Updated: Jul 30
Countless platitudes of “self-help” books and “motivational speakers” seem to have the answer to the meaning of life. Maybe they’re extraordinary beings who have unlocked the key to human success, but I for one am not. I am but a 22-year-old student trying my best to overcome a caffeine addiction and stay afloat.
My 4 years since high school have been a calamitous storm of anxiety, confusion, awkwardness, fear and jealousy that I have only been able to pick apart and analyse once the dust settled. So many revelations presented themselves to me, but an equal number of realities were forced upon me, and if my experiences can help a few people, that’s quite good enough.
1. Beginning with the Basics
Everyone knows the foundations of life. 8 hours of sleep. Fruits. Veggies. Exercise. These aren’t unreasonable but it gets exponentially harder when you factor in 8-hour lecture/school days, work, and time to chill so you don’t burn out. However, if I have learnt anything through my 22 years of experience in the art of laziness, it’s that the little things matter. Standing up every time you die in your League of Legends game (so approximately every minute), keeping 1.5L water bottles and an apple on your table instead of a snickers bar, and setting alarms - not just for waking up, but for going to sleep.
Human connection is a basic necessity as well. As a person with a reasonable but finite social battery, human connection may often seem like a chore. But you do not necessarily have to go out and do things. Sitting at a cafe to read or write up self-indulgent articles about keeping sadness at bay with your friend opposite you. For myself at least, doing things together, but apart, has worked wonders for satisfaction and to placate my need for connection.
TLDR: The ‘basics’ we all think of, can get even more basic-er.
2. Peace in Peace
Boredom. A word that inherently imprints thoughts of exasperation and disgust. A word that you will do anything to avoid. A word that we have so abhorrently rejected that the term ‘Shower Thoughts’ was created, as if the only acceptable time to have a blank mind is the 5-20 minutes where water would otherwise drown your electronics.
A brilliant video that inspired many of these revelations was Veritasium’s video on boredom. In a study by Wilson et al. (2014), participants were placed in an empty room with a buzzer that would administer an electrical shock for 15 minutes. 67% of the men, and 25% of the women pressed this button, preferring negative stimulation to no stimulation at all.
Baird, Smallwood and Schooler (2011) and Mann and Cadman (2014) found that a state of boredom sparked creativity, future planning and thoughts about oneself as well as their relationships with others. Many of us already know that taking time off screen and enjoying simpler things (as every book in English has drilled into us) is beneficial, but it’s easier said than done. But again, it’s the little things that matter. Instead of going on Instagram to avoid the torture of school/university study or assignments, go back to staring at blank walls like in the old days! Take a walk once in a while without any music - just you, the pavement and grass beneath your feet, clear blue sky and aroma of nature.
TDLR: Doing nothing is something.
3. Feeling Like a Waste of Oxygen
“I wish I could make an impact on the world.” “Gaming is a waste of time and useless for society.” “Suzie over there is involved in community volunteering, holds a part-time job and still has time to rescue starving children in Africa.” We’re suffocated by the desperate need to be relevant. To compete. To be important. To matter.
But achievement is all relative. No one has written out the rules of life and deemed ‘thou shalt provide eternal servitude to society until you drop dead.’ There's no fault in doing things for personal happiness, at least until you’re in a good space to mentally function. Whether it’s drawing, gaming, hanging out with friends, doing things for money or observing nature by yourself, go for it! I have enough optimism (some say naivety) to believe that most people want to have some net positive impact on the world, and eventually, we probably will. Most of us will live 80+ years, and to think that we must change the world in the next 1, 2 or even 5 years is presumptuous to say the least.
Personally, my standards are even lower. I just want to die happy, without regrets, knowing that I did not live my life to the fullest, but I lived life with satisfaction.
TLDR: “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” - Aibileen
Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C., Brown, C. L., & Shaked, A. (2014). Social psychology. Just think: the challenges of the disengaged mind. Science (New York, N.Y.), 345(6192), 75–77. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1250830
Benjamin Baird, Jonathan Smallwood, Jonathan W. Schooler. Back to the future: Autobiographical planning and the functionality of mind-wandering. Consciousness and Cognition. Volume 20, Issue 4, 2011,Pages 1604-1611,ISSN 1053-8100, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2011.08.007. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810011001978)
Sandi Mann & Rebekah Cadman (2014) Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative?, Creativity Research Journal, 26:2, 165-173, DOI: 10.1080/10400419.2014.901073