Information we receive through our senses is not always accurate. It is not necessarily a factual representation of the outside world. When we receive information through our senses, we add our own interpretation and emotion to this information. This can create false characteristics.
Cosmologists believe the universe is one mathematical object and holds the key to order and peacefulness in our lives. As a mathematician, I believe that everything is connected and that by adopting a mathematical way of thinking we can all take a step closer to achieving personal happiness and fulfilment.
Adopting a mathematical thinking model in order to reduce stress and anxiety doesn’t involve ‘doing’ any maths. It is about thinking differently so you can stop feeling overwhelmed by classifying the information and putting it into what is known as mathematical sets. In particular, we can classify the information we receive and ensure we focus on what is important, like kindness, helpfulness, loyalty, honesty, etc.
If we think of everyday tasks as mathematical sets, we can train our brains to operate objectively and create a more efficient way of understanding and accepting what is going on around us. We can treat what is around us as simply a set of knowledge: computer, table, carpet.
Sets are groups or lists of objects with specific characteristics – they are connected. For example, if we want to travel from A to B we create a set that contains all the transport options. This helps us to think objectively without pre-sorting options based on subjective feelings or perceptions.
The modern world inundates us with a plethora of information, much of it through social media, and has negatively impacted the quality of our thinking and, in turn, our personal happiness. Our minds are heavily influenced by the curated images and posts of other people’s lives, often leading to distorted and inaccurate perceptions. It’s crucial to learn how to think objectively, particularly for teenagers grappling with mental health issues, as perceptions are often the root cause of stress. By doing so, one can alleviate stress and improve their overall well-being.
By moving away from creating a subjective picture of the world, and instead focusing on objective mathematical thinking models you can concentrate on making the most of your life. You can seek members of sets that you wish to try. For example, a set of TV channels, with subsets of programmes to watch. Or a set of elements in your neighbourhood to visit with subsets like museums, shops, cafes, etc.
Here are a few tips, based on a mathematical way of thinking, that will help reduce stress and overwhelm. Although these ways of thinking may not immediately appear mathematical, each suggestion comes from mathematical thinking where the facts are what matters, not the assumptions, external influences or the things we cannot control – just ourselves, what we can control, and the facts we can be sure of.
- Ignore what you can’t control. In general terms there is little you can do to change the outside world; you can’t stop the war in Ukraine, or the rising price of fuel, so stop focusing on what you can’t control and instead focus on what you can. Worrying about the outside world doesn’t help you and won’t change it. Don’t try to control things you can’t control. Focus on what you can do. This frees up the mind and ensures it is not cluttered with perceptions and generalisations which is far better for our mental health.
- Everyone should create a routine and structure in their lives that allows them to ensure the important parts of life are dealt with and included. These need to be in the “priority setting”. Focus on things that matter to you. Someone else will have different priorities.
- Adopt a childlike quality that allows things to go over your head. When we are very young, we don’t really think beyond what makes us happy. We don’t worry about what other people think of us and we are much more in tune with our sensory pleasures such as touch, smell and sound. A child’s faith is unshakable, they don’t question, doubt or seek explanations when they are doing something that gives them pleasure. As long as what you are doing is not dangerous or life-threatening, enjoy it for what it is.
- Remember every decision has a consequence. This can be mathematically represented by an equation: decision = consequences. Both sides form a set, and this can be used for teaching/learning purposes whether talking to children or adults about the consequences of their actions.
- Reference the past only to find learnings or things you’d like to enjoy again. Don’t refer back to bad experiences, whether yours personally or someone else’s, or even those of humanity as a whole. Refer back only to learn. You can put the event in a ‘mistakes’ set and the learnings in a ‘new approaches’ set. You can also have a refer-back set called “experiences I loved” so you can look to this set for things you’d like to do again.
- Stop making generalisations about people or stereotyping them. This is the source of many conflicts. Everyone is unique, which can be represented as a unique set of knowledge (although everyone is based on the same template). Allow them the courtesy and opportunity to show you their uniqueness, rather than pigeon-holing them before you even know anything about them. This applies to individuals, and groups of people. By thinking of them as mathematical sets, the emotion can be removed and only the objective fact of the set remains.
- Learn philosophical phrases such as “worse things could happen”. It reminds us that perhaps things are not as bad as we think. Saying these phrases will help lessen the stress you are feeling over a particular issue/incident. This is not a panacea but it can help.
- Remove all objects from your environment that you know will cause weakness. To better organise various actions or behaviours, one can group them into mathematical sets such as mistakes, precautions, and so on. For instance, consuming crisps can be deemed a mistake if the goal is to lose weight. Therefore, adding ‘remove crisps from the house’ to the precaution set is essential. The constant struggle to resist temptation can be incredibly taxing and might leave one feeling overwhelmed.
- Everyone makes mistakes, don’t beat yourself up about them. If they are important mistakes, break them down into sets – the mistake, and the learning. And then share these sets with colleagues and other connected individuals. Remember, the mistake is in the past, make corrections if you can and learn for the future. I believe it should be the role of the parent, with a backup of education, to teach children possible common mistakes and their relevant precautions. This means actually making mistakes is not the only way youngsters learn.
- Challenge celebrity culture, bullying, crime and racism. Concentrate on living your life and focus on the qualities we can’t discern from our senses, like kindness, helpfulness and empathy, as these are far more rewarding for the body and mind.
The information we receive through our senses is not always accurate, and it is not necessarily a factual representation of the outside world. By adding our interpretation and emotions to this information, we can create false characteristics. Adopting a mathematical thinking model can help us reduce stress and anxiety by classifying information into sets and focusing on what is important.
By thinking objectively, we can improve our overall well-being. Several tips based on mathematical thinking can help reduce stress and overwhelm, such as ignoring what we cannot control, creating routines and priorities, adopting a childlike quality, referencing the past only for learning, stopping generalisations, and learning philosophical phrases. By removing all objects that cause weakness, we can better organize our actions and achieve personal happiness and fulfilment.
Francis Keith Robins is the author of “Power of Objective Thinking” which shows us how to use, tried and tested objective thinking patterns to reduce stress and a sense of overwhelm or helplessness.