I can go through periods of my life when I’m so in my head. I’m just playing out all of these scenarios—thinking of all the ways things may go wrong, how I’ll fail, who might be lying to me, what outside factors are conspiring to get in the way of my success no matter how hard I work, how annoying certain elements of my life are, and how sad and unchangeable certain relationships seem to be. It’s almost like I’m just sitting in a little movie theater, in my brain, that’s playing the most depressing and upsetting films. I’m oblivious to the world around me. I lose touch with reality and fail to distinguish between what I am afraid may happen and what is actually happening.
Do you ever get like this? Are you, perhaps, always like this? A lot of people are. To worry and fixate can be a part of the human condition. Unlike animals, we don’t have to fight for shelter, food, and safety each day, so our brains are pretty free to wander. Sometimes they wander somewhere great—towards our dreams and aspirations! And sometimes they wander somewhere dark. Consciousness is a blessing and a curse. It can enhance our experience of things, putting us even more in touch with what’s happening and allowing us to pick up on beautiful nuances. It can also create experiences that are fake, or put an unpleasant lens over everything we see.
The human mind can feel like a prison sometimes. If that’s true for you, don’t fret. It’s totally normal. And, it’s within your control—to an extent. Just make sure to be forgiving of yourself if you sometimes have thoughts of which you aren’t proud. Everybody does. But also know that you can change the trajectory of your thoughts, and that can be important so you don’t slip into a depression. Here are ideas that will get you out of your head.
Some people live with a chronic illness
Perhaps you aren’t happy with the way things go, when you do them. You aren’t happy with the results of your efforts, in several arenas. Dating. Career. Body building. But remember that some people live with a chronic illness and don’t even get to make the efforts that you get to make.
Some women live with very few rights
Though we should always strive for more and pressure society to give women more and more rights, try to remember that some women wake up, every day, in a city where they could be killed—legally—for wearing or saying the wrong thing. And they don’t even have the right or means to leave that place.
It’s not too late until you’re dead
Many of us have this delusion that, past a certain age, it’s too late to pursue our dreams. Let’s say it’s…30 or…40. People tend to have these ideas in mind, like they lose the abilities to pursue their passions past a certain age. But you know when you actually lose those abilities? When you’re dead. And not a second before.
Tomorrow is never promised
How much of your thoughts are consumed with tomorrow? Some of our thoughts have to be consumed by the future. To an extent, we must live as if tomorrow will happen or society would be chaos. However, take stock of your thoughts. You probably have some that are upsetting, unnecessary, and rely on the idea that tomorrow is promised. What a waste.
Over-contemplating is a luxury
The very fact that you can sit around and think about your levels of happiness and how well your passion project is or isn’t going is a luxury. You get to do that because you don’t worry where your next meal is coming from or whether or not you’ll have a warm, safe place to sleep tonight.
Youth is a gift
Right now, you’re so focused on outcome. Goals. Money. Success. Things you don’t have. But when you’re 85—if you should be so lucky to reach that age—all you’ll remember of this age is being healthy and energetic. You’ll remember feeling beautiful and hopeful. Enjoy it now—rather than just pining for it later.
Many more came before you
Right there where you sit. Thousands of people were there before you. People who were in love, afraid, ambitious, hopeful, sad, dreaming, worrying, building their lives and making their plans. And many of them are no longer with us. Think about that. Sort of eerie, right? You’re just a blip in time.
You don’t remember other’s mistakes
You may worry that people remember every mistake you’ve made and every embarrassing thing you’ve done. The truth is that, people generally are only aware of those who are killing it out there, and those who aren’t quite there yet are just background noise. Translation: nobody remembers that mistake you made. They’ll notice when you succeed.
You cannot control the feelings of others
You will never, ever make everybody happy. You just won’t. You could exhaust yourself, make so many sacrifices, and make choices that make you miserable, all in the pursuit of making everybody happy with you, and somebody will still be unhappy. So better somebody else than you. Don’t try to please everyone: please yourself, and let others care for their own sensitivities. They’re adults.
Your small gifts can change a life
Maybe, to you, what’s in your fridge is sad. A yogurt. Some bread and peanut butter. You get depressed looking at it, because you feel you are neglecting yourself by not buying more groceries. But you know what? Those few items could literally save the life of somebody living on the street. They’re a sad sight for you and a life source for somebody else.
You only feel some of your money
You may think a lot about money. How much you have. How much you don’t have. That specific number in each of your accounts—Roth IRA, 401K, savings, checking. But the truth is that we really only feel the effects of very little of our money. If your rent is paid and your belly is full, any excess money is just…an illusion. It’s good to save and have it, but also, don’t let those numbers cause you too much worry or strife. They don’t impact your immediate experience at all.
You almost weren’t here
So many things had to go right for you to be here. I recently learned that, a few days before I was born, a meteor got so close to earth—the closest any has ever gotten—that it nearly wiped us all out. And then…it didn’t. So I was born, and everybody else since then was born.
You can’t enjoy anything without loved ones
It’s an interesting thing, right? You can have that thing happen for you—that thing you’ve always dreamed of—like, having your novel listed in the New York Times. But if your loved ones aren’t around to celebrate or you’re in a fight with your closest loved one, you don’t feel the joy of the moment at all. That’s because relationships are our greatest and most powerful sources of joy.
And can enjoy anything with loved ones
On the reverse end of the last point is this truth: the simplest, most humble and modest experiences can feel absolutely incredible with loved ones. Eating fast food in a parking lot with the love of your life can feel as invigorating and fulfilling as accepting a Pulitzer Prize.
The past isn’t real
It’s not. You can’t touch it. It isn’t in some physical space where you can visit it. It’s…vanished. Gone forever. There are some real leftover effects—some factors that exist in your life today. That’s true. But if you are caught up with anxiety and guilt and regret about the past, put it away. Do real things today so you don’t feel regret in the future. The past is air and dust.