Changing your behavior and perspective is difficult, to say the least. It’s all well and good to read blogs and listen to YouTube videos on how to improve your life. But…
It’s a living thing, not a studying thing
For a very, very long time, I struggled to implement what I was learning into my everyday life. Something just wasn’t clicking. This last year, something finally did. It took me some time to break it down, but here it finally is. This is the formula that I believe helped me so much to finally move forward. I hope that the breakdown is helpful to anyone else who has the same struggles.
First off, Listen to psychology and philosophy lectures online.
I realized that pretty much knew nothing about my brain, how I thought, or what I was even thinking. With the help of some much more learned people than I, I found some great resources that were entirely free and listened to them A LOT. I got YouTube premium back when it was still YouTube Red (btw, Youtube, WTF? Youtube Red sounds way cooler than Premium.) and downloaded these videos and listened to them basically all the time. I replaced my T.V. time with learning time. I played them on my commute. I fell asleep listening to Alan Watts lectures. I listened in the shower even. I hammered this stuff into my brain until it became a basic background knowledge that I could pull from unconsciously.
I started off with some basic Psych stuff, here’s what I recommend.
- Crash Course Psychology 40 video series where Hank Green teaches us about how weird and awesome human brains are. A perfect place to start for those with no psych knowledge and also want to be entertained. (the animations are adorable and combined with Hank’s Hankness, it really holds your attention.)
- The School of Life has a brief playlist of some of the leading figures of Psychotherapy– The ones they like, at least. Short, sweet, also has some interesting animations.
- 2017 Personality and its Transformations, University of Toronto 20 video lecture series from the U of T on the science and philosophy of human personality.
- Yale Psych 101 20 video lecture series, basic ideas, and principles of Psychology.
And some Basic Philosophy Stuff:
- The School of Life Philosophy Playlist 35 short videos (4- 8 min long) on some key western philosophers throughout history and a short summary of their ideas. Not perfectly comprehensive, but gives you a good foundation into what it is and why it’s not dumb and useless.
- Crash Course Philosophy Hank Green is back with more adorable animations to teach you about the basics of philosophy. Not perfectly comprehensive, but gives you a good foundation into what it is and why it’s not dumb and useless.
- Philosophy and Critical Thinking from Fayetteville State University This is one of my favorite philosophy classes I’ve gone over to date. Dr. Sadler does a great job of breaking down logical thought and making it learnable. A definite must for anyone wanting to fine-tune their thinking.
- Jack Sanders on Symbolic Logic Very similar to Dr. Sadler’s course, but with his own teaching twist. More into the technical aspects of Logic.
- Justice with Michael Sandel from Harvard University Focuses on Ethics and schools of thought regarding what is Just. Michael Sandel does an excellent job helping students make the mental connection between the philosophy of Ethics and everyday life.
- I saved my favorite for last: Alan Watts. He was a philosopher who explored both western and eastern thought. He focused on Zen, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. He has a wonderful gift of breaking down seemingly mystical and abstract thoughts into something very real and understandable. This playlist says it has all of his full lectures. This playlist has bits of his lectures chopped up into bits pertaining to a single topic. If ever I was having a particularly rough day, I’d pull up a lecture that seemed relevant to my woes and listen to him talk it out in his wonderfully soothing voice. I still do this. As I pointed out earlier, I have fallen asleep listening to him (there’s something so soothing about his voice!) and lots of people have made great music mixes of his lectures if that’s your thing. Akira The Don, Terrestrial_Exitium, and Soul Spark all do lovely work. (I prefer Akira and Terrestrial’s work. There are many artists out there though, so go check them out!)
Read up on science, philosophy, and therapy, a lot. As often as possible.
There’s a whole heavenly host of philosophy and psychology websites and blogs out there, myself included. I have links to them littered throughout my blog… So I recommend surfing through those links as often as you can. There’s an equal number of BS pop psych sites out there. I find myself frequenting Psychcentral a lot, as well as Psychology Today. Very Well Mind is another good resource.
