The pressures of the holidays are numerous. Finding the perfect gift is only a small, but omnipresent, part (did you see what I did there?)!
It is important to consider the person that you are giving the gift to. What kind of person are they? Do they have any hobbies or passions? Don't go overboard with the themes, though! My poor dad got everything related to golf for the first 25 years of my life! Calenders, games, decor, you name it my sister and I gave him the golf versions! Also, sometimes people get pigeon holed, which can be frustrating or perplexing for them.
For example, when we got married in Mexico we brought back a mask for my grandfather-in-law which we understood that he collected. I'll never forget him unwrapping it and going "Ah, a mask! Some how I got a reputation for liking these and now I have a lot of them..." Needless to say that was the lat mask that we bought Pop-pop!
1.) Charitable Donation
This is a perfect gift for groups of people, especially adults. When I was in college I realized that my family (who has slight hoarding tendencies) didn't really need anything that I was going to buy them. Instead I donated to Heifer International and gave the cards. Please do not give this gift to children. They will not be able to appreciate it. This past mother's day my mother and mother-in-law got donations to International Rescue Committee to help refugees. The Humane Society is another good one. Do you know someone who loves animals? Donate to their local shelter. Don't do this if you know them well and they are at a point in their life where they need money. In that case, just give them a check.
Lets be honest, this is a little bit of a cop out. It is appropriate for bosses to give to their employees- but they need to be uniform! Same place and amount for everyone (coffee shops are usually a hit, try to source a local one!). If you know a kid that is saving up for something expensive- like a computer- you can contribute via gift card but make sure that everyone is getting it for the same place because $150 at Best Buy and $150 at Circuit City will not buy a $300 computer! Did I just date myself with the "Circuit City"? Do they still exist? The other exception to this is for hobbies or pets. I love gift cards to Petco so I can get my dogs special treats.
There are a lot of ways that you can accomplish this without breaking the bank. I mean, if you are in the position to buy someone you a love a vacation, go for it! Make sure it is somewhere they want to go though... Otherwise you can buy people tickets to a concert or art event/exhibit. Once again, take their personality into account- I do not enjoy live music, for example, but love museums. Buying a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant is also a nice way to provide them with an experience. I always have a fantasy that I will be gifted a clean house by someone paying for a cleaner to do a deep clean! Check out local classes too! I would love to take dance classes but my husband would probably be miserable! He might appreciate it if I took some singing lessons, though...
Generally, these are gifted to parents/grandparents and the subject is their child/grandchild or if the person is IN the picture. One year I gave everyone a picture of the whole family and a candid of my grandparents.
NOT a magazine subscription (do those still exist?). Last year we gave out some CauseBox subscriptions which is a quarterly box that "has a conscience". It was not inexpensive but we figured it sort of covered other gift-giving events too... (hey, it was a hectic year!). If you know someone who is busy but likes to cook, try a meal delivery service. We like Green Chef. There are all sorts of monthly boxes for everyone you know, flowers, makeup, whiskey, candy... Just Google it! There are some especially neat ones for kids! Lillypost sends different books each month (as you probably know, I am a book nerd!) which can be great for parents too to add some variety and excitement to nightly routines! Little Passports sends educational activities and honestly as an adult these still look fun! I have my fingers crossed for a BarkBox Super Chewer this year! (Looking for Teens? Here is a list with some great suggestions).
This is exactly what my husband and I get each other every year. Of course, we don't have kids but we are planning on keeping up the tradition when we do. The thing is, we don't need knick-knacks/chochkies/etc and it just becomes something I have to figure out what to do with. Now that we downsized from over 3,000 sq ft to less than 1,000 we don't have the space space for it all! Also, there is this: The Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving.
When it comes down to it: remember that the point of the holiday is cheer, love, & support. Celebrate that with your blood family, or your chosen family, not material goods. Let me know what your favorite gift to give or receive was!
