Thursday, January 9, 2014

I Gotta Be Me-- Only Better

If you're like me-- and I know I am-- you're all about self improvement at this time of year. Well, actually, I am kind of about judging others and allowing myself to feel a wee bit smug about my comparative superiority, but I am working on that, for sure.  The thing is, I usually compare myself to others and find myself lacking, except maybe in trivial matters, such as grammar or vocabulary, but anyone with a dictionary or a style manual could easily overtake me there as well, so really, maybe I should just crawl back into bed and stay there.  

But seriously folks, I am trying to improve every day, and jokes about there being so much to improve aside, I find that my goals for improvement are usually mental instead of physical.  Diet and exercise are definitely on the horizon, but I know that the cause of so much of my "comfort-eating" and lackluster physical condition have to do with stress.  

So, it seems that to make a go of any physical improvement program, I have to relieve some of the stress that causes the physical issues in the first place.  That's the way this philosopher thinks about it anyway:  get to the logical root of the problem to effectively solve it.   So I'm out to reduce stress.  But I know that, even if I found a big old bag of money to solve some of the basic subsistence problems that we have month to month, most of my stresses themselves would still exist, because they involve people or issues that are deeply integrated into my existence. Really, the only thing I can change is the way I handle stress. 

As usual, it's all back on me.  I guess that's why they call it self improvement.

Right now, I don't have any kind of well-laid plan or anything, but lately it seems that everything I read points me in the general direction of trying to stay in the present rather than letting my mind leap ahead to the unknown future or get lost in nostalgic memory of the past.  I like this article about Alan Watts and his ideas about reducing anxiety that recently showed up on Brain Pickings.  His thought was that people ruin their lives by wishing for a certain future, which is a futile hope.  The more we stress about what is going to happen, the less we can enjoy what is happening right now.  The same goes for wishing ourselves back to some time in our lives that seems better than the present.  While I don't consider myself an anxious person, per se, I know that some of my stress is about what will happen tomorrow or next month or if we can't pay our bills or if this or if that.  So Watts' ideas about living in the moment today, really being present as life happens, makes sense to me.  This is a first step in a continuing process, which I will be documenting periodically in the blog.  If I'm going to improve myself, I'm going to drag all of you with me!

Self-improvement image from here.  Stress image from here-- this page has a lot of good stuff on it.  

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