The Importance of Openness in a Digital Age

 

The picture of our future in a digital age both amazes me and disappoints me — the disappointment could come from an imaginary longing for the past, for “simpler times” when it was easier to sit down and talk with someone over a cup of coffee, but perhaps more difficult to arrange that coffee date. It disappoints me that so many connections (romantic or otherwise) are based on the internet alone — on instant gratification, on face-value, on a left swipe or right swipe. So often our internet presence is a contrived projection of fantasy mirroring an entirely different reality. Instagram ruses, subtweets, the skewed desire to share only the best bits of your life on the web and leave the ordinary, messy stuff for you to trudge through on your own — these all get us nowhere. The amazement of our digital future however is unending: advancements in science, health, and communications are popping up so rapidly given the improving technology, and that’s great — but what is it doing for our personal relationships?

It’s easy to believe that social media and the ability to instantly connect with each other will only enhance our relationships, but looking beyond the surface-level, social media can severely silence some very important things while giving a platform to negativity, false comparisons, and gossip. Recently, little by little, I’ve been seriously detaching myself from technology. I’ve been trying to set aside specific time blocks during the day when I allow myself  to freely browse my phone or post on Twitter, knowing I’m spending most of my hours living without distraction, with only Me back in my head.

I realize that the world is full of distractions that are disguised in the cloaks of cellphones and mass media. I think that people are growing comfortable with being interrupted or getting distracted, and that only drives us further apart. It’s kind of ironic how all of these devices and mediums are supposed to help us keep in touch with one another, when really it’s putting up a wall between us and we are essentially becoming more superficial because of it. Your self worth does not rely on how many notifications you receive, how many followers you have, how many “likes” you get on a specific social media platform – it’s about the quality of what you send out to the world. You are not just a recipient; you also have the power to send information.

 

Yesterday, my phone died and I had no intention of plugging it in.

I had no intention of staring at a TV screen, or hearing the radio buzz, or even picking up a newspaper.

The first few hours of my day without a smartphone were not very hard, as I went for a drive with a friend, sat by the lake and enjoyed a nice day. I felt more clear-headed, like the experience was even sobering. It was somehow very cathartic to know that I didn’t have to be attached to my phone or any other kind of news and that I could just spend my day with myself, my thoughts, and conversations with others. I kept telling myself that this isn’t that foreign, or at least it shouldn’t be – I kept reminding myself that this is how people lived for years.

A big part of getting comfortable without your phone on or without being distracted by social media is getting comfortable with silence, because the silence in your own mind can be deafening. There were silences all throughout the day: while in the car, in my room, anywhere I happened to be. I know a lot of people that hate silence, but I tried my best to enjoy it. There are lots of things that have pleasant noises that aren’t necessarily musical, like a burning candle or the sound of a bathtub filling up with water, the sound of the kettle just beginning to boil. I feel like I paid more attention to minuscule and unexciting things – ordinary things were suddenly more interesting because I gave myself no choice but to pay attention.

By the time I returned to regular life, I felt better. I realized I wanted to genuinely connect with people in my life, see them and listen to them with no distractions. I wanted to promise myself to always stay that open to the people in my life. And most importantly, I wanted to be very careful with what I consume and what I send out into the world. In a world so driven by computer screens and fast-paced conversations, it’s more important than ever to stay transparent, to slow down, and use technology to our advantage by sharing positive stories and spreading compassion in hopes of uniting us all. Isn’t that what social media is supposed to do, anyway? Help us all connect in a safe space of positivity, valuable information, and love?

The role of our digital age is essentially to provide the agenda of the world’s happenings – the news that is deemed most important and most relevant to the people or stories that spark an interest, a relation, a feeling of “yes, that’s my life too.” Not only does media as a whole chronicle the past, but it also marks the present and future through everyday mediums like smartphones and the internet. The problem is we’ve become so obsessed, so attached to these things that spending only a day away from them is uncomfortable, but taking quick breaks from mass media will do nothing but help ease your mind and spirit.

If you’re up for a challenge, turn your phone off with no regrets. Leave it off till you’ve felt peace again. Step back into our digital world with fresh perspectives and clear minds.

