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Why Creating White Space Will Change Your Life

Why Creating White Space Will Change Your Life

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Hello.

Wow.


It has been slightly over three months since I’ve written.

I’ve missed you all.

Thank you for letting me take a break.


A lot has happened in three months.

But mostly, it has given me the opportunity to find white space.


Here’s how it has transformed my life.


And how I hope it transforms yours too.


I understand if the beginning of this post was frustrating. If you skimmed it, speeding through, annoyed I slowed your reading down. Three months ago it would have driven me crazy but as the white space between the sentences in this post slowed you down and allowed for some breathing room, so too has my break from TLT (and many other commitments) allowed me to find the white space to expand and feel a bit more free in a few short months.

At the end of September, I was feeling completely burnt out. I felt obsessed with publishing enough content and fitting a mold and getting a certain amount of likes on each post. I was adjusting to moving to Los Angeles, a city where I knew virtually no one and studying for the GRE and looking for a full time job and trying to eat well, exercise right, find a sense of belonging, be a good friend, an attentive family member, a supportive girlfriend, and…

I short-circuited.

I sat on my balcony, near tears, not sure what to do. For ten seconds, as if someone was speaking directly to me, I had a clarity that said to take a step back. Eliminate the crush of social media notifications. Stop trying to be everything to everyone at once. Focus inward. I deleted my social media apps immediately and felt like shackles had been lifted. I started carving out time in my day to take long walks and listen to podcasts about creating space. I fought feelings of guilt for not being “productive” with these activities and reminded myself constantly to breathe. I did a lot of internal work to figure out what it was I really wanted and how I could be a high achiever without constantly being in an anxious state.

But this progress only came when I allowed room for it. I had been filling my days with distractions meant to push off difficult internal dialogue I needed to address and move my focus from activities I needed to do. I realized that in the morning, I reached for my phone before I’d even had my first thoughts of the day— filling my head with other people’s thoughts and opinions. I recognized in moments of silence, I’d turn on a show or scroll Facebook, to ward off silence I deemed scary. I saw clearly that filling my days with “a checklist” that was scheduled in 15 minute increments down to meditation time was increasingly more detrimental to my psyche. Always having running to dos somehow became correlated with my value as a person and I was tied to “busy-ness” as a badge of pride and a measure of my success despite feeling less and less successful.

We are not human doers. We are human beings.

I was doing a lot. But forgot how to just be.

Here’s the incredible piece of rediscovering being: It gives you more time. It’s counterintuitive but true—it will help time to expand.

I don’t want to make finding white space sound easy because it’s not. I went through a lot of emotions and had to force my mind to shift perspective. But it was so worth it. I feel more present and happy and successful than I have in years but nothing has changed except for my mindset. Do I slip up and fall back into old habits? Daily. Am I a meditating, barefoot, white space guru now? Not at all. But, I did implement several changes I want to share in the hopes it helps you too find just a little more space to breathe, expand, and be present.


How To Create More White Space

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I took way less and less stylized pictures during my break. Here’s one of Nick and my anniversary on Venice beach. This is one of my favorite memories in LA so far—I’m betting it’s because I was completely present.

I took way less and less stylized pictures during my break. Here’s one of Nick and my anniversary on Venice beach. This is one of my favorite memories in LA so far—I’m betting it’s because I was completely present.

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Limit Your Distractions, Especially Social Media

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  • Take a Break or Set Time Limits: Try a tech detox 1 day a week, 1 week a month, or even for a few months and see what happens. For me, I found myself subconsciously opening Instagram when it was no longer there and opening my calculator app instead. By taking a break or setting time limits (there’s so many apps that do this now) you can better leave space for what’s important to you.

  • Conduct a Distraction Scan: Social media is not our only distraction that makes it difficult to find white space. Snacking, our favorite websites, exercise and even calling your mom can count as distraction if you’re not intentional in doing these activities. Take a day to scan for what you’re using as a distraction, then deep dive into what and why you’re avoiding something.

