Thought of the Day: Monotony

Monotony

Thank you to all my readers for your kind patience with my erratic posting schedule this April and May. The various bank holidays in England and my trips away have wreaked havoc to my usual routine. There is so much to share with you but it seems that there are not enough hours in the day to fit everything in.

Continuing my journey on self-compassion, I have tried to be kinder to myself by being less critical when I don’t achieve 100%. Yet, I have not been able to stop an encroaching sense of guilt for not completing things I have set out for myself; such as my blogging and dedicating time for other projects that I care about. Though I had previously recognised it would be a long journey in developing self-compassion, my impatience with the lack of progress is also holding me back which then slows me down even further…

In the past few weeks, I have also developed a trapped sense of monotony: the everyday churn of waking up, travelling to work, work, commuting back home or going to the gym, chores, washing and, sleeping. This feeling does not go away, even when my routine has switched up, such as seeing my friends and family during the holidays. No matter way I do, I couldn’t seem to shake this feeling of monotony. 

Monotony

When researching this topic, there is a clear link between boredom and monotony, but in my opinion, they should not be used interchangeably. As previously written on the blog, it is possible to embrace boredom from time to time; it can be used to stimulate creativity. However, I believe that monotony is chronic boredom and tips the scale to negativity. There are others who have argued otherwise and believes that monotony frees up time to think about other stuff.

Monotony is defined as “lack of variety and interest; tedious repetition and routine.”

I believe the key emphasis is on “tedious”. Monotony impacts an individual differently, where some people cannot live in monotony and require frequent and or excessive changes in their lives. I believe I am one of those people, so much so that I would get upset if I have the same lunch and/or dinner two days in a row (but I am fine having the same breakfast every day; don’t ask me why!…)

On the other hand, other people become used to it. It is also possible that certain monotonous activities can become an “addiction” because it is so comforting, such as a drinking a cup of coffee/tea in the morning, or having something sweet after dinner. I struggle to agree with this argument and rather melodramatic. Can’t something be routine without it being monotonous? There is nothing wrong with seeking comfort in predictability but can monotony be negative to our mental wellbeing? 

Routine vs. Monotony

From the readings (though there is not much on this topic), monotony is bad. However, there are many advocates on the positivity of monotony whereby it is possible to make life simpler and calmer because monotony creates a structure which results in a calm feeling and removes decision making. The simplification of your life helps you conserve energy for things are more important. 

However, I fundamentally disagree with those arguments. This is because I believe that the articles confuse routine with monotony. The fact I brush my teeth in the morning and night is good for my dental health, or going to the gym three times a week is good for my physical and mental wellbeing. Yes, it takes away decision making and allows my mind to wander (similar to boredom), however, this is a routine, not monotony. Routine is monotony without the feeling of “tediousness”. For example, I really dislike dusting the house and associate it with something negative – whenever I complete the task it feels very monotonous. The fine line between routine and monotony is, therefore, in the mind. It is important to recognise the signs and then be proactive to change it. 

Mental Health Check

Through the course of writing this blog post which has taken me several weeks; I have had the chance to step back and assess my mental health and I believe that the following may have triggered my negative mental state. 

  • Lack of reading – I have been struggling to find a good book to get my teeth into. I was reading “Start with why” by Simon Sinek but was couldn’t engage with the book, so I thought I would change it up and read “Little History of Philosophy” by Nigel Warburton, but was not taking much in. Finally, reading “Unnatural Causes” by Richard Shepherd kicked me back into my reading routine and mentally felt better and refreshed.  I am really surprised by how reading has become such an important part of my mental health. Others have also found that this can help with monotony. [Note: not paid for the links, just thought I would be helpful!]
  • Lack of Time Out – As an introvert, socialising is really tough. I love spending time with my friends and engage in deep meaningful conversations but it takes a toll when I am doing it multiple times a week. I was not listening to myself and allowed social obligations to dictate my diary instead of being strict with my time and recovery
  • Lack of Routine – As emphasised previously, having a routine does not equal to monotony. With many friends visiting and travelling to Vienna & Barcelona, I did not follow the comfortable routine I have developed over the past few months, particularly when spending weekends to visit art galleries or museums; (I had to squeeze in a lot of activities in one day rather than time to reflect after the visits). This has also meant that I have not spent much time with my boyfriend which is never a good thing! 