Chump Change: A Broke Girl’s Guide to Living Well

 

For many of us, the bulk of our stress has deep financial roots. Whether or not you make as much as you deserve, feeding your families, paying the rent on time, and having enough for extra fun is daunting.  Like a lot of 20-somethings, I’m sure I’m not alone in my experience in not having a lot of money. It can be really difficult, especially for those with student loans or medical expenses and those living under the poverty line. I in no way mean to undermine your struggles. I’m definitely no financial expert, but I have learned a few tips for living well within your means and finding the joy in things that cost no money at all, and that’s what I want to share with you today.

Obviously, money is a security blanket. It’s what we can fall back on in case of emergencies or unexpected circumstances. It gives us peace of mind. It’s great to have savings and emergency funds, but money is not the be all end all, no matter what our society says. Being grateful for what we do have, whether that’s good health, good relationships, or a good sense of humor, will help you realize the significance simply because money can’t buy those things! Be thankful and count your blessings. Life is too short to worry about your bank account when you’ve been blessed with life’s biggest treasures.

Yes, it’s fun to try out trendy bars & expensive restaurants and go to the movies when you’re out with friends. But these aren’t your only options, and you certainly don’t need to shell out half your paycheck when you’re out on the town in order to have a good time. Get creative with your free time — make it a tradition to host stay-in nights with your friends and play board games with drinks & homemade dinners. Or opt for having date night at home for once. Also, take advantage of your local library! You can find pretty much any movie there nowadays and it’s totally free (as long as you return it on time ;)). If you stay involved with your city, you’ll be in the know when free events are happening too, like public markets or clothing swaps. Although the market may cost money if you plan to shop, it can also be fun to just wander around and people watch. You might even make some connections with someone who has an interesting shop or stand, or maybe even find out how to bring your own trade to the market for some extra cash.

It’s important to learn how being frugal can help you in every area of your life, but especially when it comes to things like clothes and shoes and things you don’t actually need. This one can be hard for me personally because I love keeping my wardrobe updated and switching things up, but you can get things on the cheap if you know where to look. Scour your thrift stores, people! There’s much more than ugly sweaters and old Keds. I’ve found designer clothes thrifting for a fraction of the price. Being frugal doesn’t mean depriving yourself of your desires entirely, it just means tweaking your expectations a bit. Maybe you won’t be able to afford everything that’s on your wishlist at the moment, but I’m sure you’ll be able to thrift some pieces that are pretty damn close.

If you depend solely on money for your happiness, I truly am sorry, cause there’s a good change you might be a miserable person. There’s so much more to life than your bank account — most of which are priceless. Of course material goods can bring quick satisfaction, but over time that satisfaction fades and you’re looking at an empty wallet and pining for a new item that you just can’t have. Is it worth it? Is it worth it to succumb to the cycle of depending on an outside resource for pleasure? Inner peace and happiness have no connection to money. You can say that you’re secure with yourself because you’re making six figures, but if you’re not really satisfied deep down, why does it matter? It may be rooted in competitiveness or maybe an outside source like the largely superficial culture  we live in. We can’t help that, but we can take steps needed to stop depending on anything but yourself for pure happiness. It’s priceless. And so, so worth it.

Always remember, whatever you’re going through right now is temporary. You may look back ten years from now and laugh or sigh with relief.  Maybe you’re in a pickle because the cost of living is up, or maybe you’re drowning in student loans, or maybe you just suffered a job loss  — but these things are temporary! It is way too easy to get discouraged about a less-than-ideal financial situation,  but always aim to enjoy every bit of your life because you may even be envious of what you have now some odd years down the road.

It’s lovely to go out to your favorite spot to eat and enjoy a bite with friends or loved ones, but it’s not always lovely on the wallet. However, dining in doesn’t have to suck, you just gotta up your cooking game! Make it a goal to cook meals at home when you’re trying to be frugal. There’s no shortage of delicious recipes out there, and cooking is a great way to bring some creativity, culture, and catharsis into your life without even leaving your home. It’s also way cheaper than eating out all the time! Even if you’re only going to Starbucks once a day on your lunch break, those drinks add up. Preparing your meals and coffee at home, even if it means waking up earlier, is worth it in the end if you’re trying to save.

And no, shopping does not count as a hobby. Read books that inspire you, watch films that open your eyes and make you forget even for a little while that you’re struggling. Use your free time to uplift yourself instead of getting depressed! Truly living well wouldn’t be complete without immersing yourself into something that’s both fun and intellectually stimulating. Maybe you’re an artist and your job demands so much of you that you can’t seem to get anything done anymore — well on your next day off, make it a goal to finish something you started or at least get some artwork done. Feeding your soul creatively feels so good and it’s totally free. Getting back in touch with your hobbies means getting in touch with yourself, and that’s a habit anyone should get behind — frugal or not.

