Mindful over Mindless.

It became painfully obvious last night how much television has been designed to not only entertain but to trap us. It all started when one of my work mates wanted to watch a reality TV program. I have no problem with people watching what ever they want so merely sat on the couch talking while she watched, but before you know it I was watching as well. Then before you know it, one show ends and another one started, and yet it stayed there, flashing and begging us not to look away. Thrusting advertisements into our lives unequivocally.

If I were at home, I never would have caught pulled into it’s trap, knowing that I can’t stand a lot of those shows, yet when I was merely in the room with the television it grabbed my attention without any effort, before I knew it I was merely a zombie, as if seeing my body there, stuck. It wasn’t until I realised I was staying awake to watch a movie that, had someone asked if I wanted to watch it earlier, I would’ve declined.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with television, I find great source of entertainment in the art that people create, but with the advent of Netflix and streaming services, I can’t help but feel my ability to block out the bright, flashing shouting screens of commercial television has waned. As if being spoilt by choice that I control, I’ve relaxed myself into thinking that television doesn’t interest me anymore, when in reality it never did.

It’s further cemented my belief that I am on the right path. That eradicating the excess and making sure that everything in my life adds value it by far the best path to follow for me to lead a life I am content with. Last year I wouldn’t have even paid attention to the attention sapping prowess of the television, yet this year, although late, I saw it and made the call to step away and change my behaviour to suit. Sure, I still lost an evening watching programs that I couldn’t tell you a thing about any more. That day is gone though, I’ve already wasted those hours and they will never come back, yet in a positive spin, at least I noticed it early and can now accept that I can address that and make sure that I don’t get drawn down the same rabbit hole again.

It’s fine to loose hours in front of the television, sometimes it’s even nice to have a day binge watching your favourite shows. What I have learnt today though is the problem is not in the action of doing those things but the way in which we let hours melt through our fingers without paying attention to notice.

How many hours have we let slip in our life with no recollection of these days? How much of my life has been lost, with nothing to show or no memories to smile at? As well as avoiding compulsory consumption, it would probably be helpful to reduce mindless consumption of distractions as well.

 

Thank goodness for mindfulness over mindlessness.

Have to // Want to.

Have to and want to, many things in life fall into these two categories. I want to go for a bike ride but I have to  do the dishes. I want to take the dog on an adventure but I have to clean the house. These two phrases rarely join onto a mutual path, seeming to be running parallel to each other in perpetuity.

With each passing thought though, why do the things we have to do always feel like the biggest burden. Many people will wash their car happily, yet despise washing the dishes – a monumentally easier task. Some of my friends love cooking, yet I’ve never met anyone who loves cleaning the stove afterwards. Is this all a mentality thing? Is the key to life purely mentality?

I suppose in a simplistic way – yes. Some things will always be hard, and some things will never be fun. Having a good mentality about the subject will make those tasks more bearable at least, if not easier as well.

I thought of this the other day, the art of pride in every task, it came from my “Ritual” post a few days ago, waking up was hard; until I took pride in my mornings. That made it a little easier. So I’ve tried it in a few more ways. I try and look at the end product rather than the task at hand. Rather than seeing a sink full of dishes, I visualise an empty sink to give me the motivation to invest that 20 or 30 minutes into the washing. When the house needs cleaning rather than looking at the mess that may have accumulated over a week of living and working, I think about how much more peace I feel looking at clean work surfaces and cabinets. The task may be boring, but the end product is always enjoyable.

Every task you do can bear fruit of positive sensations upon completion. Focussing on the completion rather than the task helps to alleviate the sense of dread and replace it with a drive to complete the task at hand.

Your greatest achievements needn’t be a pay rise, completing a novel, running further than yesterday. Sometimes a great achievement can be taking part in an activity with your whole self, without ever having to think “I must to do the dishes when I get home”.

Treat every task as an achievement and allow completion to be an allocated part of your day, see how your day and mind changes through the process.

After all, it’s always easier to complete a task before you add more on top of it.

An open thought on action.

I had another idea of what I wanted to write today, but this feels like a better rabbit hole to dive down today. After all philosophies and practices I can write about any day, whereas this is an active feeling and acceptance.

I wanted to go out tonight to try meet some new people, meet some potentially new friends, but upon getting back from work, I was just too tired and my body said no. Even on the way home from work I was struggling to find the effort. There are a few reasons that I have allowed myself to feel OK about not going to a meet tonight.

  • My body has actively said it doesn’t want to.

There is a difference between “I can’t be bothered” and “I can’t”. I never used to let myself see the difference, I was either lazy or not, did or didn’t. Had I got home feeling fresh and still not gone because the couch was calling, that would be lazy. Today I came to the realisation that I was burning my reserve energy and it’s a Thursday. That means that  I would be left mentally and physically exhausted with another day of work where I can’t just sleep it off. Burning the candle at both ends is never a good idea. Allowing yourself guilt when you notice that candle burning too rapidly is also not a good idea. Feel free to listen to your body and your heart. They are generally telling you what you need, just listen.

