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mental health

Quitting Violent Media

In the past decade new studies have been showing that the more violent media a person consumes, the lower the person’s overall level of happiness. At first I thought is was garbage, but I was highly biased. I would binge-watch the Saw movie series, read horror novels, and play gory video games. Hence, I figured it had nothing to do with the chronic depression I used to have because I did it for years. But I decided to temporarily quit it.

I swapped out my scary movies for documentaries and my horror novels for self-improvement ones. Very soon did I notice the benefits. My mood picked to a moderate degree. I wasn’t as pessimistic or dark-minded. I felt slightly more upbeat about the world, when normally I’m a very cynical person. I don’t know… I was just a lot happier. Plus, consuming media that was helpful in some way made me feel empowered about making major changes in my life. I firmly believe that all of these little improvements have to do with quitting violent media.

This is how research explains it. Numerous research studies have shown a positive correlation between the amount of violent television watched and levels of aggression in youth. In adults, it’s still kind of similar. In adults who are engrossed with violent media, their amygdala (“emotion center of brain”) shows activation on an MRI, revealing it’s triggering anxiety. This is because subconsciously, humans react to forms of violence with fear. Therefore, constant exposure to something negative can have harsh consequences. 

Then of course, have constant exposure to any stimulus can cause desensitization. To be fair — I’m already a little jaded due to my past and also working a job handling emergencies. I don’t want to put even more exposure to violence on top of that to where I am desensitized to things I shouldn’t be. It’s a sad existence once a person gets that burned-out or jaded.

Quitting violent media wholly makes sense. At least, it does for me. When I was consuming violent media for most of the day it definitely contributed to my poor attitude and apathy. When anyone surrounds themselves with violence and sadness, it will affect them eventually. And when I replaced violent media with motivating stories, my mood improved to where my underlying depression wasn’t quite as intense.

This is just food for thought. Research only points to correlation, and also the field of research is relatively new because violent movie and video-games only recently garnered attention from the scientific community,

Uncategorized, minimalism

How to Have a Planner with Meaning

I’m a planner junkie. I love using my fancy Mambi Create 365 Planner, and write in it multiple times a day. While I may write in my planner numerous times within the sixteen hours I’m awake, my time is not overbooked. In fact, I have downtime.

My experience from owning a planner as a workaholic is that I saw time differently. Somehow it clicked that a planner isn’t supposed to help you cram time a task in every waking moment. Rather — it’s to rearrange my time so I can find time to just… have fun. This may seem like basic knowledge, but it was news to me.

That mindset also appeals to my minimalistic side of me. I don’t need to be sucked into the societal mindtrap that the more work a person does, the more value they inherently have. Nowadays with a planner, I analyze what truly needs to get done in order for me to be happy and achieve my goals.

With a planner, there has to be a bit of a strategy behind it. What are your priorities? What projects are you working on? Do you have miscellaneous tasks without a deadline? Do you have daily tasks that must get completed? Understanding these questions will prevent you from jam-packing your schedule.

What was stupidly hard for me to learn is that not everything needs to be scheduled in a single day. The tasks that have a time limit or are urgent need to get done first. Such as paying a late fee or an appointment. Meaningless tasks like “wipe down walls” or “brush cat” don’t need to fill up your entire day. Having too many to-do’s in a single day is the opposite of what a planner is supposed to do. Planning everything out smoothly should give you free time — not make you a overworked and stressed out.

Here are some tips of how I align my day.

Priorities are non negotiable. Put those write in your planner. Use exclamation points, a star, or a color to make it stand out. This needs to get done first, as the sooner in the day you get it done the less of a chance you have put procrastinate it for others things. Priorities should max out at three per day if possible to prevent getting double-booked.

In my planner I like to keep a “Project Page” separate. Having the steps to complete the project on each day of the planner can cause it to be cluttered. Also — projects are rarely completely linear. So you could plan each day for it, but get behind in one day, then have the following sequence of days incorrect.

