Is your head always racing with thoughts? Are your problems sometimes keeping you up at night?
Congratulations, you are a normal human being ?
A couple of weeks ago I was flipping through a book I read about a year ago. Called “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss.
This is not a book you read in one sitting. It’s a large collection of notes from interviews with over 200 world-class performers. Each sharing their wisdom and habits on topics like health, wealth and happiness.
Of course correlation does not always equal causation. Just because one person shares something that works for them, doesn’t mean it will work for you. You could do the exact same things that got Donald Trump elected in the exact same order. But it surely wouldn’t make you the next president of the United States. There’s too many variables involved.
One cool thing about the book is that because it contains advice from so many different people with so many different lives, you can start to see patterns here and there. Like the same 2 or 3 books getting recommended over and over again. Or certain habits that just too many successful people have for it not to be a coincidence. For example, it’s no surprise that 80% of the people in the book meditate on a daily basis. If I were to point at one habit that has done the most for my development as a person, it’s that one. But there’s also some pretty surprising ones in there.
One habit that I would’ve never guessed a lot of those people (including the author) credited for their happiness in life was having regular “star therapy sessions”. Basically all they did was stare at the stars for 5-10 minutes every night. And it significantly improved their mood and general happiness.
When you first hear this, it sounds either very boring or too good to be true. At least it did to me.
But then I thought back to a period in my life when I was extremely depressed and anxious and refused to take any meds for it.
One of the things I did whenever I didn’t know what to do with myself, was going for long walks at night.
Sometimes I’d visit places I had fond memories of and hope that indulging in nostalgia would make me feel good. But that rarely helped. It would only show me how the spots in which I used to “chill with my homies” no longer existed. How new people had moved into the house of my dead friend and it looked nothing like it did back then. How romantic the street where I kissed that girl for the first time used to look and how lonely it seemed now.
While it was nice to not be alone in my bedroom with my dark thoughts, wandering around aimlessly in the middle of the night with the same dark thoughts wasn’t that much of an improvement. But usually I’d do enough wandering to reach a point where I felt completely lost and stopped walking. I’d lay down in the grass or sit on someone’s front porch and wonder what the point of it all was. Why I still kept going, even when I wasn’t sure I’d ever stop being unhappy and scared to death of everything and nothing.
Then, when I couldn’t come up with a satisfying answer, I’d look up at the night sky as if to ask for the help of a God I didn’t believe in. And I’d notice the stars up there. They never came down to rescue me. But when I stared at them long enough they’d at least take my mind off my worries for a while. Often that would be enough to calm me down so I could catch some sleep.
Later in life, when I was already a lot happier, I’d still do this regularly without realizing it. I’d be going for a walk with someone (or walking home) then catch myself staring at the sky and notice how much peace it brought me. The stars made me feel “at home” somehow because no matter where I was, the stars where always there. Even if I couldn’t see them.
I have a similar experience every time I go to the beach. It’s as if the ebb and flow of the ocean starts to synchronize with my breath and I feel like it brings me right back to the essence of things. Sometimes I find myself standing on a beach and realize that I had walked there on autopilot because I felt a little stressed and didn’t know it. And how that stress is now relieved.
When I started to link my own experiences to the weird little habit these succesful people seem to have, it started to make a little more sense. So I decided to give it a shot. Instead of waiting until I ever feel depressed again, I made it a habit to go outside and look at the stars for 10 minutes ever evening.
And even though I already felt pretty happy about my life before, it did make a significant impact. The first days at felt pretty boring to dedicate a full 10 minutes of my day to just being cold and looking up. But after a while it started to fill me with a healthy sense of wonder.
Looking at the infinite universe above us. Knowing that a lot of those tiny little specs of light you see are actually bigger than the “huge” planet you are standing on. Or further away than you’re able to travel to in your entire lifetime, reminds you of how minuscule you are in the grand scheme of things. How petty a lot of your problems and worries are. How short your life actually is and how important it is to not waste it. How miraculous it is that life even exists on this planet. How many asteroids are flying through space that could destroy humanity on impact. How nice it is that everything co-exists together and how important it is to be a part of it.
It’s a bit dreamy. It’s not very practical or solution-oriented. And it will not take away the fact that you actually have to deal with your problems and fix them. But it gives you the kind of perspective that helps you let go of your worries for a while. Perhaps just long enough to fall asleep. It makes your problems easier to bear. And if you already don’t have any, it humbles you as a person and puts your feet back on the ground when you’re getting a little too full of yourself.