By failing to recognise the importance of routine and checking into my mental health, things that were pleasurable had become monotonous and negative.  

Other Tips & Ideas to Break Monotony

There are others who have suggestions on how to “escape the monotony of life”.

  • For those who are adventurous, I would suggest checking out this article. Clare Healy focuses on the need to being outside and also travelling, such as becoming a weekender nomad by visiting and staying in other cities to break away from your normal routine. 
  • For those that need convincing that you are number one and it is important to invest in yourself, read this article here. It is a great article on overall life tips (not necessarily to tackle monotony). The key take away points are that you should always invest in yourself, whether a nicer holiday away or learning something new – you are always worth those extra pennies. Take risks and own your own time.

In the past few weeks, I have read more and tried to resume my routine of going to the gym and galleries. I can feel myself slowly recharging and become my more positive self, and not surprisingly, life is feeling a little less monotonous! Have you ever experienced monotony? How did you overcome the negative mental hurdle? As always, I would love to hear from you! 

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S. For those who are sporty, a sports example of routine vs monotony can be found here

Thought of the Day: Sleep & Creativity

Hi everyone!

Lazy Sundays

How has your weekend been? Hope you ready for another long read on the Pineapple Blog. Following on from last week’s topic of boredom and its impact on creativity, I wanted to talk about sleep and creativity this week. I have just finished Matthew Walker’s “Why Do We Sleep?” [not an ad] and I highly recommend this book; it is filled with eye-opening information backed by scientific facts and experiments. I had a lot of “oh that’s why!” moments when reading the book.

I am continuing the theme of creativity as I am on a journey to try and find more ways to use the other side of my brain. Working in finance with numbers and analysis, I am noticing more and more how my job lacks creativity. Since I have started writing this blog it has made me realised how creativity is very important to me and brings a lot of positivity.

Sleep Cycle

There are two distinct parts to sleep: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (“NREM”) and Rapid Eye Movement (“REM”). This can be then further broken down to several stages of NREM before entering REM, making the sleep cycle as follows:

  1. Stage 1 NREM sleep is when we change from wakefulness to sleep. This stage only lasts several minutes and it is light sleep where your breathing and heartbeat slows and muscles relax
  2. Stage 2 NREM sleep moves us from light sleep to deep sleep. Body temperature decrease and eye movement also stop (hence, NREM).
  3. Stage 3 NREM sleep is the deep sleep that ensures that we feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs more in the in the first half of the night. This is the time where it is very difficult to wake you.
  4. REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep. Your eye movements begin to rapidly move side to side (hence, REM). Breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. This is where dreaming and creativity occurs. Your limbs are paralysed so you don’t act out your dreams.

Recently, I have purchased the Fitbit Charge 3 (again, not an ad, but it is pretty cool!) and wear it whilst I sleep so that it is able to track/guestimate my sleep cycles. Got to love a bit of data! Unfortunately, this week I have only been averaging around 6 hours of sleep which is not enough, but below was Friday’s night sleep cycle, starting at 11pm. You can see my first bit of REM (4 mins 30 secs worth) at exactly 12:30! Totally geeking out about it 🙂

Sleep

REM Sleep & Creativity

For today, I wanted to focus on REM and its impact on creativity. During NREM sleep research has shown that memories captured by the hippocampus are replayed during NREM sleep, and as we detect similarities between them, that information gets stored in the cortex. During this stage, both parts of the brain communicate with each other and are in sync. The hippocampus prefers to replay things that are similar or thematically linked, it encourages us to find those links and use them to form schemas or organizing frameworks. This is why NREM sleep is associated with consolidating and strengthening memories.