  • Eat The Frog: Part of why we distract ourselves is because we don’t want to do that one looming task that is making us anxious. A manager once told me to “eat the frog first” which means do the task you want to do least first. Once you get it out of the way, you’ll find you’re not as inclined to distract yourself and will have more room for white space.

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Open Yourself to New Perspectives

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  • Listen, More Than You Speak: When we’re in a state of constant busy-ness, our elevated anxious state makes it difficult to truly listen. I mean leaving pauses between someone speaking and you responding. Hearing and digesting without formulating saying something back immediately. I was amazed what happened when I actually listened more closely to people. Not only did it open me up to new perspectives but it made time feel more expansive and the people I spoke with feel better too.

  • Check Out Podcasts: I’ve never really considered myself a podcast listener but without social media, I had all this free time to try something new. So, I downloaded many podcasts—some I agreed with, some I didn’t or thought were crazy, and all which expanded my bubble and helped me find more space to think and grow. Here are a few of my favorites from my time off:

  • Watch Your Language: The news cycle is completely exhausting— and the constantly deluge of news stories crushes the potential for white space. I am not telling you to turn off the news. I am telling you to set limits to consuming it (I get the New York Times blast in the morning and check CNN in the evening). That’s step one. Step two is to watch newscasters language when talking about issues and be conscious of your own when speaking. Instead of complaining, focus on a solutions oriented conversation where you considered both sides. I’ve found this oddly freeing— it gets me out of a state of constant panic. Check out Thank you America to see how Sarah Silverman does this well.

Oldest and youngest in our family having fun together. Look at both of them—completely present in the moment!

Oldest and youngest in our family having fun together. Look at both of them—completely present in the moment!

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Sit. Stay.

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  • Find Stillness: Why is it so hard for us to do nothing? I found myself freaking out about being unproductive when I sat still. More than that, beyond two minutes I was absolutely squirming to move. Try each day to set a little time aside to do absolutely nothing. Stare at nature and appreciate it. Close your eyes and envision yourself in the future you want. But that’s pretty much all you are allowed to do—start with 60 seconds and work up to ten minutes. It’s way harder than it sounds but immensely beneficial when it becomes an every day practice.

  • Don’t Meditate: What? But everyone says to meditate…I hear you. I think meditation is great too but what is the point when you take 20 minutes out of your day to be mindful and leave the other 1,420 minutes to be agitated and stressed out of your mind? Instead, do activities in a mindful way. If you’re stressed about the prospect of meditating, skip it. Rather than making dinner while watching TV and doing a hair mask try making cooking a more joyful and intentional act. I felt an insane difference when I started being more mindful in more moments that simply my meditation time each day.

  • Be With People: I thought I was spending genuine time with my friends and family when I got together with them. I was so wrong. Thinking about the million tasks you have to do, or what someone is thinking about you in a conversation, or checking your phone, or rushing a dinner because there’s simply not. enough. time. is not truly being with people. It’s incredible what happens when you actually stay present and feel human connection with no distractions. In fact, it’s a major factor in how healthy you are mentally and physically.

Sunrise at LAX. Even in the stress of travel I was amazed by the colors in the sky.

Sunrise at LAX. Even in the stress of travel I was amazed by the colors in the sky.

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Be Amazed Every. Single. Day.

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  • Gratitude Journal: You’ve heard it before and I’m telling it to you again. Writing down two things you’re thankful for each day changes the way you see the world. More than that, it changes gene expression, not only leading to beneficial health outcomes but opening that critical white space too.

  • When You Change The Way You Look At Things…: The things you look at change. This isn’t simply lip service. I listened to one podcast where this man said, “Look at a tree. No, really look at it.” It was a mind blowing experience for me because I realized this tree I walked by constantly I hadn’t really noticed. The brightness of the green leaves with yellow streaks like a painting, the texture of the trunk, speckled with age, the way it swayed in the breeze, the light giving it a majestic glow. It sounds a little odd but try it out and see what you can do. It might feel silly at first but appreciating something from a new perspective changes your perspective overall.

