Why Are We Addicted?

What’s the first thing that came to your mind when you read out the title? Do you feel like there are certain behaviours that you just can’t do without?

I was thinking about how the human experience is essentially about continuously overcoming different forms of addiction. We tend to find something that stimulates us enough and hold onto it.

Whether it’s food, social media, attention, video games, watching series, smoking, coffee or even exercise. There seems to be an underlying psychological aspect to that distraction, despite the harm it has on us or those around us. I thought it would be interesting to have a Thinking Out Loud post to share my thoughts on this.

Distractions

If there’s anything we’re undoubtedly addicted to, it’s being distracted. Our attention is data, which is essentially a modern day currency. This doesn’t just speak to ads and social media, but every aspect of our life. The more we let our attention loose, the more likely we are to get distracted.

Here’s the interesting thing though, distraction is addictive because it means we don’t have to think about things that really matter. Notice the way you constantly have the urge to keep yourself busy, whenever you have a second to think for yourself. It’s during that period of stillness that we’re able to harness our full potential.

Work in age of Distractions – Student Voices

So if we’re addicted to being distracted, then how exactly do we deal with those obtrusive thoughts? The answer is to simply give our minds a safe space to let those thoughts out. The next time you notice that you’re trying to keep unnecessarily busy, ask yourself how you’re feeling at that given point.

Journalling tends to work wonders here. You essentially have to find a way to structure the chaos that’s going on in your mind. The more clearly you’re able to articulate your thoughts to yourself, the better you’ll be able to do the same thing with other people. Additionally, you would also free up bandwidth, which may help you focus on your specific tasks.

“You can’t remove habits, you can only replace them.”

I think that quote speaks incredibly well to the point I’m trying to make, especially in relation to the habits you’ve formed around being distracted.

Replace the numbing with vulnerability and allow yourself to feel. This will not only benefit you, but everyone around you too.

Short-term vs long-term

If you think about any addiction, there are typically consequences in the short-run and the long-run. The difficult thing is that it’s both pleasurable and painful (no such thing as good or bad, just our perception of things).

In the short-run, our addictions seem to give us a little dopamine boost. We hyper-stimulate our senses in some way. This feels great for a specific moment in time. However, the dependency we form becomes imbedded in us. We continuously re-wire the neurons in our brain for that fix. That makes it harder for us to find alternatives, to deal with our thoughts and emotions in the long-run.

“Live for the present like you’ll die tomorrow, plan for the future like you’ll live forever.”

In the long-run, we need to think about the cumulative effect of repeatedly pursuing that addiction. It’s essentially like thinking about the results we want to achieve from being consistent – similar to the way habits work.

It’s also convenient to ignore the fact that we do end up being addicted to certain things. We tend to keep ourselves in a mode of denial.

Denial

What’s always easier than doing the hard work? Ignoring the fact that there is work to do in the first place.

The diagram above displays the concept of The Johari Window. It speaks to the fact that there are four possible quadrants within our self-awareness. The shared self, hidden self, blind self and unknown self. We should strive towards being known to ourselves, on the left two quadrants; the shared and hidden self.

Being in denial is like forcing yourself to be in the right two quadrants; trying to make things unknown to yourself. The blind and unknown selves are where we need to put in the most work. This is because we want unveil what we’re blind to but others can see, and want to figure out as best as we can what we’re unknown to.

The points I’m trying to make here is that we’re always fending off different types of addiction. It seems an evitable aspect of life. We just need to keep our awareness up and constantly work on ourselves, to avoid falling into the unknown.

Aldous Huxley Quote: “Addiction is an increasing desire ...

Actionable advice: Start with acceptance. Don’t deny the fact that are certain behaviours that you’d like to replace. After that, write down the reason why it’s important for you to do that and the impact it would have in the long-run. Note a plan of action and try your best to stay consistent with it.

Share your struggle with others and embrace being vulnerable. We’re all trying out best.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Despite what the title says, this post has nothing to do with mirrors. Or walls for that matter. It does, however, have everything to do with reflection.

It’s been a while since I’ve just shared random thoughts. The recent posts have been somewhat structured and have had some kind of life lesson. Today I’ll be thinking out loud. I’ll be sure to include some philosophy and wisdom.

Routine and schedule

I tend to talk about routine and how important it is to have a schedule on a regular basis. But where did this all come from? Was I always like this? Why am I always trying to motivate people?

