Taking Care of the Top Two Inches
Depending who you ask, there are 600 to 800 muscles in the human body. The strongest is in your jaw, the smallest is in your ear, you’re probably sitting on the biggest right now. They also nearly always work in pairs. They’re really fascinating.
In appreciation of this, roughly 20% of the Irish population owns a gym membership, but I’ve no statistic to tell you how many people actually use it. You’ll know if you’ve ever been, there’s always that one guy who has triceps as big as a small fridge, and that one woman who seems to be there 24/7. There’s also the January crowd, who have begun the year telling themselves they need to get into shape. In late December they’ve decided to focus more on their physical wellbeing, be it cardiovascular or weight resistance or something more intense to make them thinner.
I really respect this. I have such time for people who note the importance of a healthy body, after all, you only get one. Going to the gym is a great new year’s resolution. But is it really the best? Is it the one that should be the priority? Should you look in the mirror in December & immediately jump to taking care of the outside? If you want to repair a car, do you start with the paint? Or the dents in the body? Absolutely not. You start with the engine, the gear box, the bits that make it run.
Sometime in 2013, on the recommendation of a friend, I started allocating as much time to my mental health as my physical wellbeing, often sitting down for an hour to work through it, and I’ve never been happier with a decision. I still go to the gym & play rugby at the weekend, but I have a better understanding of a healthy mind leads to a healthy body, not vice versa.
Before I give any advice on this, please remember that everyone is different. If we weren’t the world would be remarkably boring & art wouldn’t exist. Nightmare. I’ll give you what works for me, that’s all. This isn’t a recipe.
You go to work, be it in the office, on-site, in the car, and you will spend the day interacting with human beings. It might be on the phone, it might be sitting behind them in traffic, or it might be dealing with machinery that was designed & built by another person. There’s no working life without humans.
And that’s the first step. Remember, they’re all humans. Everyone you interact with has concerns, they have stress, they have family problems. They’re not perfect, they’re so far from it. Every time someone is late replying to an email or gets your order in a restaurant wrong, remember they’re human. We all make mistakes.
This is directly related to compassion. One of the biggest causes of anxiety nowadays is the lack of self-realisation, and this was one of the most serious problems I faced growing up.
You look around & you see people going about their lives, getting promotions, getting married, posting body transformation videos, having cocktails on an exotic beach and you think you’re doing your own life wrong. Instagram especially is such a crippling source of social anxiety, and only creates a vicious cycle.
For example, you see Karen from college sipping cosmopolitans in Bali, accompanied by five smiling emojis, and you think that’s the way to be happy. So you spend next month’s wages on flights, and you get there, and you drink the cocktails, and they just don’t taste as good as they looked online. They’re more bitter than expected. And the water is colder than you expected. And the food is so expensive. And you just want to be at home, listening to the rain on the window, with a good book & a glass of wine. Turns out Bali wasn’t the way to happiness, it was just Karen’s way. Maybe it wasn’t even that. Maybe Karen was following in the footsteps of someone else. Maybe if both you & Karen stopped, evaluated what really makes you happy, what puts a smile on your face, and what makes you happy in your skin, maybe you would have saved all that flight money. There’s no set path to fulfilment, so don’t try to follow one marked out by anyone but you.
Maybe those people you see getting promotions have had to sacrifice a family life, and the money they’re earning can’t hold them close at night. It’s so dangerous to presume other people have it figured out, when they’re still, as we mentioned, just humans. They get sad, and they make mistakes, and we’re all just wandering this earth trying to figure it out. Don’t presume anyone around you is better at this than you are, and never think you’re doing life wrong.
Following on from unrealistic expectations & envy of what others have, noting the things you don’t, a huge help to me on daily basis has been flipping that coin & consciously appreciating the things in my life that I do have.
If you’re driving an old Ford Fiesta & you’re envious of the guy in the Lamborghini, think of the guy on the bicycle who wishes he could afford a car. Then think of the guy waiting at the bus stop wishing he had a bike. Then think of the guy in hospital who wonders if he’ll ever walk again.
Flip the coin. Look at the things in your life which you do have, and I don’t mean material possessions.
Step into the shower in the morning, and be happy to have clean, hot water. Get into work in the morning & think how lucky you are to have an income. Get home in the evening & hug your partner or your parents & think how lucky you are to have someone who loves you. Get into bed & think how lucky you are to have a roof over your head. I guarantee you’ll wake up smiling the next day.
One last piece of advice; this is advice. If you try the above and find yourself slipping back to old habits, that’s ok, you’re human, don’t beat yourself up about it, you don’t have to ace it the first time. Just try little by little & I bet you’ll see some benefits.
If this article helps just one person, it’ll have been a success, and I hope that one person is you.
Thank you for reading!
P.S. These three topics are the foundations of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. If you think you need something more hands-on, if you feel really down on a daily basis, please talk to someone about it.
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