Changing Adversity Into Opportunity

No one enjoys facing hardships in their lives. Whether that hardship is losing a loved one, a breakup, or even something more harrowing like losing your home to a natural disaster, we all have our own hurdles to overcome. Through most of my life I had that “woe is me” attitude. It felt like my life was so difficult. I was the stereotypical dramatic teenage girl. I never really took the time to wonder if there might be a different way I could view the challenges in my life. It’s especially hard in the moment.

It can be helpful to prep ourselves for the inevitable hard days ahead of us. One way I like to do this is to look back on past negative experiences. Usually once we’ve put some time and space between ourselves and the event, it is much easier to put it in a new context. A lot of things that once seemed like they’d be the end of me have become moments I look back on with pride. Without a lot of the negative experiences I’ve had, I wouldn’t be nearly as strong and resilient as I am today. In hindsight, they were blessings rather than burdens.

Using this mind-frame, try to practice viewing even current dilemmas through the same lens. Surely it will be a bit harder, but it’s worth the effort. When you find yourself facing difficult moments, notice where your thoughts go. Mine usually revert back to that tried and true narrative of, “no surprise, this always happens to me, I can never catch a break,” or “why me?” Rather than allowing yourself to get swept away by these unhelpful thoughts and the emotions attached to them, get curious instead.

Try asking yourself some pre-prepared questions. It can be good to keep these questions written down somewhere easy to access when you need them. When a situation arises, we will likely be too emotional/upset/frustrated to think clearly and come up with ways to spark our curiosity on the spot. A few go to questions may be:

  • Why is this particular circumstance uncomfortable for me?
  • What is this experience/person trying to teach me?
  • How might I someday be stronger because of this?
  • In what ways can I see this as an opportunity?
  • What aspects of my personality does this scenario emphasize?
  • Do I like these aspects of myself? Why or why not?
  • How might I use this moment as a way to strengthen/lessen these parts of myself?

By staying curious, we cancel out a lot of the immediate anger or dismay that we normally experience when faced with something unpleasant. It’s almost as though our interest has the power to short circuit our outrage. When we look at these struggles through a less emotional lens, there is a lot we can learn about ourselves, others, and this beautiful world we live in.

Sometimes the most important lesson we can learn from our issues is that it’s okay to feel upset, angry, sad, anxious, etc. While these things may be unpleasant, they are just feelings, and we are on this earth to experience the full scope of them. When we make a big deal out of the feelings in general, we end up making our suffering even worse than it has to be. If you find yourself unable to get curious about how this situation may teach you something useful or give you an opportunity for self-growth, at the very least remind yourself that it’s okay to feel upset. All things pass, and so will whatever you may be facing in your life right now.

Types of Adversity: Six Examples & How to Overcome Them • Andrew Roche

Waiting for Life to Begin

It feels like I am always waiting, either for something I’m looking forward to, or more often, for something to be over with. Once I get home from work, then my day can really start. Once winter ends, I’ll feel better again. Once the holidays are over… Once I’m not so busy… Once I graduate… Once I start my career…. Once I get married… Once I lose ten pounds… Once the kids are out of the house… Once my house is remodeled… Once the New Year starts… Do any of these phrases sound familiar? We become so fixated and ensnared by this mindset that we never really take the time to realize that our list of things to do or benchmarks to achieve before we can be happy or before our real life begins, never seem to end. There is always something holding us back.

The same principle applies to waiting for inspiration or waiting for the right moment. They are likely never going to come in the way that we want them to. While we waste our time waiting, life is passing us by. I’ve been reading a book lately that made an excellent point, it said something along the lines of: We must accept that our “in-box” is never going to be empty. Despite having our lives remind us of this each and every day, it is a rather hard concept to consciously accept. We so desperately want to believe that someday, somehow all of our chores and errands will be complete. That one day we will have time for all of the things we dream of, but keep putting off into some imagined future. It is hard to acknowledge that that future will never come. All we ever have is the moment that we are in right now.

