A Life-Changing Question + Why You Need to Ask It

 

Heavier or Lighter

 

This week I picked up a book that's been on my shelf for ages. I walk by it daily, but it was only this week that it actually grabbed my attention. And I'm so glad that it did. The book, Right Riches For You, is usually the kind of self-help book I stay away from. For one, the topic -- money -- is one of my least favorites, and, for another, the cover reminds me of some old school motivational book (complete with wispy flowers and '90s Word Art) that people who aren't fans of the self-improvement space usually envision when they hear the words "self-help." But, at this particularly turbulent financial time in my life, I thought to myself, Why not? and pulled it down off the shelf. 

If you struggle with money, this book is an invaluable resource of information on how to change your attitude about money. Most of us (myself included!) are thinking completely the wrong way about money, and it's that limited kind of thinking that causes us to struggle with it. I took so many wonderful gems of inspiration from that book that I'll probably dedicate an entire post just to its insights. But, before I get into all of that, I just had to share with you one of the most important things I learned from the book. 

 

HEAVIER OR LIGHTER? 

The book begins by asking you what you think about when you hear that word "money." You're then asked to review that list, asking yourself the following question about the items on the list: Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? It's a simple question, and one I've undoubtedly heard before, but for some reason it clicked with me this time around and I started thinking about it not only in relation to money, but in relation to everything

It turns out that this simple question is pretty darn powerful. Whenever I asked myself this question over the course of the past week, my decisions became so much clearer. Essentially, this question is the similar to asking yourself, Deep down, is this the right choice to be making? The only difference is that the question Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? comes with a very physical, instantaneous reaction that is much harder to dismiss, ignore, or excuse. And that makes it incredibly powerful. 

Perhaps it's just me, but as I went about the week, using this question as a guide, answers to questions became surprisingly clear. When you ask this question -- rather that something like Is this a good idea? -- the body (or at least my body) has an immediate reaction. There's an instinctual vibe that seemed to occur every time I asked myself Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? It was never confusing. Whenever I asked the question, into my mind would instantly pop the word heavier or lighter

Heavier / lighter isn't a judgment; it's a feeling. It gets right to the heart of what's right, and tells you instantaneously. Even if something is hard -- for example, ending a relationship -- you'll know if it's right or wrong by whether or not it makes you feel heavier or lighter. A breakup might be painful -- we even have the term "heavy heart" -- but, if it's the right choice for you, you'll ultimately feel lighter having done it. 

 

THE CHOICE TO CHOOSE

Knowing and paying attention to the heavy / light dichotomy doesn't mean you'll necessarily choose what makes you feel lighter at all times. After all, we often make "bad" choices when we know they're no good for us. For example, you might have a negative, draining friend, but, even though you know his or her absence would make you feel lighter, you still remain friends. This might not be the right choice, but it's an understandable one. There could be a variety of reasons why you continue to socialize with this particular individual, and that's okay. What's not okay is when you allow heavy situations to happen without your consent. 

In order to give consent to a situation, you have to know whether it makes you feel heavier or lighter. Once you have that information it is then up to you to consciously choose what you do with it. You give yourself the choice to choose. You might be thinking, Oh, but I always have the choice! But, if you're not asking this question first, you're not always actively choosing. Most of spend a great deal of time operating on autopilot, not actively making choices. 

Whether or not something makes you feel heavier or lighter is never unclear (or, at least, it hasn't been for me this past week), but it can be confusing, at times, to know what to do with that information once you have it. If I determine that something or someone makes me feel heavier, I can choose to ignore it, try to rationalize why it's worth carrying around the extra heaviness. But, regardless of what action I choose to take, I cannot deny that I had that initial gut reaction. 

 

DISMANTLING DISTRACTION

The idea of a gut reaction, or an instinct, certainly isn't anything new, but what I do think is new is how easily it is to ignore these things -- and the Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? question -- in our modern age. Most of us are constantly bombarded with distractions. There is so much to look at that sometimes we forget to ask that question and, more importantly, take note of its answer. 

