05 Mar Stop the Worry Trance and Simplify Your Choices
I’m currently renovating my living room and wanted to paint the walls a shade of white. There are almost 100 different shades of white. I felt overwhelmed while at the paint store, I wanted to choose a colour that would make the living room lighter and brighter. I decided to pick “pebble white”, but questioned whether I had made the best decision or not.
You may not be experiencing a paint dilemma right now, but perhaps you have had to make a choice related to your health, school, parenting, finances, relationships, work, travelling or planning an event recently that resulted in anxious feelings. Research is showing that more choices are leading to increased accounts of self-blame and depression.
The happiness equation by Neil Pasricha describes that, “We are exhausted by making decisions. We want to go to the movie theatre with the most movies playing, we like the restaurants with the long menu. Having more choice reduces our happiness. We get decision fatigue. We avoid the decision or we make a bad decision and we always worry we made the wrong choice.”
I really started to understand choice fatigue after travelling to India. I travelled to the Himalayans and stayed at an Ashram. I used the same plate and spoon at every meal. I had a bucket of water to wash my clothes at the end of the day. I wore the same clothing almost every day. It was a cultural adjustment at first, however I enjoyed the simplicity of it, which created more clarity and focus.
There is a reason why Steve Jobs wore a black t-shirt every day, and the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, also embraces a simple clothing style. Simplifying your clothing choices at the start of your day gives you more brainpower for other decisions.
Researchers at Columbia University discovered a striking pattern while looking at the verdicts reached by judges in the Israeli court system. Prisoners that were seen in the morning for charges of fraud and assault received parole 65% of the time. Prisoners who appeared late in the day for similar cases received parole less then 10% of the time. There were other common variables noticed in the study, if the judge had taken a lunch break, the cases after the break-received parole 60% of the time. Each choice you make depletes your energy. As you become more fatigued, you’re more likely to make decisions with less clarity. If you’re curious about other choice fatigue research studies, then you may want to read the book Willpower by Roy Raumeister and John Tierney.
There is a Ted Talk on the paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz, which describes that choices can produce paralysis instead of liberation. I didn’t fully understand this until my experience in a third world country. When I was staying in India there was only one store in walking distance. At the store there was only one face wash to choose from, you were lucky to find a roll of toilet paper, and only one cold beverage was available – coconut water. Unlike the corner stores here in North America, where we are inundated with 100 different drink options, having only one choice made the selection process very easy. This saved me time, mental exhaustion, and overall I appreciated every drop of that delicious cold coconut water.
Having an abundance of choices can lead to depression. When you enter a grocery store and have over 100 different drink options, you can feel paralyzed over what choice to make. Once that choice is finally made, then you may even start to ponder if a different choice would have been better, which can lead to self-blame and depression.
So, what can you do to combat the choice fatigue that leaves you exhausted day after day? Below are seven daily tips to create more brainpower!
1. Eating the same thing every day. I enjoy eating oatmeal every day, and when I start to get bored I spice it up with some cinnamon, almond milk and apples!
2. Wearing the same thing. I choose to wear solid colours, and will wear the same cozy clothes each week, rotating approximately 30 items.
3. Embrace daily routines. I enjoy making myself a schedule for the next day the night before. I will plan out a yoga class to attend in the morning, make a grocery list and will meal plan every Monday. I make one soup every week, and will make an abundant amount to take to work with me each day for the week.
4. Limit choices. Fewer choices lead to more time for other things. Reserve your energy for time that matters. I enjoy attending a yoga class before going to work. The yoga instructor creates the flow and instructs me to move from pose to pose. I feel energized when I leave and have more focus and clarity for other decisions during my day.
5. Single-tasking. Schedule time each day to check your email and provide a response. I check my email twice a day, once at 7am and again at the end of the day. I allocate a 30-minute window to go though my email and provide a response. I keep this time distraction free so I can focus on each person to provide the best response.
6. Focus on your intention instead of the outcome. When I injured my IT Band, I had difficulty walking for almost two months. I really wanted my leg to heal so that I could be pain free and move about my day easily. I felt disappointed and sad that it wasn’t healing faster. I had stopped my yoga practice and started float therapy. In order to address the disappointment that I was experiencing, I changed my mindset. Instead of focusing on the outcome I focused on my intention, which was to relieve stress and sooth my pain. Once I became intention focused, I valued and enjoyed the experience of float therapy much more. I stopped focusing on the outcome and enjoyed being in the moment, floating on water like a frog lounging on a lily pad.
7. Trust your intuition! Recently during my home renovations, I was debating whether or not I should keep the popcorn ceiling in my living room. I made a poll on Instagram to see what others thought, but before looking at the results I had already made the decision to embrace the popcorn ceiling. Many people voted not to keep the popcorn ceiling, which made me ponder whether or not I was making the right choice. In the end, I stayed true to my decision to embrace the popcorn ceiling because it not only saved me time and money, but also added character to my living room.
Have faith in the decisions you make and trust your gut!
“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela
Written by Bliss therapist Stacey Harris. Learn more about Stacey and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here!