The modern world is fraught with what the philosopher Pascal called "Divertissement", which we can roughly translate as "diversion" or "distraction"or "entertainment". Although it may be fun to watch a movie or go to a show when we are constantly distracted it is very hard to focus and see things clearly. When we don't look inward in a state of calm we cannot see things in their true perspective.
Both anxiety and depression stem from seeing the world from a distorted perspective. When we are anxious we look at the world from the perspective of someone who is only anticipating catastrophes. When we are depressed we mainly experience the negative aspects of life.
If you feel unclear, unfocused, or even worse, anxious, low or overwhelmed this article is for you. By shifting the way you look at things you can shift the way you think. When your mindset changes you can feel happier and more satisfied. If you want to feel more empowered and positive start by developing a simple practice and applying the exercises I will suggest to you in this article.
You probably have heard how important it is to be grateful. But what is gratitude? And how can you stop thinking: how do I get over the mindset of thinking the practice of gratitude as a mushy act?
If you are like me you may find it hard to even think about things to be grateful for. Especially when you are not in a good place it may seem like the hardest thing to do to find something to be thankful for. People may suggest you reflect on how privileged you are because if you are reading this you have a computer, a house, running water and food on your table and many don't. But feeling guilty for not being already happy when you have so much more than others won't help you.
What you need to do is shift your perspective completely, so read on to find out where to start.
If you want to succeed in anything in life you need to know how to influence your mind. You need to know how to make your mind do what you want it to do, not what you don’t.
Have you ever noticed how we are surrounded by messages like 'Don't drink and drive' 'Don't forget your passport' 'Don't touch the button! 'Don't eat junk!' And how many times have you have ended up doing the very thing you were told not to? Why is that? The answer lies in understanding how the mind processes information.
For many years I have tried to explain to my clients how to successfully influence their mind but only recently I have come across an explanation that is both simple and accurate. I will borrow and adapt Marisa Peer's framework to make it very clear how to effectively communicate with your own mind.
If you are depressed chances are you have been told at least one of the following:
Your mother or father might have been depressed, your antidepressants may not be working, you may have been told you just have a chemical imbalance and there is nothing you can do to help yourself. I have encountered many people with depression in both my practice and in my personal life and having suffered from it myself and having been close to suicide at one point, I know what it is like to feel trapped in a nightmare with no end in sight.
The good new is it is possible to overcome depression, no matter how long you've had it or what anybody else has said to you about it. Although depression causes a chemical imbalance, that is the consequence and not the cause of it. Although it is more likely that you will suffer from it if someone close to you has had it that is not because it is a genetic disease but because you have learnt how to think in a depressive way from those who are close to you.
The truth about depression is that you can beat it. It may not be an easy peasy process but it is most certainly possible and the first step is to choose to believe that you can.
You care. And yet sometimes it doesn't seem like people know that. You don't want to feel alone and isolated but that's how you end up feeling a little too often. You don't understand how it seems to easy for some to make friends and have great relationships and so hard for you. Do they know something you don't or are they simply born that way?
It may be easier for some to forge new relationships than for others. Perhaps they are less shy and more extroverted. However this does not predict whether those relationships will last long term or whether they would be truly satisfying to those involved. The quality of your relationships in the long run is more important than their quantity. And the quality of a relationship is measured by the quality of the connection you have together.
A true connection with someone is a vital experience that you feel in your whole being. Cultivating connection takes skill, and skills take time effort and commitment to develop. Let's have a look at what gets in the way of true connection and what enhances it.
Perhaps you have a habit of going in one direction only to give up halfway and try something else or maybe you stay put and don't venture into the new because you're not sure if it'd be the right thing for you. You wish you were like those people that knew what they wanted to do in life since childhood. You wonder if perhaps you are just different from everyone else and there is no point in even trying but you don't want to give up just yet.
You are aware that it's important to set goals but the idea of doing that makes you feel anxious or perhaps even angry. How do you set a goal if you haven't got a clue what you want? Goals may seem arbitrary or superficial or you worry you would get it wrong and then find yourself hating the direction you've chosen. Maybe you want to have no doubts before you start so you risk failure less. If only there was something you could do to clear the brain fog and actually be sure of yourself...
You may think you are alone in this but the truth is a lot of people go through this before finding clarity. So how did they find the answer that allowed them to move on? They stopped trying to find their direction in a rational way and instead connected to their heart's desire. Here's how.
Do you set goals but give up as soon as the going gets tough? Do you find it difficult to stay motivated and give up on yourself as soon as you hit an obstacle?
Perhaps you have decided to learn a language or maybe you want to lose weight or you want to save money for a trip. Maybe you want to write a book or kick a bad habit or have a better social life. No matter what your goal is though, as soon as you encounter a difficulty you feel deflated and find it hard to stay the course.
Maybe you are excited about finally writing that book but when you look at the blank page nothing seems to come out and you feel deflated. Or maybe you want to get fit but you haven't been to the gym for so long that the exercises seem way too hard so you never go back. Or maybe you decide to learn to play guitar but after the first few lessons you realise there is so much more to learn than you expected and it feels just too overwhelming to continue.