Miscellaneous tasks also get their own sheet. You don’t need to plan “sort tupperware” or “put away scrap paper.” It’ll make people think you’re weird if that’s what most of your day consists of, and it also isn’t urgent enough to warrant planning it for a certain day. Thus, having a cheat sheet for all those random tasks can be better — just reference to it when you have a little too much free time.

Daily tasks are kind of up in the air of whether or not to write them down. My rule of thumb is that if you are always on top of the daily to-do’s there is no need to write them down. You got your brain for that. But, if you need help sticking to a routine of getting them done I recommend planning it until it becomes an unbreakable habit. It keeps you accountable by writing it down.

In the end, the actual planner section for the day show what it meaningful or what sets you up for future success. It doesn’t cause anxiety from looking at it. You see a couple priorities, and then a few normal To-Do’s. Once you get those done, you can work your project that you have a separate page for, or do misc tasks for a couple hours.

If a planner is implemented well, it organizes where your downtime is and merely is a tool that streamlines your day. It shouldn’t be a book that causes immediate stress.

If anyone else is a planner junkie, I’d love to hear of what others do to make their planners the most beneficial. Just leave a comment below.

Self-Improvement

Stop the “Compare and Despair” Game

Everyone masochistically plays the “compare and despair” game in their head in varying degrees. But chronically pining over the life of another, while tearing yourself down, has no purpose whatsoever. It destines you to misery.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to others in today’s society. Online and offline people can be incredibly fake and go through lengths to create a persona of their best selves. It’s easy to fall in love with that image others create. Then you turn the scope on yourself and feel you don’t measure it up. It can lead some people to such feelings of inadequacy that depression and self-loathing. This very issue plagues society.

So, what purpose does it serve? None! Comparing yourself to another does not change your reality. You just cause another source of misery and maybe anxiety. You can duly note how others are in the world without tearing yourself down — keep it objective and not a personal attack on yourself. Then move on with your life. Don’t even let the negativity of insecurity get a chance to build into something bigger. You literally have to stay focused on yourself.

I only had this realization recently. It hit me all at once. I was travelling to a large city to attend an Soka Gakkai International meeting. There were dozens upon dozens of people there. I had to wade through a wave of people just to get to the room where the meeting was. Eventually everyone was seated, and I took the time to observe others.

I was insecure. I’ve been rather sick lately — causing rapid weight loss and subtle acne — so I didn’t feel confident. I also had other things bugging me that I can’t remember at this moment. I just remember feeling inadequate around everyone.

A moment after observing everyone in the rows in front of me, I had the breakthrough where I was able to stop playing the ‘ol “compare and despair game.” Everyone in the room, in the damn building, have lives I don’t even know about. It makes no sense to feel inadequate to others who are all so unique. There’s several billion people on this planet, and I’m just me. No more and no less. To compare myself to someone else and to want to cherry pick qualities from others to transplant to myself is throwing away my uniqueness.

Since I am all about self-improvement, I now keep my nose to the grindstone on my own life. I’m creating my own little successful niche in the world where I am fully satisfied. It’s pathetic and a waste of time to be play “compare and despair” when I can direct my thoughts and emotions into something more productive.

In a society where self-loathing, or at the very least feelings of inadequacy is common — I urge others to quit too.

mental health

Mental Illness Doesn’t Excuse Behavior

 

“Don’t blame me! My mental illness made me do it.”

“I wasn’t in control of myself, my mental illness was.”

“Why would you blame me when I have [mental illness here]?”

“It’s abusive to hold someone me accountable when I am mentally ill.”

 

Well. I have heard all of these before. And if someone ever tells you this, I recommend to really assess the situation between you and the other person, and then create distance. You don’t deserve to be responsible for anyone but yourself.

