What I like is they give you bite-sized chunks of philosophy that help you think more clearly about the world in which we live. They don’t pretend that life is perfect, or that you or others are perfect. In fact, they revel in the innate awkwardness and craziness of life and teach ways of coping.
One of their Book of Life articles appeared in my email today. It is called “How the Modern World Makes Us Mentally Ill“. Its a short piece, only takes a couple of minutes to read.
It says there are six things about modern life that cause a “high background level of anxiety and widespread low-level depression”: meritocracy, individualism, secularism, romanticism, the media, and perfectibilty. Don’t worry if those words don’t mean a helluva lot to you. We are going to be expanding on the basic ideas below.
Inspired and fed (intellectually) by this article, I thought I’d propose nine ways that you could approach the day ahead that might help immunise you against the effects of these aspects of life. As is the currency of the internet, I’ve attached random but supposedly meaningful pictures to each concept (thanks unsplash).
1. Set out with some goals for the day. Have some idea of what you want to achieve. For example, I tend to start each day at work by preparing a to-do list of the things I want to get done. This doesn’t mean you will get them all done, but you will be able to describe more clearly what you wanted the day to stand for.
2. Put in a request for some good luck – We get pretty wrapped up in the idea it is purely talent and energy that predicts whether your day goes well. That is fine if the day does go well, but if it doesn’t then that means you failed. In reality however, good and bad luck play a big role in determining how things turn out. So put in a request for some good luck, and if things don’t go so well, just assume your request got lost and put in another one tomorrow 🙂
3. When stuff goes wrong, embrace it – So stuff is totally going to go wrong. If it is your doing – then say ‘whoops’, make repairs if necessary and take some time to reflect on what happened and learn from it. If it was out of your control, thank the universe for its sense of humour and focus on trying to fix it. Try not to attack yourself. Focus on what you can do to fix the situation, rather than judging your worth as a person based on what has happened.
4. Make at least some of your goals/tasks for the day about others – I have some bad news for you. The universe isn’t actually about you. My apologies if that is a rude shock. So take your list of goals and add a few that are for the benefit of others – friends, family members, colleagues, club members. Do something today that is mostly about helping others.
5. Try to notice the little victories – like getting a good parking spot or your lunch being extra delicious today. We’re prone to seeing only the massive victories as ones worth celebrating, but for most of us, it is the smaller victories that will make up a good chunk of our lives.
6. Take a moment to nurture a friendship or relationship – Relationships and friendships are never perfect. Rather than wait for them to miraculously look after themselves, make a little bit of effort each day to nurture these relationships. Doesn’t have to be anything over the top – send an email, organise a catch-up, buy a small gift. Investments in relationships and friendships have great returns.
7. Take a moment in the day to be amazed by something – This might involve looking into the night sky, marvelling at the flight of a bird, considering how music is part of just about every culture, or contemplating how many species of plants there are (about 400,000). Triggering awe is a good way to put smaller challenges in perspective. I find contemplating the size of the universe is a good way to stop me worrying about little things.
8. Take a solution focused approach to the news – Tuning into the news is often a depressing experience. There are lots of things going wrong. Its easy to get dejected and feel the world is doomed. Instead, pick one story and see if there is something you can contribute to the solution. It might involve writing a blog post sharing your ideas. It might be posting the story on social media to bring additional awareness to the topic. It might involve making a donation of time or money to a charity/organisation dealing with the problem. Whatever it is, try taking action on the issue, rather than simply absorbing the negativity.
9. Do something crappily and be proud – I often hear people say “I’m not going to try ______, because I won’t be any good at it”. If anything, I think that is the reason to do it. Pursue hobbies or interests that you are completely crap at, and enjoy it anyway. I play guitar badly, and I love it.
Have you got personal philosophies that help you get through the day? I’d love to hear them. Comment below or send me a message.
Want to comment on this article, or ask me a question about the health and well-being services available to you as a student? Feel free to comment below, abuse me on Twitter (@Dr_Furber), contact me on Skype (search for ‘eMental Health Project Officer Gareth’), or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Pictures from unsplash.