Asking myself these questions was a great way to gain insight into how my brain works.

I was never like this at all. In fact, during high school, I was more or less the complete opposite. I wouldn’t dare touch a book. I had no sense of routine. I would just play video games at any given opportunity, watch series, or play soccer.

A very clear memory I have of my upbringing is the way my dad used to yell at me to wake up in the morning for school. I was notorious for constantly getting back into bad after he’d wake me up several times. This genuinely carried on until I left for university. God really tested that man’s patience with me.

Somehow, after all those years of resisting waking up early and forming a routine, I started seeing why it was so important. I became a ‘morning person’, despite always believing that I never was.

I kind of started realizing how most things in life depend on some form of structure and consistency. Without those 2 key components, we just end up stagnating. It took some thinking and looking back at the ways things were, to figure that out.

Throwback

What I really want to focus on here is how I got to where I am, by reflecting over my daily disciplines and practice. Throwbacks have become a way for us to reminisce the past and think of the good old days.

The only problem is that we tend to focus on all the good and what went well. That’s great and can definitely put you in a good mood, but it’s not where most of the learning occurs.

Life teaches us lessons from our painful experiences. We’ve also evolved to find ways to numb the pain and to hide it within deep layers of our psyche. This results in subconscious behaviours that can be toxic or that hold us back.

So what do we do about that?

Reflect!

The short story I wrote about my simple experience of waking up early was greatly affected by my experiences growing up. Through reflection and trying to understand where the rebelliousness was actually coming from, I managed to become a ‘morning person’.

This also works for situations that are much deeper and more important than just waking up early. I just want you to utilize the tool of reflection more often.

Looking into a mirror is quite a trip. You’re looking into the person you’ve become after all the years of experience on planet Earth. Here are some things to think about:

  • What have you learned up until now?
  • What important lessons would teach yourself from 5 years ago?
  • How much have you changed since last year?
  • In what ways are you mad?
  • What is holding you back?
  • Why are you so annoying?

Don’t be offended by these questions, they’re meant to help you reflect. Use them as prompt questions in your journal, if you have one. Or just think about them next time you’re staring out the window or going for a walk. You’ll be amazed at the insights you gain.

We’re all idiots

Deep down, we’re all deeply flawed. Some of us just tend to cover it up better than others. I’ve taken this concept from The School Of Life. You can find the link to a very interesting article below.

In essence, realizing how we’re all a bunch of idiots can make us a little more confident. Don’t try too hard to appear ‘normal’. No one is perfect. People who seem to have it all together are just people we don’t really know well enough. That’s also where the whole concept of a crush comes from.

Be yourself and learn from your mistakes. There’s nothing wrong being flawed or being an idiot. It’s part of the human experience.

https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/how-thinking-youre-an-idiot-lends-confidence/

By looking back at all the ways you’ve previously messed up, you can learn how to improve. It’s not about avoiding making mistakes, it’s about learning as much as we can from them.

“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”

We’re hyper-adaptive beings. We have impeccable feedback loops. Understand how they work and take care of yourself. You will push through. You will make it out. You will get through this; stronger, faster and better than ever before. Keep trying your best.

Look forward, but take a moment to look back and appreciate how far you’ve come. You’re absolutely incredible.

Atomic Habits

Have you ever gotten stuck trying to implement a really important habit? Why is it so hard to stay consistent? How often do you start a new activity with lots of energy, only to just stop after a few days?

Today’s post will be all about habit formation and how to incorporate consistency into your life. I’ll use the techniques I gained from ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear and some of my own little life hacks. You’ll probably want to get a journal out and take down some notes, this will be very interesting!

I’ll discuss what, how and why to form habits, then I’ll introduce you to a concept called habit-stacking and the 2-minute rule.

What are habits? –> Outcome

A habit is essentially a behaviour that is performed automatically or on a regular basis. They are mental shortcuts learned from experience. Your personal feedback loop to living more efficiently.

“Success is the product of daily habits, not a once-in-a-lifetime transformation.”

Let’s identify the different between goal-oriented habits and system-oriented habits. Goals are essentially about the results you’d like to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results. You need to be more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.

It’s your commitment to the process that will determine your progress. I think most of the time we become obsessed with achieving a certain goal, without putting much thought into how we’re actually going to get there. So how can we form systems that will allow us to reach those goals?

