I’ve had to deal with anxiety throughout my life and used various methods to cope with it. I’ve seen therapists, tried yoga, and experimented with psychedelics. I recently tried a meditation app but realized that guided-mediation isn’t for me.
Unfortunately, there aren’t universal methods for handling anxiety and becoming a happier person. If you’re bogged down, you know it requires hard work to face down your most painful thoughts and find self-compassion.
Some people worry that technology is harmful to our mental health and social media companies are regularly accused of preying on the human psyche. Studies have also shown that using your phone too much can lead to depression and anxiety, and even addiction.
It’s easy to romanticize the “good old days,” when people supposedly lived simpler lives, but I find it helpful to look at how technology actually helps build better habits and cultivate inner peace.
In the past months, I’ve done a lot of reading into the psychology of habits and the effect our subconscious actions can have on our happiness. One of my favorite reads has been Shawn Achor’s “Happiness Advantage”.
Habits are like financial capital — forming one today is an investment that will automatically give you returns for years to come — Shawn Achor
This compelled me to map and breakdown the habits that I want to build and those that I want to shed away.
I started using Daylio which is a mobile app for habit tracking. The app is super simple to use and you can customize your own habits and routines.
Most importantly, it gives a data-driven view of the habits that affect my daily mood and helps me optimize for habits that drive happiness and productivity.
Whether you use an app or pen and paper, habit tracking will help you stay motivated to maintain positive streaks. On average it takes about 66 days to build a habit so it’s important to start with streaks.
One of my personal streaks that I’m most proud of is having exercised 48 days in a row. It still takes energy for me to put my gym clothes on to work-out or go for a run, but It’s becoming a daily part of my life, and I feel a deeper personal commitment since I’ve held through for this long.
Many mental health experts recommend journaling for anyone that’s suffering from depression or anxiety. And it’s not just because it ‘feels good’ to write, there’s scientific reasoning behind it.
Journaling requires the application of the analytical, rational left side of the brain; while your left hemisphere is occupied, your right hemisphere (the creative, touchy-feely side) is given the freedom to wander and play. (Grothaus, 2015) Allowing your creativity to flourish and expand can be cathartic and make a big difference in your daily well-being. (PositivePsychology.com)
Self-expression through blogging and daily tweets is how I condition my creative muscle. It allows me to take my mind off work for at least 30 minutes each day and put my thoughts into writing where I can view and evaluate them more clearly.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making an active effort to create more content. The first commitment I made to myself is that I would Tweet once a day.
Once I got into the habit of micro-blogging on Twitter, I raised the bar to spend a minimum of 10 minutes writing content for my blogs. Now I’m committing myself to post once a week on LinkedIn.
Frequently publishing content around my goals keeps me accountable for seeing them through. Some choose to keep personal diaries, but for me, it’s more powerful to manifest these ideas publicly.
One of the phenomenons of the modern internet is that it allows for free self-expression and gives everyone an outlet to tap into their creative muscle.
Whether you’re into photography, video, writing, graphic design, or whatever form of expression it is, there’s no shortage of outlets for you to do something creative during your spare time.
Pandemic fatigue is super common right now and is a result of lockdowns and lack of social interaction. If you’re like me, you thrive in collaborative environments with people. Some call it extroversion, but I think it’s just being human.
Whether it’s engaging in random small-talk at the office or presenting to a board room of investors, all of these activities have always been things that I look forward to. Now, they’ve been reduced to Zoom meetings and the occasional non-work-related Slack banter.
I thought I had to get used to not being able to see my friends and colleagues each week, but lately, I’ve started reactivating some of my social old social profiles (Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter), and joined new platforms (Clubhouse, Tiktok) and it’s allowed me to stay more in touch with people.
Admittedly, the reason I stopped using social media last year was that it was sucking up too much of my time when all I wanted to focus on was building my start-up.
It’s true that social media is making us feel more lonely, and that loneliness can lead to depression. Regardless of whether it’s genuine or not, the camaraderie I’ve built with random people on the internet fills a social void that I’ve lacked in the early months of the lockdown.
Music has always been a regular part of my day-to-day. Whenever I feel a sense of anxiety, listening to some 90s rap music allows me to reset and get back into the zone.
I listen to music to get me up in the morning, to stay focused at work, and to get me pumped before a big presentation or workout session.
Research shows that upbeat music induces feelings of positivity and energy, while a slower tempo tends to relax the mind and muscles. Furthermore, a recent Harvard study found that music helps with retrieving stored memories, as well as building new memories and mental paths.
Choosing the right music may be more challenging than you think. It’s natural for us to want to listen to our favorite songs or favorite styles, but it’s important to make sure you choose music that will increase your focus on the task at hand, rather than distract you. The right music for you will depend on the kind of task you’re working on.
I’m conscious of how music affects my work and level of focus. I also don’t listen to my favorite songs all of the time. I have premium accounts on both Spotify and YouTube, with playlists for different genres which I shuffle through depending on my mood.
- Habit tracking apps are super useful in helping us build better habits and become happier. Using visual reinforcement and data makes the process of building a new habit more concrete and easier to understand and follow.
- Social media can have mental health benefits too. Find a community that gives you the opportunity to be creative, show people who you are, and express yourself.
- Music is one of the most powerful tools for manipulating your mood. It’s been scientifically proven that different types of music can induce specific emotions and feelings.