I struggled with mental illness when I was younger (depression and PTSD). I have mentally ill family members (addiction and Type I Bipolar Disorder.) I had mentally ill partners (Borderline Personality Disorder and psychopathy).. While they were mentally ill, they were still always responsible for their behavior. Emotions can be intense for those who are mentally ill, and when combined with poor impulse control it can lead to being destructive. That’s understandable. It is very sad to see people struggle this way.

However, they are responsible for themselves (with very few exceptions). Emotions can be tolerated. Impulses can be restrained. It’s certainly not easy for them, as it often requires therapy and/or medication to make progress in those areas. But it is kind of a choice for a person to lose complete control over their behavior.

If a person was about to freak the hell out on another, there are options before doing so. He could leave the room. He could distract or soothe himself. He can try to communicate to the other person how he is feeling. But exploding at another, or having an out of control outburst, is inexcusable. Understandable, yes. Sad, yes. Ok? No.

It’s hard to even want to make people who struggle with mental illness responsible for their problems. They obviously lead harder lives, and it may feel like pointing fingers at the victim. Part of me sometimes feels the same way. Yet as I mentioned, there are always alternatives to being out of control.

Mental illness is a single aspect of a person. Only a small part of them. It can have a large impact on their lives, but it doesn’t make all the decisions. If anything, it gives tendencies to be easily overwhelmed by emotions and impulses. Everyone has a chance to get better and change their behavior.

What excuses I listed at the top were said to me when the person was either feeling guilty/ashamed/afraid of their behavior or if they were adverse to recovery. It may have also been manipulation or even what they truly believed. I learned not to accept them. I can interpret the excuses to try to understand where they’re coming from, but it isn’t a justification for their treatment towards me.

My major point is if someone who is mentally ill tells those excuses, you must urge them to get help and keep your distance. You don’t need to be, nor deserve to be, made to feel like you’re responsible for the other person.

You can love them. You can spend time with them. But it doesn’t benefit anyone if you don’t hold them accountable for their behavior by blaming yourself instead.

 

minimalism

Minimalism: Do I Need to Give Up My Art Supplies?

Minimalism preaches to remove everything unnecessary to open up your life to better experiences. Normally, the unnecessary things are belongings. So what about art supplies that give you experiences? That help you create what you love? Minimalism doesn’t seem to say much about it.

My opinion is that if you have a hobby, then you need supplies. In art it’s tricky because any object can be used as medium. I use anything from scrapbook paper, to sand, to paint, to old baby toys in my art projects. The line is drawn when the amount of art supplies you have are hindering you. If the amount of supplies you have impede you from doing what you love, then you should donate or sell what you have.

I’ve never really had this problem, but I had an experiences similar to it. After a few days holing up in my studio it would be a disaster. Art supplies and papers would be scattered on every single surface. I would shrug, and say the mess is fine. Then I would keep going into my studio planning to create, well, art, only to still have no clear space to work with. I would be forced to spend a long time scrubbing paint stains, putting stuff away, and picking up tiny scraps of paper. Then I would be satisfied with the abundance of space I would now have to create in again.

I imagine people with too many of art supplies have this problem on a chronic basis.

My solution to this is rather simple, but kind of emotional because no artist likes to let go of art supplies. Supplies can be expensive and there is always the lingering thought that you will use absolutely everything someday. That isn’t true 50% of the time.

Ask yourself these questions about if your supplies are functional:

Do these pencils have an eraser? Are they broken in two?
Is this eraser too gross? Does it smear more than erase?
Are these paints old? Do the bottles always leak?
Are the paper scraps too small to work with? Do you really need a box full?
Is the glue not working perfectly?
Are the ink pads not opaque or shiny like they used to be?
Are your paintbrush bristles frayed or permanently crusted?

Ask yourself questions if you think you own too much:

Do you never have any room to do art?
Do you always have some sort of mess or pile?
Are your art supplies organizers crammed to the limit?
Can you never find anything?
Do you not even know what you own?

For the first set of questions, toss any of the items if they aren’t working anymore. You deserve not to use poor art supplies, and also they just take up space.