When distraction abound, that gut instinct -- whether it's about people or a job or an event or thing -- either goes unheard or is quickly and easily avoided. Compounding this our ever-increasing exposure to people all over the world. With access to information and people spanning the globe, we can often examples or information rationalize whatever choices we make. Regardless of whether or not the choices are good or bad, lighter or heavier, if you see others making them, it becomes more and more difficult to tune into your own inner voice, the one that will quickly tell you heavy or light if asked. 

Rather than listening to our instincts, it's becoming our standard to look things up before tuning in. After all, if you're unsure about what to do, it's useful to conduct a quick Google search to see if anyone else has had a similar experience. We look to others for advice and information. This, in and of itself, certainly isn't a bad thing. Information can be useful and essential to making good, positive choices, but, I'm starting to realize: in all of the information, the instinct often gets overlooked.  

When surrounded by a multitude of choices, as more and more opportunities continue to arise (many of which as a result of the Internet's rise), it is challenging to pay attention, let alone to pay attention well enough to determine what's best for you. And that's why it's so important to ask: Does this make me feel heavier or lighter? Often the answers are clear -- we know that murder is going to make you feel heavier, that spending time with a friend you love and admire will make you feel lighter -- but this question is particularly useful when the answers aren't so clearcut. 

 

SUIT UP FOR SOME SURPRISE

Even after asking this question for just a short while, I've experienced firsthand just how powerful it is. And, I've discovered that it has an added bonus: it will surprise you. Things you might complain about or feel ambivalent toward might actually be things that make you feel lighter. Things you don't claim to love might not actually be heavy. Likewise, the "good" things don't always lighten your load. For example, something might be really fun and enjoyable in the moment, but if it's morally wrong, it's likely to cause a lot of heaviness in your life. 

Though this idea -- that a single question can have such a positive impact on your life -- might sound strange, give it a try this week and see how it feels and see what you learn. You don't even have to make any changes to your life. All you have to do is ask yourself, as often as you can and in reference to as many aspects of your life as you can, does this make me feel heavier or lighter?

 


(Side note: Isn't it funny how, when you start thinking about certain concepts, they start to appear in your life in unexpected ways? This week I came across a new song by Linkin Park (featuring Kiiara), "Heavy," and it couldn't have been more perfect. I've been listening to it on repeat all week, feeling more and more inspired each day to let go of all the heavy things that've been dragging me down.)

 

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Positively Present Picks : March 3, 2017

 
Pocahontas
From "Colors of the Wind" in Pocahontas


Quote-of-the-week

"A weak mind cannot control its own projections. Be aware, therefore, of your mind and its projections. You cannot control what you do not know. On the other hand, knowledge gives power. In practice it is very simple. To control yourself — know yourself."

Nisargadatta Maharaj

 

Links-I-Love

Anxiety Makes Me Anxious : a great site + it's a book, too! 

Uncovering Your True Self : read this for some self-love perspective

Good Narcissism : why we need to become better narcissists

25 Important Things Money Can't Buy : the really good stuff is free

Creativity + Ego : such beautiful, interesting words on these two

Honey Coast Tees : t-shirts that give back to end hunger. love! 

7 Ways to Triumph Over a Negative Day : 'cause we all have them 

Want a Happier Life? : start saying yes to these 10 things

Letting Go of Toxic People : here's what happens when you do it

Mindful Guide to Email : how to take care of it in 20 minutes a day

14 Ways to Simplify Your Life : perfect for if you're feeling overwhelmed

Naive vs. Awake Vulnerability : I've never thought about this before!

How to Keep Emotions from Running Your Life : the power is yours

Yoga Helps You Love Yourself : definitely finding this to be true! 

7 Types of Loneliness (and Why It Matters) : very interesting perspective

Always Putting Yourself Last? : this letter was written just for you 

Fun Furniture Shopping : been spending tons of time on this site ;)

 

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
Finally on Spotify! Follow me!


