Self talk and Self distancing

Do you talk to yourself? Don’t worry, you are not insane. I do it all the time too.

A recent research that appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that self talk is more effective when paired with self distancing. What does this mean?

Self distancing is the art of removing oneself from the task or problem at hand. When we are able to create some distance, we are able to treat our problems the same way we would treat somebody else’s problems. We are always better at giving advice to others. It is so much harder to give ourselves the same advice. Self distancing tricks us to do just that.

So how can we pair self talk and self distancing? Simple. Just use second or third person names when talking to yourself. I should say “You can do this” or even better “Vidya can do this” instead of “I can do this”.

Try it out. Does it work for you? Let me know in the comments below.

The Wishlist Rule

The Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow to US$ 200 billion by 2026 from US$ 38.5 billion as of 2017.

Most of our shopping nowadays is done online. While this is convenient, it contributes heavily to all the excess we deal with – excess clothes, shoes, accessories, and the most dreadful of all, debt.

When we shop online, we are in a virtual world.

Shopping in a store, we feel the weight of what we are buying – literally as we carry our shopping bags. The act of physically picking up items makes us mindful of what we buy.

When shopping online, everything is in a virtual cart. Adding 10 items to our shopping bag feels no different from adding 2. Add to this, the discounts, limited time offers and an endless catalogue of items to look at. We are buying more than ever.

So how do we shop mindfully when shopping online so that we buy only what we need? Here is a trick that works for me.

The Wishlist Rule

We are most likely to shop in excess when we shop in an impulse. The mannequins in the store front, the huge sale signs and Zara’s business model are all built to take advantage of our impulse to shop. In the online world, the entire shopping app and one-click shopping are built to prey on this impulse. So, a simple trick is to distance the actual act of buying from the buying impulse.

I use the Wishlist feature online to do this.

When we feel the need to buy something, it’s very hard to fight that impulse. To stave off the impulse, I created a simple rule. I tell myself I we can add it to the Wishlist for now and buy tomorrow. The act of adding an item to a Wishlist is almost as gratifying as buying it.

Sometimes I don’t even get back to Wishlist because I have completely forgotten about it. And this is a good reminder that I never needed that item in the first place.

Sometimes when I get back to the Wishlist, I don’t feel the need to buy that dress anymore. It doesn’t look as appealing or I don’t see the necessity.

As I prune the Wishlist, I am left with what I truly want. Then I go ahead and make that purchase.

I feel better about what I am buying because I am bringing it into my life with intention and not in an impulse.

Why I deleted all social media apps from my phone?

Last year I deleted all my social media apps from my phone. It has made me more present and content, helped me create good habits and made me less anxious. Clearly social media was bad for me. And research supports this theory.

A BBC story states that 3 billion people, around 40% of the world’s population, use online social media – and we’re spending an average of 2 hours everyday on these platforms.

More than the time we spend, its how we engage with social media that makes the difference. If you find yourself drained after 20 minutes of mindless scrolling on a social media platform, you are not alone.

In a press release called, Hard Questions, David Ginsberg, director of research, and Moira Burke, a research scientist at Facebook, acknowledge and comment on the scientific research linking social media to negative impacts on well-being, before outlining the steps Facebook is taking to solve these issues.

Here is what they say:

Just like in person, interacting with people you care about can be beneficial, while simply watching others from the sidelines may make you feel worse.

Independent studies by Facebook as well as other researchers indicate that passive consumption of content on social media is linked to negative social comparison.

From the Facebook press release again:

In general, when people spend a lot of time passively consuming information — reading but not interacting with people — they report feeling worse afterward. In one experiment, University of Michigan students randomly assigned to read Facebook for 10 minutes were in a worse mood at the end of the day than students assigned to post or talk to friends on Facebook

In another study researchers studied 82 participants to understand how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives after using Facebook.

Here is what they found:

Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time.

The reason we feel drained after mindless scrolling on any social media platform is because we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and make judgments about how we measure up. People’s posts are often curated and flattering, and we become a victim of the highlight reel – people always seem happier, better off on social media.

Last year when I was trying to simplify my life, Cal Newport’s TED talk and article caught my attention.

In his article, Cal Newport writes:

To be more concrete, I claim that most users could probably reap 95% of the value they get out of social media by signing in twice a week, on a desktop or laptop, to catch up on the latest photos, or check their organization’s group, or to browse the most recent chatter relevant to a movement they care about. Let’s called this controlled use of these services.

So, I decided to try this experiment.

I was an early adopter of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and have been mostly a passive consumer on these platforms. They swiftly made their way to my smartphone as soon as apps were available. Last year I deleted all my social media apps from my phone.

So, what changes did I notice?

I could go for months without logging into social media: Once I deleted these apps from my phone and I could only use social media on my laptop, I automatically used them much lesser. I made myself login every time I needed to access any of these mediums. This made me pause and think if I really needed to be on them now.

I felt content: The biggest change I noticed in a few months was how content I felt. I am happier with my life because I am not constantly comparing mine to someone else’s picture-perfect version.

I lived my life on my own terms: I stopped living my life based on what others were doing. I love to lounge around at home in the weekends – I did just that and did not go shopping in a mall every weekend.

