~What art is to me

Art is the artists expression of their interpretation of the world. The more people it resonates with, the more people can understand their views. People need human connection, and the connected feeling they get when they see or hear art that resonates with them provides that in the feelings it brings out.

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Creationism – Not Divine but Scientific

I recently watched a video where Craig Venter unveiled synthetic life and it got me thinking. If humans have created a synthetic life-form capable of living, it’s only a matter of time before we gain greater understanding into lifeforms, their unique genetic codes and how to manipulate them. Sometime in the future, it’s likely there will be synthetic lifeforms that resemble the simplest lifeforms found at the origins of Earth, capable of mutating, and thus evolving.

Our knowledge of space and physics is growing exponentially, and even if we haven’t confirmed the existence of a planet capable of supporting life, at least as we know it, we know by probability that there are a large number that are. We have already sent out probes in to space, voyager 1 being over 18.8 billion kilometres away and we have figured out how to land spacecraft on Martian surfaces.

This leads me to believe that one day we could find a planet capable of sustaining life and transport a synthetic lifeform to it, which could start an evolutionary chain that in billions or trillions of years could lead to life at a level of complexity that rivals that on Earth.

Eventually, and it’s not necessary for this theory to be valid, humans could master interstellar travel and move around the universe in an efficient way. We could visit these planets, call a man to the top of a mountain and have him carve 10 commandments in to a stone. We could artificially inseminate a woman in an illiterate part of the world and have her bear a child as a virgin. We could control lightning on the planet and call ourselves Zeus.

Then we could sit back and laugh about it with our friends and hedge out bets as to the outcome. Will they master interstellar travel and reach Godlike status like our species? Or will they become extinct due to religious wars or destruction of the planet for profits?

What I’m getting at is humans could eventually possess the knowledge to have the powers of ‘God’ or a creator. This doesn’t validate religions and their mostly outdated, unscientific beliefs, but it does question the origins of life and how certain life can be created. It by no means proves the existence of God. On the contrary, it suggests that science is the best chance humans have at understanding the origins of life, specifically by reverse engineering it to its most basic form.

I am not using this theory to argue that humans and life on earth was created, but I am suggesting that there is a possibility that somewhere out there, there has been or will be a species that was created by another species, and is therefore a product of creation and evolution.

Of course, who or whatever caused the big bang and the first sign of life isn’t covered in this theory.

Fuckboys, and why girls go for them

Preface

I want to make it clear that nothing in this article is presented as fact. These are just my observations as a friend of woman who deal with fuckboys, as someone who was for a short time a fuckboy, and as my post-fuckboy self who is struggling to find something meaningful because woman keep going for fuckboys.

I am writing in terms of ‘fuckboy’ instead of ‘fuckgirl’ because more people are complaining about fuckboys than fuckgirls at the moment. This behaviour, regardless of sex is emotionally immature and disrespectful and the cycle outlined in the conclusion needs to be broken.

Now that we have that out of the way, let me explain how guys become fuckboys, or simply put, a man that treats woman as objects.

The Fuckboy

Guys have an idea that sleeping with lots of woman is some sort of accomplishment. This behaviour is due to the misguided idealisation of rock stars, sports players and pickup artists that are glorified for doing so. Young, impressionable guys see this as ‘alpha behaviour’, and set out to sleep with as many girls as they can.

These guys generally have large, fragile egos that protect them from feeling real and true emotions towards woman. Many will not be able to process emotions that develop when they meet a ‘special’ girl and will sabotage the potential relationship to prevent further feelings from developing.

Fuckboys think that people, specifically woman are interchangeable and don’t have a problem dating many at once, with no intention of it ever progressing to anything serious. They will keep a girl around knowing she wants something more while sleeping with other woman at the same time.

In fact, many will brag about it. They will go on to share naked photos of you with their friends and brag about what they did to you, and their other conquests and how many other girls they have ‘on the go’.

These are signs of an emotionally immature or damaged male, and they all exhibit the same specific signs found here. The causes of the journey to becoming a fuckboy vary, but the common ones seem to be seeking validation from other males, or being hurt previously and developing an emotionless façade in which they then become.

Regardless, all being a fuckboy does is leaves path of emotional destruction, both to the fuckboy himself and all of his ‘conquests’.

A Lover of Woman

A person that gets mistakenly branded as a fuckboy is rare but they do exist. These are the Hank Moody’s of the world. For those of you that don’t know Californication, Hank is the male lead who is often mistakenly glorified by fuckboys for the amount of woman he ,beds, instead of how caring and genuine he is to the woman, which is ironically the reason they sleep with him.

He is also very open about his unavailable emotional status from the start, and says what he wants to say, not what the girl wants to hear, the polar opposite of fuckboys.

The major difference between a lover of woman and a fuckboy is the motive behind the intimacy. Men who love woman don’t set out to sleep with woman, but if the opportunity arises and they feel it’s the right thing to do, they will. Fuckboys will sleep with woman just go get a notch on the belt.

One of my favourite quotes from Hank is when he is asked if he has fucked a girl. Hank replies ‘a gentleman never tells’. In contrast, a true fuckboy would bring up a photo and explain the details of the sex in a derogatory way just to boast.

Why do girls go for fuckboys?

From what I have seen, it comes down to a few things.

Self-Worth – Many girls out there, for reasons including their upbringing, the media or previous relationships have a low self-worth. Even if this girl is truly wonderful, they will only allow themselves to be with someone who treats them as highly as they think of themselves. Some of the best people I know have the lowest self-worth, and they punish themselves by allowing ‘fuckboys’ to keep getting away with their shitty behaviour by wrongly assuming responsibility for the fuckboys actions, as well as blaming themselves for the behaviour of said fuckboy.

I can change him – It’s everyone’s dream to have the person they love make them feel special. If you’ve ever seen the movie Sweet November, you’ll understand the analogy that everyone wants to be Charlize’s Keanu Reeves. The problem is, fuckboys don’t have the capacity to love in this way because of the things outlined above.

Each time the fuckboy shows some emotion or feeling towards the woman, they feel he has started to change, but in reality, the change is so miniscule and momentary that it is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The woman thinks they are finally making some progress and continues through another period of torment before seeing some more behaviour she likes.

The cycle then repeats until the ‘relationship’ ends, in which the girl is generally left with lower self-worth and the guy repeats the cycle with a different girl.

I want to make it clear that healing from emotional damage is not going to occur overnight either. It is going to be a long journey of figuring out the reasons his thought processes are the way they are before they can be fully changed using a form of psychotherapy.

You’ve been hurt before – Perhaps the same reason the fuckboy is the way he is and perhaps the same reason you shut yourself off emotionally to someone you could really fall for. After a breakup, many people look for cheap thrills for validation. Eventually, cheap thrills get boring but the habit of searching for cheap thrills has already formed. This habit often goes unnoticed, and both men and woman get stuck in a state where they are constantly searching for the next thrill.

After a while, the effect of the thrills becomes so meaningless, even emotionally damaging and you’re left longing for something meaningful. But without consciously breaking the habit and changing your behaviour, you’ll continue to do what you have been doing, which is to continue sleeping with and complaining about fuckboys.

Nice guys aren’t a challenge – This ties is with almost all of the above reasons, but nice guys don’t represent a challenge. Most girls I’ve met have a really good bullshit radar. Fuckboys often slip past this radar because they aren’t saying bullshit. They are genuinely interested in sleeping with you, and they have a great understanding of what to say to make that happen.

From my experience, woman respond better to highly sexual conversations that consist of innuendoes, sarcasm and backhanded compliments. These are things that most men don’t feel comfortable bringing to the conversation as they think they’ll come off creepy or look like an asshole. There is definitely a fine line between getting it right and horribly wrong, however the fuckboy has found the line and doesn’t cross it until he has got what he wanted or been rejected.

