Challenging Materialism

Last night I spent a half hour or so scrolling through Instagram. Looking at pictures of my friends? No. Looking at inspiring art? Hell no. I was straight up devouring photos of potential new skincare purchases.

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And the thoughts go like this:

I really want that serum. I see that so many people love it. But it’s so expensive! I’m sure it’s worth it. Oh shoot, and sunscreen! Definitely need to buy that before next weekend. My haircut this Sunday is already gonna be at least $65 but I obviously need that and also sunscreen. Dang, what am I even going to wear next weekend? All my shoes are horrible. I need new summer clothes. I could really use a new…

Blah blah blah literally could go on FOR LIFE if I don’t notice it and get a hold of myself. Sometimes I have to close my computer or shut off my phone and set it on the table next to me, vibrating with this energy of temptation, non-verbally begging me to pick it back up and keep shopping.

Here’s the thing: we want stuff. We want the things that products sell us – beauty, success, happiness, and a sense of interconnectedness with each other. We want what’s trendy so we can feel like part of the gang. If every cool girl on Tumblr is wearing strappy wedges, we wanna get strappy wedges too, because we want to be a part of it. We don’t want to feel left behind. And further, we want to spend our energy thinking about shoes because it’s a lot easier than thinking about the “real life” stress of our work, relationships, and intrinsic dissatisfaction. 

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We often search for a feeling of belonging and happiness in our possessions, but the truth is that we just don’t get it. Sure, we might feel a rush after making a purchase, but that isn’t sustainable. Research shows that materialism is associated with lower social and personal well-being, impulsive spending, increased debt, and even depression and social anxiety. 

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And in a way, having intense feelings of materialism is kind of like addiction, isn’t it? I’m in the midst of reading In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Maté, which is centered on Maté’s experience treating chronic drug users. One of the most interesting parts in the book so far though has been his dissection of his own impulsive spending (on classical music CDs! Which I thought was kind of cute) and how his constant yearning for more is relatable to an addiction.

“When you get right down to it,” he writes, “it’s the adrenaline I’m after, along with the precious reward chemicals that will flood my brain when I hold the new CD in hand, providing an all-too-temporary reprieve from the stress of my driven state. But I’ve barely left the store before the adrenaline starts pumping through my circulation again, my mind fixated on the next purchase.”

We have it in us to beat this cycle. It takes mindfulness and redirection. 

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1.     Note the reason behind the feeling.

You’ve been on Pinterest pinning the crap out of images of home décor photos lately, and you just can’t stop thinking about all the new pieces you want to buy to glam up your apartment. These thoughts can come on quickly and go a mile a minute. Stop to consider them. Why are you spending so much time thinking about your shopping list? It might be that there’s something else you’re avoiding. It might be that you’re seeking external validation. It might be that you’re just bored. Recognizing the reason behind longing for possessions is helpful because it reminds us that, a lot of times, it’s about more than just really wanting to buy a new TV.

2.     Shift your thoughts: what do you already have inside of you?

I love the quote from Gabor Maté because it reminds us that yearning for possessions is an endless cycle. Buddhist monk Sakyong Mipham said, “’Just one more’ is the binding factor in the circle of suffering.” Let’s try to stop needing more by honoring what we have inside of us. What can you create? Are you a writer? Shift your thoughts toward your next storyline. A photographer? Plan a weekend trip somewhere new to shoot. Take inventory of your talents and interests and make something. Get invested in it. Get so excited about it that you don’t want to think about anything else. It’s a way better adrenaline rush than buying a new video game.

Like everything else, fighting materialism relies on self-awareness. Know what’s going on with you. It’s not such a mystery if we take the time to think about it. 

Thumbnail photo by ashleyelladesign,com.

Visualizing Your Best Self

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As I continue to shape and define the kind of site I want Morning Wellness to be, I’ve noticed an instinctual gravitation toward writing on topics related to finding ourselves (through vision boarding, values clarification exercises, and asking ourselves weird-sounding but research-supported therapeutic questions, to name a few).

rekitanicole.com
rekitanicole.com

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Today I want to share an exercise that’s not only related to defining our goals and desires, but also believing that we are capable of achieving them.

When you think about the big things that you want to do in your life, can you picture them happening? Are your dreams clear enough that you can envision them, and is your confidence strong enough that you believe they could happen?