"Castle on Hill / Shape of You" — Ed Sheeran
"Healing Song" — Lune
"Sail Away" — Courtship
"Something Like This" — Chainsmokers ft. Coldplay
"Chained to the Rhythm" — Mackenzie Johnson
"Only the Wild Ones"— Dispatch
"Worry" — MaJLo
"Hold You Down" — O+S
"The Open Road" — Eyeclimber
"Love Love Love" — Tristan Prettyman

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

All the Lives I Want: Essays about My
Bests Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers
Alana Massey

Right Riches for You
Dr. Dain Heer
 

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life

Effortless Inspiration Series:
Gratitude, Living in the Moment, 
Compassion, and Forgiveness

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present

    

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Some links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page. 


Break / Make / Take : Coping with News Anxiety

 

Positive News

 

Anxiety is something I've struggled with my entire life in various forms. At some points in my life, it's lessened; at others (like now), it's heightened to the point that, on some days, it feels almost unbearable. But, given my occupation and my desire to try to make my life better from the inside out, I'm always striving to assess and better understand my anxiety so I can counter it with calmness and positivity. Recently, one of the things that's been a big anxiety trigger for me is news. I used to think news was boring and depressing. I could never understand why people would want to watch all of the chaos going on around the world; the negativity just seemed like too much, especially since most people watch without taking action. 

Now, at this particular moment in American history, so much is going on (or so it seems!) that I find myself engaged and interested, waiting with bated breath to see what will happen next. While I believe it's a positive thing I've chosen to seek out information -- knowledge, after all, is power -- I notice a huge uptick in my anxiety when I spend time scrolling through Twitter and reading articles about the latest political and global situations. 

I don't want to -- nor do I know if I could -- go back to my old head-in-the-sand ways, but I also don't want to spend my life being made neurotically anxious by staying on top of the up-to-the-minute, never-ending parade of news. Keeping abreast of the latest happenings feels like I'm doing something -- I'm an active, conscious adult, knowing what's going on at the world at all times! -- reading and worrying about the latest news story isn't actually doing anything. 

All of the energy I spend obsessing over the news (something I never would have done in the past) drains me emotionally, and the stress of it takes away from actual productive progress -- of the political and personal variety. We only have so much energy given to us each day, and it's important that we all be aware of where that energy goes. So, what's a girl to do when she wants to stay informed, but doesn't want to be inundated by anxiety? 

I don't have an easy, get-calm-quick scheme, but I have discovered a three-step plan that's been helping me. If you're struggling with news anxiety, I'm hoping this will help you too. 

 

BREAK REFLEXIVE READING HABITS 

If you're like me, it's tempting to go on Twitter and binge on the latest headlines, but all of that excessive consumption doesn't necessarily make me more informed. Quite often, I'm simply reading similar stories or random people's perspectives on a topic. Instead of social media binges, it's a good idea to have a few (credible!) sources where you get your news -- maybe at a set time each day. I'd also highly recommend reading opposing views as well. If you decide CNN is going to be your go-to source, consider switching to FOX or MSNBC periodically for a different perspective. You don't have to agree with everything you see or read, but it's important to take in a variety of sources. Also, be mindful of how often you check for news. While I don't think I could ever go back to being uninformed, it does me no good to check the news dozens of times a day. It's much more useful not to keep tabs on the latest stream of commentary, but to seek out well-informed, well-researched articles by experts who are open-minded and thoughtful. 

 

MAKE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL 

One of most challenging -- and anxiety-producing -- aspects of news intake is the helplessness that often comes along with it. So often, there are stressful stories or tales of those who are suffering, and, with all that's going on in the world, it can be frustrating and overwhelming to feel as if, even though you're informed, you can't actually do anything meaningful. But that's a falsehood we perpetuated by believing that meaning comes only from large, sweeping actions. The reality in which we all live is made up of moments, and every moment is a chance to make something meaningful. Make a connection with a smile; make a friend with a conversation; make a piece of art to express your emotions (and share it with others to inspire or connect with them); make time for yourself (the more at peace you are internally, the more external progress you can make). There are so many ways to create meaning in your life. While these might not feel directly related to what you see on the news, never forget that everything is oddly, beautifully intertwined. The goodness, positivity, and contributions you put into the world matter -- they have a ripple effect and you never know how wide those ripples might spread. 