“If you can get 1% better each day, you’ll end up 37x times better after 365 days.”

How do you form habits that last? –> Processes

It starts with trial and error. The feedback loop involves trying, failing, learning and then trying differently. The emphasis here is on the failing, because that’s often the most demotivating part. You need to realize that failure is part of growth. Progress requires you to unlearn and then relearn. It’s all part of the plan.

There are 2 phases each containing 2 subcategories to the habit loop; a problem phase and a solution phase. The problem phase consists of Cue and Craving, whilst the solution phase consists of Response and Reward.

To put it simply: the cue is about noticing a reward (trigger), craving is wanting that reward (desire), response is about working towards the reward (motivation) and reward ultimately satisfies us or teaches us. This in turn associates the reward with the cue.

Four laws of behaviour change:

  1. Make it obvious
  2. Make it attractive
  3. Make it easy
  4. Make it satisfying

If you combine that concept with the four laws of behaviour change, you’ll amplify the habit formation process. So why form habits?

Why should you form habits? –> Identity

When a habit becomes part of your identity, it feeds the loop that will continuously motivate you. Decide who you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small consistent wins.

Keep the benefits of the habit you’re about to form at the forefront of your mind. You want to remind yourself on a regular basis how this will serve you and why you’re pursuing it.

Familiarize yourself with the concept of failure, because pain is an effective teacher. The more you identify as a ‘perfectionist’ or someone who never fails, the less likely you are to overcome the fear of failure.

Habit stacking

This is a simple trick whereby you pair a new habit with an existing one. For example, if you want to start reading more every night before you go to bed, start immediately after you brush your teeth. This makes it easier for your mind to remember when to do it.

“We are more likely to repeat a behaviour when the experience is satisfying.”

You’re pairing those habits together so that you can stay consistent. Let’s dive into how to develop that consistency.

The two-minute rule

You need to make it as easy as possible to get started. This is one of the most important concepts to learn, because we are often very resistant to habits that seem like mountains to climb.

The two-minute rule is essentially sticking to the new habit for 2 minutes everyday. Want to start reading? Do it for 2 minutes. Want to start meditating? Do it for 2 minutes. Want to start exercising? Do it for 2 minutes.

Master the habit of showing up. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to do it. Once it starts becoming part of who you are, you can optimize and push yourself a little more. The key is to get comfortable with consistency.

“A thousand mile journey begins with a single step.”

I hope this has served you in some way. It’s not easy to form habits that last, but once you make it part of who you are, you’ll never be able to let go. Remember to focus on processes not just goals when forming habits. You will slip up here and there, but don’t give up. You will get there, just keep trying your best.

“The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.”

If you have any thoughts or questions that you’d like to share, feel free to comment below.

Warming up for 2020

How would you like to start your new year? Any new year resolutions? Are there aspects of your life that you’re excited to change?

Surely you have plans to start chasing your goals and build in healthier routines. I’d like to use this post to discuss how we can start the new year with a bang.

I’m not at all an advocate for waiting till new years to start making progress. Which is why I think this is such an important topic, to see how we can utilize the time we have NOW, to work towards our aspirations.

By starting small, dreaming big, loads of reflection and gratitude, I’d like to help you successfully transition into the new year.

There is a psychological advantage in starting the new year on a clean slate, as it builds momentum. So let’s dive into how we can use these tricks and utilize our brains most effectively.

Start now

It takes around 2 months of consistent dedication to a create a habit. If you start thinking now of what you’d like to implement in 2020, you’ll already have an advantage.

Remember that time is a relative concept, we each experience it differently; although it passes at the same rate. So don’t add too much pressure on yourself to perfect new routines at the very start of the year.

By using December to warm up to your goals, you’ll enter the new year ready to rumble.

Start small

Here’s something that I’ve mentioned before: Start small. It’s such a recurring pattern that I keep witnessing; diving into large goals and getting overwhelmed.

A mental trick is to start small and make the first step as easy as possible.

You’re trying to build up towards massive goals and become the best version of yourself. Move from conscious incompetence, to unconscious competence. Once it becomes comfortable doing the easy task, make it a little more challenging.

Remember: Growth only occurs in a state of discomfort.

Stay consistent

The key to all mastery? Consistency. This is something else that I often find when people fail to achieve their new year resolutions; they stop being consistent.

