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I love to use my birthday as an opportunity to take stock. What went well last year? What do I hope for next year? What’s important to keep top of mind? So when I turned 37 last week, I decided to write 37 reminders to myself (mostly in service of emotional wellness). Maybe they’ll help you too?
- If you’ve been avoiding something, that’s probably a clue you actually need to do the opposite. I know it’s hard, but breathe deep and look directly at whatever is bothering you. You’ve got to see problems directly to solve them properly.
- Relatedly, a real, specific problem is usually more manageable than a hypothetical, vague one.
- Sometimes you have to say something more than once to be heard. It’s no one’s fault — just a function of back-and-forth communication. If something is important, don’t drop it too quickly.
- Eating plants feels good.
- You get grumpy and feel crummy if you go too long without eating. Always pack pistachios.
- Ditto for drinking. Hydrate consistently throughout the day. A huge glug in the evening ain’t it.
- You tend to take on too much. Stay alert for early signs of overwhelm. It’s so much easier to back up when you’ve only taken a few steps in the wrong direction.
- Your body is made to move. If 30 minutes of activity is too much, start with 5 minutes. Some is better than none.
- There is no substitute for seeing other humans in real life.
- Wear clothes that fit your body as it is. You’ll feel better.
- Your preferences can be reason enough to do something. It’s ok to do something just because you want to.
- Don’t underestimate incremental progress.
- Start small.
- On bad days, take comfort in the law of regression to the mean. Tomorrow will be better.
- If you’re tired, don’t take your thoughts too seriously. If they’re still around the morning, you’ll be better able to deal with them then.
- All emotions – even the ones that feel bad – have a place in a healthy life.
- You need space for regular reflection. I know daily meditation and journaling are some of the first things to fall away when life gets busy, but they’re important, ok?
- Most things feel better after you go for a walk.
- Keep your bedtime routine sacred. Consistency in waking up and winding down pays dividends.
- Homo sapiens are a deeply resilient species. Resilience is your birthright.
- The Buddhist rules for right speech (Is it true? Is it useful? Is it kind?) applies to internal speech as much as external. Be nice to yourself.
- You’re good at anticipating the cost of mistakes. Remember your capacity to repair. Saying “That didn’t go the way I wanted it to” and “I’m sorry” go a long way toward making things right.
- Knowing what’s enough is a superpower.
- If a task feels overwhelming, it’s probably because you haven’t made a list yet. So break it down. Make a timeline. You’ll see how you can do it (even if that means changing some of the expectations).
- Remember the psychologist who told you researchers use cloudy days to induce bad moods. Feeling down when there’s no sun – especially for weeks at a time – is normal.
- When you’re surrounded by art, you can’t help but have some faith in humanity. Go to that exhibit, attend that performance, browse in that bookshop. It’s worth it.
- Singing harmony shoulder to shoulder with other people is deeply regulating.
- Feelings are information, but they aren’t facts.
- Watch nature do its thing — there’s nothing like running water, fall colors, and unfurling leaves for eliciting wonder.
- Everyone needs novelty to thrive.
- It’s easy to notice what you expect. Make sure to also pay attention to what surprises you — that’s where learning and delight come in.
- Even though it doesn’t feel like much to write down what you’re grateful for, when you do it every day, it shifts your focus to what’s good.
- You need quiet to feel connected to yourself. Just 10 minutes with no outside inputs — no phone, no audiobooks, nothing — can help you find the kind of perspective you’ll never be able to Google your way into.
- You truly are the one person on the planet who has access to the most information relevant to your life. Don’t cede your authority on yourself.
- Memory is fallible and affected by emotions. These are helpful facts to recall when you feel saturated with shame about something that happened. It probably didn’t happen exactly the way you remember.
- When you’re connected to yourself, you make good decisions. You can trust yourself.
- Keep going.
Books I Think You’ll Like
As a contributing writer for Everyday Health, I’ve been working on a series of guides on emotions (some of them are still working their way through the publishing pipeline, but they’re coming, I swear!). One of my sources recommended Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain, so I decided to dig in. I like it enough I’m now recommending it to you, but only really the first half. Namely, I like the way she explains how psychologists ideas about emotions have changed over time and how a growing group of researchers see emotions as socially constructed, rather than essentially real in the way an atom is. I also like her concept of a body budget. I know I’m getting into the weeds a bit, but I wanted to be specific here because I feel like once she veers into the speculative portion of the book (approximately the second half), she overplays her hand a bit, and my enthusiasm waned.
I eat beans everyday and I remember when we said “cool beans” so I was an easy target for Joe Yonan’s Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World’s Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes [A Cookbook]. Some reviews say this cookbook is too complicated to be practical, but I think most of this stems from the fact his recipes generally have you prepare dried beans. I have found that if you substitute canned ones the recipes come together pretty quickly and still taste great. I bought this a little over a month ago, and I’ve already folded a few of these more-than-the-sum-of-their parts recipes into my regular rotation. Yum!
Letdown by Sonia Greenfield is my favorite type of poetry — intimate, memoir-y — and traces her early motherhood. Obviously, as someone else in relatively early motherhood, I loved seeing echos of my experience on the page, but I think these poems succeed beyond their familiarity. Particularly, I loved the honesty and heart in this collection, which explores her experiences with parenting, infertility, her autistic son, and the everyday beauty and grief that thread life together.
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