The problem is, many nice guys aren’t charismatic and don’t approach woman in this way. They approach with the same old safe, boring routine delivered the same way the previous guy did. It isn’t exciting and it’s not challenging.

Now I’m not saying all nice guys are bad with woman, and I’m not saying this is the only successful way to approach woman. These are my observations from my experiences, and the way in which my friends responded by men who have approached them.

Conclusion

There seems to be a never-ending cycle that exists between previous experiences and how a person views potential future partners. A person from either one of the sexes gets hurt and switches off their emotions (at least temporarily), not allowing themselves to enter anything meaningful. They will then subsequently hurt someone else, who will then switch ,of their emotions and continue on that path of meaningless sex for the emotionally damaged.

This emotionless paths forms a habit which becomes hard to break, yet people struggle with a string of meaningless relationships without understanding where the problem comes from. The problem comes from within.

This article explains how people fall in love and what emotional state you must be in to be open to an intimate loving relationship. For those of you who want a brief summary, here it is.

You can only fall in love when you know what you have to offer, understand that you shouldn’t be taken for granted and respect yourself, and the other person is in the same boat. n’sations that consist of innuendoes, sarcasm and backhanded compliments. fall for. .ging them to either, it is

One Step at a Time

A guide to reducing anxiety

In this previous article, I spoke about the importance of living in the moment, and the positive effect it has on our emotional well-being. But as we all know, life does require some planning and foresight. We can’t just ‘wing it’. This article aims to shed light on common unhealthy ways people think about the future, as well as explain the techniques used for positive thinking about the future through planning and the ability to adapt.

Why I’m writing this

On the whole 2015 wasn’t a fantastic year, although through the challenges I faced I learnt a lot about myself. 2016 was looking to be the year in which the new stepped out of my comfort zone and followed my new outlook on life through my actions. My basic outline for the year looked like this.

March – Mid-June: University – Semester 1.
Mid-June – late July: Backpack around Scandinavia and Europe.
August – November:  University – Semester 2. Either on exchange or at home.

To cut the story short, I hadn’t been feeling the best for the past 6 months. I’ve recovered from one illness, however due to another, am not 100%. I’ve been told I have to undergo a tonsillectomy and have no set date yet; but regardless of the date, my original plan for the year is not possible anymore.

I did something every sick person shouldn’t do and googled my symptoms. Every possible medical symptom has been linked to a form of cancer; as well as a much larger number of probable causes, yet due to ego, the human mind tends to irrationally focus on the worst case scenario. I worked myself in to a little anxiety attack before realising the worst case scenario was highly improbable. I then brought myself back to reality by focusing on my senses to stimulate my brain to live in the moment.

The point I’m getting at is that we have to be aware of all possibilities, but also know that running through numerous hypothetical situations and coming up with an action plan for each is unhealthy. Many people often jump to the worst scenario with no concrete evidence to support their thoughts and some people will even continue to believe the worst even when evidence proves otherwise.

The ‘worst case scenario’ thought process is extremely unhealthy and achieves nothing other than raising stress and anxiety levels. We are better off putting the thoughts aside until, if on the odd chance the worst case scenario is true. Then and only then should we think about developing a logical action plan to attack the situation. In the meantime, why should dwell on something we can’t change when we should be focusing on each moment. After all, that’s what life is about, enjoying the moments we have.

So on the whole, my year isn’t shaping up to look like my original plan. I will miss out on one major thing, either a semester of university or my backpacking adventure. What I’ve come to realise is ‘missing out’ on one thing only frees me up for a new adventure or experience. Our egos cause us to feel like we are missing out, but in reality we aren’t. We are just experiencing something different during that time.

So instead of looking at the surgery as something that will make me miss out on my plans, I’ve chosen to look at it as something that will increase my ability to enjoy experiences (due to better health, hopefully) as well as a learning experience to find the positives from what I originally thought of as a negative; and there are always positives to be found. With a quick perspective change, I’m now in a win/win situation.

How not to plan

In almost any area of life, it is possible to come up with many incredibly unlikely scenarios and allow them to dominate your life. If your partner is late home from work, you could think they are having an affair, have a gambling addiction they’re trying to hide or have died in a car accident.

From here you could start planning what you would do these situations, how you’ll tell your family, how you’ll deal with the grief, where you’ll live… You get the point. This thinking, as stated earlier causes unnecessary stress and anxiety and is pointless.

anxious-thoughtsLooking at this situation in terms of odds, the most likely scenario is they were stuck in traffic or had to work late. The ironic thing is, the most likely scenario will not affect your life and almost always, the negative effects the worrying were over nothing.

 

Bad planning = Overthinking = Stress

These hypothetical plans are a waste of time and brainpower, and leave us feeling anxious and tired. Humans have a tendency to create a problem when there isn’t one, or absorb themselves in other people’s problems to fill some sort of void (one reason people watch soap operas or reality TV that has no real story or plot, just drama).

In the past, I found that once I’d come to terms with one potential issue, something else unrelated would pop in to my mind and start a negative thought process. I’m not quite sure why, but I think for many people it stems from the fact that we want people to care about us, and by creating a problem to talk about, it keeps attention on us and tricks us into feeling loved. Once you learn that peace can only come from within, the insecurity that causes this negative thought process is no longer present and you can be freed from the trap.

In the meantime, a great technique is to dismiss these thoughts as soon as they arise by living in the moment. This stops them from manifesting and starting a seemingly endless negative thought loop. The more we dismiss them, the easier it gets.

Sometimes we may struggle to dismiss a thought, but most of the time it’s relatively easy, especially if we do it the moment it pops into mind. The more you entertain the though, the harder it is to dismiss. After a while you may catch yourself laughing if an illogical thought comes to mind as you’re aware it’s just a nasty trick your ego and mind is playing on yourself. I have certainly learnt to, and it feels great.

How to plan

Planning for every situation is unique, but all plans should all follow similar rules.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is extremely important, as knowing what you want to achieve within a time-frame creates a good kind of stress that motivates you to work towards your goal. Long term goals should be broken down in to smaller goals, as they are easier to achieve and each time you succeed you get a motivation boost. It’s also a great way to track progress.

Setting goals that are realistic yet challenging is essential. If you set goals too easy, you won’t be impressed by your efforts, and if you set goals that are too hard and you fail, you will feel like a failure.

Eg – Let’s say you earn $50000 a year plan to save $10000 this year. This sounds like a lot of money, however it works out to be just over $192 of the $961 you earn a week. When put like this, it’s clear how achievable the goal is and paves a path that if stuck to, will achieve the long term goal. You wouldn’t try and save $40000, as it would be almost impossible and you wouldn’t try and save $1000 as it isn’t challenging.

Be aware of the worst, but don’t overthink it

For me, I have mentally prepared myself (as much as I can) for the worst possible diagnosis, however unlikely. I think it’s naïve not to be aware of the worst outcome, but the major problem comes from obsessively thinking about what you will do if you’re unlucky enough to actually get it. All that does is feed anxiety and kills your mood.

What we must do in these situations is understand logigal
that we can only control our reaction and way in which we deal with the problems, not the problems themselves. Accepting what we can’t control allows us to move forward, whereas asking questions such as “why did this happen to me?” keeps us feeling sorry for ourselves and does not allow us to be in an assertive position when it comes to dealing with the problem.

Don’t over plan anything

Going on a holiday soon or have your whole week planned out? If you do, your life my feel like a checklist, rather than an experience. You also leave no room for spontaneous adventures, which can be the most exciting experiences of all.

Also, if you can’t fulfill everything you’ve planned for yourself, you’ll feel that you’ve let yourself down, which could leave you thinking about what you could have done differently and cause anxiety.