REM sleep, on the other hand, the hippocampus and cortex do not seem to be in sync. As a result, the cortex is now free to replay stored memories in any combination, regardless of whether they are similar. By doing this the brain is able to make different connections, and may not be linked at all (essentially, thinking outside the box). The brain is able to blend together abstract thoughts in novel ways.

Benefits of REM Sleep

Many have described how dreams inspired them, such as Paul McCartney’s story of how his hit song “Yesterday” came to him in a dream or of Mendeleev’s dream-inspired construction of the periodic table of elements. Otto Loewi design of a simple experiment, supposedly by dreaming. He eventually proved something he had long hypothesized: Nerve cells communicate by exchanging chemicals, or neurotransmitters. This, in turn, resulted in him winning the Nobel prize. As alluded to above, REM sleep is beneficial for the following reasons:

Time to sleep

After reading Matthew Walker’s book, I have realised the importance of sleep. This has been talked about by others too (see video). Given its importance, I think we should all consider incorporating time to wind down and give yourself a good night’s sleep. I definitely do not need to be told twice to jump into bed!

For those that struggle with sleep, here are a few tips recommended by Matthew that might help:

  1. Make sure your room is dark and that you are not looking at bright light sources i.e. your phone around 1 to 2 hours before you sleep. This also links back to my previous post, don’t reach for the tech to fill in time when you’re bored, in this case, particularly around bedtime. You may want to also dim your lights around the house in earlier parts of the evening to stimulate sleepiness.
  2. Have a set routine – go to bed and wake up around the same time. Currently, I am trying to be in bed by 10:30pm for shut-eye at 11pm so that I am up for 6am for work and the weekend.
  3. Keep the temperature cool in the house at night. This is because your body temperature needs to drop at night to sleep.
  4. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake in the night feeling restless, don’t stay in bed awake. Get up and read in another room (don’t stare at a screen!), when you start nodding off, then go back to bed.
  5. Don’t have caffeine late in the day or an alcohol-infused nightcap as these will interfere with sleep!

I hope you all enjoyed this blog post, maybe it even sent you off to sleep –  I am not offended at all!  I wish for all my readers sound sleep to stimulate creativity and positivity. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and I hope you all have an awesome start to the week.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Thoughts of the Day: Boredom

Boredom

Hi everyone!

Did you all have a good weekend so far? I hope you are up for another long Sunday (night) read on the Pineapple Chicken blog. Today, I wanted to discuss boredom – it is an odd topic but please bear with me on this one 🙂 Earlier this week, I spent the better of last weekend and which dragged out to the remainder of the week in bed after catching a really bad cold that manifested itself into a horrible chesty cough. (I apologise for the superlatives, but honestly, I hate being ill).

Though I should have been resting in bed and recovering, I found myself extremely bored and growing ever restless. I felt guilty that I wasn’t using my downtime properly and doing something more productive. In my semi-delirious state, I thought I should try and understand what boredom really is and why do I feel bored? Should boredom be considered as something negative? 

What is boredom? 

“Bored” as defined in the dictionary is “feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.” It is interesting that the definition also associates boredom with negative feelings, I would personally also associate boredom with restlessness and frustration.

I think Grant Faulkner wonderfully describes boredom in this article as an incessant need for stimulation – I have a tic, an affliction, a virus. When a moment of emptiness descends upon me, I reach for my phone, tap it madly, and hope to find stimulation…My brain craves novelty and stimulation, and I’m caught in a loop of compulsive neediness.

Why do we feel bored?

Though it may be potentially simple to define boredom, there is a lot more literature around why one feels bored and try to explain the underlying causes. Gustavo Razzetti explains boredom as the following, but I find it difficult to agree with. Personally, life is not always about giving more because let’s face it – that can be so tiring at times! 

“We feel bored because, deep inside ourselves, we know we can give more. Boredom is the pain of unused potential; it’s a disconnection to everything we can offer the world and vice versa.”

There is one train of thought that boredom has come from over-stimulation referring back to Grant Faulkner above, it is this constant need to fill in “gaps” with your phone but ultimately you never get satisfied. I agree with this statement more because I have not found myself bored if I am reading a good book, blogging or trying to meditate (and still trying very hard). Yet, I can feel bored whilst just looking at my phone to browse social media or try to find something interesting on Netflix.