In doing my own self-reflection, I realized that having goals doesn’t necessarily guarantee confidence that you can achieve them. And that sucks. If I have a professional or personal goal and my mindset is just, “Yeah, I think that I could possibly do that in a couple years if all goes okay,” then how am I going to go about working toward my goals? It’s not an attitude that encourages going the extra mile, taking risks, or making ourselves vulnerable. It encourages leaving everything up to fate and just hoping it ends up okay.

I found this Best Possible Self visualization exercise on the Greater Good in Action website, and I think it’s perfect for anyone looking to define what they want in life and build confidence that they can achieve it.

Visualizing Your Best Possible Self

Picture living the best possible life you can imagine. Reflect on different areas of your life – your career, friendships, family relationships, romantic relationships, health, habits, creative pursuits – and imagine them reaching their greatest potential.

For 15 minutes over the course of two weeks, write continuously about this best possible future. Get detailed – where are you? Who’s there? What specifically are you doing? Putting aside your anxieties and barriers, simply write about your best possible future, as if it’s the most possible thing in the world.

Researchers have found that people who completed this practice over the course of two weeks got a positive mood boost.

Why not give it a try? I’m going to! I know that I could use some help in clarifying what exactly I want to make of my life and build my self-confidence around my creative capabilities.

For more details on this exercise, be sure to check it out here.

I wrote Monday about valuing ordinary moments, and this post isn’t meant to discredit that. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of small moments, and I don’t want to ignore them in favor of extraordinary ones. I think there’s a way to balance appreciation for the ordinary moments with working hard to create extraordinary ones.

So, this week’s Morning Wellness reader (and writer) goal: be grateful for the ordinary moments while believing you will certainly live extraordinary ones too. 

Finding Joy in Ordinary Moments

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What do you think about when you picture yourself experiencing the utmost amount of joy?

ashleyelladesign.com
ashleyelladesign.com

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I’ll tell you how I would have answered that a few weeks ago. Picturing joy would mean imagining living a life that was perfect. I’d have the exact job I want and I’d be successful – people in my professional field would know my name and be familiar with my work, and non-social workers would also know all about me because my influence would be just THAT great. I’d be living in a spacious (but cozy) and gorgeously designed (but not over the top) house with windows-a-plenty. My partner and I would be in complete harmony – no arguing ever and no fear, anxiety, or challenges would come between us. I’d be spiritually enlightened, eternally calm, and yeah, hella stylish.

My view of joy changed when reading

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Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. Brené conducted research to determine the difference between happiness and joy, and she found this:

Participants described happiness as an emotion that’s connected to circumstances, and they described joy as a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.

— Brené Brown

This idea was interesting – that, theoretically, we can be happy but not full of joy, or full of joy but, in that moment, not necessarily happy.

Reading on, I was stopped dead in my tracks by her other discovery about joy:

“Joy comes to us in moments.”

In talking with research participants who have experienced great losses,

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Brené found that what they missed the most was simple, ordinary moments. She writes that we are at a risk of letting joy pass us by if we disregard the ordinary moments while chasing after the extraordinary ones.

It makes so much sense. In a life that puts such a significant value on being busy, on “hustling,” on making it, on getting out of the suburbs and moving to the city, on being somebody – there’s pressure to live an exciting life, and a fear of living a boring one. Our focus leans closer toward achieving more than it does toward being grateful for what’s in front of us. 

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I think we can take this concept of joy coming to us in moments and use that to cultivate joy in our everyday lives. We let the simple moments pass through us and we often don’t think twice about them because they’re ordinary. They’re the every day. They’re your boyfriend’s jokes, they’re your sister’s text messages, they’re your best friend’s phone calls to just see how you’re doing. They’re the real, authentic, life-shaping moments of connection we have with each other that will just slip through our fingers if we aren’t careful, because we’re used to them.

But we don’t have to let that happen.

We can put down the books about finding our happiness and we can stop picturing joy as a result of a perfectly crafted, Instagram-ready life. We can stop thinking we’ll be happy when we’re more successful, with more money, with better clothes, with a perfect relationship. We can stop with these broad ideas of concepts that will make us happier and instead, look at what’s right there in front of us and what always has been.

Imagine that big beautiful house with the high ceilings and big windows.

Zoom in and picture yourself sitting on your leather couch in your designer dress and your manicured nails.

Zoom in and picture talking to your partner, with your great careers and your awards hanging on the wall.

Zoom in and picture the small smile on his face when he reaches for your hand and asks what you want for dinner.

That’s the joy. Not the house, not the windows, not the dress or the career. It’s you, your partner, and the feeling of palms pressed together.

Let’s stop seeking joy. We already have it. Now, let’s savor it all. 