Leaving a time buffer for things may make you feel unproductive, but you won’t be rushed in things you’re doing, which means you achieve the main focus of the day and be proud of your effort. You’ll never again be caught doing something important and stressed about being late to something less important.

Remember, it’s better do take longer on a task and do it properly, than do try and cram too many things into a day and worry about the quality of your work. The last thing you want is to think back and wish you had more time to do it better, or be forced to redo the task because it wasn’t done well enough.

Good planning = Success = Less anxiety

If we create achievable goals, realistic plans, and accept our limitations, we will be much happier and less anxious. Anxiety and stress created due to missing out comes from not accepting our time and energy limitations and things we have no control over.

Good planning also involves being able to change the plan and adapt. A good planner can plan around any roadblocks they may face, instead of getting anxious over the original plan failing. They will find fun in whatever they are doing, and probably come back with an even more exciting story than they would have had they followed the original plan. The most exciting stories I’ve heard are of spontaneous adventures or things that didn’t go to plan.

As for me, I’m ready for whatever the cause of my symptoms is, because whatever it is I will have to deal with. I want to reiterate that the best way to think about any scenario it to keep totally indifferent until there is evidence on the situation. The evidence can then be used to create the only necessary plan.

Male and Female LogicImage by awdnews.com

True-Self Vs Ego-Self

This theory has been a recent realisation of mine after I was reintroduced to my 5 year old self. I know this may sound strange, but psychedelic and empathic experiences have shown me the difference between the person I am at my core, and the person who is a product of my negative experiences.

Do not read on with a bias because the realisation came from thought provoking drugs. The altered state allowed me to see something that deep down everyone knows but forgets due to the current ways of living and views on life. This article will shed light on things you probably already know, but reading it with an open mind will spark thoughts that will hopefully facilitate a transition to a more self-aware and conscious version of yourself.

First off, let me explain the difference between the true-self and ego-self:

True-self

The true-self is the person you are at your core, the best version of yourself. Unbiased, open-minded, kind and innocent. Think back to when you were a child, before your thoughts were influenced by negative experiences. You had no reason to concern yourself with people’s motives when it came to your decision making.

The adult true-self is almost identical to your child self in terms of personality and beliefs, however less naïve. Even though we have been hurt in the past, we don’t apply negative experiences or biases from a previous situation to an unrelated situation. The true-self has a more genuine and logical decision making abilities because of this.

In general life, people with a sense of their true-self tend to be the happiest, open-minded, most empathetic and are not easily influenced by people. They don’t value people’s negative opinions on them because they understand they can’t please everybody and have a strong view on who they are and what makes them unique. They do not change their attitude or opinion to please people as they know the people worth spending time with appreciate them for them.

Ego-self

The crudest way of defining the ego-self is “the person we become after the world and its negative influences has had the time to fuck us up”. The external feedback is reason why people change to fit in, and they do so by taking their true self and modifying it to meet the criteria of society, often presented as a façade. This sense of self often causes a low sense of self-worth as it is not holding true to the individuals core values, which doesn’t allow life to be lived the right way for the true-self. The ego-self lives for other people, and the acceptance of these people and is highly concerned with everyones perception of them.

The ego-self has allowed negative experiences to change their values, beliefs and thought processes. They often hide behind their façade that changes depending on the situation they are in, and aim to please different groups a people. The ego-self seeks constant approval in every situation, as the ego needs to be reassured it is liked.

People with large egos often put others down to feel better about themselves, instead of working through their problems and discovering that comparisons between them and others is redundant.

Once aware of the difference between the true-self and ego-self, we can start to see the ego-self for the emotional prison it is, and start deconstructing it. Everyone may have their own unique journey while finding their way back to their true-self, but there are some necessary steps that need to be taken for the journey to take place.

As with anything, acknowledging the problem is the first step to recovery. I’ll use the word recovery, as it is in essence an emotional recovery, but in actual fact all we are doing is allowing ourselves to rediscover our true-self.

The next step is to remove all prejudice and biases from our mind and interpret things as if we are hearing or experiencing them for the first time. This can tricky as we have to find a balance between using, and not using our experiences in the making of our conclusions in certain scenarios. Critical thinking must also be applied as many people have uneducated opinions based on stigmas, preconceptions and find it hard to accept other points of view as it involves admitting they were wrong, which the ego-self doesn’t like.

In social situations, many people that have been negatively affected by previous experiences will put up a barrier and search for these negative patterns in a different persons behaviour. I’m not saying you must wear your heart on your sleeve, but keeping an open mind and not judging people based on previous experiences and another person’s actions is imperative when meeting new people and creating lasting friendships. Every new person you meet should start with a fresh slate, and not be tarnished by another person’s effect on you.

life_always_has_two_sides_by_jerry8448-d5ed3veImage by Jerry8448

The ego-self in social situations

In the past, a couple of girls took advantage of my feelings for them. Whenever they were in a rough patch with their boyfriends, who treated them poorly, they would come to me not just for comfort, but because it made their boyfriends jealous and show some sort of emotions towards them. They boyfriends never really cared for them, except when they thought they would lose them.

Once the boyfriends expressed their jealousy, sadness and anger, I was forgotten and left feeling used. I allowed this to effect the relationship in the early stages with my ex-girlfriend by living through my ego-self. There were glimpses of my true-self which is the person she fell in love with, but whenever I thought about my previous experiences and saw similar patterns, my walls went up and there was conflict. I can confirm this was my ego-self because I was always seeking approval from, and trying to impress other people, which is a clear indication of wanting to feed the ego.

I recently had an encounter with 2 incredible people, who I had deep feelings of connection with. The kind I have only experienced a handful times in my life. I was my true-self when we met, which I think is the reason the connection was so deep. We accepted each other for who were are, and there is nothing more magical than being accepted for who you are.

But because of this strong connection, my insecurities that arose after my past experiences came in to play and I began questioning  whether or not their reciprocated feelings were genuine or not. I was fortunate enough to trace these negative thoughts back to their origins which led me to the realisation that my previous negative experiences were making me question my view of these great people. This is something the ego-self loves doing; tricking the mind to make you feel worthless and making you feel like you aren’t worthy of happiness.

Deep down, I know the whole experience was genuine, and the questions I was asking to try and find a negative in the situation made it clear that there was a disconnect between my true-self and my ego-self. Learning to go with the ‘gut feeling’ instead of overthinking things is something that takes time, but trusting intuition is necessary for allowing your true-self to make decisions. This can be hard as the ego-self does everything it can to make you question if your true-self is correct.

The ego-self in everyday life

People must understand that things they read on the internet or see on the news are presented with a bias. There are many misleading or false articles that provide people with stigmas with ‘evidence’ to solidify their negative opinions about certain topics. There are many topics where this is prevalent including but not limited to anti-vaccinisation, anti-drug, pro-GMO, pro-war campaigns etc.

Many of the memes and articles have no citations or provide links to studies that yield false data that are conducted by the party in question. These studies are often contradicted by numerous other studies, however the ego-self only needs not even one person to agree with them to argue their point. The false evidence only makes their incorrect views stronger.

Keeping an open mind when seeing these memes, or reading articles is important in making correct decisions and having true opinions about these topics. If you see something, regardless of whether you believe it to be true or not, see where the information comes from. Asking questions such as “who conducted this study and what do they have to gain from the data that supports their view?”, “does this article or post feed people’s stigmas but provide no evidence”.

Next time you see something you disagree with, read the comments and see what opinions other people have on the topic. With an open mind, try and understand where their opinion comes from, and if it goes against your belief, find out why they have that opinion. If there is evidence that proves they are correct, don’t lie to yourself. Accept that their view is based on evidence, and if you can’t come up with a logical counter argument, it may be time to improve yourself by adopting a view you may have been against.

