Our brain can give us an extraordinary lesson of life.
When we sleep the brain makes a sort of tabula rasa. To learn, it is necessary to establish new connections, or synapses, between neurons. These connections allow neurons to send signals to each other quickly and efficiently. In these networks is where we memorize the new memories and abilities we learn.
However, some neuroscients from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found that synapses grow fast during the day, and are cut during the night. Our brain automatically makes a selection of the information that it needs to memorize and discard the rest.
The curious fact is that by deleting all unnecessary information, the worthwhile memories are better stored. The psychologists at Johns Hopkins University saw that when this process does not happen, our memories become more confused. Additionally, selective forgetting is essential to subtract emotional impact to the events that occur during the day.
This process which is occurring naturally offers us a great lesson: keeping old grudges, fueling frustrations, reviving dramas, and giving too much importance to things that do not deserve it, creates only chaos and dissatisfaction. The wisest thing to do is to learn to ignore all that is not worth it that can affect our inner peace.
Five things you can choose to ignore to be happier
A Buddhist saying states that "only what we care about can damage us". It is not the situations, but the meaning we give them and how we react, what determines their impact on us. So if we want to protect our emotional balance, we must learn to ignore a few things.
Ignorance does not mean adopting a passive attitude, nor will we stop dealing with certain situations, it means learning to give importance to things that really deserve it and minimize the impact of things that should not have such an important presence in our lives.
Ignoring, in this case, is not synonymous with lack of knowledge, but involves a conscious act, it means removing from our conscience those insignificant things that only make us sick. It does not mean ignoring or hiding problems, but freeing the mind from all that takes space unnecessarily to make room for what really matters.
1. Offenses and destructive criticisms. Remember that unhealthy criticism says more of the person who criticizes than of who is being criticized. Do not let critique and contempt affect your self-esteem. Remember that when you spend too much time worrying about the opinion that others have about you, or what they want you to be, you forget who you really are.
2. People who want to relieve their emotional misery on you. There are people who act like real garbage trucks who want to relieve on you their fears, frustrations, anger or anxiety. Don’t leave them do it. Learn to identify them and create a protective shield.
3. The little frustrations of everyday life. A bad day is just a bad day. It comes and goes. There is no reason to remain locked in those little frustrations. If you learn to ignore those bickers immediately, you will realize that you can resume your routine with more serenity. If you accumulate them you will end up carrying a very heavy burden. It's just to put them in perspective and you’ll realize that it's not worth to ruin your day for these bickering.
4. Your negative internal dialogue. Often your mind becomes your worst enemy. Therefore, in many cases, you must learn to mute the noise you have inside, the obsessive thoughts of failure, fears and anxiety. In most cases, this inner dialogue comes from the expectations that others have put on you. In fact, you’ll probably find out that you repeat the sentences you’ve been told by your parents, teachers or partners. If those phrases do not allow you to go ahead and do not make you feel good, ignore them all, they will slowly disappear with the passing of time.
5. Situations you can’t control. Taoism encourages us to flow, not to force situations. Which does not mean being passive but learning how to identify the opportunities to act and know when something is counterproductive. There are many things that are beyond your reach, trying to control them creates unnecessary tensions. Therefore, there are times when you have to forget everything that might go wrong and start trusting in the flow of life.
An exercise to learn to ignore what's hurting you
It is not easy to ignore certain things, certain people, certain situations... we do not always perceive what can hurt us and end up grabbing us to it. Other times, it means break ties, change our way of thinking and our attitudes, something that is not easy and requires a great deal of courage.
Anyway, I encourage you to do this simple exercise:
Take a pencil or any small object that can’t be broken. Hold it in your hand and tighten it tight. Imagine that this object is one of the emotions, feelings, or people that bother you and your hand represents your mind or consciousness.
At first, everything will look a little strange, but gradually you will feel less uncomfortable and the object will look familiar to you. But if you keep tightening the object it will end up hurting you.
Now, open your hand and let the object fall to the ground. Realize that you were the one who grabbed the object, it was not attached to your hand. The same applies to your emotions, feelings, and people who can harm you.
The problem is that we grab so strongly these situations that we forget to let them go when we have to. In fact, when we experience anger or sadness, we say "I'm sad" or "I'm angry", which represents an identification with these states and implies being attached to them. Instead, we should say "I feel sad" or "I feel angry" and learn to let go.
How to apply this idea of ignoring everything that hurt us?
- Do not take things to a personal level. Many of the things that happen to us are not personal. Taking them to this level means that you are giving it too much importance and you are allowing it to affect your emotional balance. Therefore, it is essential to protect that space and allow entering only the things that really matter to you.
- Do not miss the perspective. Immersed in the small problems of everyday life, it is easy to overcome these small dissatisfaction and stumbling blocks so you end up losing your compass. Always remember to keep your perspective, focus on what defines you, your goals, and what really excites you. Do not let trivialities deprive you of being happy today.
- Take a step back. When you feel that emotions take control, take a step back. Stop, take a couple of minutes and get the control. Think about why this situation is generating these emotions. You are probably exaggerating or you are giving it more importance than it has. Breathe and let go.
- Anchor yourself to the present. If you feel bad, it is probably for something that has already happened, which belongs to the past. Therefore, it does not make much sense to continue to feed these feelings. To let them go, you just need to hold the present. Focus on all the positive things you have now. The key is to learn to get out of the past.
Diering, G. H. et. Al. (2017) Homer1a drives homeostatic scaling-down of excitatory synapses during sleep. Science; 355(6324): 511-515.
Vivo, L. et. Al. (2017) Ultrastructural evidence for synaptic scaling across the wake/sleep cycle. Science; 355(6324): 507-510.