Before we get to the meat of the article, let's take a moment to recognize that a lot of this holiday is propaganda... Here is an article about the Wampanoag side of the story from the online indigenous news outlet "Indian Country Today". Here is an article from the New York Times about how inaccurate and white-washed the stories most of us were taught are. I would encourage you to read both of them.
For me, Thanksgiving is a time to slow down, remember to be thankful, and eat some good food with family or friends! Of course, for many, spending time with family is a double edged sword. While we grow and change often our families refuse to recognize that and we find ourselves falling back into our old patterns. Too frequently we use alcohol or other substances to "cope" with the stress of spending a bunch of time with our families.
My first suggestion applies to everything: take a breath! When something is said or done and you find yourself becoming defensive take a deep breath instead of firing off a response or reaching for a glass of wine. Maybe that was enough and you can just let it go and move one. Maybe not. If not, excuse yourself. Go to another room- or the bathroom- and take a minute to breath and repeat a positive mantra like: "I can be peaceful in a storm". Do not stew and think of a response.
If there is one person in particular that you are struggling with try to think about a positive aspect of them. Or, pinpoint what it is that you are finding frustrating and mentally thank them for the lesson. Here is an article about dealing with toxic family members which could provide you with more tools and insights.
Limiting your time can also be helpful- don't spend the night or a week. Get a hotel room or an AirBnB so that you have your own refuge. Remember: you can control your own actions and reactions but you can't change other people's actions. It can be hard to accept people as they are but it is the only reality. Is your family toxic? Here is an article that you might find helpful.
It is also okay to say no! If you think that going to an event, family or otherwise, for the holidays is a threat to your mental health or sobriety then you should stay home and do something nice for yourself. If you are supposed to host and realize that you don't have the help that you need to keep your sanity then cancel. Try to do it ahead of time so that people have time to make other plans.
Be honest to yourself about your needs! Too often we are trying to meet some standard of "having it all" and I am telling you to give yourself permission to opt out. Have peace instead. Try the app "Insight Timer". I particularly like Sarah Blondin and she has a great meditation that only takes a few minutes and is about giving yourself permission.
If you are going to Thanksgiving and wondering how to fill the time before or after dinner (because not everyone wants to watch football) I recommend "John Leguizamo's Latin History for Morons" on Netflix. Not about the Wampanoag and Pilgrims but similar theme and really well done.
What are you thankful for?
I started teaching pre-school after the bar I worked at burned down (during my shift, but not related to me at all!). I needed to be at the school at 7am. This was torture. As much as I loved my job and the kids I would have traded years of my life to be able to sleep longer. Even into my 30s when I had to be at work at various times between 7am and 9am getting up was challenging.
"Go to bed earlier!" you might say. I did that. I would go to bed between 8 and 9 and just lay in bed staring at the ceiling for hours. My husband would fall right asleep, of course (which was good because he had to get up before 5am to go to work). On good nights I can use that time to meditate, on bad nights I use it to think (read: stress) about my to-do list. Light has a strong effect on the sleep cycle. I got one of those "daylight" alarms- which helped a little. Light effects the quality of your sleep and your sleep effects your mental and physical health. In fact, scientists are coming to believe that low sleep quality isn't just a symptom of anxiety and depression but actually the cause in a lot of cases.
Sleep deprivation has numerous negative effects besides mental illness.
What does this have to do with daylight saving? One of the reasons that the government likes daylight saving is because it keeps people up later so they spend more money and boost the economy. When will our health as a nation be worth something? We know that students benefit greatly from getting more sleep especially. In a time where students are suffering from mental illness to the point of murdering their classmates and teachers is the money gained still more important? "Spring Forward" causes a spike in heart attacks and strokes.
From what I see, the government constantly goes against advice from experts when making policy to make sure that they benefit rather than the public. There is good science against daylight saving. For the next few months at least, I will be enjoying a healthier sleep cycle and dreading the spring.