 

TAKE TANGIBLE, IN-REAL-LIFE ACTION

It can be tempting to consider sharing a post or retweeting a story to be doing something, but it's not the same as taking real action. Social media is not social action. If you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with the world around you, you're never going to feel a relief from that anxiety by simply liking a tweet or Facebook post. To feel a sense of fulfillment, you have to do something. We live in a time where we have the world at our fingertips; whatever you want to do, whatever cause you want to help, all you have to do is Google it and you'll most likely find a list of things you can do to make a difference. No matter what you feel passionate about -- or how much time, money, and energy you have -- there's something you can do. And, take it from my experience, taking action (no matter how small!) feels infinitely better than clicking a like button. Plus, when you're actually doing something -- whether it's donating your time, researching how to help a cause, or working toward positive change -- you have less time to endlessly scroll! 

 

I know I'm not alone when it comes to news anxiety -- particularly of the social media variety -- and I know these three tips won't work perfectly for everyone, so if you have any additional ideas or tips that have worked for you, I'd love to hear them in the comments below! And remember: the more you follow the Break / Make / Take method, the less anxiety you'll have. And the less anxiety you have, the more you can make positive progress! 

 

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Positively Present Picks : February 24, 2017

 
Do You Love You


Quote-of-the-week

"Detach from what destroys you." 

R.H. Sin

 

Links-I-Love

NEW VIDEO : I show you (+ gush over) Adam J. Kurtz's new products

How to Read More : the first one is the one I struggle with big time!

Mindfulness Matters : so cool! a game to help practice mindfulness

When Things Go Missing : reflections on two seasons of loss 

7 Standards We Need to Stop Sticking to : let them go + free yourself

Why Do Anything? : a great piece reflecting on procrastination 

Think of Choices as Effects, Not Causes : love this thought shift

25 Ways to Celebrate Kindness : do something kind for someone today

Wordigo : have you ever experienced this? I certainly have!

Forest of Numbers : wow, this art installation is really beautiful

How to Make Friends : the first one is absolutely vital for friendship

I Am Here Now : I love the look of this mindfulness journal

What Being an Adult Feels Like : this is so true and it made me laugh

Trumbomb Deck : had this for awhile but love it more than ever!

Staying In Is the New Going Out : couldn't agree with this more ;)

 

Listening

Listen to this playlist on YouTube.
Finally on Spotify! Follow me!


"Xanax" — Elohim
"I Was Born a Dreamer" — SHEL
"Goodbye" — Filous
"It Ain't Me" — Kygo ft. Selena Gomez
"It Takes a Lot to Know a Man" — Damien Rice
"Love"— Lana Del Ray
"Days Move Easy" — Chase McBride
"Paris" — The Chainsmokers
"Bittersweet Records" — Krista Marina
"I Want You" — Wrabel

 

Reading

Check out my reading list on GoodReads.
 

The Positivity Kit
Lisa Currie

Healer
Carol Cassella

All the Single Ladies
Rebecca Traister
 

I write books too! Check it out...

The Positively Present Guide to Life

Effortless Inspiration Series:
Gratitude, Living in the Moment, 
Compassion, and Forgiveness

Stay Positive: Daily Reminders
from Positively Present

    

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Some links may be affiliate links. If you click on them and purchase something, I receive a commission. There is no additional cost to you if you use these links, and I will never share links for products I haven't or wouldn't purchase myself. For more information on affiliate links, please visit the Terms of Use page. 


Chasing Slow (Online) + a GIVEAWAY!