Self-love is essentially keeping at your craft and taking care of yourself. It’s pushing one more rep at the gym. It’s refusing to go out when you haven’t exercised or read for the day. It’s refusing to order pizza when it isn’t your cheat day. It’s journalling consistently and working on your emotional intelligence.

Be like the sun. It rises and sets everyday without fail.

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Yes that quote is a little overused, but it’s very true. First we form our habits, then our habits form us.

Don’t stop believing in yourself. Especially when it gets difficult. That’s where it counts the most. Everyone can make progress when it’s easy or when it’s a good day. It’s about making progress when it’s difficult or when you dread it.

Read, reflect, plan and grow

If you have been journalling throughout the year, now is the time to look back on those entries and see the changes you’ve endured. You’ve survived all the tough times and achieved so many goals. Celebrate your accomplishments!

Embrace the progress and reflect on your life in general. See what has worked and what hasn’t worked for you. There’s so much to learn from our own life, if we just give it a little more attention.

All the L’s that I’ve received this year are just Lessons.

“I never fail or lose, I always learn.” Keep that mentality and nothing can crush your momentum. Foster a growth mindset and your blessings will be so much clearer.

As for planning and growing, my post on time management sums it up pretty well. If you can form structure in your life, your days will become exponentially more productive. Don’t forget to write down your goals and visualize yourself achieving them. Consistently.

Stay mindful, give thanks & forgive

Stay mindful of your thoughts and behaviours. Notice the aspects of your mentality that are holding you back. Remove the self-doubt and negative self-talk. Once you become aware of a thought or emotion, it no longer holds any weight over you.

Don’t be afraid to feel. Don’t be afraid to fall or fail. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Life is a set of trials and errors. If you’re not willing to make mistakes, you’ll never come up with anything original.

Focus on your blessings. Think of all you have to be grateful for every single day. Think of how blessed you are to live through another year. Remember that death is the only guarantee we have in life, so live each day as if it’s your last.

This Kurzgesagt video perfectly explains gratitude! One of the best YouTube videos I’ve come across.

Do yourself another massive favour and learn to forgive. Holding onto grudges only causes more suffering for you. Does it make sense to start a new year with resentment of the past? Make peace with your demons and those who’ve done you wrong.

Not for them. For you. Forgiveness is another form of self-love. It’s a reflection of your character and the type of person you are. The more you’re able to forgive, the more peace and clarity you’ll witness in your life.

This post was meant to be a quick summary of my favourite topics. I want us all to try our best, each and every single day. Don’t wait for the new year to start. Now is all you have. You don’t know if you’ll have another day to live. Spread love, joy and peace to your best ability, each and everyday.

Smile more. Laugh more. Be grateful. Be merciful. And most importantly, don’t be crippled by fear. Life favours the bold and courageous. You are fully capable of achieving your wildest goals and ambitions, don’t let anyone (especially you!) stop you.

Mental health

How are you currently feeling about your mental health?

We all struggle or have struggled with our mental health at some point. We probably also know someone who currently struggles with their mental health. The reason I’m writing about mental health is for awareness. We often don’t realize how delicate our states of mind are.

We prioritize our diets and fitness regimes for our physical goals, without realizing how interconnected they are to our mental health. So I want to dive into how mental health is just as important as physical health. By discussing ways to accept our thoughts, overcoming the stigma of seeking help (therapy), forming a routine to stay mentally fit, an Islamic perspective and as always: gratitude.

Acceptance

A very difficult aspect to deal with when it comes to mental health is acceptance. Accepting the fact that there’s something wrong. We often don’t realize it, but our idea of ‘normal’ is purely based off our experiences and exposure to the world.

When it comes to mental habits & thought patterns, we have absolutely no idea what ‘normal’ could mean. That’s where it gets a little tricky. Feeling stressed, overwhelmed, anxious or depressed all the time may start feeling normal. We think it’s just who we are.

But there’s a limit to that. We need to become more aware of these unhealthy thought patterns and learn to accept them. That’s the first step towards making progress; clearly identifying the problem. With acceptance, we can find solutions and ultimately move forward.

Better awareness -> Better choices -> Better results

We need to be more compassionate towards other people too. Accepting ourselves for who we are comes first, but accepting other people for who they are is just as important. There’s always been this huge stigma with regards to seeking help for mental health.

Let’s try and break that barrier down and make it easier for people to seek the necessary help they need. To live healthier and more functional lives.