Life’s better when you’re true to yourself

I want to make it clear that living through your ego-self doesn’t make you a bad person. Everyone has at one point or another, the difference is some have learnt to break away, whereas others choose either to ignore their problems.

True happiness, high levels of confidence (that aren’t just a façade) and self-actualisation can only occur when you are being true to yourself, which means living through and improving your true-self and breaking away from the ego-self.

I also believe that deep connections and true love only occur when both parties are acting true to themselves. Connections and relationships where the ego-self is the dominate version of how you portray yourself end up failing, as the ego-self doesn’t allow you to be in a position where you can accept love from another person.

A view on Karma ~

Karma is one of those theories that isn’t proven to exist, but many people believe in. It’s always been interesting to me, because it’s based on the right and wrong doings of individuals. But what determines if something is right or wrong? God, religion, the government, the law? Is there an over watcher who will punish or reward us based on us meeting their criteria? I personally don’t think so.

Many people that do what is considered wrong by one culture in a different culture don’t suffer the negative effects of karma because they believe what their doing is right. I truly believe karma is based on how we view ourselves after our decisions. If we did something we believe to be good or right, we will have good karma, even if others believe it to be wrong, and visa versa.

So to me, karma is dealt by the beholder. We attract the energy we radiate. If we are happy about our decision making or having fun, we are exerting positive energy. We will also attract positive energy, and be able to brush off negative energy and negative people without feeling negative emotions. The reality is, people are drawn to people that are happy and seem to have things figured out, at least in that moment anyway. They want to be able to feel the happiness themselves and the best way to do that is by being as close to it as possible.

If you are radiating negative energy, or have done something you feel guilty about, you will attract negative energy. It’s almost like you feel you deserve to suffer in that moment.  This is when bad things happen to you. Think about this. Have you ever had one of those days where you woke up on the wrong side of the bed? From the moment you wake up till the moment you go to sleep, nothing seems to go your way. The world seems against you and you can’,t seem to catch a lucky break. The more frustrated you get, the worse the day gets, but once you accept it, things start going our way.

We are our own judge, jury and executioner when it comes to living up to or breaking our morals.  The decisions we make effect the vibes we radiate, and the vibes we radiate reflect back on to us. No one miserable has ever gone up to another miserable person and had a positive impact by talking about their misery.  However if you are in a strong happy mindset, you will have a positive impact on their day and mood.

Living in the Moment

 

the time is now Image by lindseygail10

What is living in the moment?

Have you ever been so immersed in a conversation, environment or experience that you forgot that there was a world outside what of you were doing? This feeling of being fully present in a situation is defined as living in the moment and is the state of true happiness.

The most noticeable times we see the power that living in the moment can have for our emotional health are when trying to forget a negative, life-changing event has just happened. The death of a loved one, the end of a failed relationship or loss of your retirement fund on a bad investment.

Often you will try and distract yourself to forget about the problem. You’ll find when you’re distracted, you’re happy and may even crack a smile, but eventually, thoughts of what you were trying to escape from creep back in to mind and you start to feel physically sick.

This proves that when you live in the moment, you truly stop thinking about the past or worrying about the future and are in a state of happiness. Unfortunately for humans, we’re thinkers, and most of us spend almost half our time thinking about something other than the task at hand.

For me, this happens if I’m doing a repetitive task I don’t find enjoyable, or doesn’t require any problem solving ability. This also holds true if I’m having a conversation that doesn’t quickly progress past small talk, or if I’m stuck in a place that I don’t want to be. Basically, anywhere where I have time to think.

I want to be clear, I’m not saying to live in the moment to avoid dealing with problems or thinking about the future. There are things from our past that need to be worked through, and we have to plan for the future, but there are specific ways to approach these problems that have a more positive impact on our emotional health.

Why is living in the moment important?

When we aren’t present in the moment, we are often thinking about the past or future.

If you’re like me, when you think about the past you often come up with alternate scenarios of what you could have done differently to get the result you wanted. Be it with a person you’re interested in, your university results or where you could be if you kept playing sport from a younger age.

When I think about the future, I often come up with a countless number of scenarios, and anxiously try to find which would be the ideal one. How am I going to fit in all these things in the week? What should I reply to the text from the girl I’m interested in? Did she like my reply? I knew I should have sent the other message I thought of.

This starts a viscous cycle, because no matter what you do, you’ll always question whether you did the right thing, and you’ll start thinking about what you could have done different. This starts a negative through process and actually teaches your brain to think this way. If left unchecked, it makes it almost impossible to unconsciously live in the moment, even if you are in good company doing something you enjoy.

When you start consciously trying to live in the moment, you are breaking the bad thought processes and habits you’ve created by living in the past and future. After some time, your anxieties and questioning of your actions starts to reduce. They may never be gone for good, but they become very manageable and easy to stop from progressing to the chain reaction they can start.

Living in the moment also makes every moment more enjoyable. I used to work on the registers at a supermarket. I never really enjoyed the job, as it gave me what seemed like forever to think about things I could’ve done differently, develop future plans and consequently made me extremely anxious; but sometimes I would act happy, talk to customers and have fun with the job. When I was doing the latter, time would pass faster, and I would be in a much happier state.

Living in the moment is perception thing, and the perception can be learned.

How to live in the moment?

There is no grand answer that will keep you in the moment, but I’m going to talk about the things that have helped me stay in the moment when it starts slipping away.

Exercise – Any exercise is good. I used to train at a gym, but I eventually transitioned to yoga while I recovered from chronic fatigue. Yoga has been fantastic, as stretching and focusing on your breath requires concentration and keeps you in the moment. It also helps keep the muscles limber and flexible which is great for people that sit down for work and get stressed about the damage it does.

Mindfulness Mediation – I often do this after yoga, as I’m already in a relaxed state, but you don’t have to. I start with my eyes open, take 5 deep breaths, and on the last exhale I slowly close my eyes. I continue to focus on my breath, but am also aware of the ambient sounds around me and any textures, smells and temperature changes in or on my body. This develops the sensate brain, or the brain that interprets external stimuli.

With practice it becomes easier to switch to the sensate brain, as the meditation strengthens the connections between your brain and external stimuli. The practice is great, as when you feel your mind wandering back to negative thought processes, you just start focusing on what you can the textures and temperatures objects you can touch, the aromas in the air and what you can see behind your eyes. This shifts your focus from thinking about the past and future and keeps you in the moment.

The next step is to progressively relax the muscles. Start at the toes and work your way up your legs, switching off each muscle one by one. After your body is fully relaxed, focus on your breathing and consciously try to feel and slow you heartrate.

Once you are in this sensate world, you’re only focus is the external stimulus. You’ve allowed your body to relax, and allowed your mind to be quiet. If you start thinking about the future or past, put extra focus into concentrating on what messages your senses are sending to your brain. The more you practice training your brain to focus on the senses, the easier it gets, and the easier it becomes to use your sensate brain to live in the moment, both while meditating and otherwise.

Dismissing Thoughts – There are many times throughout the day where it can be easy to slip into a negative thought process. Most of the thoughts that cause anxiety are irrational, and no matter how much we think about them we won’t find a solution we are happy with. If an unpleasant thought pops in to my head, the way I stop it spirally out of control is by focusing on my breathing and the sensations around me.

Sometimes I wake up with anxious thoughts about the past or future. These thoughts often catch me off guard as I’m not fully conscious, but the same principle applies. I start noticing how nice the material of the bedsheets feels on my skin, I have a drink of water to moisten my dry mouth, and I get up.

Other times I get negative thoughts, I’m alone at home, in the shower, driving or am somewhere I don’t want to be. It may be different for you, but the same principles apply. Always focus on breathing deeply. Feel the temperatures around you, ask yourself what the temperature is, and notice the little details about things that you never noticed before.