How do you feel after scrolling through Instagram or Facebook? Inspired and rejuvenated? It is more likely that you feel lousy. Compared to the pictures that you are seeing on you feed you life now looks crummy. Worse, maybe you saw some friends doing something that you weren't invited to. It is even more intense if you follow celebrities because you don't see all the work that goes into that "effortless" selfie. Somehow even if you don't have a team of people to do your hair, make-up, clean your house, do your laundry, make sure you are eating the perfect food and working out, you think that you should be able to create the same presentation.
Moreover, even people who aren't rich, famous celebrities only present a certain aspect of themselves on their social media (the best aspect that they can). People post #nomakeupselfies with make-up on. For many it can be hard to see what your peers are doing (getting married, buying houses, etc) and not feel like you should be doing that also. I am at a point in my life where a lot of my friends are having babies- and while I love seeing the pictures of all the adorable kids it can be really frustrating because my husband and I are not in a place where we are ready for kids.
I admit that it is a struggle for me when I look at people's life presented on Facebook- I know that it is a snapshot of something nice and maybe not even indicative of their actual life but I still end up judging my life. It reminds me of how when I was little my father used to tell me that movies were fake but I would still be terrified and get nightmares. Sometimes from movies that weren't even supposed to be scary, like "Gremlins" or "Little Monster" (I just realized this year that "Little Monsters" was also a metaphor for staying off drugs). Season 2 Episode 5 of "Great News" epitomizes this effect. The main character feels like she has to prove the worth of her choices (career not family/kids) through selfies on her social media.
We know that social media has negative effects. It can be even worse for teens or mothers. One option is to ops out entirely. I have done this a few times in my life and it was lovely. Give yourself a week here and there to detox from the effects and maybe make it permanent. This may not be an option for you, though, since social media is free marketing. Although the way that Facebook (who owns Instagram as well) has set up the algorithms really reduce visibility unless business pay for it.
As a result it can seem like everyone is looking at the same accounts (not yours). My personal account has been stagnant with about 250-260 followers for 4 years. Some people combat this by "buying followers"- which are not actually genuine people but "bots". My least favorite are people who follow you just to get you to follow them back and once you do they unfollow you. There are apps that show you who has unfollowed you (I use "Follower Analyzer" from the Google Play Store for my business account).
I actually once asked an account about this, "Female.Mindset" or something like that because I wanted to know if there was something in my feed that they felt offended by or if they were just using it as a technique to boos their own following. They blocked me without responding. There are also the accounts that follow you and then unfollow you when you don't follow them back. For me that is especially frustrating because with my business account I am trying to create interesting and relevant content and it makes me wonder if people are even seeing it or if they are does anyone care?
Try going cold turkey for a few days at least. If that isn't possible, set boundaries and stick to them. No phones in the bedroom, for example, that way you make sure it isn't keeping you up or the first thing you do every morning. I knew a family that instituted a "no phones in the kitchen' rule because that was where the family congregated and spent quality time together. Or you could put time limits in place. You only look at social media on your lunch break, or you don't do it in the evening when you are spending time with you family.
It is also helpful to take a look at why you are being drawn to your phone. Are you lonely? Making friends as an adult can be difficult but you can try meeting new people with apps like "MeetUp" (I know that I just told you to reduce your phone time, but it is still a helpful tool and okay to use it that way!). I have also been told that Bumble, a dating app, has a "bff" mode to meet people. Check your local paper, community center, or library for events or book clubs to join.
The "Savannah Principle" states that even if the way that we live has changed a lot from when we were hunter/gatherers on the plains of Africa our actual genetics and instincts haven't. This is why people feel bonded to characters on TV or hosts of podcasts- if you frequently saw/heard the same people and they wren't trying to kill you that meant that they were probably friends- even if the interaction was purely one sided. Keep this in mind when you are watching people's Instagram stories- are you substituting for real social interaction?
Also, what is your purpose on social media? I like to see what friends are up to who I haven't been able to keep in touch with. I practice what is called "supportive likeing" where I like the vast majority of posts I see almost like a digital smile. That being said, I do my best to message and genuinely interact with people as well! Are you on social media to support people you know? Or to make yourself miserable by comparing yourself to others?
