It’s obvious. But it’s really important
You’re not bored, you’re not happy – you’re mindless.
One thing that I’ve said about being addicted to your phone is that it’s just a really bad habit but unfortunately, a really effective one.
A basic model of how habits are formed are the three Rs – Reminder, Routine, Reward. (I didn’t come up with this myself – Charles Duhigg is my best source). The easier these are to come about, the habit is much more likely to stick.
For our phones it’s this:
- Reminder(s): notifications, the phone always being in arms reach, needing it for certain tasks (like alarms)
- Routine(s): scrolling through social media, texting a friend, watching a video
- Reward: The small pleasure centre in our brains reacting to some kind of approval.
The problem is that these rewards you gain from social media and watching videos may not be deeply satisfying. Instead, it’s just enough to stop you from getting extremely bored but not enough to entertain you significantly.
You’re hovering just above boredom but nowhere near happiness.
I fall victim to this all the time. I spend time doing things that don’t really interest me. They entertain me in the short-term but leave me feeling like rubbish quickly afterwards.
Given that I’m in pain a lot of the time and that impacts my concentration, I want to fill the time that I have with more enjoyment than superficial rubbish.
What do you really enjoy?
All of this seems mighty obvious. To be happy, do things that make you happy.
However, it serves us well to actually think about what makes us happy then think about whether we actually follow through with that.
For example, we might want to think more often:
- What are the things that make me happy in the short-term but guilty in the long-term?
- What leaves me feeling really satisfied with myself?
- Do I spend more time on things that are simply easy or do I challenge myself?
- Am I doing the same thing over and over again?
- How often do I end the day feeling satisfied?
- How often do I start the day feeling encouraged by the plan I have set out?
These questions have helped me better understand what I actually enjoy rather than those activities that are simply easy to do. Rather than going to the path of least resistance, you spend more time carving out a life that you really want to live.
As a result, you may find that after answering these questions that finding happiness in your day requires a bit more self-discipline than you may have expected!
Being satisfied and happy isn’t simply a case of doing “whatever you want” because that can be quite difficult to judge. Rather, we need to think more deeply about the things that we enjoy, then experiment with ways to fill our time with more of it.
The benefit of this approach I’ve found is that it stops everything turning into an obligation. Rather, you want to do certain things because you’re confident that they’ll do good things for your mental health. For example, why would you miss a workout if you know you’ll feel good after and during it?
You wouldn’t. Exercising is something that has a much greater potential to make you happy than sitting down and eating Pringles like they’re going out of fashion. (I promise this does not come from personal experience…)
Seneca writes that one of our biggest problems is that we “live as though we’ll live forever”, waste it on meaningless things then complain that life is too short.
Ok, but what if I don’t have the energy?
What do you do when you want to do something you’ll enjoy but simply can’t because of something like chronic pain?
It’s easy to do the easiest thing (like watch videos mindlessly for hours) because you lack energy. So for me, all of these mindless activities tend to come in the evening after a day of being active in some way.
Here are two things I’ve found help:
- High energy and Low energy activities
Split the things you enjoy into high energy and low energy activities. For me, it goes like this:
High energy: Writing, reading non-fiction, exercising
Low energy: Reading fiction, calming yoga, Netflix
2. Don’t worry about it
Worrying about how you spend your time is likely to tire you out even more and make you feel extremely guilty. Sometimes, you just don’t have a lot of energy and you just want to watch videos for a while.
Set a good intention for yourself and enjoy the time you have.
It’s important but think about it, don’t worry about it.
When I was reminded of this concept, I began to feel guilty about how I spend my time (I’ve been like this for years). It’s because I turned the things I want to do into things I have to do.
If you don’t reach an obligation you feel bad.
If you make everything an obligation, you’re likely to feel bad because you can’t do everything.
Not everything is an obligation. Remind yourself of that when you find yourself saying “I should do this and should do that”.
So set out to fill more of your time with the things you enjoy doing. Be mindful of this intention because it is a helpful reminder that our time is often limited by things out of our control.
It sounds ominous but it’s true. Seneca writes that one of our biggest problems is that we “live as though we’ll live forever”, waste it on meaningless things then complain that life is too short.
Perhaps life isn’t too short. Regardless, let’s take the time to do things we enjoy.
If anything, we deserve it.
As always, thank you for reading!
My question for you is:
What do you enjoy and what do you want to do more of?
(Happy 100th post to meeee!)