How to Stay Sane | Philippa Perry

Summary of: How to Stay Sane
By: Philippa Perry


In ‘How to Stay Sane’, Philippa Perry offers insights into how our minds work and its impact on our decision-making processes. In order to maintain your sanity and achieve a higher level of self-awareness, the book encourages self-observation and discovering behavioral patterns that hold us back. Various tools like keeping a diary, focusing on the present moment through meditation, building healthier relationships by questioning our judgments, and promoting good stress by stepping outside our comfort zones are highlighted. Furthermore, Perry delves into the importance of our narratives and their power to influence our perspectives and motivation.

The Illusion of Logical Decisions

Have you ever thought of yourself as a logical and rational individual? The reality is that you are not as reasonable as you may believe. According to recent studies, humans are predominantly guided by emotions and instincts, which are located in the right hemisphere of the brain. Personality traits and preferences are thus developed early in life based on social surroundings. Despite the development of logic and reason in the left hemisphere from around the age of three, the right brain remains dominant in most individuals, making it challenging to overcome strong emotions with logic. Post-rationalization is consequently the left brain’s process of justifying emotional decisions. As a result, people believe that they make logical decisions when, in reality, their left brain is tricking them into thinking so. These revelations shed light on how people react in stressful situations and why they don’t always make rational decisions.

Observing Yourself

It is impossible to turn your emotions on and off like a light switch. As humans, we need to find space to observe how we feel and who we are. Practicing self-observation helps you notice and alter behaviors that stifle your well-being. By observing yourself, you can create distance from an event, assess your feelings and thoughts in a non-judgmental way, and calm yourself down. Keeping a diary and using focused attention are effective methods of self-observation. Writing down your thoughts, feelings, and random memories help you notice moments where you repeat yourself or show emotional habits. Focused attention is achieved by sitting down and focusing on your breathing. Practicing self-observation and focused attention enables you to create a gap between you and your thoughts and feelings, empowering you to get a better handle on them.

The Power of Self-Awareness in Relationships

See how self-awareness can enhance your relationships and prevent negative self-projection.

Do you ever find yourself judging someone before even speaking to them? It’s a common habit that disconnects us from potential relationships that we might benefit from. Humans rely on social connections to sustain our mental health, and negative past experiences may lead one’s biases to overshadow present ones. However, by practicing self-awareness, one can recognize internal behaviors that hinder fulfilling relationships. 

Peter Fonagy, a psychoanalyst, emphasizes that self-awareness expands individuals’ emotional literacy, making them more receptive to others’ emotions. Work on comprehending your feelings and thoughts to comprehend someone else’s genuine feelings. Self-awareness can help someone understand themselves and approach their social interactions more empathetically. Identifying your emotional triggers can help you control your reactions to potential displays of judgment.

Zara’s diary narrative shows that habits are difficult to break, and self-observation can help recognize the behavior. By identifying a typical pattern of neediness and dependency in her romantic relationships, she was able to stop the cycle and form a long-lasting, healthy relationship. Self-awareness helps people become more invested in the process of change and development. By improving your self-awareness, one can experience the benefits of healthy, long-lasting relationships.

The Benefits of Good Stress

Stress is often seen as harmful, but not all stress is the same. Moderate amounts of good stress, which is experienced when engaging in new and challenging activities, can actually promote brain functioning and longevity. Welsh researcher David Snowden found that individuals who continued to learn and cultivate new interests throughout their lives actively encouraged levels of good stress, leading to significantly longer lives and lower rates of mental deterioration. To cultivate good stress, individuals must push beyond their comfort zones by engaging in activities that make them a little nervous. Starting with something like writing a blog can increase self-confidence and prepare individuals to tackle even greater challenges. By embracing good stress, the brain and body can experience the benefits of stimulation.

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