If you think that you have a serious addiction to your phone/computer there is help available.
Have any tips on healthy engagement? Leave them in the comments!
Don't let the internet steal your joy!
Written for the Boxy Blog
Okay, hate is a strong word and a little click-bait-y but the title "Why I Am Deeply Uncomfortable With Hillary Clinton" didn't have the same ring. First, let me tell you that I wanted to like Hillary, for years, I tried to get behind her as a public and political figure but it always felt disingenuous. Also, I strongly believe that she is constantly punished for her gender. Everything that people think they don't like her for they would probably find palatable from a man (I mean, the government just gave a lifetime Supreme Court position to a man that threw a temper tantrum in a Senate Committee hearing so if you are still unsure about double standards get in touch with me and I will see if I can break it down further for you). This post isn't about how Hillary has suffered from sexism- that would be a whole different topic.
I was in middle school when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke and just becoming aware of and educated in current events. Bill Clinton was a president whose "progressive" policies were liked by women. My mother and my father both had nice things to say about him so I thought he was a "good" president. Of course, as an adult I recognize that humans aren't as simple to be either "good" or "bad".
When the scandal broke I saw it as a cheap shot from "evil Republicans". My 12 year old brain figured that he had the most difficult job in the world, who cares if he got a blowjob in the Oval Office? Then my teacher asked if it would be okay if the woman wasn't willing. Monica Lewinsky maintained that the relationship was consensual but there were other women (before I paid attention to the news) that were not. Was that okay stress relief for the president?
That gave me serious pause and was the first chink in my Democratic identity armor. If you are unsure what I am talking about there is a Wikipedia page dedicated to Bill Clinton's sexual misconduct allegations. That was not right. BUT it was in the past and the situation of 1998 was consensual I quickly rationalized. I want to be clear that I do not blame Hillary Clinton for her husband's actions or think that she should answer for them. As the story unfolded I followed what the media was saying about the intern with whom he had the affair with. It was not pretty.
Monica Lewinsky was basically doxxed by the Drudge Report. At 23 years old she had to contend with an repulsive amount of criticism from mainstream media. They took her picture from her passport (who looks good in those???) and called her "chunky", "ditzy", a "bimbo" and more. No one stood up for her. Feminists stood by President Clinton. At 12 I thought that 21 (the age that the affair began) was an adult. Now that I am in my 30s I can see that 21 is oh, so young.
What, you may ask, does this have to do with my feelings for Hillary? I think that in the true spirit of feminism Hillary should have defended Monica. Instead she played the victim. Hillary parades Gloria Steinem around with quotes like "There is a special place in hell for women who don't support other women" when it is convenient for her. The rest of the time she is just making sure that she has a spot in the boys club. It is the hypocrisy that bothers me.
The way that high profile feminists treated Lewinsky altered my view of feminism entirely. I still have mixed feelings about that term as a result of the catty behavior from the 90s. These news stories, what was did and said was very powerful for me, and the lessons that my young mind learned from them was that “feminists” will rationalize wrong actions if it suits their agenda (ironically, in this case to pass sexual harassment legislation). I am still grappling with the meaning of the term “feminist”. I have become even more aware of the struggle that became Monica Lewinsky's life as a result of the scandal. She is writing thoughtful and insightful pieces for Vanity Fair now, including one that addresses Hillary Clinton's actions and legacy regarding the event.
I am sure that it was a stressful time for Clinton and perhaps she looks back and wishes she did something differently. Except I think that it's safe to say that she doesn't because she still won't admit that there was a power imbalance at play between a 21 year old intern and 49 year old president of the United States of America. According to her, 21 is an adult and that is the end of the story. The reality is, though, that you can't capitalize on #metoo while continuing to excuse and apologize for your sexual predator husband. Clinton wants to have her cake and eat it too.