Thinking Living

 

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Erin Loechner's Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path. I receive a lot of books in the mail, but I only write about them here in special cases -- and this is definitely one of those cases. I'd seen the book around online for weeks, popping up in various Instagram feeds and mentioned in articles and podcasts, but I wasn't sure if it was a book for me. I've loved Erin's work on Design for Mankind for years, but I was nervous that the religious elements of the book wouldn't resonate with me, a childless, agnostic atheist. But as I kept noticing it more and more places -- and kept getting drawn to the title and the book's beautiful, simple aesthetic -- I decided I needed to give it a try. And I'm so glad I did. 

Not only is the book beautifully designed, including beautiful photos and little journal prompts throughout, but it's also incredibly inspiring, especially for anyone who spends a lot of time online (like bloggers) or on your phone (like most of us). The book covers a variety of topics -- blogging, success, motherhood, mindfulness, work/life balance, and more -- but one of the topics that resonated most with me is the topic of social media. You might have read my post, Inspired Unfollowing: A Week of Conscious Content Choice, earlier this year, and so you know I'm thinking a lot social media and how it can impact the amount of positivity in your life. 

In the book, Erin writes about how she learned that "thinking about living is not the same as living." Those words -- particularly in relation to social media -- really hit home with me. When we're online -- whether it's reading blog posts, checking email, scrolling through social media, reading news, etc. -- we're, for the most part, thinking and consuming, rather than living and doing. Through the book, Erin brings up the question What am I looking for? and when I read those words, I was stopped in my tracks because one thing I love about my online life is the looking. I love that I can find almost anything I'm looking for at almost any time. I love that, in that looking, I've found newness: new friends, new items, new ideas, etc. I love the hunt. But, as Erin so wisely writes:  

The same hunger that seeks community, togetherness, discovery, and expression also roars with pride — with self-doubt, comparison, envy, loneliness. Online, we fed ourselves both.

For every force, there is an opposing force. Though the online world is amazing and inspiring at times, it's also uncharted and overwhelming at times. It's both wonderful and terrible. We spend so much time looking, and, as Erin writes, "Sometimes, when we're looking for what we want, we find what we need." In reading Erin's book, that's what happened to me. When I picked up the book, I was looking for information on how to take some of the stress out of my life, but I found something else: and important reminder and incredibly insightful wisdom on how I'm using technology in my life. 

Her words on Pinterest -- my most popular social media platform -- were particularly eye-opening for me. (If you're not a Pinterest fan, imagine that this is about a different platform, or whatever aspect of life you turn to to see what "perfect" looks like.)

Pinterest has, in a few short years, become an addicting escape, and impossible standard, an invaluable resource. A synonym for perfect... Who could've seen the downside as we pressed our noses to the screen, eyes widening with wonder, watching as our dreams scrolled by, pin after pin after pin? Who could've known that more isn't what we truly need? You could've known that more would make us feel like less?

Seeking more -- more information, more followers, more inspiration, more perfection -- almost always makes us feel like less because, after all, when you're seeking more, you're essentially saying, Right now is not enough. And, on a more personal level, I am not enough. 

This feeling becomes amplified when you work online. You begin, as Erin writes, "to see yourself as one dimensional, a girl on the screen." For many bloggers and online creators, there's a huge gap between the images on the screen and the real person behind those images (as anyone who knows me in real life knows well!). To keep up with what we do, bloggers need to be online and on social media. But finding balance (particularly for those like me, who have strongly addictive personalities) online and on social media is incredibly challenging. 

