People. Love. Drama.
We love it in books, in movies, in telenovelas, in gossip, in headlines. There's a certain thrill to it. And we've come to crave it. But do we need it 24/7? No.
Drama makes things exciting – especially when it’s happening to someone else.
Think about it, when you’re watching something on the TV and there's no big plot twist, we tend to find it boring. Or when you’re out to lunch with a friend and the conversation turns to something out of the ordinary that’s happened to someone you used to know, it’s enthralling!
We can become consumed by it because it's everywhere: all over social media, the news, in conversations we have and things we read. And a lot of the time, we don’t realise how much of our surroundings can have an effect on us.
We often talk about wanting to adopt a healthy lifestyle, which usually focuses on diets and exercise – but food and drink are not the only things we consume.
In The Art of Communicating by Thich That Hanh, he writes:
"We tend to think of nourishment only as what we take in through our mouths, but what we consume with our eyes, our ears, our noses, our tongues, and our bodies is also food. The conversations going on around us, and those we participate in, are also food."
It's important to be mindful of what we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. How do you feel after you've been hanging out with a certain person, or after you’ve watched a certain type of movie or listened to a certain type of music?
Without even realising, we consume toxic communication from the people around us, what we watch and read, and even from the way we talk to ourselves about ourselves!
Now I'm not saying we shouldn't watch thrillers or never watch the news or anything like that. We simply need to learn how to prioritise better, and how to differentiate between what is urgent and what is important.
Be informed, not overwhelmed
Are we really going to miss something on social media if we're not logged into our accounts at all times? No, because once something that's 'worth seeing' goes viral, it’s everywhere! So whether you check your feed five minutes later, or five hours later, it's probably still going to pop up on your feed at some point.
Do we need to have the news on 24/7 to stay informed? No. Especially if it's affecting our mental wellbeing. It's not being in denial, it's being mindful. Take control of what you want to see, when you want to see it, rather than being constantly bombarded with news – real and fake!
A lot of the time, we can feel like we need to know everything at all times, or at least as much as the next person because 'knowledge is power', and society and our ego has told us so.
We're so quick to react to things, and used to having answers served instantly to us, we often obtain information, react, and then must share it immediately, without getting the bigger picture, verifying the source or looking into the wider context of the facts. And of course, everything we ever read is always true, right?
People have become so good at writing headlines, we often don't even bother reading the entire story that accompanies it. Did you know "headline anxiety" is a thing?!
Just think about how factually distorted gossip becomes when passed on from person to person – why do we assume that this is not the case when it comes to news either?
As I've said before, it’s all a matter of perception. It's the same even with this blog. What I relay through writing this blog, is my personal interpretation of things I have read and experienced. The way we all react to information is different. What may be simply informative to one, may be triggering to another.
There's always so much happening around us. We need to know everything right this minute and we only have a finite amount of time to get everything done. I can be watching something on the TV, while trying to read something on my laptop and reply to messages on my phone. Everything is equally important and must be done right this instance. But I can multi-task right? Apparently not as well as we may think.
In The Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma, one of my takeaways from the book was that the mind can only hold one thought at a time, similar to a slide projector – with every thought in your mind being one slide.
Apparently, the way human brains are wired, we don’t actually do many things simultaneously. Instead, we’re actually switching our attention from task to task super-sonically quickly. So when we think we’re paying attention to more than one thing at the same time, we’re actually just switching between them incredibly quickly, hence creating the illusion that we’re multi-tasking.
Yes, I know you can eat popcorn and watch a movie at the same time – there are certain "low-level" tasks that can be performed by us almost automatically – but try reading in your head at the same time as speaking to someone about something completely different.
Now think about that again. If our brain is only focusing on one thing at a time, and we’re switching between thoughts super fast, imagine just how many thoughts are going through our head a day, and how much we’re making our brains work. And every time we allow ourselves to consume something else, we’re adding to it. That’s exhausting! No wonder our minds can feel so noisy!
Take a break. Create a new ‘normal’ for yourself
Because we're constantly surrounded by drama, we've become accustomed to it and in turn, we expecting it at every corner.
If something seems too good to be true, it must be, right? But when did having things easy become something to worry about? Shouldn’t we actually hope for things to be easy for us?
Yes, it's good to challenge ourselves, but why does having things be easy need to be associated with being boring or suspicious? We get told to 'expect the unexpected', but why does the unexpected have to be something negative?
It makes me think of something I read in 'The Mother of All Questions' by Rebecca Solnit where she refers to an aphorism cited by a doctor she knows: "When you see hoof-prints, you think horse, but sometimes it's a zebra". Most of the time it is indeed a horse, but you can never be 100% certain.
Yes, it makes sense to make assumptions based on previous patterns, but regardless, we still can’t predict the future 100% accurately.
When we're stressed or anxious, we've taken ourselves out of the present moment we're currently in – we're not focusing on where we are right now, in this very moment.
When we think something bad is going to happen, we're usually basing it on something that's happened before – perhaps not even to us – or what we think is going to happen. So rather than being in the present, we're mentally placing ourselves in the past or in the future.
But if you take a moment to pause, refocus, and bring yourself back to the present moment, you’ll see that everything right in this instance is okay. So just take it moment by moment, breath by breath.