The first book I read by Johann Hari was called ‘Lost Connections’ and it was life-changing for me. He offered the most deeply researched, alternative, and logical insights and solutions to our mental health crisis, that I had ever read before and by doing so, he helped empower me, by allowing me to see that I was not ‘broken’, abnormal, weird or living with a life long illness that could only be controlled, rather than solved by medication, but by having what could be described as perfectly reasonable responses, to perfectly unreasonable circumstances and that there was much I could do to both protect and nurture myself.
I simply cannot impress upon you enough, the impact this book had on deepening my understanding and therefore my ability to improve and care for my emotional and mental health.
To set some context, I would be deemed by many to be somewhat unstable when it comes to my mental state, I have had a number of breakdowns, or episodes, or bouts of depression – I’m not really sure what label best fits them, to be honest. But what I do know is that these episodes did not happen for no good reason, each of them was life-changing in one way or another and very few people knew what to say or do to help during them, including myself.
Reading Johann’s book was truly liberating, it was the first time I had ever been given access to a language that a) I could understand relative to my mental state and b) offered practical and very do-able suggestions on how I could take control of my mental health and indeed improve it. In short, it offered hugely accessible and logical guidance to help me understand why I was feeling the way I was and what I could do about it.
The book helped me to translate what my mind and body were trying to tell me and as such it became the start of a beautiful, albeit sometimes uncomfortable journey, to start to really get to know myself at a deep emotional level and from there I was able to learn how to care for myself in a far more holistic and balanced way – from a physical, spiritual, neurological, emotional and mental perspective.
It taught me that sometimes a breakdown is actually a breakthrough and that my periods of depression were extremely important times of inner reflection and growth, messages from myself to myself of unmet needs, unhealed traumas, and a complete ‘shut down’ if the world became too overwhelming for me to cope with, to ensure my survival and to actually protect rather than harm me.
Johann Hari’s book was a complete reframing of all that I had been told about my mental health issues and offered a new perspective and hope about my future, and how it could look, and one of the principles in this book that really stood out for me, is what Johann refers to as ‘infinite joy’ – a concept I will come back to shortly.
Since then I have also read Johann’s latest book ‘Stolen Focus’ which is equally life-changing and a great follow up to Lost Connections – it may appear to be about something completely different, but it is just a new layer of understanding which goes a long way to explaining why so many of us are struggling with mental health issues and with life in general.
We are bombarded with way too many distractions on a daily basis and this is having a massively detrimental effect on our overall quality of life – our ability to think and process information (at a deeply neurological level), our ability to connect with one another, our ability to create new knowledge, our ability to grow our empathetic ability and therefore to understand and communicate with our fellow human beings, are just a few of the consequences of the world we currently live in.
And as I’m sure you will not be surprised to learn, social media plays a huge role in where we find ourselves right now – both emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted, living in a world of polarised views and constantly surrounded by drama and disasters, much of which we have absolutely no control over – so life is challenging and you could say that if we were not affected by it, then there would be something wrong with us, rather than the opposite. But again in his new book, Johann offers some brilliant insights into what we can all do and how can actually all make a difference in our own way, to not only improve but fundamentally change the way we live our lives, for the better.
But the point of this blog is to illustrate the principle of infinite joy and the relationship I believe it can have with social media – a way to apply this principle to change the impact of social media on our mindsets, from a negative one to a positive one.
The basic concept is that if you can feel joy at other people’s happiness, then you have a never-ending supply of it, as even when things are sh*t in your own life, you can enjoy the happiness in someone else’s – and that’s a really nice way to live your life. Believe me, I’ve tried envy and resentment and that always feels cr*p and is a bit lonely too.
And I think this principle applies to all aspects of our life, including social media – because, if you are simply posting for the most likes, looking for a viral story, or a brief moment of fame, you are destined to be disappointed after it has passed.
Because the minute you post something, so are millions of others and if you make it about the depth and value of engagement, rather than the breadth, then you will not be forced into looking for over-dramatical headlines, stripped of their context, nuances, or full facts, for fear of making your post too dull or god forbid, too long and therefore outstripping people’s attention span – honestly, is that really the kind of audience any of us should be encouraging?
Therefore, if you share content with the genuine intent of adding value to the lives of others, perhaps by inspiring them to positive action, encouraging their curiosity as opposed to fear, widening their perspectives rather than demanding polarised views, and sharing your authentic, messy, human self as opposed to your airbrushed, filtered poster image, your post will leave a legacy that reaches beyond your ego and becomes so much more than a fleeting moment of fame.
And it makes social media a hell of a lot more interesting and most importantly, real and that really matters, because if we continue to create optical illusions that people compare themselves too, but are then constantly failing to achieve, as it’s not possible too, as they are not real (can you see the paradox here?), then all social media is actually doing is taking joy away from people and encouraging more and more impossible to achieve optical illusions, that then reduce joy so much that there is simply none left and that leaves us feeling hopeless and sh*t and actually costs lives, far too many of them.
The alternative is that we can choose to share stuff that is honest and compassionate, shares a part of who we really are, adds to the human experience, and will make a positive difference to someone, somewhere, somehow.
And that means it doesn’t matter who else is posting what, because your post is about something bigger than your ego or brand – it’s an idea, an inspiration, a call to action but most of all, it’s a bridge that invites others to connect with you as their authentic selves and to feel safe to do so and that is where humanity finds its strength, understanding, creativity, and growth.
And that is also how we can start to create infinite joy, by operating from a place of genuine intent to help and connect with our fellow human beings and to celebrate them for all that they really are, rather than all that they have been ‘allowed’ to share.
So, you never really know where your words will land, or who they will inspire, so it’s really important to share them with a good heart and for the right reasons – the creation of infinite joy.