I wish that I could like Hillary. Even if our politics were the same (which they aren't) I still find her highly problematic. In her I see everything that is wrong with 2nd wave feminism: elitism and exclusion. Yet, I do recognize her accomplishments- hence the uncomfortable rather than hate. This is what would make me feel better: if she apologized to Lewinsky (her husband should also apologize but for completely different reasons). If Clinton reached out to Lewinsky and simply said sorry for the way that Lewinsky was treated, Clinton's lack of support war wrong, and publicly forgave Lewinsky for the adultery. These two women are incredibly strong and repairing that rift would be so powerful.
While the catty and apologist behavior of well known feminists in the 90s put a bad taste in my mouth regarding "feminism" when I was younger it continues today. Let me be clear on something: I don't believe that anyone is perfect, (myself strongly included) but when misconduct does occur it is important to learn from it. I don't believe that women are not capable of sexism or sexual harassment just because they are frequently the target of it.
You may or may not have heard about a currently going on where a (male) graduate student has accused his (female) faculty adviser of sexual harassment. If not, here is a great podcast from Stuff Your Mom Never Told You about it, here is an NY Times article about it, and an op ed from someone who worked with the professor. The e-mails that she wrote are beyond "cringe-worthy" and are in no way appropriate between a professor and student. Professor Ronell may or may not be a feminist herself (that is not what her scholarship is in), but well known feminists came to her defense (looking at you Judith Butler).
This is my problem with "feminism" (notably 2nd wave feminists) the idea that people who are part of a marginalized group can't also be bad actors and need to apologize, learn, change. They cry "believe victims" but don't do it themselves when it doesn't fit their narrative. To be fair, Butler has written a letter to the editor apologizing but still benefits from and participates in the patriarchal and toxic structure of academia.
I want to identify with these women, with the idea of “feminism”, but mostly I just don't.
I remember being in middle school and driving by NYC on a class trip to Washington, D.C. I stared at the twin towers trying to fathom the size of them. They didn't look that big, but I knew they were. At that moment I felt awe for humanity- what humans were able to accomplish. Honestly, though, I also felt a little disgusted at Manhattan- all those people working, shitting, and living their lives on top of one another. Don't get my wrong, it didn't stop my little heart from wanting to live there rather than boring old Vermont.
In fall 2001 I was a junior in high school. I had a free period and was in the student lounge as the first plane hitting the north tower was being reported on the news. Everyone's faces around me were in complete shock. As the second plane hit the south tower on live TV one girl started crying. As a country we had never experienced anything like this before- so safe were our borders. It didn't feel real. A little later in the day we had an all school assembly. What I remember specifically was one teacher from the middle east (Pakistan, maybe?) who got up and told us that we were spoiled in safety and stuff like this happened all the time where she was from and it wasn't that big of a deal. I remember agreeing with her (naturally the administration made her apologize a little while later).
This event which was formative for much of government policy for my life is now something taught in history class. Most kids in school today weren't even born when they occurred. I can't help but wonder what these kids think as they learn about them. These kids who have grown up in fear of terrorism and in the shadow of 2 conflicts claiming American lives. Including the 19 hijackers less than 3000 people died as a result of the 9/11 attacks. Flights were grounded and American airspace was empty. The shock for me came when we watched the televised invasion of Afghanistan a few weeks later (despite the fact that the majority of attackers were Saudi Arabians... and none were Afghani) .
As of last month there have been almost 3,500 coalition casualties as a result of the war in Afghanistan (this does not include opposing forces or citizens). And what a coalition it is! 36 countries came together to avenge the US citizens murdered in (mostly) New York that fateful September day. What have we accomplished in these nearly 20 years? What is the legacy of 9/11?
In college my friends temporarily hung a banner from my balcony that said "FIGHTING FOR PEACE IS LIKE FUCKING FOR VIRGINITY". More countries are falling into civil war in the Middle East as a result as our constant intervention. American citizens are still dying in Afghanistan, Iraq and now Syria. Oh, and forget about civilian deaths because those numbers are in the hundreds of thousands but we aren't really counting.
When I see "9/11 Remember" social media posts I remember the relative peace of the 90s and how this day in history marks the turning point where we pretty much gave the government carte blanche to fight the abstract idea of "terrorism". I pray for peace.