Others have tried to explain the cause of boredom is because we find it hard having fun with our own company. I only partially agree with this, I love going to museums, galleries, and bookstores etc. on my own. I love solitude (from time to time) and I think it is important for my wellbeing. However, I agree with the opinion because when I was at home ill, I needed company and stimulating conversation; which also drove my boyfriend nuts as I was just being needy! I did try and do something productive like finishing my book. Honestly, my brain was just not up to it, so instead, I ended up binge-watching Netflix which seemed to make me even more bored! Was I facing the dilemma below? 

“We crave for more time. However, when we have free time, we don’t know what to do with it. Nothing seems exciting enough to deserve our valuable time. We end up doing nothing and get bored.”

Is boredom all the bad?

Why is boredom seen as such a negative thing? It implies that we are unappreciative of the world and what it has to offer, like the age-old saying – only boring people get bored? As one writer explained his experience when he was growing up – he had “exhausted the world of possibilities”. That is pretty harsh! I understand the sentiment that when one is learning, you shouldn’t be bored because there the world is a magical place and there is always something to learn/interest someone. Though there are definitely counter-arguments to this, I mean, who are they to say that the kid isn’t just the next entrepreneur. 

Whatever it is, boredom is a state of mind, just like sadness and happiness; therefore, should we really be categorising it into something that is negative or positive?

Others have said that boredom is a sign of laziness– savage! If boredom is just a state of mind, then it can be changed; i.e. you are not happy about something, change it! Let’s be honest, it is easier said than done. Should we not just be kind to ourselves from time to time and also recognise that we are imperfect and just human, with a myriad of emotions and thoughts?

Is it okay to be bored?  

To turn the argument on its head, is boredom really as bad for us? Do we have to constantly be productive? Others have put a lot of thought into this, particularly in this article

Sandi Mann, a psychologist, conducted an experiment to further understand emotions in the workplace in the 1990s. She found that “People who are bored think more creatively than those who aren’t.” Others have described that boredom can be a powerful tool that invites you to rethink your relationship with the world. Potentially my boredom in the sick bed created the right connections in my brain to write and research this topic (maybe, just maybe :)). A wonderfully light-hearted TED talk yet inspiring talk by Manoush Zomorodi on “How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas”. She has also written a book – “Bored and Brilliant” which I think will be going on the to-read list! Have any of you read the book? 

Her video was part of a playlist on TED talks to discuss “Why it is sometimes good to be bored”. So if you have time, I really recommend taking the time to have a listen to the various talks, maybe it may inspire you to embrace boredom and think of it as something positive and good for the mind. 

Parting tips

It is surprising how much is written on boredom and how it is a multi-dimensional topic with various views. Thank you for sticking with me to the end of this blog post! 

I am going to be kind to myself (as I always am lol!) and I think it is okay to be bored, I do not see it as a negative feeling and think we should embrace a wandering mind. However, I do think that replacing boredom with more stimulus such as YouTube videos or Netflix is the one thing we should be avoiding. Though, I recognise that there are days when mindless videos are just what you need. I want to start off with baby steps, so before I pick up my phone or TV remote, I am going to try a few of the tips below and I would love to know if they work for you!

Tips for boredom

  • Avoid technology when you feel bored – entertainment snacks will make you crave for more; rather than controlling your boredom, your need for distraction will never be satisfied. Hence, my binge-watching of Netflix from time to time.
  • Recover the joy of mundane tasks – when was the last time you wash the dishes and just allowed yourself to be present at the moment thinking of nothing else? Recovering the pleasure of doing small tasks may build a sense of achievement. I found that KonMari/tidying up is a good thing to do when I am bored.
  • Let your mind wander – when you find yourself bored, why not pick up a pen or paper and just let your mind wander. See where it leads you, let your mind feed on your own thoughts. It could potentially lead you down a creative path.

As always, I would love to hear from you about your thoughts on boredom, so please do leave a comment below!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken