I learned a new word recently – a word that perfectly described something I was doing that has not been serving me well.
The nightly scroll of news and media, reading articles and headlines about how much is going wrong in the world. Not the most relaxed or pleasant thing to do before bed.
I know better. I’ve read the articles that say to turn your phone off an hour before bedtime for optimal rest, so your brain can produce its own relaxing hormones that allow for restoring sleep.
Slipping into the constant news cycle was so easy and enticing. It was so addictive, this wanting to see the next headline, the next news item, the next commentary. Just seeing the word – doomscrolling – was just the reminder I needed. The reminder that my unconscious habit wasn’t helping me, it was harming me. Causing greater stress and anxiety. Poor sleep. Greater worry.
So this week, with a renewed commitment to healthy practices, and a renewed commitment to waking early and getting in front of my computer to write, I knew the doomscrolling had to go. Once I committed to reining in my habitual late nights on my phone, then it felt easy to do what I needed to do to take better care of myself. Kids to bed earlier, phone put away, in bed with a cozy book by 10, lights out by 10:30.
Giving up the doomscrolling has been the best thing I have done for my well being for quite some time. Getting myself to bed earlier has made it easier to wake for meditation and writing and some early morning work. These things are keeping me grounded.
Maybe you don’t have the same unhelpful habit that I had. Maybe you have been able to maintain a healthy relationship with your phone, with media – social and otherwise – over these last few months. But there may be something that you could give up that would make a difference in your mental and emotional well being to help deal with the stress of this time in a balanced way. Imagine playing with the idea of giving up just one thing. And maybe adding in just one thing – one healthy practice. A morning walk, 10 minutes of meditation, a slow morning cup of tea, a writing practice. Perhaps starting your day with a zoom yoga class!
I once heard a meditation teacher give a talk on renunciation as spiritual practice. The practice of giving something up. On meditation retreats, that can be the renunciation of speaking. Or one meal a day. Or giving up sleeping in. On a more extreme level, renunciation for monks and nuns might be giving up one’s possessions. The practice of renunciation is seeing what arises inside when we give up something we have been attached to. Noticing the discomfort of going without. Resting in the space of wanting until it transforms into something else. We learn a lot by letting go of something we are really attached to.
In one way, this whole time – living during a Pandemic – feels like a time of renunciation. We may not have to give up our worldly possessions, but we do have to give up some of the pleasures we have been accustomed to – eating out, going to concerts, sports games, dinner parties with our friends, school in the way we have known it. What if each thing we are giving up, could be a practice? A practice in presence and appreciation. An appreciation for what we do have, and a practice of recognizing the value of the lives and health and well being of our community over our individual desires. Is there something that is not serving you well that you could practice giving up? For your well being? For the greater good of our community?
Could you replace it with something that nourishes you instead?
I invite you to join me this August in taking good care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be something small and simple. Let’s take care of ourselves well, so we can make space to take good care of each other.