I'm Matt, creative, writer and illustrator of the book "Tell Your Negative Thoughts to STFU". This is an anxiety blog where you'll find my ramblings on mental health, with various book recommendations and some chill music thrown in.
Reading links and tips – be that for mental health or beyond
Two nights ago I dreamt that I had a second wife, who looked identical to my real wife, only she was an alien. Somehow I was disturbingly living the life of an interplanetary bigamist. Also, we had kids that looked like little squid people. I had to carry them around in a bucket and unfortunately left one of them on the beach.
Other than indicating that I watch far too much sci fi and am possibly worried about being a good enough parent, this dream might have been my brain’s way of telling me about the state of my emotions and my anxieties.
Dreams have long interested psychologists, and are often penned as the ‘window to our subconscious’. Dreams occur during our REM (rapid eye movement) sleep cycle during which your brain is undergoing a high amount of activity. It is thought that they not only tell us our deepest anxieties and desires, they also contain clues to our personality (like me being a massive sci fi nerd).
Freud himself developed a guide for interpreting dreams, which I’ll link to below. There are some really interesting interpretations. For instance, did you know that men and women dream differently? Men dream about other men twice as much as women and women dream about both sexes equally. And that’s just one of the differences between our dreams.
But a very interesting aspect to dreams are studies that suggest they are responsible for problem-solving, memory formation, or that they occur simply due to random brain activation.
I’m a firm believer in ‘sleeping on it’ when you have a problem to solve. It’s part of the reason that I keep a little notepad or my phone near the bed, because I often wake up with ideas.
So remember to try and sleep at regular times, to allow your brain to enter REM and solve problems. It may be more beneficial to your state of mind that you think.
One of the topics covered by a book I’m reading at the moment (see my last post) is something related to mindfulness.
Essentially it talks about the premise that every person has a ‘continuous chattering voice’ that has always been there, and is constantly commenting on their current situation or life, often negatively.
It won’t shut up, and is invariably wild in its musings. It might comment that someone doesn’t like you, or you’ll never get to the end of your run because you are tired, or that you are going to screw up your school play.
However there is another layer to your being. The quiet observer. And it’s this real you that so often goes unobserved.
If you think about it, you’ll realise that this quiet observer is actually your ‘true’ self. And the endlessly chattering monkey voice isn’t.
Let me give you an example.
Today I was sat at home, trying to handle all my life admin. And I was getting stressed.
At some point I thought “hang on, I need to listen to what’s going on here” and all at once, I realise my chattering monkey voice had been telling me that I wasn’t going to handle my admin stuff and that it was all too much. But as soon as I noticed it (and the fact that I had been reacting to it), it was like I had shone a torch on my naughty anxiety voice. And all at once, it died down. I literally felt my body relax.
So just be aware, and mindful, of the fact that there is this chattering monkey voice inside you, and sometimes it really isn’t in your best interests to listen!
I almost forgot to post, on one of the most relevant days of the year for this blog. I’ve focused today on telling all my negative thoughts to shut the fuck up, and I hope you have too :).
I’ve also started reading a new book called The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer. it’s a really interesting book about getting to know your inner self. I know that sounds wanky, but I actually think it’s a quite special read … and forces you to think about how misguided your little internal anxiety voice is.
I’ll be posting more about it soon. But for now my friends, I hope you’ve had a great World Mental Health Day!
Right now I’m suffering from man flu brought on by being a bit stressed about looking for work, so this weekend I went into full ‘self care mode’ and found some great tunes, care of the Tune In app.
The All Lounge Experience is a super chilled listen with various mixes available, thanks to different guest DJs. It’s perfect (in turns out) for plugging into as you read a good book under a blanket on a Sunday. I was listening to Episode 58 with guest DJ Spike Deep.
Oh, and while I’m at it, if you are a sci fi nerd like me, you could do a lot worse than this book (at 99p on Kindle, an absolute bargain) which goes really well with aforementioned radio show:
Everyone knows that working out keeps you in shape, and not working out means getting all flabby and untoned.
The same goes for your mind. If you just go on automatic all the time and never apply any thinking, never push yourself creatively or intellectually (like learning a new language or doing a sudoko) your mind gets…. rusty.
Edward De Bono is an author and philosopher, and pretty much a solid thinker. I’ve seen him talk and read a few of his books that focus on ways of thinking that are a pure pleasure to read. I think if you suffer from anxiety you more than likely are an overthinker, so to divert your attention to a different, constructive way of thinking has got to be beneficial, instead of just turning your wheels.
The above book got me into De Bono. It covers a pretty cool way of thinking that helps construct everyday thinking tasks into a cast-iron process. It entails splitting up thought processes into different ‘hat colours’ – from emotional, to factual, to critical thinking and up to seven different thinking types.
It forensically examines the way the west and east differ in their corporate thinking – from western meeting where everyone shouts their opinion in a group discussion, to eastern meetings in Japan where each person around the table has their facts and the conclusion is reached after everyone has said their piece. Neither are wrong perhaps, just different ways to think.
Anyway, my point is that exercising the mind takes many forms. But just like physical exercise, you need to change your routine sometimes, and do something new.