I suddenly had more time:  The endless number of hours I spent browsing feeds and agonising in my head about how little my life is were now spent doing things I really love. I read more, picked up yoga and meditation.

I could finally simplify my life: I shop less, own fewer items and I spent my time, energy and money on things that truly matter.

This is not to say that social media is all bad. I am still on all these platforms but I use them much lesser and I am mindful of the time I spend on them.

If you think you could do with a little less social media, try this experiment. Remove social media apps from your phone for a week and use a computer to access them. Notice how often you feel the twitch to login. Even if you decide to put them back in the phone after a week, you will be a more mindful user.

Dealing with loss

Dealing with loss can be hard, especially dealing with the loss of a loved one. We could feel all emotions at once – anger, grief, despair, denial, fear, worry, regret – and sometimes not feel anything at all.

None of us can escape sadness, loss or life’s disappointments. The best option is to know how to deal with them. When dealing with a tragedy, we don’t just deal with the suffering but also the thought that we are suffering.

From the book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant:

Part of every misery is misery’s shadow..the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer – C.S.Lewis

If you are dealing with a loss or have a friend or family member who is dealing with loss, I hope these tips come in handy.

1. Respect your feelings

Respect your feelings and do not try to suppress them. Sadness might creep over at odd times and it is OK to take a cry-break and pour our hearts out.

Growing up, I used to think that crying was a sign of weakness. I would force myself to suppress my feelings and put up a brave face, no matter how I felt inside. It never helped.

It is OK to feel anger and jealousy. It is OK to feel sad. Notice these feelings and let yourself feel them. Do not suppress them.

2. Beware of the 3Ps

The 3Ps stand for Personalization, Pervasiveness, and Permanence.

From Option B again:

After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that three P’s can stunt recovery:

(1). personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2). pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; (3). permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of an event will last forever.

Personalization is the belief that we are at fault. When we lose someone dear to us, we tend to find ways in which we could have stopped it from happening. We blame ourselves for the loss. It’s important to accept the tragedy is not our fault. In order to move forward with the loss, we need to set ourselves free of the blame.

Pervasiveness is the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life. When dealing with a tragedy, it may feel like everything in our life is falling apart. We feel that we cannot be ourselves in any area of our life. But that’s not true. A personal loss need not affect every area of our life. It need not steal our identity.

Permanence is the belief that the aftershocks of an event will last forever. It is natural to feel that way in the aftermath of a loss. But remember, it gets better with time. We will always carry a scar from the loss, but the effect of the event will fade away.

3. Talk about it

When dealing with a loss, we are naturally inclined to shut ourselves down. Sometimes its the anger that this happened to someone we love or it could be the feeling that constantly talking about our loss is a burden to our close ones. Either way, remember that talking about the loss helps us accept it and the people around us who care about us truly would never treat it as a burden.

From Option B:

The two things we want to know when we’re in pain are that we’re not crazy to feel the way we do and that we have support. Acting like nothing significant is happening to people who look like us denies us all of that.

When we deny ourselves the support we deserve and bury our worries, they tend to multiply and take shapes that become hard to deal with later.

And if you have a friend who is presently going through a difficult time, remember that simply showing up for a friend can make a huge difference.

4. Take up journaling

I was never a writer, but taking up a journaling practice has helped me deal with personal losses. Writing taps into a part of the brain that has direct access to our feelings. Even if you do not have a writing habit, take up journaling for a few days if you are dealing with a tragedy. Just write down how you feel, whatever is in your heart. Write down your worries, your regrets, your fears.

From Option B:

Turning feelings into words can help us process and overcome adversity. Life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forward. Journaling can help make sense of the past and build the self-confidence to navigate to the present and future.

If you can’t stand the thought of reading what you wrote again, it is ok to tear it down. Just the act of writing down our thoughts helps us get clarity.

Peace is within each of us

We think of peace as a destination, a place we arrive at once we have fixed everything that is wrong with our lives. A quaint village far from the noisy city life or a life with no work deadlines and bosses. Being at peace seems like a utopian life we dream of but never seem to get closer to achieving.

But what if we are wrong? What if we can find peace wherever we are?

Peace does not mean to be in a place without chaos or trouble. These are the hard realities of life and we cannot escape them. Peace means to be centred – mentally, physically and emotionally – in the midst of all these things.

This is where having a list of small things that bring us peace can be handy. These can be memories, thoughts of a special someone or a special something that we are grateful for. For example, it can be a particular flower in your garden, the smile on your child’s face, browsing through your favourite photos on the phone or writing with your favourite pen. Nothing is too small or trivial because it is through these small moments of joy that we find peace.

The idea is to remove us from the chaos for a moment and help us find that centre, so we are able to think clearly and rationally.

To get you started in making your own, here are a few items from my “peace list”

  • Looking at the moon
  • Being in the presence of mountains
  • Curled up in the corner of a couch with a book and a cup of hot chocolate
  • Watching a rising or setting sun

So, the next time you are stressed and think you need to find peace, take 30 seconds to do something from your peace list. It always seems to work for me.

Let me know in the comments below, does it work for you?