  • Choose One New Activity Daily: Our bodies love habit. The problem with this, is we are trained to operate in only one way. Think of the way your heart jumps on a rollercoaster, or how excited you become for a special dessert, or even how a spontaneous dance part lifts your spirits. Try to change one thing every day in your routine and see the immediate change in how your body feels. You’re training it to constantly expand which makes it easier to try new things and find that white space.

Walking with my dogs. A meditative experience until a frisbee is thrown at you—but look at those smiles!

Walking with my dogs. A meditative experience until a frisbee is thrown at you—but look at those smiles!

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Get Outside or Bring Nature In

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  • Take a Hike: Or a walk, or a brisk stroll around the block. It doesn’t matter, just get outside. It has been scientifically proven that nature has beneficial effects for us mentally and physically and for those in cities, this is even more important. Walking helps to clear the head and grounds you in a way sitting in a building simply can’t.

  • Bring in the Green: Green plants are proven to stimulate productivity but they also help to create a better sense of wellness in your home and can even detox the air. If you live in a place without much nature, try growing these plants. Taking care of something else brings you out of yourself which is a great way to get out of your head and help build something beautiful.

A quiet moment to stay present.

A quiet moment to stay present.

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Present or Forward. Never Back.

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  • Understand Your Relationship to the Past: The past is tricky because we let it dictate our present and use it to extrapolate our future. If it’s bad, it leads to anxiety about history repeating itself. If it’s good, it becomes difficult for the present to live up to an idealized interpretation of what you thought a certain moment would be based on the past. By better understanding the past we’re bringing into the present and our relationship with it, we can better address it. Try this:

    • Next time you find yourself getting anxious about something, take out a notebook. Then follow these five steps.

      • 1. Write down the thoughts you are having about your anxiety.

      • 2. Now write down the associated feelings in your body.

      • 3. Next, write what past experiences may be influencing your feelings.

      • 4. Following this, be a lawyer. Write down evidence for your anxiety and against it to see if your mind is twisting the scenario.

      • 5. Finally, write how you would feel if you had no anxiety and the past did not apply. Breathe into that for a little.

  • The Power of Now: As I had previously mentioned, one of my favorite podcasts I’ve listened to has been an interview with Oprah and Eckhart Tolle who talks about being present as the ultimate human state. Reading his book has helped me develop tools to be more present. By focusing on the present rather than a biased past or potential future, time expands. Don’t believe me? Try this:

    • Watch your mind. Say to yourself, “I am watching the mind and waiting for my next thought.” and truly watch and wait for your next thought to arrive.

      • You’ll notice it takes a bit of time for the first thought to arise which demonstrates how your mind slows down in the present, providing more space.

  • Live in Your Future: I know I just told you to stay present. But, I’m not Eckhart Tolle and sometimes staying present is hard. If you can’t keep your mind in the moment, then prime your body for a better future. If you have thirty minutes, try creating a vision board that has elements of the future you want to build. This can be anything from wanting a puppy to seeking to speak at the United Nations—it all goes together in one board. Look at this a few times a week and feel the excitement of reaching those goals. Success is a thought long before it becomes a reality.

    When we rehearse the future we want, our brain creates new connections in our synapses that can help us get there. Envisioning that future makes it more tangible and if nothing else, puts you in a more positive state to achieve your goals. Here’s one of my favorite visualizations from Joe Dispenza:

    • Take 10 minutes each day to sit and live the future you want. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Now see the future you want and go through it, making it tangible.

    • For example, if you’re anxious about a presentation, see yourself getting ready in the morning with confidence, picture the meal you eat before you start presenting, the people you talk to, and finally the presentation itself. The more details the better.

    • Your body will buzz at the end of the 10 minutes and put you in a more positive state to start the day.

      So what tips do you have for finding white space? Let me know in the comments below!


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