Most days I save the activities that I really want to do until the very last moment. I want to play my new video game, or do some brainstorming. But first I have to clean the house, workout, do yoga, read, study, meal prep, etc. Then by the time the end of the day rolls around, I am so mentally exhausted, that I don’t even want to play my game anymore. The worst part is, I never seem to learn. Yet I get so frustrated with myself, day after day, for not doing enough. If only I were more organized, if only I had more energy, time, whatever, then I’d be happy, then I could really start to live the life I want.

The saddest part of it all is, there isn’t anything we could do or obtain that would put us in a better position for happiness than we’re in right now. We are the only one who has the ability to withhold our own happiness. These stories we tell ourselves make us believe that we have to finish everything, make everything perfect before we can focus on anything else. Despite having this realization many times, I still need a constant reminder that this is it. This is my life. I’m living it right now.

My life is never going to be perfect. I’m never going to have my in-box emptied. There will always be responsibilities and struggles and set-backs. And that’s okay. That’s life. There is nothing wrong with that. Having things left unchecked on my to-do list, isn’t the end of the world. It’s the way of the world. That doesn’t mean I can’t be happy right now. That doesn’t mean I can’t rest until everything is done. It will never be done.

It feels like a lot of us, including myself, go through our daily lives as if our commute to work, our studies, our chores, our self-care are all hurdles we have to jump over. Then and only then will we be able to really live. But that is all an illusion we’ve created. Brushing our teeth every morning, making coffee, making the bed, driving to work, buying groceries, cleaning the house, that’s life. Sure it may seem tedious and monotonous sometimes, but that’s only because we are taking these small moments for granted. Seldom are we truly focused and engaged in what we’re doing when we’re washing the dishes. We’re hardly ever fully present and in the moment when we’re stuck in morning traffic. Yet these things are ultimately what make up the majority of the time we have here on this earth.

At first this thought may seem depressing, but it doesn’t have to be. We get to choose whether or not these things are a burden or a blessing. It’s all a matter of perspective. We don’t have to brush our teeth twice a day. We get to. We don’t have to clean our house. We get to. We don’t have to take the time to prepare ourselves healthy meals. We get to. These are all moments that we try to exclude from what we consider our “real” lives. But why is that? Going to the bathroom isn’t any less a part of life than painting a masterpiece. We can find peace and contentment in both.

As you go through your day today, try to take notice of when you’re mind is waiting for a chance to relax, waiting until after work to feel happy. I’ve spent most of my life waiting. Now we have a choice to make. Will we keep waiting indefinitely? Or will we decide to live now, be happy now, be at peace now, regardless of whatever it is we’ve been waiting for?

Mr. Clarke Large Modern Plywood Wall Clock on Food52

Chemical Dependency

I make no secret of the fact that I take Paxil for my anxiety. For the first few years that I was taking it, I was quite outspoken about it. I never really understood why some people felt embarrassed by the fact that they were taking an SSRI or other mental health medication. Far from being embarrassed, I was advocating for the medication. I was encouraging other people struggling with anxiety to take it as well. I was telling anyone who would listen about how wonderful it was, how completely changed my life was now thanks to Paxil. And it was irrevocably changed, in a good way, at first…

Now I’m kind of glad that none of the people I pressured to get a prescription actually did. I would have felt awful if I ended up seeing them struggle in the same way I am now. Don’t get me wrong, I am still grateful for Paxil. If I could go back in time, I honestly don’t know if I would decide not to start taking it knowing what I know now. I suppose the point is, SSRIs aren’t meant to be lifelong medications. They are supposed to be temporary ways to cope with particularly difficult mental health situations while you work on targeting the issue behaviorally through therapy. If I could change anything, it would probably have been to go to a therapist and a psychiatrist before getting a psychiatric medication from my primary doctor. While they are able to prescribe these medicines, they really don’t have the depth of knowledge about them that a psychiatrist would. Perhaps a psychiatrist would have at least warned me of the side effects and potential consequences.