It seems that you can't look anywhere these days without seeing something about food & diet. There are so many varieties of disordered eating that it can be hard to know what is healthy. I grew up with the "traditional" food pyramid:
It was pretty depressing to be doing what the "professionals" deemed healthy and still feel and look shitty! (As it turns out, those governemet guidelines were based on bad science- read all about it in the book "The Big Fat Surprise" by Nina Teicholz) At the suggestion from a friend I tried the "Slow Carb Diet". The results were almost immediate. Just by cutting out grain I already had ore energy! I stuck with this eating style for a time and discovered that I had been eating a lot of sugar despite not eating refined sugar. Grain? Sugar. Fruit? Sugar. Dairy? Sugar.
This style of eating also alerted me to the fact that my body does not process soy well. One of the benefits of living in Vermont (where my husband and I were living when we discovered this diet in 2012) is that it was easy to source ethically and sustainably farmed meat. I believe that factory farming is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. It is not only horrific for the cruelty to the animals but also for the environment (and vegetarians- dairy farming is worse). When we lived in the Wood River Valley in Idaho it was also easy to source humane animal products.
I felt GREAT doing the bulletproof diet but I wanted to try being vegan for ethical reasons (even though we were sourcing from ethical farmers). So, in 2015 for the month of March I cut out all animal products and focused on nuts, seeds, legumes, & veggies. The results were disastrous. Despite eating in a way to stay "low sugar" my body needed more fat and accessible protein. I gained 10 pounds but lost muscle mass. By the end of the month it was difficult for me to teach a 1 hour Vinyasa class.
I was very sad not to be successful on a vegan diet but realized that to exist in this world we are going to cause harm and the art lies in reducing that harm as much as possible. I have needed animal fat my whole life. When I was a child in the 80s my mother fed us what was thought to be healthy then- a diet heavy in soy and "lean meat" and light on fat. I would steal the butter from the fridge and eat it while hiding behind the couch (much to her chagrin).
Because it frequently takes more than once for me to learn my lesson in December of 2017 I did a 10 day silent meditation training that consisted of a 1970s style vegetarian diet with my friend Caitlin Hegwood. You are not allowed to bring your own food and while they will make dietary accommodations I figured it was the food I grew up on so I would be fine. I was not fine. After 2 days of eating oatmeal, stewed prunes, veggies with nutritional yeast, salad dressing with soybean oil and the like I had such a flare up of candida I couldn't stay awake or sit still when I was awake due to pain in my joints and muscles. This was a Dhamma Institute training that requires you to sit completely still for hours at a time.
I had to cut out EVERYTHING that has sugar to get the candida under control which left me with sunflower seeds for breakfast, steamed veggies at lunch (no salad dressing or anything on them), and hot water with cayenne pepper for dinner (there is no dinner although new students are permitted fruit, but I couldn't eat it). After 8 days of this food I was starving. My body was literally digesting itself and I was supplementing with the coconut oil from my cosmetic bag. My first words once we were permitted to speak were "I'm starving" to which Caitlin (who is familiar with my normal diet) responded" I know". I had lost 15 lbs of mostly muscle and got tired standing too long.
What is the moral of the story? I am unable to live a quality life without animal products. I attempt to carefully source all my food to reduce any harm. I also try to give myself a break to avoid orthorexia, but that is a fine line and a whole other topic. (Currently my diet is mostly pasture raised red meat, broccoli, despite the fact that I don't really like broccoli and prefer cabbage or cauliflower it is REALLY GOOD FOR YOU... oh, and a bunch or probiotics, especially found in food like sauerkraut and kimchi, click here to see the supplements I recommend).
Who is this voice inside my head?
One of the fundamentals of human experience is thought. The frequently continuous stream of language happening in your own head. While that voice might seem innocuous it can be devastating over time the same way a river can wear away rock. In yoga we call this chitta vritti.
What is your inner voice saying? I will admit- mine gives me a lot of crap! Make it a point today to pay attention to what that voice is saying. What is the content, quality, and consistency?