I’ve been reading more books surrounding Psych and Philosophy, and my favorites are:
- 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
- Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy, Also Viktor E. Frankl
- Stoicism, by George Tanner
- The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius
- You’re It! by Alan Watts (audible edition)
- Maps of Meaning, by Jordan B. Peterson (audible edition)
- The Problem of Pain, by C. S. Lewis
- The Tao te Ching
- The Dhammapada, Eknath Easwaran
- Man and His Symbols, by C. G. Jung
The full list of my recommended books can be found on my About page.
I really like reading novels- both graphic and literary. But I took a lot of time this last year out of that habit to read these books. I’m sure you’re beginning to notice a trend of sacrificing certain things to pursue other things. (Rule 7, Pursue what is Meaningful, not what is Expedient.)
Some very good types of therapy to look into are Schema Therapy, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Logotherapy. I have personally used Schema, CBT, and Logotherapy in my own personal care program. So I am a bit biased towards them. The above links are for general information only. If one seems interesting to you, I strongly suggest looking deeper into the books behind them. Having a deeper understanding of the therapy one is participating in, to me seems to make it more effective, since you have a better mental map of where you’re going. For other forms of therapy, GoodTherapy provides a full list.
Set time aside at least 4 times a week, but preferably every day, to reflect on these things. Either write down your thoughts our talk out loud to a recording device/app.
This is a type of meditative practice common to many schools of thought, both philosophical and religious. Its a form of practicing thinking. It sounds odd, to practice thinking because we have a part of our brain that does it automatically. But, thinking well is a skill. And like all skills, it needs to be honed through constant practice. The mind is a very jumbly, abstract place, and many thoughts are actually very poorly articulated and half-formed when they only live in our minds. In addition, if we don’t take regular time out to think over the important, meaningful, and even abstract ideas of life, we can form very strange, contradictory heuristics that cause loads of unnecessary stress through dissonance. When we attempt to articulate our thoughts into words, it forces those otherwise weak, contradictory, and amorphous ideas into solid, functional modes of living. Through words, we find if ways of articulating an idea are true, or if they need fixing. We find gaps in our thinking and areas that are strong. We find ideas that we are comfortable with and uncomfortable. The more we think about them, the stronger we become.
In addition to being common to practices like stoicism, Buddhism, existential schools and various Christian/ Gnostic schools, practicing your thoughts is also a part of Psychotherapy.
Journaling has been the focus of a certain amount of attention in the Health and Wellness field and has gotten some good clout to back it up. PsychCentral and Newport Academy write simple articles on the subject, and Harvard Health writes on how writing about your emotions can help ease the stress from trauma.
(This blog acts as a sort of mental practice for me as well.)
Actually Go To Therapy
Yes, I know. Therapy is expensive, especially if you lack insurance and can be difficult to work into your schedule and sometimes you just don’t want to talk about this shit. But it helps. It really does. I’ve walked out of many sessions thinking very little was accomplished, yet I still noticed an upward trend in my mental health– That even took hits when I skipped. There’s just something about making that dedicated hour or so of your week to go over your problems with someone specially trained in problems that is so helpful.
For those in a bind with insurance and scheduling, there are options. I would recommend still going and getting evaluated in person before turning to online help so that you can accurately choose what kind of services you need. You are under no obligation to continue seeing any one provider. I would also recommend finding a way to make in-person therapy work if you absolutely can, and this article makes a great argument for it.
Don’t do these things in just one location, at one time. Form the associations with as many aspects of your life as possible. In the car, at home, at work on your break. Talk it over with friends.
That’s it. That’s all. If you only listened to the videos every Tuesday from 4 pm until 6, and read Saturday from 7 until 8, you might think about these things for a time afterward. And you also might think about these things a bit throughout the week. Perhaps once something very specific calls it to your attention. But not much else. But if you listen in your car, as you do the dishes, on your lunch break, and in other gaps, and if you read a chapter or so every night before bed, let’s say, then things begin to change.