I’m Moving! (On the Internet)

In my Introduction post, I wrote about how I had tried blogging before and it had never really worked out consistently. I’m almost three months in to posting on this blog twice a week, and I’m so thankful that I’ve stuck with it.

road-fashion-vintage-bag
pexels.com

It’s not always easy – I do a lot less laying around and watching makeup youtube tutorials. But writing these posts and updating this site is something I genuinely look forward to, and it’s something that I take meaning from. It’s helped my confidence, and it has helped me feel connected to the mental health world in a way that I really value.

That being said, I’ve decided to go all in. I have really liked using WordPress, but it’s time for a little upgrade. I’m moving to Squarespace, and along with it is coming a dot-com address. Which feels very serious and very awesome.

I’m going to try to figure out how to get this site to redirect to my new one, but I wanted to post about it here first because a decent amount of my web traffic comes from WordPress Reader. I’ve found such incredible value in your comments and discussion, and I am so grateful for every word you have read.

If you are a WordPress reader and you still want to see me in your feed, you can!

  1. Go to WordPress Reader
  2. Click the “Manage” button next to “Followed Sites”
  3. Click the blue “Follow Site” button
  4. Enter in http://www.morningwellness.com

And you should be all set! Again, thank you for all of your support, and I am super excited to be upgrading my site and continuing to talk mental health and wellness with you smart, insightful, amazing women ❤

Lindsey

Beating the Boring & Finding Excitement in the Routine

So…it’s Wednesday.
Sigh.

ashleyelladesign.com
ashleyelladesign.com

Wednesdays are boring. Winter is boring. January is boring. Life is boring?

Okay, it isn’t. I really don’t think it is. But on some days…some January Winter Wednesdays…it’s hard to remember that.

When nothing particularly exciting is happening (or has happened) for a few weeks, things can start to feel…blah. You get up. You go to work. You come home. You make dinner. You watch TV. You sleep. You repeat.

It can feel a bit mindless. We fall into our routines so simply and easily, to the point where we might start to just live life on automatic. This really doesn’t help the ever-famous quarter-life crisis. When we fall too hard into our routines, we start to feel bored, and that makes us question our choices — am I in the right job? The right city? With the right friends? Could I make changes in my life so that things don’t feel so dull? These questions then incite panic. What if I’ve been living my life wrong this whole time? Am I wasting it?

Here’s what I think: I think that even your role models (you know, the ones with the exciting careers, inspiring creative opportunities, and perfect families, all somehow steadily documented on Instagram?) get bored with life sometimes.

One of the reasons Exposure Therapy (the intervention in which you face your crippling fears head on with the help of a therapist) works is because the feeling of panic isn’t sustainable — you can be in the same room as the thing you fear for 3 hours, but you will not spend every minute of all 3 of those hours being at Level 10 panic and fear.

I think excitement in life is kind of the same. Life’s going to (hopefully) last us like, 85 years. It’s probably unrealistic that we will spend all 31,025 of those days super excited (yes! I did math). So I think there’s some level of “accepting the boringness” involved, but also…we are mental wellness warriors over here. We are not the kind of girls to let our lives slip away.

I’ve got two ideas for Beating the Boring out of your day:

#1: Purposefully and intentionally integrate something new and exciting into your routine. This is for the go-getters out there who really want to experience the most they can out of life. The approach is simple — just be mindful of how you feel on a daily basis, and when things start to get boring, don’t let yourself sink into it. Instead, make an easy change that can feel exciting. For me, reading can really transport me to a different place and time, so start reading a juicy, for-fun book (I recommend The Girl on the Train if you like a quick, thrilling mystery).

Make little challenges for yourself daily; for instance, on Monday, challenge yourself to start up a conversation with someone new at work, and on Tuesday, challenge yourself to go check out that gallery down the street you’ve always been curious about. This approach is for people who want to take action. I don’t think our lives get boring because we run out of ideas of things to do — they get boring because we stop challenging ourselves to do them.

And, approach #2: Fall in love with your routines. This approach is for when you feel good about settling into a life of routine and stability, but don’t want your days to become mundane because of it. This is all about falling in love with the little things. My favorite example of this comes from my previous resistance to washing my face at night. Two years ago I hated doing it, and often didn’t, even though I knew it would be better for my skin to keep it clean. One day I decided to look up different kinds of face cleansers and buy a new one to replace the $4 drugstore one I had. This simple step sparked in me a total obsession with skincare! Taking the time to research this part of my nightly routine and invest in a product that excited me took things to a whole other level, and now my nightly skincare routine is my ultimate self-care.