Even if you don’t make a lot, you can start a change jar — that chump change will add up someday! Or maybe you have enough to put away $20 a month, or even $10 or $5. So save up for that trip you’ve been wanting to take, or treat it as an investment for your future or just make enough to put away in your savings account for emergencies.  You deserve it, after all. If it’s a vacation, treat it like something that’s already planned or create a vision board so you can always be reminded of what you’re saving for. Start today by putting one dollar into an envelop and see where it takes you.

You don’t need to make a lot of money in order to be happy. Yes, a great job with awesome benefits can really help you out in a lot of ways, but it’s not necessary for happiness.  That comes from within. The tips above are just some of the ways to live the life you love without necessarily making a lot of money. If you have some tips of your own, feel free to share them! 🙂

Simple Ways to Live a More Spiritual Life

We live in a very superficial world, but you don’t have to govern your life based on the unfortunate default setting of our culture. Spirituality can be for everyone – it’s not just reserved for the yogi or aroma therapy healer, it can be as simple an act as monitoring your attitude and actions in a way that aligns with your true Self. But as simple as it may sound, taking the proper care to remain attentive to your spiritual needs requires work and commitment. Even though it can sound like something you don’t think you “need,” it’s one of the best improvements to your wellbeing that you can invest yourself in.

 

We learned back in preschool to always treat everyone the way you’d want to be treated, and it’s even more valuable in adulthood. Treating others with utmost respect will not only make you a kinder, more approachable person, but it will almost guarantee that respect back to you. It’s all about sending out the kind of energy that you want to attract, and why wouldn’t you want respect? Bad manners and negative attitudes will only result in people in your life bringing in more negativity. Close that door and only welcome the positive. Be mindful of what comes out of your mouth, since you never really know what someone is going through. This is also where the three-fold law comes in, meaning what you give will come back to you in some way or another. Take charge of your desires, greet others with a calm smile and always be kind and considerate.

A key to living a more spiritual life lies in harmony with self-awareness, meaning pop that bubble you’re living in and look at life from someone else’s perspective – probably a perspective of someone completely different than you. Remain objective in your life and open yourself to being empathetic, non-judgmental, and totally unblocked. You can also use this objectivity to take a good look at yourself: see what needs changing and improving through your new non-judgmental eyes! We are often too hard on ourselves, but observing your life from a new perspective can bring refreshment and rewards.

Sometimes we all need a social media detox. Keeping up with news, tweets from your favorite celebrities, and Instagrams from your high school buddies can all be well and good – living digitally is practically our way of life now, after all. But is it necessary for personal betterment, honing your spirituality and your psychic self-defense? Absolutely not! I urge you to turn off your smartphone and spend some quality time with you. Get comfortable with centering yourself in peace and quiet – light some candles, relax, spend your time journaling or doodling, try a recipe, explore your town, or simply just be. You’re bound to have some hobbies outside of connecting through social media… at least I hope you do. Taking a break from technology will quiet your mind — making you quicker, healthier, and more spiritual.

As the old adage goes, “change is the only constant.” It’s because our lives are fluid and some change along the way is only natural. Some people really stress out about changes and think of them as inherently negative – not true! When you begin to accept change as a positive thing, more doors will open to you. It can be difficult to accept certain facts of life, since some things are really tough and life isn’t always fun or simple. But realizing change is a part of life will give you a kind of closure that allows you to dwell on moving forward, not remaining stagnant. You’ll see more opportunities flowing your way once you refuse to see change as a necessity to life, not an obstacle to your optimism.

Mantras are positive little reminders just for you, something you can recite and repeat throughout the day when you feel you need it. You can write them down, put them in your phone, or just repeat them in your head. Anything from “I can do this!” to something deeply personal and catered to whatever you’re working through. Chanting a mantra repeatedly will force it to stick with you. If you’re constantly repeating positive affirmations, you’ll really begin to believe it! Some examples:

“I do my best, and it’s always enough.”

“I am deserving of everything I desire.”

“All that I have I give away, all that I give away comes back to me.”

These are some I think can work for everyone, but mantras and affirmations are meant to be personally uplifting — meaning go with the one you think suits you best, or modify some of the examples listed to better suit your needs. Whatever works for you!

Living spiritually in a superficial world doesn’t have to be difficult. What are some ways you add spirituality to your daily life?