If I’m driving I’ll feel the texture of steering wheel, turn up the radio and actually listen to the music, instead of it being ambient sound to my thoughts. If I’m in the shower I’ll feel the temperature of the water, and listen to the sound it makes when it hits the ground.

If practiced correctly, dismissing these thoughts before they manifest will generally have them out of your head completely within 15 minutes. It is a constant battle, but the more you practice and win, the easier it becomes. You may not win every battle, but you will win the war.

You’re your best you in the moment

Ever spent time with someone and felt drained when they left? This is because they don’t live in the moment. They spend all their time talking about the past and future, in a negative way. There are times when you need to vent, but after the venting you should return to the moment.

People are their best when they are their happiest, and they are happiest when they are in the moment. When you see someone that’s having the best time, they are in the moment, and nothing can take them away from it.

It you’re not in the moment, people will know. You won’t maintain eye contact, you’ll be constantly looking around, fidgeting and thinking about what else you could be doing. This body language is one of the primary reasons someone is bad company. You won’t make any friends, or have any experiences that may help you live in the moment if you don’t first immerse yourself in it.

 

 

The Meaning of Life

What is the meaning of life?

This question has plagued humanity since we became intelligent enough to ask it. I can’t ever see humans finding a definitive answer, but I have 2 theories that I’d like to share. The first being a large scale, universal theory based on maths, the second a small scale theory based on my experiences for a personal or individual level.

The Mathematical Theory

At a glance

When I look at it from a purely mathematical point of view, I can’t find any grand meaning to life. There was nothing (represented by 0), then the big bang created the universe and gave birth to life as we know it (represented by 1), but no matter what we do or don’t accomplish as a species, in the grand scheme of things it wouldn’t have mattered if never existed (represented by the final 0).

Even if there is a next level for the human species to progress to; mastering interstellar travel and becoming a universal species, manipulating the space-time continuum or transcending to a Godlike status, it all arose from nothing, and nothing can’t equal something, as 0 cannot equal 1.

So we have the start of the universe (0), our time spent alive and effect our species has on the universe (1), and the output of all our experience (0).

0=1=0

In detail

Here is a Sine graph. Take the X axis (Θ) as time, and the Y-axis (f(Θ)) as the amount of life in the universe. For now, ignore the curve from π to 2π.

2d_31a

For the sake of the argument we’ll assume that everything that has happened from the dawn of time, until now, has happened between 0 and π. We’ll also assume that universe as we know it comes to an end at π.

After π/2, or the peak of life, we can see the curve starting to make its way back to 0, as the amount of life in the universe starts decreasing. This is the point where the universe starts dying, or changing its state. When the curve reaches π, everything that ever existed ceases to exist, rendering everything that ever happened the value 0.

If you believe in Ying and Yang, or the theory that everything has a balance, from π to 2π could be life existing in a state of anti-matter. The whole process can repeat indefinitely for an infinite fluctuation between 0, 1, 0, -1 and 0. Looking like 0=1=0=-1=0=1=0, but it will always end with a 0.

At an Individual Level

The beauty of this mathematical theory is that if there is no grand answer to the meaning of life, which means life is what you make it. Personally I choose to look at life as the finite amount of time each individual spends alive, at least in this realm or level of consciousness.

Many people struggle to find their purpose because they spend their life looking for an ultimate answer, and life passes them by while they’re searching. I think that only after people stop searching for a meaning will they realise that it comes from within.

As everyone is unique, we all have to find our own purpose and have our own unique way of finding it, however there are any similar trends that people seem to follow. Most people will go through different stages before they find their own meaning. These include developing the concept of their ideal self, discovering what their goals are and what they want to accomplish and finally discovering how to live the life and spend their time in a way that fulfills these criteria.

Remember, we can’t take anything with us when we die, but our memories, especially these days with social media, will live on forever. Documented for our grandchildren, and great grandchildren for as long as we exist as a species.

Here are some common ways people choose to spend their life. None of these are right, as different things make people different happy. These are the most common ways I see people choosing to spend their life.

The Experiencer – These people believe that life is all about the experience. They tend to be laid back, friendly, live in the moment and take risks. You’d know if you’ve met one because they have the most incredible stories, some which sound unbelievable. They love to travel, immerse themselves in other cultures and push the boundaries of their comfort zone.

Many people are often envious of these people as they don’t really follow the general guidelines society sets, and don’t care if they aren’t accepted. Money isn’t high on their priority list and the only reason these people work is to fund their adventures. They generally have “the time is now” as their motto, and put having experiences in front of long term priorities, at least while they’re younger.

They don’t generally make a difference on a large scale, but can motivate people to break out of their comfort zone, and can have a huge impact on the lives of people they meet.

The Progress Maker – These people push humanity forward. Many become entrepreneurs or are on the cutting edge of research in their respective fields. Their lives are dedicated to their careers which are often spent solving humanities economic, social, technological and environmental problems. They also don’t often care about money, as long as they are making a difference.

They are the kind of people that work hard for years and live day by day before their venture makes them seem like an overnight success. They are motivated by their quest for knowledge and the thought of improving people’s quality of life. They make a difference on a global scale.

The Follower – From my experience, this seems to be the most common form of person out there. After high school, these people will either work full-time or go to university. They may or may not ever receive a qualification and eventually earn enough money to do some travelling.

They may or may not travel, but if they do it’s generally on a contiki or hotel somewhere local and common. They’ll party like kings and have some incredible experiences in this time of their life, but this will generally be where these kind of experiences stop.  When they get back home they will probably start looking to find a partner, buy a house and settle down. They’ll continue to go to nice bars and clubs for many years.

Many of these people often feel like they are in a rut, and will keep up to date with technology and always strive for the newest or best things. Materialism is a high priority for these people and they can be competitive when it comes to it. The purpose for buying all the fancy things is to fill the void that they are feeling from missing out on experiences. This works in the short term, but the toys get old and are eventually replaced. This cycle continues until, if ever they realise the true issue.

Eventually they’ll have a child or two and their main focus will change bring up their kids. This will be the most profound thing to happen in their life. Eventually the kids will grow up, they may pay off their house and then they’ll retire. Finally, they can relax and start enjoying their decades of hard work by going on holidays.

The Giver – This can be characteristic of all the above character types, but in their own individual ways, however there are people who truly want to do everything they can to improve the world, regardless of the scale. These are the kind of people who find themselves in professions such as aged care, nursing, physiotherapy or other medical professions. They may also do charity work, go on holidays to volunteer in other countries or participate in local volunteer work.

The Disciple – These people devote their life to God, Jesus and their church. They live by their chosen bible and often do a lot of volunteering for their church. They generally follow their church guidelines for life and do not risk steering off course. They generally follow the characterises of The Follower however live for the church as much as themselves.

Conclusion

The best thing about these kind of life templates is that none of them are forever. They are only as suitable for you as they are in that moment. As I said earlier, people have to find their own way, and the most common way of doing that is by trying something, deciding if it’s for you, and if not changing it.

Even people that feel stuck in their life can find a way to live the life they want to. Sometimes it comes down to sacrifices, other times it doesn’t. Many people that want a change, or to break free of the rut will do something radical. Some may sell their house, buy an RV and travel around the country. Others may give up their career and start backpacking; or find God after the majority of their life has passed, and devote the rest of it to God, or the travellers may hang up their shoes and decided to settle down.

My Journey

For me, I have had a long road to finding myself and what life is about, but have finally settled on living my life, at least for the foreseeable future as an experiencer.

I grew up a Catholic but knew early on that religion wasn’t for me. After high school I tried to study at university, which I soon found out I wasn’t ready for. I deferred and got and started an apprenticeship. About 1.5 years in to it, I was asking myself the question, is this what life is? This couldn’t be all there was to life. I was stuck in the same boring routine, and it depressed me to think that my life was a flowchart, and all I was doing was killing time before the next milestone.