Stigma

Would it make sense to judge someone for visiting the doctor because they broke a leg? Or someone who has had a heart attack? Or any other ‘physical illness’?

Why then do we make it difficult for people who have anxiety disorders, panic attacks or are feeling clinically depressed?

These aren’t issues that people can just ‘get over’ or ‘pray’ away. They’re deeply neurological and affect the body’s entire chemistry. It’s imperative that we start learning more about these issues and their causes. To help those we can to the best of our ability.

Support & seeking help

This is the reason I chose this topic. To encourage support among each other. Recovery and growth occur so much faster with a solid support structure.

Pay more attention to your friends and family members. Ask them how they’re doing more regularly. Watch out for red flags or consistent negative thought patterns.

Be nonjudgemental! We’re stronger together. I was absolutely inspired when I spent some time in nature the other day. I saw a school of fish moving together at a reservoir, and the synchronization was impeccable. They were truly stronger and more resilient together.

So I felt the need to share that because we’re part of nature too. It’s in our advantage to work together and help each other become better versions of ourselves. How exactly can we help though?

By encouraging people to seek help.

Psychotherapy

Here’s another aspect of mental health that we need to work on. Removing the stigma associated with seeing a therapist. Apart from seeing a therapist because of a mental illness, seeing a therapist would be beneficial to almost anyone.

Like going to the gym to take care of our body, we need to take find ways to take care of our minds. And exactly like we use personal trainers to find what works for our physical goals, we can use therapists to help us reach our mental goals.

I know a lot of you are probably thinking: I speak to my friends / family members about my issues, I don’t need therapy. But it’s much deeper than that. It’s about unraveling the issues that you didn’t even realize were issues. Professional help will almost always be a better option.

It allows for a deeper understanding of patterns in your life that you’ve been subconsciously ignoring. And most importantly, figuring out what messed you up when you were much younger.

Apart from seeking help, there are certain habits that we can instill to ensure we’re on the right track towards a healthy mental state.

Routine- Consistency

What are the key habits that promote a healthy state of mind?

  • Reading
  • Solving puzzles
  • Meditating / Praying
  • Exercise
  • Diet

The first and most obvious one is reading! The second would be solving puzzles, playing chess, or doing any activity that requires critical thinking. Meditating definitely helps here as well as exercise. But an underrated aspect to mental health that we often don’t realize, is our diet.

The food we ingest has a direct effect on our mental health. It makes sense if you think about it. We’re just a bunch of cells that need constant servicing. So the way we choose to service our bodies has an impact on our day to day activities.

Keep the food you eat as natural as possible. I’m not using the word ‘healthy’ here because that’s just vague. But eating food that comes directly or as close to nature as possible, will yield the best results.

We’re all part of nature at the end of the day. It’s important to understand that these are just habits that can be used to keep your brain ‘healthy’. They’re not solutions to any illness.

Prevention is better than cure; especially as you grow older.

The most important part of the entire process is consistency. We need to take care of ourselves Every. Single. Day. We need to stay mentally fit for us to contribute as best as we can and to serve those around us diligently.

Islamic perspective

First and foremost, put your trust in God. Have faith that you will recover and get through this. It’s all part of the journey. Seek help with the conviction that everything happens for a reason.

“What’s meant for you will never miss you. What misses you was never meant for you.”

“There is no disease that Allah has created, except that He also has created its treatment.”

We’re here temporarily. Don’t ever forget that. Spend time in nature if you need a reminder of that. The only constant is change. Nothing is meant to remain the same. Let’s see how incorporating gratitude can also assist this process.

Gratitude

Increasing gratitude increases your presence. The more grateful you are for what you have, the better you deal with setbacks. It’s one of the most important values to have (in my opinion), as it allows for grit and perseverance.

You get to choose your reaction, not the circumstances you’re in. Being thankful is like armour for your soul. Regardless of the trials and tribulations, there’s always something you can be grateful for. Keep that in mind and you’ll find yourself making exponential progress.

I just want this to serve as a reminder to all of us, that mental health is an everyday struggle that we need to take care of. I also want to emphasize how important it is to be supportive to your peers and family members who are battling with mental illnesses.

It’s not just a choice or change in attitude. Having a positive attitude certainly helps, but it’s not a cure. Theses are issues which require constant treatment and medication. So it’s time we start treating them more seriously and compassionately.