What I did when I sorted my art studio is go through every drawer. Anything broken was thrown away. If the object was covered in dust or stored away, then I donated it to children’s art groups. I had boxes of paper scraps, and I kept the ones that I liked while donating the rest to the art therapy group at my job. Liquids that were expired were happily tossed because they were frankly gross. I could go on about the process.

It took all day. But the results were amazing. I realized all the supplies I had, and then had fresh ideas of what art to do. Also, I was inspired with the challenge to use everything I own. With stuff like paints, pastels, and pencils, my new rule was to use them up before I would by more.

I highly recommend art studio decluttering, or at least organizing. You swear off from buying more, or at least get inspiration and motivation to be the best artist you can be.

 

Self-Improvement

Helping Others Without Being Dragged Under

I assume most of society has noticed that when they move up in life, others will follow to drag them down. This seems to a be a bit of a curse because it occurs in animals and in fairytales. Hunt for the biggest buffalo for the most meat. Dethrone the king to have his castle. It’s a fact of life. In humans it tends to border being pathetic.

It’s tempting to grab the outstretched hands of those below in order to help build them up, even if they are the very same ones who have hurt you. That person sees you doing better in life than him — without him — and wants to intervene. And saying ‘no’ is very hard. Yet that ‘no’ doesn’t have to be hostile or you just being a jerk, but I’ll talk about that later.

Here’s an example from my own life. My ex contacted me on Facebook, I’m guessing after she browsed my profile. Now we have quite a history together, but I have no ill will. Actually, if things could be different I wouldn’t mind being friends with her. But when I answered her message and we chatted for several minutes, it was clear she wasn’t alright. Our conversation bounced from her attacking me for doing great to how horrible her life has become. There was nothing positive coming out of her mouth. It almost seemed as if her only goal was to one-up me in the conversation, realized I have become a better person, and then tried to tear us both down with negativity. And it was very sad from my end because I want her to be happy more than anything in the world, but I also have to be the asshole who walks away.

The trick is knowing that when pushing away the hand that wants to pull you down, you can still help that person. I believe that no one needs to be miserable or suffer. You just have to simultaneously detach, focus on yourself, and have a compassionate mindset.

You aren’t inherently better than the other person. Everyone struggles. Life is a struggle. There is very little actually holding you back from the others you view as beneath you. But there has to be a healthy boundary that prevents you from being dragged down, while also not being cruelly absent. If this sounds confusing, it kind of is.

With friends who did this to me, I felt I followed this plan well. I offered them help, but it made it clear how I will help and when I am available. I didn’t get overly immersed into their own tumultuous lives and still focused on my own. I was kind and thoughtful, but just didn’t let myself get too close. And it varies from situation to situation.

The offer to help was there, but it wasn’t what they wanted.

A sad fact about this world is a lot of people revel in misery. There are speculations, but it may be because defaulting to being miserable is the path of least resistance. It takes work to become happier and better as a person. A lot of people want to be there someday, but never start the journey to get there.  Thus, they want to prevent people from absolute happiness because literally “misery loves company.”

Let this be food for thought.

Uncategorized

What to Do with Spare Journals

Nearly all of my time is spent journaling. Several journals are often used at once for different reasons, and most get used everyday. My current rotation is: my personal diary, my Happy Planner, fitness/recipe mini notebook, poetry album and my Nichiren Buddhism smashbook. Despite that number, I have several composition notebooks, embellished journals, and sketchbooks that are unused.

I hear plenty of people complain about owning beautiful journals or having an overflowing box of composition notebooks. I recommend working in them, even if you don’t think you have any stroke of creativity in you.

Creative projects have been correlated with health benefits. Mental health benefits include keeping your brain sharp as you age, building self-esteem, and undoubtedly is a great stress reliever. There is a very strong correlation between creative hobbies and general level of happiness. I think that should be incentive.

You have to find your niche. Find a type of journaling technique that you are guaranteed to stick with at least a few times a week. I firmly believe you can find one right for you.

