I like to think I live a pretty happy life. But, from time to time, I get down. You can call it anxiety or depression, but I’ve never really been sure where we draw the line between being sad and depressed.
Definitions aren’t really that important to me. What is however, important to me, is dealing with issues and solving problems. While I don’t think it’s reasonable to be happy all the time, I don’t see a reason why we shouldn’t strive to be happy a good majority. And if I’m unhappy for too long, it becomes a problem and inconvenience.
So, in the infinite wisdom of any 25-year old who is way too sure of himself, I devised two mindsets that help me get through a rut when I’m down. I find when I combine these mindsets with exercise and social interaction, I’m usually back to my normal self within a day or two, tops.
2017 was the year of #gratitude and being #blessed. I get it. It’s cliché.
But, clichés exist for a reason: they’re powerful.
I recently listened to an interview with boxer Ed Lattimore on The Jordan Harbinger Show and he went on a powerful tangent about gratitude. He spoke about how he got throttled in one of his boxing matches and was in a depressed state for weeks.
Gratitude for what he had, who he had in his life, and the lessons he could learn from failure were instrumental in getting him back to his peak state.
I can only speak for myself, but I have a shit-ton to be grateful for, every day:
1) I can breathe
2) I am able-bodied
3) I can see (shout out to my optometrists out there ❤)
4) I don’t have to worry about water or food today
32,944,014) I have uniform chest hair
32,944,015) I was born in America, not a war-torn country
542,541,938) I have the internet
542,541,939) I can read and write
Despite the hyperbole, you get the general idea: you have a lot. Have perspective. Be empathetic by thinking about the advantages you’ve had and picturing people who weren’t so fortunate.
You didn’t get the promotion? Oh well, at least you have a job and aren’t holding up 3 jobs, struggling just to pay rent and put dinner on the table.
Someone cut you off in traffic? At least there is virtually no harm of them actually harming you. In Syria, people are literally escaping for their lives.
You want to flip sadness on it’s head and really pour on the gratitude? Go volunteer and help people. Now. Drive a cancer patient to their visits and keep them company. Help distribute perishables at a food pantry. Go to a soup kitchen. Do something for others who genuinely need it.
That will give you some perspective.
2) It’s just a ride
I love comedy. I think that music and comedy are the two best ways for people to express themselves and deal with important issues.
Bill Hicks is arguably my favorite comedian. My favorite bit of his comes at the close of one his later specials:
The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.
tl;dr: Life is just a ride.
If you’re fortunate enough to not be fighting for your survival every day, your worries are likely manufactured. You’re obsessing over trivial things that don’t really matter.
It’s just a part of the ride.
If you were to plot the duration of time on one axis (~12 billions years) and space on the other axis (basically infinite, ever-expanding), you’d get a pretty massive graph.
For reference, below is what $1 billion looks like. Now multiply that by 12. Wow that’s huge, right? Now multiply that by 100 (each bill shown in that picture is a Benjamin).
NOW, each of those bills would signify a year that the known universe has been in existence. Ok, and you’ve been around how long? 25 years? 40 years? 60 years?
The duration of your life is a fraction, of a fraction, …of a fraction of the timeline of the universe. This means two things: 1) I can’t even put words on how insignificant most of your problems are in the grand scheme of things 2) you don’t really have much time on this planet, so you better not waste it being unhappy over stupid stuff.
And don’t forget about space. The radius (not diameter!!) of the observable universe is estimated at 46 billion light-years. And it’s still expanding, plus their might be entire other universes inside of black holes (no one knows)! I don’t think anyone will truly every be able to grasp how massive the universe really is.
So, when you graph the duration of your life and the space you take up in the universe, against all that there is and ever was, what do you find? All in all, you’re not shit.
But that’s OK! Neither was Steve Jobs or Benjamin Franklin. Elon Musk might change the world, but his innovations will basically be forgotten over a generation or two.
Don’t believe me? Do you think about Alexander Graham Bell every time you send an email on your smartphone?
My point is not that one of nihilism, though. While I wholeheartedly believe that I (or anyone for that matter) won’t make an impact on the universe at large, I can make a huge impact in my personal world. And that’s all that matters.
But, if I fail or get too stressed or worry too much, I think back to how insignificant things really are. It’s humbling.
Because at the end of the day. It’s just a ride. You might as well enjoy it.
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When I’m down in the dumps, this is where I take my mind. I become grateful for the opportunities I have: to learn, to live, to feel both failure and success. I remember that none of this really means anything, at the end of the day.
D.J. Podgorny is a minimalist, recovering world traveler, and former van dweller living and working in Brussels, Belgium. He loves music, sports, Mexican food, and uncertainty. He once gave a mediocre TEDx talk about how he lived in a van in the eBay parking lot for a year. He’s a work in progress and feels like writing this in third person is super narcissistic.