When your personal identity is so intricately linked with your online presence, this becomes even more complex. Erin writes, "Identity is a powerful force. We rarely see ourselves as others do, and we often view the world — our own, someone else's — through a distorted lens." We want to believe that who we are is not what we do online, but the more time you spend online, the more the line between our identity and our technology becomes blurred. At one point in the book, Erin is writing about Adam and Eve and she says, "In the pursuit of knowledge, they lost wisdom. In the pursuit of themselves, they lost themselves." To me, this says a lot about who we are now, at this point in society. So many of us are seeking some validation or understanding of ourselves online, and, frustratingly, we still feel misunderstood. Erin writes: 

I do feel misunderstood, but the one doing the misunderstanding is me. The one doing the misunderstanding is the one who wrongly assumed my social media profile and smiling square image must perfectly capture who I am. That my presence online must perfectly match my present off-line. That who I am is what I do, that my outsides match my insides...

...But what do we know of comparing our self to ourselves? What do we know of comparing our richest reality to the one-dimensional screen? What do we know a flattening our identities so they can be cropped, manipulated, forced into one-liners and profile explanations?

This whole online world -- and how it relates to who we are and who we'll become as a society -- is still so new, relative to the whole of humanity. But, with the ever-growing online world, something honest, something true is being lost. When I read these words in the book -- "On a good day, I tell the truth on Instagram.… But on most days, I don't write what I think in that moment. I write what I think others expect me to think in that moment." -- I found myself sighing deeply in recognition. As Erin puts it, "Our culture is prone to concealing what is.… Under-the-rug sweeping is the default." Social media only exaggerates this tendency of ours to push away the imperfect. Social media is often criticized for being an addictive, mindless, time-suck, but, as Erin puts it, that's not the true danger: 

The dangers of social media or far subtler than the distraction, than the addiction, than the habits we form by scrolling through screens multiple times a day... social media has encouraged us to crop out the contradictions in ourselves. It has caused us to airbrush the parts of our lives we don't love about ourselves. It has caused us to sweep our personalities — whether too big or too small — under a Moroccan Pinterest rug in the name of a consistent social media presence. In the name of online optimism.

The most worrisome aspect of social media isn't the time we spend on it or even the sometimes soul-crushing comparisons we make between the screens and our real lives. The most problematic aspect of social media is what it does to our personal identities when it encourages us to crop and summarize and condense who we are into a limited amount of space. Social media can feel spacious -- a variety of platforms from which we can see the world and connect globally -- but it's actually incredibly restrictive. We are not flat, square images. We are not black text on a white screen. We are endless shapes and colors and moods and feelings. We are complex and intricate and mysterious. We are gloriously imperfect shades of gray. Erin writes: 

Excepting that we are gray, that we are flawed, that we are a great many things, is one of the most difficult parts of today's information society. We are taught that knowledge is power, that what we do not yet know can be explained and placed in a box on the shelf, lid sealed until further notice. We spend our time on social networks attempting to condense our personalities into tiny profile boxes, trying to verbalize intricacies within flattened screens.

The intricacies of who we are as people cannot be accurately conveyed through a screen, no matter how many images, words, or videos we share. Our truest selves will always be present only in real life, and only in the ever-shifting day-to-day interactions and thoughts and emotions we have. We can do our best to tick of boxes and define who we are, but no definition will ever be enough to encapsulate the whole of who you truly are. As Erin so wisely puts it: "We are not either/ors. We are both/ands."

All of this online / social media stuff is just one aspect of this amazing book. In reading it, you'll not only gain insights into Erin's story (which, I feel, many people will relate to in some way -- whether it's as a blogger, a parent, a friend, a spouse, or just a person trying to make the most of what she's been given in this life), but you'll also gain tons of unexpected inspiration. I really enjoyed reading it, and I'm so glad I picked it up. (A reminder that, just because something doesn't necessarily tick off all of the boxes you identify with, it doesn't mean it won't teach you amazing things.) I'd highly recommend you read it, and I'm so thankful that Erin's publisher has agreed to give away a copy! 

  Chasing Slow


How to Enter

Enter by doing one (or all!) of the following. Each counts as an entry!   


Giveaway Details

  • Every follow / share / tweet / like, etc. counts as one entry
  • Enter as many times as you'd like to increase your chances
  • Winner will be chosen + notified on February 27, 2017
  • Giveaway open to US residents only