Simplify Sundays Vol. 3

Since you make evil or good by your own thoughts, it is your ruling of your thoughts which proves to be your principal concern.
— William James
Photo by  Caleb Jones  on  Unsplash

Photo by Caleb Jones on Unsplash

It's Sunday!? I curse the dreaded realization, this happens every Sunday. As if I should magically expect a third day to be tacked onto the weekend. I'm unconsciously training myself to be anxious.

Well, I'm done getting the raw end of the deal. Simplify Sundays are an open invitation to combat Sunday angst. Fuel to start your week with intention. I'll let the experts give the advice. I'm the experimenter.

I hope you learn something you didn't expect. We can all benefit from a little outside help.

As my good pal Schwarzenegger said, "The worst thing you can ever do is think that you know enough. Never stop learning. Ever."

No need to talk about what a good person is like, just be one, wherever and whenever you can...

I receive two emails each day that I read with intention. The DailyStoic put together by Ryan Holiday and Seth Godin's blog. Their words cut like a knife, piercing through the noise vying for our attention. I'd like to share a particularly touching piece the DailyStoic featured this week.

Earlier last week, a linebacker for the Chicago Bears saw a man choking at a restaurant at the airport in Austin. Jerrell Freeman jumped into action and performed the Heimlich maneuver twice, saving the stranger’s life. On the orders of a village council, Mukhtar Mai was raped by 4 different men in 2002 in Pakistan. Cultural tradition suggested that she should commit suicide in shame or flee her home. Instead, she fought for their prosecution in court, stayed put and used the money she received in compensation to set up a school for young girls. When terrorists wielding machetes burst into the pub that Roy Larner was in, shouting “Islam, Islam!” and “This is for Allah,” he responded by charging them and shouting “Fuck you, I’m Millwall!” giving patrons a chance to flee as he fought them off. There is a photo of August Landmesser standing in the crowd of the coronation of a Nazi warship. Everyone in attendance has their arms raised in salute to Hitler, who stood on the stage not far from Landmesser. Yet Landmesser isn’t saluting. In the years after the photo, he would lose his Jewish wife in concentration camps and die himself in the carnage of the war, but his arms remain crossed in that photo in an act of defiance, refusing to endorse tyranny, while everyone else around him did. As we wrote last week, French philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle, who wrote about the importance of risk in life, died according to her teachings as she attempted to save two children from drowning.

When Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself that there wasn’t anymore time to be spent “arguing what a good man is like” and that he needed to “be one,” these are the kinds of actions he had in mind. This kind of heroism is what philosophy and Stoicism is about. It’s about being a good person, doing what the situation calls for, without concern for one’s safety or this precarious life we have been given. When we made our print around Marcus’s quote, the intention was to be able to prominently display that kind of thinking as a means of inspiration.

Not every situation is going to be as bold or newsworthy as the examples above, but then again, Jerrell Freeman wasn’t thinking about headlines when he saw someone choking on their food—he was just thinking about what kind of help he could offer. Landmesser wasn’t thinking that his act of defiance would be the only legacy he would be allowed to leave in this world—he was just thinking about what kind of man he wanted to be. Use those examples today for all your actions big and small.

No need to talk about what a good person is like, just be one, wherever and whenever you can.

When your dark emotions become your salvation...

Accepting your darkest emotions is the key to psychological health. Psychological studies have shown that acceptance of those negative emotions is the more reliable route to regaining and maintaining peace of mind.

Brett Ford, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. Not quite a strategy, she tells Quartz, “acceptance involves not trying to change how we are feeling, but staying in touch with your feelings and taking them for what they are. So, she asks, how can it be that accepting negative emotions is paradoxically linked to long-term psychological thriving?

According to their analyses, the magic of acceptance is in its blunting effect on emotional reactions to stressful events. It’s that mechanism that can, over time, lead to positive psychological health, including higher levels of life satisfaction. In other words, accepting dark emotions like anxiety or rage, won’t bring you down or amplify the emotional experience. Nor will it make you “happy”—at least not directly.

When you discover how to make sense of anxiety...

The Evolution of Anxiety - For the first time ever, I understand anxiety. All I needed was a story of a giraffe. 

The mismatch between our old brain and our new environment has a significant impact on the amount of chronic stress and anxiety we experience today.

Thousands of years ago, when humans lived in an Immediate Return Environment, stress and anxiety were useful emotions because they helped us take action in the face of immediate problems.

For example:

A lion appears across the plain > you feel stressed > you run away > your stress is relieved.
A storm rumbles in the distance > you worry about finding shelter > you find shelter > your anxiety is relieved.
You haven’t drunk any water today > you feel stressed and dehydrated > you find water > your stress is relieved.

This is how your brain evolved to use worry, anxiety, and stress. Anxiety was an emotion that helped protect humans in an Immediate Return Environment. It was built for solving short-term, acute problems. There was no such thing as chronic stress.

I'm here to help. Shoot me an e-mail and tell me what you're working on!