I seem to be coming across much worth sharing lately!
This article by the Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman on Friday 2 January 2015, is a refreshing reminder that we’d enjoy life that much more (thus allowing others to also) if we could perhaps be a bit kinder to ourselves.
‘Resolve to cut everyone a massive amount of slack, including yourself.’
It has come to my attention that, despite my long-running campaign against them, new year’s resolutions are still a thing. Even though grand plans can backfire, even though we’re terrible at predicting what would make us happier, still we hunger for a fresh start. Well, I know when I’m beaten. You want resolutions? Here – based largely on the most persuasive studies and books I read last year – are three things to do immediately. Don’t waste time convincing yourself they don’t apply to you. Just do them. Do we have an understanding? Good.
First, just start meditating already. You probably saw some of the eleventy-thousand studies in 2014 on how much difference a few minutes’ daily breath-following can make. Meditation could make you happier, more creative, less anxious, even less racist; it may conceivably ease your arthritis, slow Alzheimer’s, boost your learning ability and reduce cold symptoms. (Spiritual types might dispute that all this is the “point” of meditation, but they’re nice side-effects.) You don’t have time? Try five minutes a day. You “can’t meditate”? Sorry, nope: spending those minutes getting distracted still counts; indeed, noticing when you’re distracted is the essence of it. You’re too emotionally attached to your atheism or rationalism to get involved in something that smacks of new agery? Look, over here: this is me not caring. There are instructions at spiritrock.org. And you don’t need a cushion. Use a chair. You probably own a chair.
Second: select something to stop doing this year. I don’t mean bad habits, such as injecting heroin or picking your nose; I mean something worthwhile, but that, if you’re honest, you don’t have time for. In our hyperbusy era, there’s an infinite number of potential things to do: emails to read, groups to join, ways to become a better person, parent, employee. Yet still we proceed as if “getting everything done” might be feasible. It isn’t; the wiser plan is to get more strategic about what you abandon. (One technique: list your 10 most important roles in life, rank them, then resign from at least the bottom two.) Quit your book group; stop struggling to make dates with that hard-to-pin-down friend; accept you’ll never be a good cook. Not because those things are bad; because it’s the only way to do other things well.
Third, and sorry to get all Thought For The Day on you, but: resolve to cut everyone a massive amount of slack, including yourself. That’s the overarching conclusion of social psychology: we’re all staggeringly imperfect organisms, prone to making bad decisions when stress, busyness or poverty robs us of “cognitive bandwidth”. We habitually excuse our own bad behaviour as the result of special circumstances, while blaming others’ misdemeanours on deep-down nastiness. Or we torment ourselves with how much more accomplished everyone else is, when really it’s just that we lack access to their inner monologues of self-doubt. So: ease up. Except when it comes to these three resolutions, which you must now implement fully. Happy new year!