Here’s some suggestions

  • One-sentence diary: Each day write a single sentence that summarizes events or thoughts of that day
  • Real diary: Go beyond just writing in it; feel free to draw and personalize it. Make sure it is genuine and raw because otherwise it won’t be as “refreshing” to work in it.
  • Smashbook: Glue pictures, paint, draw, and collage all in a single journal.
  • Goal log: Plan out goals and write about the process of completing it
  • Dream diary: Record your dreams are soon as your wake up and try to decipher them
  • Habit tracker: Track habits you want to start, or even track habits you are trying to break
  • Inspiration journal: Fill a journal with inspiring images that will keep you motivated in achieving your dream life
  • Random Lists Journal: Create lists of any topic you can.
  • Faith Journal: Write about goals, religious events, or building upon your faith
  • Creative Planner: There are so many types of planners. My Happy Planner has tons of fun lists, pictures, and is generally personalized. It’s tons of fun, and also functions as, of course, a planner.
  • Vent Journal: Keep all of your dark, ugly thoughts and feelings in it. When you’re done with it, throw it away.
  • Letter Diary: Write letters to people you will never send.
  • Life Advice/ Life Pro Tips: Write down bits and pieces of useful advice you come across.
  • Dream Life Journal: Write about what your perfect life would be like, and the steps you can take to make it perfect.

There are unlimited options of what you can do with journals. These are just a few ideas. You can do a whole project/theme, or you can just do random bits and bobs in a journal. The nice part is you can start again anytime on the page you left off. Although this sounds lame, everyone can find a journaling activity they enjoy.

minimalism

Dangers of Multitasking and Minimalism

Society has been caught in the mental trap that nothing can be accomplished if you aren’t working on several tasks simultaneously. Even if people try to do so, they have a hard time concentrating because they are used to the hecticness of multitasking. This is actually a bigger issue that most people would think.

People can’t truly focus when multitasking. Our concentration is flicking back and forth between tasks, and that comes slightly stressful over time. When a person is juggling numerous things at once, how can they possibly relax while working on a task? This frequently leads to feelings of being overworked and the feeling like nothing was actually accomplished.

This is where minimalism can tie in. Part of minimalism is removing everything toxic (people, clutter habits, ect) from our lives to make room for everything fulfilling and, well — meaningful. To work towards living a satisfying life. Multitasking and minimalism don’t go together for the following reasons.

  1. A person can’t be mindful when multitasking
  2. Multitasking creates more problems, such as stress and anxiety
  3. Overall levels of focus on productivity decline
  4. There are less positive feelings involved

Do you see the tie in? The level of happiness goes down when multitasking.

Minimalism encourages mindfully working on one task at a time. Unfortunately, multitasking can ruin concentration skills in the long run because it’s technically a distraction (you’re brain is switching back on forth). With a minimalistic approach, you would do your best to work on one task at a time until it’s completed — doing it mindfully.

If you struggle with focusing on a single task, try removing clutter and other distractions from your work area. Maybe play some lo-fi music, or work someplace absolutely quiet. Whatever instills a sense of peace and less urgency would probably put you on the right path towards quitting multitasking.

The two ultimate results of quitting multitasking are less stress and the learned ability to concentrate.

From my personal experience it was hard to do so. I wanted to change because the more I multitasked, the less I enjoyed things I used to love doing, such as drawing and reading. I didn’t have the capacity to focus on a beloved happy, which I found quite sad. So, to get myself to quit I would resist the urge as long as I could — or altogether –to also be doing something else. Overtime I can easily do the same task for 4-6 hours. It makes me productive, calm, and a valued member of society.

Are you up to the challenge?

Self-Improvement

Awake 16 Hours = 12 Productive Hours

Everyone complains about never having any time. I think it’s a matter of being unable to effectively schedule time, or wasting the precious time you do have. Most people are awake sixteen hours at a time. Most people work approximately eight hours. That gives you eight extra hours to do whatever you want. It’s time to do what’s of value to you. 

