Recently, while stumbling down a rabbit-hole of various Youtube videos, I came across one particular video that featured an interview with actor / director Chris Evans. It is advertised as an advice piece toward people struggling with their mental health, and, being a fan of both Evans and anyone who advocates for mental health, it is an easy sell to get me to watch it.
In this deeply personal interview, Evans discusses his own struggles with anxiety and self-doubt throughout his career. Even for a celebrity, sharing intimate pieces of your life with the world is a greatly difficult and uncomfortable task. However, by sharing his experience and the ways in which he coped and continues to cope with his struggles, it opens the door for the rest of us to be more open about discussing our own experiences and coping methods with one another. In this article, I hope I can do his story and the way it helped to better mine some justice.
So, upon settling down and waiting to hear some surely sage advice from the kind-hearted star, there are a few thoughts running through my head. There's a sense of doubt that whatever I'm going to hear is actually to be as powerful as the video claims it is, as well as this overwhelming desire to find out if maybe this time is going to be different. Maybe I'll hear something that will actually have an effect on me. I am surprised to find, in the end, that he provides us only with a one-worded answer.
Sh. Yes, you read that right. Simply sh. Allow me to explain.
In this interview, Evans eloquently explains how unnecessarily noisy our brains can be, and how much time we can waste listening to that noise instead of living our lives to its fullest extent. Noise, of course, refers to the whirring thoughts in our heads that we wish we could just turn off sometimes, as though it were a light switch or the ignition of a car. Interestingly enough, Evans explores the idea that maybe it is a little possible to try.
This advice, sh, is, in his own words, "oversimplified but... profound." Here's how.
Telling your brain to be quiet isn't as easy as it sounds on paper. It actually takes a lot to be able to really force yourself to just quiet your mind. For some people, that's pretty much impossible, and that's okay. This isn't a one size fits all method, because our mental health varies from person to person. The point is, maybe it doesn't work for you, but maybe it does work for someone else.
My thoughts and positive experience as a result of following this advice is solely my own, and I cannot speak for anyone else without them voicing their own opinion. While I don't know whether this is going to work for you, I do know that we are all guilty of overthinking situations and conversations in our lives; I believe that is part of being human. I speak from my own experience that I am a chronic overthinker, and I worry about just about anything and everything. In school, work, and life in general, things get the better of us and leave us in a silent panic trying to come to terms with every little mistake or embarrassing moment. I've come to learn that being able to tell my brain sh has started to reshape my perspective and quality of living for the better. Evans, just like you or me, has had times in his life where he spent hours just thinking, too. We all know how easy it is to sink into that hole, looped in a never-ending cycle of what ifs and whys until we want to scream into a pillow out of frustration.
After hearing this simple advice, I've taken to putting as much conscious effort as possible into following it. Whether it be a bad day at work or a misunderstanding with a friend, as my mind replays conversations and experiences in my head, constantly trying to figure out a better way these situations could have been handled, I stop whatever I'm doing and I remind myself to sh. Within this sh, I know that what I'm really telling myself is this: there is nothing you can do to change the past, and there is no point dwelling on what you have no control over anymore. I will not stop saying this to myself until my brain finally caves in and occupies itself with something else more productive. Most of the time, this takes a lot of time and energy to do, and nearly all of the time I just want to give up trying and accept that I'm going to be thinking about these negatives scenarios in my head all night long. But if I'm going to help better my mental health, I have to stick with it without giving in.
As I've been working hard at not giving in to my own negative thoughts, I've realized that these negative thoughts have been less frequently occurring, and slowly replacing themselves with self-acceptance and positivity. You don't really realize that changes are happening to you while you struggle through trying not to overthink until you become aware that you amount of times you have to struggle through it start to become less frequent. Sure, all the time I would have spent dwelling on these negative thoughts are simply replaced with reminders to be kind to myself and accepting of what's happened, but if that means that overtime I'll spend less time drowning in the noise of my brain, it's worth it, isn't it? It gets me out of bed and out into the world, doing instead of just wishing. That's pretty profound, wouldn't you say?
So why call this article a piece on mindfulness if I haven't mentioned the word since the title, right? Well, the definition of mindfulness, as written by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, describes it as: the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. The sh method is a stepping stone in a journey toward mindfulness, whether you're conscious of it or not. Mindfulness doesn't mean that all of your negative thoughts are unwelcome or unproductive, either. It leads you down a path of self-understanding and self-acceptance, and allows to you see how to use those thoughts in productive ways, helping you to better yourself and your life. This is something that is truly life-altering.
I don't claim to have a mind that is constantly flowing with positive energy, or one that doesn't contain judgement over my own actions. This method is something that I still work hard at doing every day just so that, more often than not, my mind is flowing with positivity. It requires constant diligence and hard-work, but the pay-off is something that words can't even begin to describe. My advice, if you're thinking this is something that you might like to try, is to not give up right away. Give it time, give it your best effort, and remind yourself that it's okay not to be okay. We all struggle, and we all feel trapped in our mind sometimes. Hopefully this will make you feel like you aren't so alone anymore, either.
And after all this, all I can do is be thankful that by some kind of divine intervention, I was able to hear the words that would, in some ways, change my life. I'm thankful for people like Chris Evans who aren't afraid of speaking out about mental health, because when those conversations happen, people find the courage within themselves to share their own experiences. This, in effect, changes the world. So how about it? Let's get talking.