about shows than we do real things?
Shows are captivating because they have story lines. As humans, we love stories, we think in stories. Yet they are also captivating because a vast majority of them have character development. You can trust someone is going to change, and most likely it will be for the better. It’s comforting. Also, if they are done correctly, shows can be amazingly interesting. Science is absolutely fascinating, but not thrilling like watching dragons attack a castle. Books are entertaining, but people don’t like spending the energy it takes to imagine and process the words.
When you compare random bits of data, it’s much harder to get excited than over Person A killing Person B over Person C who loves person D who loves person B. In our lives, we love stories, but we also get frustrated when our lives work out more like a series of random events and less like a path that leads somewhere. Not all passions are equal because some roles seem to be only available to those who are skilled enough to achieve them. Fans are a dime a dozen, but lawyers? Learning the Law takes years of extra schooling. The problem is most lawyers probably aren’t that passionate about the law.
What if we were as passionate about our lives as we are by really good shows? What if we could see ourselves as the protagonist and the hard work as a mighty challenge that’s worth overcoming? Consider becoming a fan of your own life.
Today is a good day. Sometimes that doesn’t even have to be true, but you have to say it, and furthermore, you have to believe it. There’s this kind of advice: even if you feel bad, don’t look bad. Its this idea that if you feel aboslutely horrible, if you take the time to put effort into what you wear, you’ll feel better. It’s a battle cry of effort, I will not be defeated by my exhaustion! Even if it doesn’t come out through physical apperance it’s important to care about living your life, especially when it’s hard.
One of my favorite songs is Nat King Cole’s “Smile”, and one of the lines is this, “when there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by”. As to say, sure. Life isn’t perfect. There are so many people who are hurting and struggling. However, if we give up when the going gets hard, we’re letting our true potential slip by. Our ability is not determined by talent alone. Honestly, at the end of the day, talent means very little. What you can change is the part that makes the most difference: your effort.
You can’t live at 100% all the time, but we can usually give at least 5% more. And if we decide to not put in that effort, we find ourselves in a cycle of stagnancy. If it’s difficult, you’re getting somewhere, so keep fighting. Today is a good day.
Every time we ‘remember’ something, we recreate the situation in our mind. In fact, we can recreate and be influenced after the fact so much that we even create false memories. That’s why eyewitness testimonies aren’t as reliable as we think they are; by the time they get to court, they’ve talked to so many people, reimagined the events so many different ways. The way someone questions you can alter your memory so subtly and yet it makes all the difference. We see the past how we want to see it at the time. Mean people become kind, kind people become cruel. Memory is always faulty to some degree, but we can’t operate without it.
That’s why living in the past is so dangerous. Everyone knows people who are bitter. You say one thing and they can’t seem to let it go. Every inconvenience seems to be some large conspiracy against them. Bitter people usually get to that point because they’ve gone over their memories so much, they’ve recreated their entire past to always lead to the present moment of pain. Either everyone else is wrong and forced them into their current state, or they loathe themselves for every action they committed, or some combination of the two.
It’s not wrong to think about the past. You can learn things from history, can take valuable lessons away from events. It also can be a pleasant activity, remembering happier circumstances. I’m not saying we should doubt every memory and try to live like a blank slate; it’s just not healthy to dwell on the past too much. Things change. Our feelings affect what we think happened. If there’s some knot you keep going over in your mind, don’t hate yourself for picking up the rope, get help trying to untie it.
Fantasy stories hold such appeal for humans because we like the clarity. A hero has a designes purpose, they band with their friends and overcome obstacles, then they defeat the Final Boss and they get a reward. Granted, some fantasy stories put different twists on the predictable ending, but the thing that is most persistent is the purpose. Sometimes it takes the whole book for the hero to find it, but they always do. There’s a message, a moral, that teaches the audience.
One of the interesting things about pyschology is that we grasp narratives much more than combinations of events. We set a beginning, middle, and end to our recitations of our day, to our conversations, to many things. From here you could easily branch into talking about truth, the purpose or lack thereof of existence, and so on. However, it is in our design to look for the climax where the hero defeats the villain. It helps motivate us because we know where we want to go.
The fact is, we are very distractable creatures. It’s much easier to watch someone else learning their purpose and accomplishing things than to seek out the truth ourselves. It’s not totally obvious which dragons we’re supposed to defeat and which we’re supposed to befriend. Sometimes the band of friends we think will carry us through gives way. We lose our narrative and it can be exhausting trying to get it back. However, no matter what you believe, purpose can be an incredible force for good. Let’s not let life pass us by, let’s make it into a stunning story.
Happiness is related to a stronger immune system, better cardiovasular health, reduced pain, better sleep, higher performance in general, and surprisingly, creativity. I’ve personally always be prone to the belief that miserable people tend to be more creative and intelligent. However, studies don’t support either one of those. IQ has minimal affect on happiness, and as stated before, happiness actually improves creativity (Gilovich, 2015). So why do those stereotypes exist? And why does it matter for us?
First off, we think creativity and intelligence is related to misery because throughout history, some of the most depressed people have been the most intelligent and creative. You think of people like Mozart, Van Gogh, and Hemmingway. In fact, it would be too simplistic for me to say that happiness is the only way to be creative; there is a connection afterall, between mental illness and creativity (Adams, 2014). However, the key here is that you don’t have to be miserable to be creative. As Adams talks about, mental illnesses can make a person take in more information, which leads to stranger associations and more flexible thinking. Happiness can help do the same thing, without the horrible side affects.
We can learn to be more happy by being more grateful, by surrounding ourselves with social connections, by giving more than we recieve, and meditating (Gilovich, 2015). Being happy doesn’t “cost” intelligence and creativity. The only thing holding us back is oursleves.
Adams, W. L. (2014, January 22). The dark side of. creativity: Depression anxiety x madness = genius? Retrieved September 24, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/22/world/the-dark-side-of-creativity-vincent-van-gogh/index.html
- Gilovich, T., Keltner, D., & Nisbett, R. E. (2011). Social psychology. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.