Something similar happened with my daily showers; instead of treating them as an annoying necessity, as I had my whole life, I stopped to really feel the shower when I take it, and how relaxing and comforting it feels. I started to view it as a way to cleanse me of my stresses and worries. Just shifting my mindset made this part of my routine much more enjoyable. This can be done with all of our “annoying” routines – dishes, laundry, picking up clothes. Find one little thing you might kind of like about it. Shift your focus to be on that — on how great you feel when your home is decluttered, and how comfortingly simple it is to scrub a bowl and focus on nothing else but that. Be in the present, and realize how truly grateful you are to be there, boring or not. 

How do you keep life exciting during its lulls? Comment below!

Beating the Boring & Finding Excitement in the Routine

So…it’s Wednesday.

Sigh.

ashleyelladesign.com5.jpg
ashleyelladesign.com

Wednesdays are boring. Winter is boring. January is boring. Life is boring?

Okay, it isn’t. I really don’t think it is. But on some days…some January Winter Wednesdays…it’s hard to remember that.

When nothing particularly exciting is happening (or has happened) for a few weeks, things can start to feel…blah. You get up. You go to work. You come home. You make dinner. You watch TV. You sleep. You repeat.

It can feel a bit mindless. We fall into our routines so simply and easily, to the point where we might start to just live life on automatic. This really doesn’t help the ever-famous quarter-life crisis. When we fall too hard into our routines, we start to feel bored, and that makes us question our choices — am I in the right job? The right city? With the right friends? Could I make changes in my life so that things don’t feel so dull? These questions then incite panic. What if I’ve been living my life wrong this whole time? Am I wasting it?

Here’s what I think: I think that even your role models (you know, the ones with the exciting careers, inspiring creative opportunities, and perfect families, all somehow steadily documented on Instagram?) get bored with life sometimes. One of the reasons Exposure Therapy (the intervention in which you face your crippling fears head on with the help of a therapist) works is because the feeling of panic isn’t sustainable — you can be in the same room as the thing you fear for 3 hours, but you will not spend every minute of all 3 of those hours being at Level 10 panic and fear.

I think excitement in life is kind of the same. Life’s going to (hopefully) last us like, 85 years. It’s probably unrealistic that we will spend all 31,025 of those days super excited (yes! I did math). So I think there’s some level of “accepting the boringness” involved, but also…we are mental wellness warriors over here. We are not the kind of girls to let our lives slip away.

I’ve got two ideas for Beating the Boring out of your day:

#1: Purposefully and intentionally integrate something new and exciting into your routine. This is for the go-getters out there who really want to experience the most they can out of life. The approach is simple — just be mindful of how you feel on a daily basis, and when things start to get boring, don’t let yourself sink into it. Instead, make an easy change that can feel exciting. For me, reading can really transport me to a different place and time, so start reading a juicy, for-fun book (I recommend The Girl on the Train if you like a quick, thrilling mystery).

Make little challenges for yourself daily; for instance, on Monday, challenge yourself to start up a conversation with someone new at work, and on Tuesday, challenge yourself to go check out that gallery down the street you’ve always been curious about. This approach is for people who want to take action. I don’t think our lives get boring because we run out of ideas of things to do — they get boring because we stop challenging ourselves to do them.

And, approach #2: Fall in love with your routines. This approach is for when you feel good about settling into a life of routine and stability, but don’t want your days to become mundane because of it. This is all about falling in love with the little things. My favorite example of this comes from my previous resistance to washing my face at night. Two years ago I hated doing it, and often didn’t, even though I knew it would be better for my skin to keep it clean. One day I decided to look up different kinds of face cleansers and buy a new one to replace the $4 drugstore one I had. This simple step sparked in me a total obsession with skincare! Taking the time to research this part of my nightly routine and invest in a product that excited me took things to a whole other level, and now my nightly skincare routine is my ultimate self-care.

Something similar happened with my daily showers; instead of treating them as an annoying necessity, as I had my whole life, I stopped to really feel the shower when I take it, and how relaxing and comforting it feels. I started to view it as a way to cleanse me of my stresses and worries. Just shifting my mindset made this part of my routine much more enjoyable. This can be done with all of our “annoying” routines – dishes, laundry, picking up clothes. Find one little thing you might kind of like about it. Shift your focus to be on that — on how great you feel when your home is decluttered, and how comfortingly simple it is to scrub a bowl and focus on nothing else but that. Be in the present, and realize how truly grateful you are to be there, boring or not. 

How do you keep life exciting during its lulls? Comment below!