“But it was in this moment, lying in bed late at night, that I first realized that the voice in my head — the running commentary that had dominated my field of consciousness since I could remember — was kind of an asshole.” — Dan Harris
Without even noticing it often that voice is giving us constant negative feedback and criticism. This can be especially pronounced with people who suffer from anxiety or depression. Is your own head a negative feedback loop or echo chamber? Here are a few ways to stop it:
1.) Physical exercise! The benefits of this practice are numerous! Cardio can not only help boost your natural "happy' chemicals but it can also be a break from whatever it is that is stressing you out. Double benefits if you are in nature. Try going for a brisk walk near trees and practice noticing your surroundings- the quality of the light, the sound of the wind through the leaves, the smell, etc.
2.) Along the same vein: forest bathing. There truly is something about being in nature that is rejuvenating.
3.) Adopt a dog! Dogs always live in the moment and are great at offering love and support. Additionally, taking your dogs for walks can be combined with the suggestions above. Make sure to get a dog that matches your activity level- if you tend to be a couch potato don't get a Husky because they need miles and miles of exercise everyday.
4.) Practice some asana. One of the key features of yoga is the union of the mind and body through the physical postures. By focussing the voice in your head to your breath, your posture, your dristi, your mudras, bondas, etc there is no room left for negative self-talk. Make sure that you go to a qualified yoga teacher though, and not just some franchise down the street that focuses on the physical gains.
5.) Meditation! As I mentioned in the last post practicing meditation & mindfulness is a great way to change your thoughts, brain structure, and life. Bringing mindfulness and awareness of your present presence is key to all of these suggestions. Here is a guided meditation that is less than 5 minutes and we all have time for that.
6.) Check your drinking- and I'm not talking about water. While popular culture is rife with "drink responsibly" and "studies" about what amount of which alcohol is "good for you" the reality is it alcohol is much higher risk than reward. If you already struggle with mental illness it is even more problematic. Perhaps you identify as a "social drinker"? Try keeping a journal for a few weeks documenting your alcohol consumption and feelings. I, myself, in the past found that my daily glass of wine was an emotional crutch for a unhealthy work situation. (DISCLAIMER: if you are seriously dependent on alcohol do not go "cold turkey" but check with medical professionals since the withdrawal can be fatal).
Chances are we all "self medicate" but you have a choice as to what you are doing it with: wine or exercise? Choose healthy habits to replace the unhealthy ones. Every time you crave a cigarette go for a quick jog/walk around the block. That voice might tell you that you "need" something but just take a breath and a moment to check that "need". When that innervoice is being an asshole notice that it is being an asshole and try not to take it personally.
That voice isn't YOU. Feel free to tell it to fuck off <3
Recently, a new trend has popped up: saying "thank you" instead of "sorry". I love this idea, but possibly not for reasons that you might expect. Neuralplasticity is a hot topic these days in science, daily life, mindfulness and yoga. A very brief explanation of this phenomena is: the brain changes. Sure, it is constantly doing this all of the time, BUT we can increase our skill and ability with even little things like changing our rote social habits. Why is this important? We have known for a long time that brain structure effects consciousness. Now, more and more science is showing us that consciousness effects brain structure (for a detailed discussion on what is consciousness check out this article). That means you CAN think your way to happiness. (This is not "fake it 'till you make it" which is inauthentic and ultimately leads to less happiness).
The brain changes... That means you CAN think your way to happiness.
Perhaps you clicked on and read the aforementioned article on consciousness by Dr. Axel Cleeremans, or maybe not (it is a very long article!). It talks about "The Radical Plasticity Thesis" which takes a detailed look at consciousness. First, it helps to understand that there aren't just the simple states of conscious and unconscious, but rather levels. Think of human development (whether or not animals are capable of meta-cognition, that is, aware of thinking of thoughts, is currently under debate). Babies are born with limited self-awareness, but somewhere in the second year of life the "I" concept really begins to appear. Scientists frequently measure this by testing to see if a baby can recognize themselves in a mirror. They place a smudge on the baby's face and put them in front of a full size mirror. At first they reach to the mirror, thinking that the smudge is on another baby's face. Around 18 months old babies begin to look in mirror and recognize that the smudge is on their own faces. Here is an article from Psychology Today that goes into the development of self-awareness. It also talks about how self-awareness and language are connected.
