Awareness is key
In the previous pages, we examined stress and its underlying causes. We also reviewed remedies that can bring short-term relief in periods of high stress and anxiety. In this section, we will consider long-term solutions. Because the conditioned mind causes stress and anxiety, lasting solutions require consistent effort over the long-term. In a prior article, I compared the conditioned mind to following footprints in a snowfield. To address stress, you need to create new footprints rather than following the old ones, which creates new neural pathways, a process that will rewire your brain and eliminate stress and anxiety.
In this section’s articles and posts, I will outline various activities and exercises that will help retrain the mind. However, the first step is to set an intention. Recall that remedying stress in the long requires consistent effort over time. To make the required effort and develop consistent healthy habits and follow the exercises daily, you must first set the right intention. In other words, reducing stress and anxiety has to become your primary motivation, not just a vague desire.
Setting the right intention is the first step leading to a life free of stress and anxiety. It will not only motivate you to make the requisite effort for a consistent practice; it also nudges open the door of awareness, one you may not even know was there.
Your intentions and motivations define who you are. Most of us don’t have sufficient awareness to know who we are. Like automatons, we move through life mindlessly repeating daily habits. Ask yourself, what motivates me? Is it money and financial success? Sexual adventures and conquests? Is it drink and drugs? Eating Junk food or watching TV and social media? Or are you motivated by compassion for others, generously helping and looking after others, showing gratitude, and practicing mindfulness?
Whatever your motivations, don’t judge yourself, but develop awareness as a first step. Being aware of your motivations is a key to mental health. Once you’ve done that, you can begin determining whether or not they serve you well. For example, if you are strictly motivated by financial success, becoming aware of that will allow you to see if the pursuit of money brings you the happiness you seek. Ask yourself, why do I want money? Is it to feel secure, have peace of mind, and lead a stress-free life? If so, has the pursuit or attainment of financial success brought me those benefits? The chances are that it hasn’t.
Therefore, start becoming aware of what motivates you. This can be very specific. When you wake up in the morning, ask yourself, “What motivates me?” When you go to work, ask yourself, “What motivates me?” When you have lunch, ask yourself, “What motivates me?”
It may be helpful to write down some of your observations.
Once you have identified your motivation, ask yourself if it has brought you the happiness you have been seeking. For example, if you’re motivated to eat fast food at lunch, see how you feel after you have eaten a Big Mac and a large box of fries. It may save time and taste good, but how do you feel afterward? How does the extra weight you carry from eating fast food make you feel? Does it affect your sleep? Does it affect your productivity at work? Perhaps, or perhaps not. The key is to become aware of how you feel.
Becoming aware of your motivations and how they make you feel sets up a powerful choice. You can then choose to continue with the motivation, or you can choose to change it. Of course, changing your motivations and the resulting ingrained habits is not easy. But awareness is the key that empowers you to choose, including as a first step, to establish a consistent practice that follows the guidance in the next pages on this site.
My hope for these pages is to be a modern-day Academy, much like Plato’s Academy, in order to reduce stress and anxiety in our individual lives and perhaps even help mankind reverse course from its current ego-driven and lethal trajectory.
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