With that time, what do you actually do? Do you watch TV? Go online? Go shopping at the mall? Or do you engage in hobbies, read, and spend time with loved ones? When listing them out, it’s easy to see what’s meaningful.

According to this (https://www.bls.gov/charts/american-time-use/activity-by-sex.htm) most Americans spend time doing leisurely activities. And to be get a bit more specific, this site is the average among other sites: http://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/how-much-time-do-people-spend-social-media-infographic.

That site reports people being online almost 9-11 hours a day. If it’s not the internet, it’s television. People are merely getting distracted or procrastinating if they say they never have time (with exceptions for some demographics). As since people are awake sixteen hours, surely they can spare four hours after work doing something besides relaxing in front of a screen?

A person doesn’t need the entire time after work spent relaxing. I think that four hours after work being productive on what’s meaningful is rather reasonable. It can be more energizing to get really into a book, going for a run in nice weather, or trying a new hobby with those four. With four hours, you could probably get several projects done. You could go see a movie and have dinner with your partner. So much fun and pleasant memories can happy in those four hours.

And with the last of the fours hours in the sixteen hours you spend awake, I believe in relaxing in whatever way you want. Everyone needs that freedom.

Now, I understand that a lot of things get in the way. Cooking, cleaning, having a family, school, ect, can mess up a schedule big time. I certainly agree then this blog post may not apply. But I insist on finding ways to have time to relax and still get what’s meaningful done nonetheless. Everyone needs to recharge the best they can.

Time is never something to take for granted. Each day should be spent in gratitude, and never wasted. Everyone has the right to choose how they spend their time, but no one deserves to have an unfulfilling life. Ask yourself, “Am I happy with how I spend my time? What can do I do differently?”

Everyone’s time slots are different. Just be reasonable with not wasting time, and don’t make excuses when you do waste time.

Fitness/Health

Diet Myth Debunked: Scheduled Eating

(Note: Does not include intermittent fasting)

Scheduled eating being necessary for a diet is a myth. A person can train themselves be hungry certain times of the day that are convenient, but it doesn’t provide any real benefit for weight loss. Calories are still calories, no matter when you eat them. Your body doesn’t care what time it is.

Hell, there have been times I knew I would be crazily busy all day, to where I knew I wouldn’t have time to eat. So my solution would be to eat all my required 2,300 calories in the morning before I had to leave. Normally in the form of a dense protein shake. While my stomach’s stretching ability is seriously tested, I do not have any consequences.

I do not gain weight.

I do not lose weight.

I maintain the same weight.

It only matters if I get the appropriate number of calories. 

Athletes and pro bodybuilders might have awesome reasons for an eating schedule because of games or shows, but the average person doesn’t need to strictly adhere to one. I can’t remember the exact article name, but Bret Contreras made his own post about this same topic.

Also, I tend to approach health/fitness holistically and simply, thus I find scheduled eating is counter intuitive to easy wellness.

The human body also doesn’t adhere to every schedule set before it. Eating three meals a day and three snacks are day is a reasonable guideline for a person. Planning out the time for each meal or snack can be a convenience for time, but an inconvenience to your body. Are you too famished to stick to that meal’s calorie allotment? Are you even hungry? If you get too hungry because you were determined to stick to your schedule, it’ll be harder to stick to your meal plan. If you simply aren’t hungry — why were you going to eat anyways? You should gauge when to eat by your hungry levels.

Hunger levels are a better timer of when to eat than a clock. Feeling hunger isn’t a bad thing. It’s merely a cue from your body that you need a bit of fuel. Allowing yourself to feel moderate hunger before eating is what nutritionists tend to recommend (http://pilatesnutritionist.com/how-to-know-if-youre-truly-hungry/). Just eat when you’re moderately hungry, even if that means carrying a snack with you.

As long as a person eats when they’re hungry and tracks their calories, there’s not much of a point in scheduling meal times.