Not only do you have way more knowledge stewing in your head, it’s all around you. You’ve begun to associate it with your everyday life. Then you might just begin to think about it in your free time. You might just start entertaining these ideas. Fitting them into your life, making them more than just mildly interesting, making them useful. Then the connections might come easier.
Talking it out with your friends, and others aside is a great way to engage in what is known as a dialectic, the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions. A dialectical conversation is incredibly informative- you can learn a great deal about yourself, your beliefs, your thoughts and feelings, and your partner. Properly done, you’ll walk away having either refined your current point of view or learned something new, something that you may have looked over, and changed a perspective. Learning how to participate in a proper dialectic takes some knowledge and practice. (Those lecture series on critical thinking will help!) I’m working on a post to go over what I have found helpful in learning this skill, so be sure to watch for that!
Set Up Reminder Tools
Many of us are terrible at being consistent. Hundreds of things call for our attention at any given moment, and so it’s incredibly easy to let new thought patterns, routines, and to-do’s slip our minds in favor of the immediate and novel. Setting a schedule for yourself is not only a great calming skill for those of us anxious about what’s to come, it’s also very helpful for getting a new groove on.
- Get a scheduling app for your phone. Google Calendar works quite well. I also use the app Any.do (I have no idea why that name. But that is literally the name) Both are easy to use and simple. Most phones come pre-installed with Google Calendar and some kind of task/memo app. You can set up specific task lists or events with Any.do and with Google Calendar you can sync it with your factory installed task and memo apps to do the same.
- Intention Artifacts like mantra bracelets, reminder stones or special pendants are great physical embodiments of things you want to keep at the forefront of your mind. I have a cuff that says “this too shall pass”. I’ve also at times taken a sharpie/henna to my arm, so if you have no qualms about that, go for it.
- They might be cheesy, but getting artwork/decor with reminders is another good one, provided you don’t train yourself to ignore it and put it in a good spot. There are lots of DIY methods out there for you to even make your own. Being crafty can be fun!
Take Some Time to Live Simply. (Or, practice discomfort)
This one was actually an accident, that I’m quite grateful for. What I stumbled upon was some advice from Seneca: to spend some time sleeping on the floor, eating cheap food. (he recommended sleeping on the kitchen floor with one blanket and only eating stale bread, but I digress.)
Through a very long story to make short, I ended spending three months sleeping on a plain mattress, with literally everything I owned save for clothes enough for a week, my computer, and basic art supplies in a storage unit. And all the things I had with me had to remain in cardboard boxes simply because my room was too small for anything otherwise. ( I was not homeless, and I am grateful for that.)
It turned out to be an amazing thing for me. At the risk of sounding like a hippie promoting minimalistic living, it turned out to be one of the best things for me. I had so little to worry about, it gave me extra time and mental space to sort out everything I needed to. Once I got back home and could put all my stuff back out in the open, I ended up packing the majority up in boxes and giving it away anyway. (I’ve developed the philosophy of “If you weren’t looking for it/to replace it and forgot about it, you don’t need it.”) This isn’t to say that I’ve converted to minimalist and Tiny living, but it taught me a lot about what I actually want and need, vs. what I thought I wanted and needed.
To sum up, I learned to gain an actual, lasting change, I needed to change my whole life. To use an analogy, it was like I wanted to get ripped Dude-Bro™ muscles without ever stepping into a gym and only eating pizza. It just don’t work that way. You gotta “go to the gym”, brah.
So maybe my formula is not your formula (although, I think I’m onto something here, so feel free to use what you want and let me know how it goes.) But somewhere out there is a formula of fixing your specific problems to help lift you out of your Depression Hole™.
But there is one thing you must remember, if you forget all else. There is no good or evil, save in the way you see the world. There is no dark or light, save in your own vision.”
Juliet Marillier, Daughter of The Forest
As always, I’m not a doctor or a professional. Merely someone deeply interested in these things. Any links are used only for the information they contain and are not affiliated.