  • Sometimes you have to prioritise.

Without going into too much detail, I need to sit down with some people and have a proper chat. It’s also OK to put little things on the back burner when the important things need that attention.

  • Breakdown the rarity.

This is a weekly event. Next week it will happen again, I can always go in the future. If I actively plan for that to take place I can also make sure I get enough rest, eat enough food and be proactive in ensuring my body has the best shot of seeing a social activity through.

  • Don’t let the past guilt rest on your shoulders.

“This will be another one you miss” was uttered to me. While yes that is true and I have given up hope of going previously, that was in a different mind state. I am actively trying to seek more purposeful decisions, an activity I can admit I haven’t always given proper value. In the past, the couch or a Netflix binge would be enough to turn me around. Now I am actively weighing up the important things. Will this bring me value? Yes. Will it be the best use of my time in the long run? Maybe not. I’m starting to learn that letting the actions of the past find refuge in the decisions of today will help no one. Make informed decisions, if it turns out a decision was wrong – don’t dwell on that; learn why it was a bad decision and avoid making that choice in the future.

Ones and Zeros

I started my journey in the simplest way possible. From the depths of my hip pockets. I wanted to shrink the size of my wallet. Get rid of unused loyalty cards, or business cards I had accepted out of politeness upon my travels. My wallet is for the things I need these days; Money, ID, Bank cards and health insurance.

The more daunting task was the mobile though. The thing with smart phones? They really are smart. Without realising it that little device wriggles its way into your life more and more. Slowly popping up with abundant frequency. Apps we install get permissions to interrupt and shout at us, at all hours of day and night. We go to sleep to the same glow we wake up to. Where to start though? I was never a massive smart phone guy so surely there is nothing that isn’t worthwhile donning my menus and folders?

Well I soon realised how over time, it collects. I started with emails. I had a hard think about work emails. Why can I receive them 24/7?! Work emails can now only be received between 7am and 6pm; a little before and a little after my regular office hours and probably a little later for my early mornings. That was a liberation in itself. To know that once I got home and switched off from work, my phone did too. No more emails I can’t action popping into my evening only to make me more stressed about forgetting to action the thing I had read about seconds before. Now, I get that email at the perfect time, where if it’s important, I can take action immediately.

Apps are a tough one, there are a few that I need on a daily basis, and some that I use infrequently but are valuable. Banking and my work ftp are two examples. What I didn’t need is games I never played, unless I was looking to distract myself. Social media apps I used when I could be actively involved in something else, I wanted to turn to acting rather than distracting. I said goodbye to Facebook and Reddit. I can now only check those websites on my laptop as a personal control. Which conveniently means that if I am watching Netflix or television, I’m no longer juggling two screens at once.

Now for the truly revealing revelation – I don’t miss any of it. My life has infinitely improved now that I have broken the hold of my phone. Notifications other than those for phone and messaging, are removed. Now I can feel assured my phone will only shout at me, if someone wants to talk to me. The positives didn’t end there though. Running out of battery used to be a common occurrence, I blamed my phone for having a poor and useless battery life, yet now I can charge my phone once every two days. Saving my attention and lowering my power consumption.

Reducing your phones ability to creep into daily life doesn’t only improve your own life though. Now that I can happily not glance at my phone, I can be a more productive team mate at work. Rather than scrolling through Facebook in a zombie like stupor during moments of down time. I can ask others if they need help with their jobs, if there’s any way to make their day easier. By rejoining real life I have become a better team member and worker, and in return, those same people are willing to offer me more help when the situations are reversed.

This is easy to try with  no lasting repercussions. It just takes a bit of willpower to not find ways to break the pact with yourself, but it most definitely is worth it.

The Experiment.

2017 marked the moment I took the first step. I decided that rather than sit around, it was time to change the aspects of my life I found less than desirable. Ideologies and philosophies like minimalism and Buddhism had always piqued my interest. So this year I decided rather than sit with one foot in and one foot out. I would experiment by diving head first and exploring exactly what I could unlock about myself.

It seemed I was always too short of time, or my finances were stretched too thin to really explore this idea. So now I will explore taking control; as despite being time poor I always found time to binge watch on Netflix and despite stretched finances I could still find money to buy alcohol. I suppose those would be my first two pacifiers to tackle.

I have a lot of ideas I would like to put into practice this year, and as a way to stay motivated I hope to blog regularly, both to keep myself thoughtful as well as to give me a reference not only to what I was trying but how I felt at the time.

To 2017 and all it has to offer, and to anyone who may join me for the ride, I hope you enjoy reading about this year as much as I enjoyed experimenting throughout it.