Okay, why is this important or even related? Some of you who have come to my asana classes may have been there for a yoga nidra session (stay tuned for a post about yoga nidra!) and will recognize these words "Beliefs determine our perceptions, perceptions determine feelings, feelings determine thoughts, thoughts determine our actions and our actions determine our reality. Thus, our past thoughts lead to our present personality, attitudes and perceptions in the same way that our present thoughts determine our future behavior, actions and reality." At a deeper and more scientific level the more we engage in certain thoughts the stronger that physical structure in the brain actually becomes. If you would like to know more about brain structure/anatomy click here.
Thus, our past thoughts lead to our present personality, attitudes and perceptions in the same way that our present thoughts determine our future behavior, actions and reality.
The "Savanna Principle" asserts that while society and the human experience has changed VASTLY in the past thousand years or so the human brain hasn't actually evolved at the same rate. Which means that we have reactions that are not entirely appropriate or even helpful. Fight, flight, or freeze was great for a caveman's threats (lion, moose, unknown humans), but not so for what we perceive as threats today. If your boss calls you into her or his office to talk about something it could be a threat to your livelihood but our innate response of fight/flight/freeze isn't going to fly. YET we can still get that adrenaline rush automatically.
Hello amygdala! This little structure near the brain stem is what activates when we are having our triple f response. The more we perceive a threat the stronger it gets. Hence anxiety one of the biggest obstacles to peace and happiness in society today. How do we break this cycle? There are a variety of ways!
Provider Based Options:
You can go see a professional for help! This isn't my favorite because there are a array of potential obstacles- cost/having insurance, making the time, having the courage to talk to a stranger about deeply personal issues.
~ Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (one of the oldest and most supported in terms of evidence for treatment)
~ Eye Movement, Desensitization & Reprocessing (I have heard personal anecdotes from people I know about this being effective)
~ BreakThrough (I have experienced personal benefit from this method)
~ Micro-Dosing (this is to offer information I am not endorsing illicit substances or encouraging anyone to break laws) More info here
Home/Self Based Options:
I like these because you can do at home by yourself for free (but requires a lot of attention and dedication).
~ Positive self talk (Do you realize the amount of negative things you say to yourself everyday? From something as small as a sarcastic "good one" to full on berating yourself for a mistake)
~ Meditation (!!!) My personal favorite AND there is A LOT of support for the benefits!
Where to begin? Like a lot of people you might feel intimated by meditation. Don't have hours a day to spare? Can't sit in full lotus? GREAT NEWS! You can STILL meditate!! I would recommend starting with a 1 minute timer, sitting in a comfortable position (floor, chair, couch, lying down, whatever as long as your spine is straight so the diaphragm has optimal mobility) and just focusing on your breath.
You can definitely do that for 60 seconds. Add a minute every few days- every little bit helps!
Super-techy person? Guess what! There's an app for that! (I hear great things about Insight Timer).
There are a million different techniques you can check out to find one that resonates with you! Personally, I like:
~Anapana (feel free to ignore their instructions on posture and use your own position)
~ mantra meditation (I like "so hum", the silent mantra. Thinking "so" on the inhale and "hum" on the exhale. "So hum" means "I am that". I am that which is infinite: all we are is matter, all matter is is energy, and all energy IS infinite throughout the universe).
STILL FEELING INTIMIDATED?
Google local resources! Call a yoga studio and ask if they offer meditation instructionals. Check out on-line resources like YouTube!
Kelsey enjoys researching and discussing. These posts are based on her research and are open for discussion! Enjoy! (For the record the credit for the title goes to one of Kelsey's favorite authors: Douglas Adams).