It doesn't matter what the goal is. Sometimes you take a few steps forward but end up stalling. Other times you don't start at all. You say to yourself: "maybe I just don't have what it takes... I am too lazy, old, unfit, stupid etc. Other people seem to have it so much easier than you and you don't know why. You wish there was an easy way to just skip ahead and get it done but you don't know how.
After a few times of going through this pattern you start to feel nervous about trying something new, worrying that you might fail again. If you soon don't stick to your goals you will never achieve anything of value - you say to yourself. You will never be able to learn French, run that marathon, start your own business, ask a woman out. You are afraid you might never make that dream come true and that just feels depressing.
You know what? You aren't alone. Believe me, I have been there, plenty of times. The good news is there is a way to get past your struggle. Your goal may at times feel like an unattainable dream but they may be closer than you think. Let me show you how to stick to your decisions and overcome challenges even when it feels like an impossible feat.
Have you ever thought: "if I stop comparing myself to others then I'll never improve?" Me too. It makes sense right? The problem with this line of reasoning is that when you try to better yourself by comparing yourself to others, you will always end up finding an area in which you fall short. We tend to see what we are looking for and even if you didn't fall in the trap of assuming others are better than you without checking there's bound to be something another is better than you at.
As a result, you can feel deflated, demotivated and even give up before trying. Even in the best case scenario, you will spend the energy you could have put to good use by improving your skills feeling sorry for yourself instead. It sounds like a losing game doesn't it?
So do yourself a favor: only compare yourself to yourself yesterday, a week ago, last year. And here's the trick: focus on where you have improved, not where you fall short.
Imagine you are sitting in the middle of a dark theatre. Then suddenly a spot light appears. The only thing you can see is whatever the spotlight shines its light upon. That is your reality. You may think that is all reality but the truth is it is only a fraction of it. You decide where to point the light and wherever you do that’s what you get ! The universe is a mirror of us. Our external reality is a reflection of our internal reality. The world reflects back to you whatever you believe about it and your place in it.
Imagine you are the captain of a ship sailing on the wide open ocean. The crew follows your orders to the letter. You just need to tell it where to go. But instead of telling it where you want to go you keep on telling it where you don’t. “I don’t want to go to Hell Island! it’s full of horrible people there and there is nothing to eat and the weather is terrible all year round! No, I don’t want to go to Hell Island! Please don’t take me there!”
Guess where you end up going ? The crew doesn’t know where else to take you, all they hear is “Hell Island! Hell Island”!
So stop asking for what you don’t want and focus on its opposite: What you do want.
Some people use this simple principle to try to attract to themselves what their ego wants in their life. More money, a better job, a mate, you name it. And although there is nothing wrong with wanting these things, if the request comes from your ego you may end up in trouble when you do get what you asked for. This is because the ego tries to get you ‘stuff’ based on a dream, a fantasy of what getting that stuff will be like. Often we have no idea what that really would entail and it might just be the opposite of what would make us happy !
The other problem is that we often have no idea what we really want, and that’s because the ego has no idea what would satisfy our deeper needs. It hears ideas about money or fame or having children or achievement as the ultimate goals that will bring it happiness and believes the story. The problem is that’s just a story and what makes somebody else happy might not make you happy. The ego doesn’t know what would make you happy. Only your deeper self does. (More on this later, read on)
Many people think that if only they had more money then everything would be ok. There are many problems with this:
What to do instead ? The solution to this conundrum is to surrender to the higher self, the inner teacher, the part of us that is much bigger and wiser than our ego. This inner voice, the inner counsel always knows what is best for us in a way that might even frighten the ego. This is because the ego wants safety at all costs, while our higher self wants our ultimate growth, happiness and freedom to expand out of our comfort zone. You will be most aware of the difference between the ego and the higher self when you have a decision to make.
Your ‘head’ will always counsel you towards safety. Your ‘heart’ will always counsel you towards expansion. Your head tries to keep you small. Your heart wants you to grow. But growing can be scary, because you are entering unknown territory, so if you feel a little scared of what one of the inner voices is telling you to do you might just have tapped into the wisdom your heart.
So listening to your ‘heart’ (or your inner teacher, wise counsel, higher self, sometimes also experienced as God) is the way forward.
But what if you cannot hear the voice of the inner self ? It is hard to listen to the inner voice if you are surrounded by constant distraction and never spend a moment looking inside. Facebook, mobile phones, TVs are pulling our attention away from the inner voice on a regular basis.
If your analytical mind is interfering with the process by distracting you with judgements you need to relax more and pay no heed to its criticisms. It’s just the ego getting scared and trying to protect you from the unknown. You can reassure yourself you’ll listen to it later. But for now pay attention only to the exercise. Drop your judgements and connect to the deeper truth of the present moment.
Follow these steps and you’ll access the most valuable teacher and therapist you’ll ever have. The coach that knows you the best. Remember this is a PRACTICE. You don’t run a marathon by going to the gym once. You need to keep at it and commit until you get the results you want.
Remember, it is never the experiences we have that keep us stuck but the judgements about them. It is the resistance to feeling our feelings. Move into the feeling and trust it has something invaluable to teach you.
For more articles on related topics see