During my apprenticeship, I was fortunate enough to have a little taste of travelling when my family decided to visit Malta, my first overseas trip. I felt alive, and awoken to the world. It made me feel small, yet in control at the same time and seeing a different culture was incredible.

It was like a switch in my flicked and I felt I knew what life was about. Travelling the earth and seeing all it has to offer, learning about things that interested me, meeting people and creating memories with them, both at home and while travelling.

After returning from the holiday, I began saving for my next trip. Just before I was going to book my ticket, I reconnected with a girl and fell in love. I chose to pursue the relationship over travelling, something I will never regret. I ended up buying a car with my travel fund and eventually started living life as the follower, although not a happy one.

After I got my qualification I quit my job and started studying back at uni, now that I was ready. I began planning out my whole future with my girlfriend, but soon after that we broke up.

So there I was, a single student with no job, no money and feeling stuck. I had my studies which I dedicated a lot of my time too, as I had a new appreciation for university and what a good degree can offer. Eventually I fell in to a deep rut again and couldn’t figure out what life was about. I did however start stepping outside my comfort zone, which did a world of good.

I know I keep writing about it, but I went to a couple of music festivals which completely changed my outlook on life. Camping out in nature, with music, LSD, MDMA and like minded people did a world of good. I met 2 specific people that inspired me to live my own version of the life they were living. Travelling on the cheap, experiencing different cultures, making friends and sharing time to create incredible memories.

From then on I have decided to live my life in the moment and backpack around Europe. As I used to be a meticulous planner, I have decided do this completely based on what I feel in that moment. No itinerary, no timeframe, nothing.  Only my ticket there and back. The only reason I booked a return ticket is because I am still going to get my degree and need to be back before semester starts, but I’m determined to find my ideal balance between career and travel.

 

 

Drugs

Note: I am not advocating drug use. This is an informative article aimed to educate the readers on drugs by showing how stigmas develop, provide scientific evidence from studies and research into the danger and addictiveness of drugs and provide a foundation as to my view on drugs for future articles.

If you are continuing to read, please do so with an open mind as you will likely read things that will surprise you.  Evidence is provided but may contradict your current views and knowledge.

Introduction

Drugs. Whether you love them or your hate them, they are here to stay. Peoples views on drugs come from a variety of places including drug education at school, media articles, religious beliefs and word of mouth from friends personal experiences.

The most two common anti-drug arguments are:

  • “Drugs are illegal. They wouldn’t be illegal if they weren’t bad.”
  • “Drugs are bad. See what they did to that person on the news?”

Legality is an interesting thing. In Australia, it is legal, although highly unethical for people with stakes in oil to be part of environmental protection agencies. In Victoria, only licensed electricians are allowed to change lightbulbs.

This is an absurd law, and there are many others just like it that can be found in almost every countries justice system. The legal system has also let out prisoners prematurely, only for them to commit rape and murder and end up back in jail for good.

The legal system needs to be redesigned from scratch, with proper logic, current evidence and ethics to be the foundation for the new system. Until that day, I’ve chosen to base my opinions on my own research, logic, morals and scientific evidence rather than legal status.

Legal vs Illegal

It’s interesting to note that the prohibition era in the United States of America caused more harm than good. Here is a list of negative effects of the criminalisation of alcohol. They include higher organised crime rates, strain on the justice system and countless cases of physical harm.

Conversely, the decriminalisation and of drugs in Portugal has seen reduced drug use, reduced deaths and new HIV cases (caused by sharing needles), and reduced strain on the healthcare and legal system.

The quality of drugs can also be controlled, monitored and taxed so the government makes money and people will be ingesting chemically safe drugs. Currently, many people ingest chemically unsafe drugs that are mixed with harmful chemicals made by the illegal suppliers.

Some Background Information

Before we get in to how stigmas arise, I’m going to clear a few things up.

The types of users:

  1. The Recreational User – uses a drug (legal, controlled, or illegal) with the primary intention to alter the state of consciousness (through alteration of the central nervous system) in order to create positive emotions and feelings.
  2. The Addict – a person who is addicted to an illegal drug.

There is a huge difference between addicts and recreational users. It’s interesting to note that due to the lack of education, experience and stigmas, that recreational users are often seen by non-users as an addict, or someone who will inevitably turn in to an addict. It’s also interesting that the same people (generally) don’t see alcoholism as a major problem, or on the same level as drug addicts, when by definition alcoholism is the addiction to alcohol.

The Harm of Drugs

Contrary to popular belief, alcohol and tobacco are among the most harmful drugs. This study explains the data found below. In a nutshell it states alcohol is the most dangerous due the aggression it brings out, which increases the likelihood that people will commit a crime.

In alcohols defence, it also states that if heroin and crack cocaine were more accessible, they would probably rank higher than alcohol, but with current data these are the statistic. Tobacco isn’t dangerous in the short term, but it’s ranked so high because of the long list of long term impacts in can have.

most_dangerous_drugs-0

In countries where the healthcare system is funded by tax-payers, the admission of users into the emergency department of hospitals has a negative effect on the economy.

This study not only confirms that alcohol dangerous, but shows an increase in alcohol related emergency room visits on the weekend, most of which are due to traumatic injury.

This study shows the breakdown of 198 patients by substances taken that led them to end up in the emergency room. In 73% of patients, only alcohol was abused, most frequently chronically (71%). In 13%, there was only illicit drug use, and in 14% alcohol abuse was combined with illicit drugs including cannabis (54%), cocaine (41%), amphetamines (39%) and opiates (39%).

Of course the above study is localised and a small sample, so here, here and here are some more statistics to back up the fact, not claim, that alcohol is a serious contender for the most dangerous drug.    

How addictive are they?

One of the most interesting things when it comes to drug education is the lack of information on how addictive specific drugs are. The assumption is then made that all illegal drugs are extremely addictive and eventually everyone that uses will be ‘hooked’.

The reality is that when ranked by dependency ratings, alcohol and tobacco, two of the most available and dangerous drugs both physically and economically rank 6th and 3rd respectively.  This comprehensive article explains it all in detail.

So where does the stigma come from?

School

The first thing we are taught about drugs is that they’re ‘bad’ and illegal for a reason. We then start to associate drugs with criminals and ‘lowlife’ people and as we get older, we’re taught about the negative physiological and psychological effects drugs have on the users.

This is taught in a shallow, unspecific way that makes the listeners think that if they touch drugs, they have a high chance of developing a mental illness or psychosis, or die. These are of course possibilities, as with any foreign substance you put in to your body, however they’re highly unlikely and based on factors such as genetic susceptibility to mental illness and current state of mind. Many legal medications can also have these severe side effects.

It’s interesting to note that because the governments class most illegal drugs in the same category as heroin and ice, that people assume all are as dangerous and addictive. Schools teach students using this information and they develop this common misconception, which has been proven false by the above studies.

A huge emphasis is made about illegal/illicit drugs and the negative physiological and psychological effects they have on the body. This is delivered with a negative bias and provides no information as to why people take the drugs, or how they can affect the person in a positive way, which many can.

The case studies used in schools are the most extreme cases of addicts, and we all know how illogical it is to base an entire argument on outliers. This further develops the stigma about drugs and their users. By the time we are of the age where drugs become more accessible, we have extreme images and stories engrained in our minds and are turned off by them. As I mentioned earlier, extreme cases are horrifying and inevitable and people must know what they are dealing with, but they are far from standard.

If I argued that no humans should eat peanuts, based on their being a small percentage of people who died, or nearly died from their allergies you would call me crazy. The same logic applies to arguing that all drugs are harmful.

