Links!

lynx

Here’s what I’ve been reading on the internet lately.

My immediate post-college career would have been so much easier if this existed already. I wish every office had them.

YES to Elizabeth Warren. “Fifty years later, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.”

No wonder it feels like money goes so quickly round these parts. New York gets only $86.73 of $100.

If I was going to get a tattoo, it would be one of these gorgeous works of art.

Illustrations of celebrities and their younger selves, side-by-side.

This app would really cut down on the amount of pepper spray we might need to buy.

Turns out, the internet doesn’t make us isolated and lonely. Hooray!

How exercise makes us happier.

Finally! Thank you, Australia, for setting a good example.

My new hobby for when I retire.

4 Ways to Cheer Up when You’re Feeling Down

6826211535_0648145350_z

There are lots of lists on the internet about how to be happier. And when you’re stuck in a funk, they can seem like a load of crap. But these four rituals from Time are backed by neuroscience (read: people who study your brain have shown they help). Next time you’re feeling blue, pull out these tricks, and try them for yourself. The worst that can happen is you’ll still be in a bad mood at the end, right?

  1. What are you grateful for? It can be hard to break the cycle of negative thoughts because guilt, shame, and worry activate the reward center. But when you think about things you’re thankful to have in your life (even if it’s the last thing you want to do), it releases serotonin in the same way. Even trying to find something you appreciate can help, for those times you can’t land on an answer.
  2. What exactly are you feeling? Giving your generalized yuck a name can reduce the emotion’s impact on your mood. Are you sad? Or anxious? Thinking about how you are feeling, instead of ignoring it and pretending everything is fine, reduces the intensity of the emotion you’re experiencing, so you feel less sad, less anxious once you’ve given it a label.
  3. Just decide already. Even making the good-enough choice instead of the best possible one in the world stops your brain from spinning like a top and gives you a little peace. Actively choosing to do something, to take action towards a goal also boosts your serotonin.
  4. Reach out and touch somebody. When you don’t feel love and acceptance from the people around you, it can by physically painful. The easiest way to feel connected to your fellow humans is a pat on the back, a handshake, or a hug – physical contact. Human touch makes you more persuasive, improves team performance, improves flirting (and math skills!), and reduces pain. Don’t have anyone to hug? A massage will do. Can’t afford that? Call someone and talk – it makes your body feel better in a way that texting just can’t do.

Still glum and gloomy? Check out The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, Ph.D., the man whose research is behind the original article.

Image by 8 Kome.

A Tiny Fitness Giraffe

Tep

It’s pretty well agreed upon that exercise boosts your mood. It releases dopamine, and helps you sleep better which all equals feeling better. And who can look at a cute animal without feeling happier, amirite? They even make you more productive at work.

Now a fitness app combines your need for movement with your love of adorable stuff in one happiness generating exercise package called Tep. When you download the app, you’re given a darling (digital) pet giraffe you need to feed and care for – think the Tamagotchi pets of the 90’s. But here’s the catch. In order to earn essentials like food and drink for your little guy, and less essential decorations like hats and footwear (!!!), you’ve got to get moving.

Walking, running, and biking all snag you points you can use to keep the little buddy alive. So next time you think about skipping your workout for some quality Netflix time with your couch, you don’t need to rely on will power alone. If you don’t, your happiness, and your tiny giraffe that’s depending on you will croak.

5 Ways Being Selfish is Actually a Good Thing

7054934595_a8168c68b2_z

In our society (or at least NYC), many people pride themselves on how busy they are. It’s considered a badge of honor to have too.dang.much.to.do. And, I am 1000% guilty of overscheduling myself (even if it’s all with really fun things). The modern lady has work happy hours, ALL the wedding events, social time with friends, and – if that’s the life path she’s chosen, a spouse and kids to fit into the mix. All those responsibilities suck up the precious free time left after work, and can often lead to putting your own needs on the back burner while you run around catering to other people’s – even if you truly enjoy everything you’re doing.

We can all remember a time when we RSVP’d yes to an engagement when we were dead tired and broke just because we love our bestie. Or even when we had managed a few quiet moments to ourselves, FOMO struck and we got up and off the couch.

I came across this post on Mind Body Green explaining why putting yourself first is not only important – but crucial! – to happiness, and I think they’re onto something. Take back some time for yourself, and turn that FOMO into JOMO with these five steps.

  1. Pamper Yourself: Think about it, would you rather give someone you care about a worn-down, tired version of yourself, or the you who has blocked out time to take a nap and go to the gym?
  2. Don’t Volunteer: In other words, wait for someone to ask for your help before throwing yourself into action. Then actually think about it. Do you really have the time, energy and resources? If not, is there some other help you can recommend, and still feel like a good friend?
  3. Take a Time Out: Of course we can all push through a cold, or mild sickness if we’re not on our deathbeds, but should we? Taking a well-timed day off can make you feel better, and act happier, which will have a positive influence on everyone around you.
  4. Do What You Love: Don’t let your schedule be so driving it’s soul sucking. Don’t get stuck in a position you hate. Keep moving towards the things you like.
  5. Work as a Team: Instead of trying to do it all yourself, work with all those great people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Remember that it’s ok, and often beneficial for the project if you have more intelligent minds working on it.

What do you do to make time for yourself when you’re in over your head?

Image by Roman Pfeiffer.

Do You Act Your Age?

