Each year leading up to Christmas when we ask ourselves what we want for Christmas, I find is an inspiring time to actually look at what I have. We know that if you are looking to increase the happiness in your life that putting time and energy into experiences rather than things is the way to go.
However, things have a way of accumulating. Whether you have bought them with good intentions or whether they have come to you as gifts or through other means. And before you know it even things you love can just become part of ‘stuff everywhere’!
Sitting back and looking at your stuff can be a great way of reconnecting with what is important to you. By curating your stuff you can creating an environment that supports your current stage of life, your current interests and is uplifting.
Let’s start by looking at books.
Growing up we had a set of World Book encyclopedias. I loved them. You could open up at any page and learn something new about the world. Looking at them gave me a sense of wonder and thirst for knowledge. I probably loved my fantasy books (Enid Blyton anyone?) where I went into worlds where anything and everything was possible.
It’s the promise contained in books that I love.
As I grew older my relationship with books became a bit more complicated. Books I had to read – school novels, reference books. Books I thought I should read – parenting books, self-help books. And instead of being always about pleasure books also became a mirror reminding me of things I didn’t understand, couldn’t learn or highlighted my inadequacies.
Do you love all your books? Do you smile when you see them, refer to them regularly and rejoice in their wisdom?
Are their books on your bookshelf that taunt you with reminders about your failures? Cookbooks full of recipes you haven’t tried. Self-help books with exercises you haven’t completed. Novels you haven’t read. Parenting books that seem to mock you. Reference books you don’t use (or are way out of date).
Why are you holding on to them?
Marie Kondo speaks of holding things to see if they spark joy. And it’s an exercise I do every so often.
You take the books down from the shelves and hold each one. How does it feel? Do you feel inspired when you hold it? Or do you notice creeping thoughts such as I ‘should’ read that, followed by a sigh or accompanied by a self chastising ‘well that was a waste of money’.
(If you have electronic books that you’ve downloaded, although you can’t hold them you can look at the titles and notice what thoughts and feelings arise.)
From here you have two choices.
If you feel inspired, warm, joyful when you pick up the book - make the recipes, do the exercises, read the novels. Reconnect with the reason why that book is on your shelf in the first place.
If you feel nothing, or the weight of the ‘shoulds’, move the book on. Acknowledge your intentions when you bought the book. Thank the book for the hope it inspired, acknowledge and release any guilt or disappointment in yourself. Depending on the book you could donate them, give them to friends etc. Notice how you feel when you do this.
As you remove the stuff (and fluff) from your life that no longer matters, you make space for reconnecting to what is really important to you.
If you do this I would love to know what you discover. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nomophobia (no-mobile-phone phobia), not an official diagnosis, but refers to the anxiety people feel when they are separated from their mobile phone. This may be due to not having their phone, lack of service connection, or a dead battery. It can result in a range of anxiety symptoms. It can also be a symptom of social anxiety.
(Not to be confused with the existing, clinically accepted disorder of nomophobia which refers to a fear of laws, rules and regulations).
We all love being able to take photos on our phones, keep up to date with who is doing what, and share our lives quickly and vibrantly with our friends, family and anyone else who is interested. However, it is easy for our phones to encroach too much into our lives. The ironic and sad situation is that despite us wanting to use our phones to increase connections in our lives, it is easy for our phone use to interfere with our ability to feel and be connected. How do you know if your phone use may be interfering with your life?
The ironic and sad situation is that despite us wanting to use our phones to increase connectedness in our lives, it is easy for our phone use to interfere with our ability to feel and be connected
A little checklist of some behaviours that may indicate an unhealthy reliance on your mobile phone
Three ways your mobile phone use may interfere with making connections in your life
1. When you avoid or minimise face to face interaction you are missing the opportunities to develop soft social skills like reading non-verbal communication. If your conversation involves communicating feelings, other than just an exchange of information, you miss the opportunities to choose your tone of voice and enhance your message with non-verbal communication. We have all experienced the situation of trying to figure out what someone 'meant' in a text.
2. If you are 'phubbing' your friend or partner, ie, if you are prioritising taking a call, responding to a text ahead of speaking with the person in front of you, what do you think that does for building lasting connections? You are sending your 'in-person' friend that they are less important than the person on the other end of the phone.
3. If you have anxiety and are using your phone as a distraction, this may stop you learning and using more productive and longer lasting calming techniques. Your phone, like any other distraction technique is only a short term solution.
What if my mobile phone is off?
There is some research that suggests simply being able to see a mobile phone or have it within easy reach, even when it is switched off reduces concentration - "because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone" https://www.sciencedaily.com/releas…/2017/…/170623133039.htm. So if you are sitting with someone but knowing you could be checking your phone, that is distracting.
More research into this is required - but isn't that an amazing thing to think about. So next time rather than have your phone near you and off, maybe experiment with putting it out of sight where you would have to move to get it. And if you think using your phone may be masking some anxiety, there is always help available to learn some more sustainable strategies.
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.