My stress and anxiety levels in recent months have been so much lower than last year's. I could yet stand to improve my overall happiness, but "equanimity" does now describe me far more often than it used to. As a result of being calmer, I sleep better, which means I have more energy and don't get sick as often, so my physical health's much improved too.
There are lots of changes I've made, large and small, that I would say have contributed to this improvement. But here are a nice tidy three:
1. Ditching Facebook (and not replacing it with some equally time-devouring online activity). I've discussed this in previous posts. But just in case you wanted an update, I still think this was a fabulous, wondrous move, on par with breaking up with a toxic friend. (In fact, it basically WAS breaking up with a toxic friend. Or at least, a conglomerate of mostly non-toxic people who, together, somehow added up to one gigantic toxic friend.) I miss it less and less with each passing month. I'm stronger in my solitude; I have wise thoughts and am happy to keep them to myself or tell them to someone I know in real life rather than feeling any need to rush online and share.
[Edited to clarify: I'm not calling any individuals "toxic friends." I'm fond of everyone I was friends with on FB, and am happy that I'm still in touch with many of them via the *several* other ways available to us these days. It's the Facebook environment as a whole that I'm calling toxic. Too many posts, too much snark, too much drama, too much getting messaged and tagged for unnecessary reasons, too much intrusion on my work and thoughts. It felt like being trapped at a loud party I wasn't allowed to leave. Not everyone has that experience on FB, clearly, but that's what mine was like. So I post this because if anyone else is suspecting FB is detrimental to their peace of mind, I want them to know it's quite possibly so. And I want them to feel healthier too, so I do recommend reconsidering one's relationship with the site. Not with the people, necessarily--that's not the same issue.]
2. Meditating every day, or almost every day.
(I have yet to achieve the Avatar state, however.)
Yeah, meditation's all trendy and stuff these days. In fact, I hesitate to even mention that I do it, because it's so ridiculously trendy, except I must recommend it because the results are marvelous. I really do feel calmer and more compassionate on average, even with just 5 or 10 minutes a day of sitting with my eyes closed and somewhat half-assedly telling my thoughts, "Shush, come back and focus on the breath, and stop replaying that hilarious YouTube video from earlier." The practice of noticing what my thoughts are doing in the first place is the valuable part, it would seem. And though noticeable progress did take months in my case, it was so worth it. I would sooner go back to Facebook than stop meditating now. (Yes, even that!)
3. Cool tip I heard somewhere that works: when feeling stressed in a rushing-around, not-enough-time kind of way, I intentionally slow down, to the degree of doing something fully three times slower than I have to. It wouldn't make sense to take your whole day that slow, of course, but doing one minor task that slow, as a token gesture, shows your brain that it's okay; taking 45 seconds instead of 15 seconds to put away the bread isn't going to make the world collapse. Also it buys you a little time to think, breathe, get your next move figured out. It works. I like it.
Calm down, world. Calm down.