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How inspirational memes can actually be useful

Spam Filter For Your Brain - Episode 29

I'm sure many of you have come across inspirational memes on Instagram or affirmations, or maybe a wall hanging with a cute little font and a lovely thought about how you can change your mind and be better. "Live, life, love", all those thoughts. And I'm old enough to remember the Louise Hay, the idea of looking in the mirror and telling yourself you look beautiful or love yourself 100 times. I want to speak a little bit today about firstly why those things might not work and what we can do about it.

Because it would be lovely, wouldn't it? If we just read these inspirational quotes and suddenly we decided that life was better and that was a thought that we had. But quite often, we're reading something which we can see would be very useful for somebody else, but it often feels quite far from our reality. The reason saying these super confident affirmations in the mirror does not enhance or improve our lives very much is because we don't believe them. They feel such a stretch for us that we have no emotional connection to them at all.

Even though these lovely inspirational quotes on our wall might be something that we can see the benefit of, if we were to believe them. Actually it can be tough to be dreaming about living, laughing and loving when you're not quite sure how much your electricity bill is going to be this month and whether the government is going to get another term or not, and whether you're going to be able to afford childcare at the end of the summer.

All of these things feel very far away from the picture, of a sunset on a beach, telling you to "live your life and be free", and rather than just dismissing all of these thoughts as not relevant for you, not that useful or just not something that fits in with the life that you have. I have found a way to make them a tiny bit useful. Because some can be beautiful, right? You can definitely see that your life would be really different if you did believe that or if that was your narrative, and so what I like to play with when I find these inspirational quotes is, "What would life be like if I did believe that?", "What do I think that believing that kind of inspirational thought would give me?" And what is the emotion that living, laughing, and loving that life? And what are the emotions that would come up for me if I thought that that was possible? And when I can identify what emotion it is that I think that they would give me, that I was seeking, or I think would be desirable in my life when I identify the emotion, I can then pause and think, okay, well, what thoughts do I have that I think that can take me closer to that emotion from where I am right now?

So if, for example, I think the idea of "living every day is your last" is something that people say quite often (and living every day as if it's your last is not useful if you have bills to pay at the end of the month. Because if I were living my life like it was my last, I would not have anything to pay the bills at the end of the month. I would blow it all today, probably on some nice Indian street food. No good for paying my bill at the end of the month). So if I think, "Oh, but you know what? If I were to live every day like it was my last, what do I think the emotion that would cause?" It is carefree, which they're trying to get at. That's how I interpret it: to not worry about borrowing trouble or anticipating how difficult things could be, to live in the moment and be mindful.

Now, if I were mindful and present, that would give me a sense of calm. So when I do now think, okay, it is a sense of calm I would like, that would benefit my life. And then when I look at applying that to the thought of the fact that I have to pay my electricity bill at the end of the month, what thought could I have that would bring up a sense of more calm, more peace, or more mindfulness about the fact that I have to pay this bill?

Well, for me, it could be something like, "I have work that I know will pay me". "I have skills where I can earn money". "I've been very good about getting myself out of financial scrapes in the past". "If everything were to go horribly tits up, there are probably some friends that I could ask to help bail me out to pay this particular bill". (I'm very fortunate, and speaking from a place of privilege, I'm thinking from my own experience of right at this moment, what I would be thinking to bring more calm here). It could be. "I managed to put some money away for the bill this month". Maybe it is that "I have budgeted for it", Maybe it is that I know I will be paid a week before the bill comes in. Maybe it is that I know that I could go to the Citizens Advice Bureau and see if they could help me work out some ways to get some support to try and pay the bills.

All these thoughts take me closer to a level of mindfulness, calm and peace where "live every day as off it is is your last" doesn't. And actually, it can be useful and relevant because I can think about my everyday situations and things where I don't feel like I have calm or peace or am able to be mindful. And from here, identify when I know which emotion it is, how I can further align with who I want to be and how I want to live my life.

And that is how I use slightly trite inspirational memes online to live a slightly happier life. Because for me is all about slight incremental changes. When we want just to read these things or live someone else's story and someone else's fabulous dancing on-the-beach lifestyle, we can feel like there is little connection to where we are now. But when we can identify our emotions, values and thought patterns, we can use them to become more of ourselves where we are right now.

I hope that's been useful for you—live life. Love, light, love it. Love it. Love it. Up this week, and hopefully, I'll see you next week.

Want to learn some new tools to handle big emotions?

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