*Originally posted as In Which Everyone Realizes I’m Actually 50 or 80 as the case may be

Ever since I was a child, people have remarked about how I never really act my current age. My mother said I was born a little adult, and the librarian backed her up by calling to report that the fiction I chose was not age-appropriate. Growing up, my sister used to say I had the habits of a middle-aged man. Fast forward to now, when my friends regularly proclaim there must an old woman trapped in my young(ish) adult body. Then I read this post on Yes and Yes, and it got me thinking about what exactly I do to give everyone this impression. So I decided to make my own list, a condensed story of my life, where I tend toward a senior citizen. Here are some of things I love that are not age appropriate.

Casseroles

I like to eat them, and I like to make them, and not just at holidays like Thanksgiving. Hot melty bowls of veggies and meat usually covered in mayonnaise and cheese with a delicious crunchy topping? Sign me up.

Crossword Puzzles

They’re the only reason I ever take the AM New York from those pesky subway workers, or buy Star magazine.  Actually, let’s just make that puzzles , in general. I love putting them together, especially if they are covered in glitter feature cute animals.

Scratch Off Lottery Tickets

Though I have to go into the sketchy bodegas that usually feature pet cats roaming around, and degenerate gamblers playing strings of numbers, every now and then, I need to satisfy my itch for a Cashword or Win for Life. Hey guys, if you don’t buy the ticket, you can’t ever win.

Clogs and Nightgowns

I own them and wear them, even though I’m pretty sure they are only made for the Swedes and people living in retirement homes.

Crocheting

I find it relaxing to make scarves and hats while watching TV. Maybe its my short attention span that requires me to do multiple things at once for entertainment. Or maybe I am just secretly an old woman on the inside.

USA Network

You know those shows that only your parents watch during the summer? Like Royal Pains, and Suits, and that one your mother can’t stop talking about how handsome the lead guy is, White Collar? They’re my favorite shows too.

Bonnie Rait, James Taylor and Aretha Franklin

It’s not the classic music that is SO HIP to listen to, or scores you points with the hippies at music festivals. It will, however, let you bond with your boss. These guys feature heavily into my iPod playlists, and I may or may not own their Christmas albums.

I Speak in Proverbs

If you’re spent time with me, you’re probably so used to me using expressions like, “That’s handy!” or, “Under mackerel sky, they ground’s never dry” that you don’t even notice them anymore. At least that’s what I tell myself when I let a, “Go to town!” slip out in the workplace when a coworker asks to do something. Or when I find myself clucking my tongue and thinking, “Willful waste makes for woeful want” when I see someone throwing out food. My strange little expressions picked up over the years from my great-grandma, aunts and uncles, and country childhood go unnoticed to most, right? Right.

Punch and a Cheeseball are Book Club Refreshments

This one’s two-fold. I have a book club. When I used to host it at my apartment, a typical snack was a big bowl of punch (alcoholic of course), and a cheese ball or dip. Sound like something you’d see at Aunt Gertrude’s holiday party? Also for book club I have been known to suggest a Nicholas Sparks book, and secretly read a Norah Roberts novel in between selections here and there.

I don’t know why I like all of these older-lady things. Maybe it’s because of all the time I spend at my grandparent’s house growing up (Hi Gram!), or maybe I was destined to be age inappropriate from birth.

Anything I forgot to include friends? What do you like that’s not typical for your age?

What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

2945254545_ab454ae332_z

I was listening to a podcast the other morning (As friends of mine know, I start sentences like that a lot.). This particular one was about not, “interviewing your child for pain.” Basically, it was saying if you only ask a loved one questions about what went wrong on Tuesday, or call up your friend to see what terrible thing her ex has done now, you’re putting all of your attention on the bad stuff in life (and that’s not good!).

It struck a chord with me.

I can think of hundreds of times when I’ve been at bitchfests with friends where everyone is trashing a certain thing or event or celebrity. Isn’t that what a lot of work happy hours are all about? Complaining as a unit really brings a group together.

And I’ve noticed that when I’m telling stories about dates gone horribly awry, they garner much more attention than when I am describing the really sweet moment when a date was hopping around imitating my favorite Instagram bunny.

It made me think.

If we’re spending so much more time talking about the bad stuff, does it really impact the way we feel? Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill Grace say Yes. “We live the story we tell ourselves – and others – about the life we’re leading.”

If that’s the case, don’t we want it to be a happy story? Shouldn’t we be spending more time noticing and talking about the little moments of brightness and joy we encounter in our days?

Then I read an article in the September issue of Marie Claire about a clinical trial to treat PTSD that is using MDMA (the chemical behind ecstasy and ‘Molly’) as a therapy drug. The piece described how it was having success because it let people access old, traumatic memories and reimagine them, interact with them, and put them back away with a different spin. It allowed them to heal and change a moment that already happened to them by changing the way they remembered it.

Studies show that we are hard wired to remember negative events – insults – for longer, and more intensely than our bodies respond to good events. Researchers say it’s due to the chemicals our bodies produce. Cortisol, the stress hormone, sticks around for longer and has a more dramatic impact than oxytocin, our feel-good hormone, that metabolizes more quickly.

If we’re constantly interviewing our friends and family about their heart ache, their bad days, soon they could begin to believe that’s all there is. Be empathetic, and by all means, be there for people who need you, but in day to day life, if we’re defined by what we focus in on, and our memories are changed by examining them in a different light, don’t you want to make sure you’re telling yourself a happy story?

Image by Mark Wathieu