It’s ironic how many students get diagnosed with ADHD and are prescribed with Ritalin, which can be habit forming, insomnia, headaches and nausea. On the same note,  little is said about adverse reactions legal prescription medication such anti-depressants, painkillers, or other drugs such as Chantix, an anti-smoking drug that has been linked to numerous suicides can have. The reality is, all drugs, legal and otherwise can have negative effects that may vary from person to person, but many also have positive effects.

It’s interesting that most of the time you wouldn’t know if you were talking to someone that is a recreational user, because they are normal people. Instead of drinking, they chose to alter their state a different way. They are nothing like the extreme cases you see in the drug education class, but if they are open about their use, most people will look at them in a different light.

The media

There was recently a story in which a young Australian says the ecstasy (MDMA) he took caused serious adverse health reactions, leaving him debilitated. While he may have taken a pill with MDMA in it, a more probable scenario was the other chemicals in the pill caused the problems, not the MDMA; or he may have mixed it with another unknown drug which when combined with MDMA had an adverse reaction. There are numerous articles to be found with similar cases, where the media draws massive attention to the dangers of specific party drugs without having the drugs tested to confirm the drugs in question, leaving the wrongly educated public to believe what they hear without research.

Friends experiences

Friends can be a useful source of information when it comes to drugs, as they have first-hand experience with their effects, however many people take drugs thinking they are something when in reality they aren’t. Without proper testing, they could be taking something mixed with something else, or something different all together.

For example, a person may take a pill thinking it was MDMA, but it was MDA or speed. This will lead the user to associate that experience with MDMA, even though that’s not what they took. This can lead to negative experiences and misconceptions about specific drugs and their effects.

My Story

I used to have a huge, unjustified stigma against drugs to the point where I said I would never drink alcohol. I was a very judgemental person when I was younger. Eventually I cracked and had my first alcoholic drink just before my 18th birthday. From there I said I would never smoke marijuana because I associated it with all the drugs we were taught about in high school. I also didn’t want to try it because it’s often referred to as a gateway to other drugs, and I didn’t want to end up an addict.

After high school, I started a mechanic apprenticeship, a physically awkward job and had become a very stressed and anxious person. I had constant pain in my neck, back and hips and was getting deep tissue massages, seeing a chiropractor and getting acupuncture. All of these helped in the short term, but maintaining treatments was very expensive, and my job would reverse the effects of the treatment. I got to the point where I was ready to try anything.

I’d heard marijuana is a good muscle relaxant and mellows you out. Initially I was very hesitant to try it, but after some research, decided to do so for its medicinal properties instead of the high. I had a great experience and definitely felt a slight awakening where I became a little more open to ideas and less judgemental. I understand why we’re taught marijuana is a gateway drug, but I wasn’t interested in trying anything else after that.

I smoked a few times few times that year, but wasn’t a regular user. Around a year later some of my friends moved forward with more ‘illicit substances’. MDMA, speed, mushrooms, LSD, ketamine and GHB to name a few. I didn’t understand the whole culture or appeal, and had the motto “I don’t need drugs to have a good time”. During this time, I’d drink to excess when I went clubbing, and didn’t think of alcohol as a drug or understand how harmful it can be.

I’d always considered myself a deep thinker, and one of my friends suggested we have a magic mushroom day.  At first my answer was a straight up no, with no hestiation. After some thought I was extremely hesitant, but decided to research the effects of them. After I understood what they did and had read numerous trip reports, I decided to try them.

At that point in time, that was the most profound experience of my life. I’d definitely grew significantly as a person, but as it was my first time I was more amazed at everything than anything else, so I didn’t take as much away from it as the next time I did them. I remember developing a deep appreciation for the sky, animals and music and would often catch myself staring at the clouds.

Around a year later, my friend invited me to a music festival, where I had decided, after extensive research to try LSD and MDMA. I also tried ketamine with little research, but had seen many friends do it and trusted them enough to know it wouldn’t likely harm me.

That weekend became the most profound experience of my life. I developed more into the person I wanted to be, or knew I was all along and embraced it more than I had done in the past. I had dropped the façade I had made to fit in and started to not care about people’s expectations and negative/uneducated opinions about things I’ve researched. My friend had given me the ultimate gift. The path to self-enlightenment and self-actualisation.

Now I’m not saying everyone needs drugs to be comfortable with themselves and their place in the world, but I am saying that certain drugs, specifically the MDMA and LSD helped me see things from a different perspective and appreciate things that I hadn’t even thought about appreciating, such as the sunset, the clouds and peoples’ individual beauty.

It also allowed me to feel affection towards woman again; something I hadn’t been able to do since my relationship ended and it opened my mind up to things I had stigma against, and freed me from it.

I decided that I would see a psychologist to work on my emotional health (something many men, including my prior self, wouldn’t do because of their pride). The drugs allowed me to see issues I hadn’t begun resolving and I thought I should get a professional opinion.

From a psychological point of view, my experiences had a positive impact on my neuroplasticity, which was confirmed by a psychologist. I knew I’d been struggling to move on from a relationship, supressing my anxiety and allowing things I couldn’t change to make me anxious, but I wasn’t accepting of this until after the weekend.

I want to make it clear that I do not have serious mental health issues, and would have seriously reconsidered taking the drugs on them without research as to the effects they can have on a specific condition. They can help some, but they can make others more severe. DO YOUR RESEARCH!

All these things I was suppressing had physical effects on my body and I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue, and prescribed with anti-depressants, a common western approach to treating almost any health problem. I want to note that I was never diagnosed with depression. but because anti-depressants can possibly help chronic fatigue patients, I was prescribed with them.

Many people report that anti-depressants were horrible for their bodies and emotional health. The irony being that they’re legal, and many people report positive experiences using illegal drugs.

Since then I’ve been to one more festival where I experienced an even more profound LSD trip and emotions brought on by the MDMA. It was hands down, the best weekend of my life.

The LSD trip was very dense, and the time dilation made it feel like months had passed, which was hard to come to terms with. I had to process what felt like over a months’ worth of experiences all at once. The 2 things I took away from the festival and LSD trip were; the motto “the time is now”, and how beautiful woman are and what qualities I want in my future partner.

I had a small comedown that lasted a few days, but I think it was more that I was missing the friends I’d made at the festival. It felt very similar to the post-travel depression that everyone talks about when they get back from a holiday, but would disappear whenever I wasn’t alone. Not a bad trade-off for the positive effects have lasted a month and counting.

And here I am today, with a few experiences with certain drugs that can have positive impacts on emotional and mental health, a different person. Backed up by the personality test I took prior to my experiences found here. I changed from the architect to the protagonist as the experiences have led me to be more accepting, less anxious due to living in the moment, and generally happier, more appreciative person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get a great GPA

Note: There is no ‘one size fits all’ method to get a great GPA. The strategies outlined in this article worked for me in an engineering degree. Some of these things may be applicable to your course and others may not be. If you are looking for some ways to improve your GPA, hopefully these tactics can do for you what they did for me.

P’s get Degrees

Everyone’s heard the phrase and many people follow it. It’s perhaps the worst motto a student can live by. If this has been your attitude in the past, you’ll know how well that semester went for you; not very. Whenever I see or hear the phrase, and most people who say it deliver it as a joke but are serious about their views, I see someone wasting their time and money, and setting themselves up for failure.

Here’s why:

  1. Many people I’ve studied with that had this attitude failed a subject and subsequently had to spend another semester repeating the subject, and pay for it again. If they don’t repeat they are left with a HEC’s debt for the subjects they took and no qualification. If they did ‘just pass’ like they planned to, but didn’t achieve the GPA needed to enter a post-grad course, they will have to pay for the subject in full before taking it again.
  2. If you just pass a subject that is a prerequisite to a more advanced subject, the foundation knowledge you are supposed to have won’t be as strong as expected. You’ll find yourself asking simple questions and having to learn what you should already know. This means you’ll have to work harder to keep up to date, or you’ll fail that subject and have to repeat it.
  3. There is a 0% chance of receiving an academic scholarship, which is both a very satisfying accomplishment and helps reduce financial stress significantly. You are invited to become part of a network within the university, which provides you with the opportunity to make contacts, as well attend free self-development classes.It also looks great on a CV.
  4. Many people regret how they approached tertiary education and according to this study more than half wish they could go back in time and make the most of the opportunities. You don’t want to be someone with regrets.
  5. Everyone has a degree in something these days. In the real world, who you know is a major factor when looking for employment. If you don’t know someone in a managerial position in your field, you’ll more than likely lose out to someone who did well at uni. Many large companies shortlist potential candidates based on their GPA, meaning you may not even get a callback if you had a sub-par GPA.So yes, the pass average may get you a degree, but it will be useless when competing against people who did well.

If anyone reading this article has the ‘P’s get degrees’ motto and are planning to stick with it, do yourself a favor. Defer and work full time until you’re ready to study. It’ll save you lots of time and money and you’ll be able to have enough financial freedom to travel, have some incredible experiences and make some amazing memories; or change to a course you’re interested in. One where you look forward to learning the content.

How to approach the semester:

Lectures –  It’s a good idea to go through the slides prior to the lecture. If you understand the content, you can skip the lecture. If you want to cement the content in your head or need a more detailed explanation, go to the lecture. I found going to the lecture even if I understood the content allowed me to remember it longer, as some things were explained in a way that made more sense than my interpretation of it.

Tutorials – Tutorials are a MUST for any student in any class. This is the time to ask questions on topics you don’t fully understand and take detailed notes so you won’t be caught off guard in an exam or assignment. It’s also good to try and squeeze some information out of the tutors about assessments and tests.

Assessment tasks –  Contrary to popular belief, the best way to approach an assessment task is to base your work on the marking criteria, not the task sheet. This ensures you cover all bases and minimizes how many marks you can lose. Sometimes you may complete everything on the task sheet but still not receive a good mark, and this is generally the reason.

Understand how the semester works – This may be hard for new students, but generally speaking most subjects have their workload spread throughout the semester like this. You can find a time-frame for each semester in the unit outline.

  1. The first few weeks there are only a few tests or assessments. If you have subjects with semester long assignments or portfolios, you’ll will generally be given these during this time period.
  2. Just before the mid-semester break there MAY be tests or assignments due.
  3. After the mid-semester break there WILL be tests and assignments due.
  4. The following few weeks will be relatively easy in terms of amount of work due but you’ll be learning a lot of content that will be on the final exams.
  5. The last week or two have the rest of the assignments and tests due. This time is very stressful as you may also be trying to prepare for final exams.tumblr_o1kqafizbe1ukgxyzo2_r2_500

    Image by The Peaceful Study Room

Time management – Never leave things till the last minute. Whenever I was given an assignment, had to write up a lab report or study for a test I started as early as possible. You’ll have to prioritize these based on their due date, but in general my plan went like this.

  1. Lab Reports – I wrote the report straight after the lab. This is when the content is still fresh in your mind, you fully understand what is expected and are in the best mindset to write up the report. People that waited till the day before it was due were always asking questions they would have known the answer to had they done it straight after the lab.
  2. Major Reports & Portfolios – Whenever I get a semester long project early in the semester, I start on it straight away. During the first few weeks you have the most amount of free time, and to minimise stress later in the semester, doing the majority of a large project early on means you won’t have to worry about it when the other subjects become more demanding.
  3. Tests – When a tutor would give us a date for a test, I’d start re-writing my class notes as soon as I could. This ensures you relearn all the content, and also gives you enough time to rebuild the knowledge before attempting practice questions; instead of getting to the practice questions and needing to use worked examples more than necessary.
  4. Oral Presentations – In my course, these were based off the major reports. After completing the report, I would open PowerPoint and Word, and snap them so they have half a screen each. I’d then create slides for the important topics and copy, paste and simplify the content from the report onto the slide.

You may think “this person has no life during the semester”, but this is far from true. I still went to parties, hung out with friends and had time to procrastinate, but when I knew I needed to study I studied.  It’s all about time management and self-control.

At the end of the day if you want to pass, you’ll have to complete all the work which means you’ll have to make sacrifices anyway. If work is not done early one, the sacrifices are just made late in the semester, when you’re stressed about meeting deadlines and have a large pile of accumulated work to complete. Understanding that the workload of semester is only temporary leads to the making of better decisions and better grades.

Mid-semester break

Mid semester break is a time to recover, but it’s also a time to get ahead. If you don’t, you’ll  probably suffer the shit storm that will be your life after the break.  I use my mid-semester break to finish any work I have, regardless of when it’s due. Even if it’s due at the end of the semester, I will finish it on my mid-semester break.

Using your mid-semester break to get ahead is the thing that can really set the students that do well apart from the others. Because you aren’t learning any more content, you can spend some quality time learning the content for the tests you’ll have when you return, and get ahead of the 8 ball with the major projects.

By the time end of semester and final exams come around, all you’ll have to do is re-read and edit the work you completed during the mid-semester break, finish the assignments you were given after the break and study for exams.

Almost all the other students will be stressing about work you have already completed and rushing to finish that, while you’re studying for exams. You’ll find that you’ll generally get better marks on both the assignments and exams, because you’ve had more time to work on both, have been more focused and less stressed about other things you have to do.

Part-time Work

When you are studying, studying takes priority over everything except your health. If work is increasing your hours and working will take you away from your study, tell them you can’t work; providing your financial situation permits. Doing one better would be informing your work before they do the rosters that you won’t be available on specific days.

Many people don’t do this because they are feeling like they are letting their team down. Part-time jobs are temporary and you shouldn’t sacrifice the time needed to work towards what will be your career because McDonalds needed you to flip burgers because someone called in sick. It is not your problem.

The Small Tasks Count

One of the best ways to boost your subject score and reduce the pressure going in to the final exam is to do well in the small tasks that are worth 5-10%. Lab reports, small assignments, case studies, E-tivities.

Many people neglect these and by mid semester they are already limiting themselves to a credit or distinction. Combined, the small tasks for most subjects contribute 20-30% of the overall mark. They’re generally easy, don’t require much time or effort and you’ll more than likely need to know the content they cover for the final exam anyway. The better you do in these tasks, the higher your study score and the less you have to worry going in to the final exam.

The best way to keep on top of these tasks to do them as soon as you get them. That way you aren’t left with 10 weeks worth of work at the end of the semester (provided the due date is the end of semester) to do on top of everything else you have to do.

Tips

Eat a banana just before an exam and have a coffee too. The coffee will temporarily increase your IQ and the banana will keep your energy levels stable throughout the exam (as well as provide numerous other health benefits) especially when the caffeine kick starts to ware off.

Reduce stress as much as possible. Many stress reduction techniques are found here. I personally love progressive relaxation or doing yoga in a park, followed by some mindfulness mediation. If something isn’t working for you, don’t try and power through it. Take a break, relax and come back to, just make sure you do come back to it.

Sleep! Sleeping is important for memory. This study provides a detailed explanation as to why. It is better to spread study over a week than to cram, as you’ll remember more and for longer. It is also important for concentration the following day.

Study smart. If you know what kind of questions are going to be on your test, or you have a practice exam, go through questions similar to those ones. There is no point being fantastic at a specific part of a subject if it isn’t going to be tested. Focus on the important topics!

Attempt every question in an exam. Even if you don’t know the answer, write something down. It is better to be wrong than have nothing down and most of the time you’ll get consequential marks, which can be the difference between a D and HD.

A Few Motivational Quotes

“What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” — Alfred Mercier.

“The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is just a little extra” – Jimmy Johnson

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