For a few years now, I’ve been contemplating the idea of lowering my dosage. I’ve just been too afraid to take the steps to do that though until now. I’m afraid. I’ve read that Paxil is a particularly hard drug to wean yourself off of. You have to do it extremely slowly otherwise the withdrawal effects can be overwhelming. I’m actually afraid that my doctor won’t understand that well enough to lower my dosage as slowly as it needs to be lowered. I’m also afraid that even taking small steps may result in big emotional issues.

I remember thinking how insane it was that just taking a pill could make me feel and think completely differently. I didn’t understand how it was able to target something as specific as social anxiety. Not surprisingly, I found out later that it doesn’t. No, Paxil has effected many different aspects of my life. I don’t feel as anxious around people anymore, but I do feel more generally anxious about nothing in particular. I also don’t really feel very much at all. I haven’t cried in years. Haven’t felt really happy or excited about anything in years either. We all want to avoid our lows, while keeping our highs, but unfortunately there is nothing that can make that reality happen for us, not even medication.

For years I genuinely thought I didn’t have any side effects from Paxil. It was only recently that I realized a lot of the things I was just attributing to my personality, were because of Paxil. I’ve mentioned before that it has completely obliterated my libido. I actually thought I was just asexual for awhile there. Even more disturbing than that is realizing that it might have something to do with my struggles with relationships in general. Just yesterday, I decided to google the effects of taking an SSRI on love. I wish I had made this connection years ago. There was page after page of results about taking Paxil and having a difficult time falling or even staying in love. No wonder no other love has felt the same as the love I shared with my high school boyfriend. Who I was with, coincidentally, before I began taking Paxil.

This whole time I have been torturing myself, thinking that maybe soul mates do exist, that maybe he really is the one and only person out there I’m capable of loving. I’ve been agonizing over the fact that the love I share with my new boyfriend feels different. I’ve been worried that this discrepancy of emotion was a “sign” or some other such nonsense that I don’t even really believe in. I could never understand why even when I would meet people that seemed perfect, they couldn’t hold my attention and affection for long before I would lose interest, despite desperately wanting things to work. I’ve spent years alone, thinking there was something wrong with me. It was bad enough that this medication damaged my sexual relationships, but my romantic relationships too? How could anything be worth that?

What finally pushed me over the edge and helped me make the decision to call my doctor today and start lowering my dosage was what happened yesterday. As I was refilling my weekly pill capsules, I realized that somehow I had nearly run out of Paxil. I only have enough to last me until this Friday. Immediately I was panic stricken. The withdrawal symptoms of Paxil become debilitating within a few days of not taking it. Never before had it really hit me just how dependent on this medication I actually was. I felt like a junkie who didn’t know when or how they’d be able to get their next fix. It felt so awful knowing how much I needed this little white pill. I don’t ever want to feel that I need anything in that way ever again. It’s time for a change. It’s time to uncover and rediscover who I really am and how much of me has been Paxil this whole time.

Changing Antidepressant Medication: Coping with Side-Effects | HealthyPlace

What a Time to Be Alive

Arheološki portal - Medieval torture devices – Part 2

The other day I heard someone make a comment sarcastically thanking their parents for letting them be born in “the worst possible time in human history.” I didn’t challenge this statement, mostly because I couldn’t tell if they were serious or just being overly dramatic or hyperbolic. I certainly hope they don’t genuinely believe that. It really made me stop and contemplate just how lucky I actually am to have been born in this time period.

Most of the time I spend complaining about the ways in which I feel society is broken and as a result destroying the natural world around us. I lament the fact that I won’t get to live a long happy peaceful life like it feels my generation was promised by our parents and teachers. When I was a child, the future seemed like a fantastical sci-fi movie. Who even knows what types of unbelievable technologies we’ll have in a few decades? Will cars fly? Will we be able to teleport? These things seemed like legitimate possibilities at one point.

However, growth of any kind cannot continue indefinitely. Now it seems more like humans are on their way out rather than up. I often find myself worrying about what will happen in the next ten, twenty, thirty years. What will the world even look like? Will I be able to manage? Will I suffer? Will my loved ones suffer? While I still believe these are valid concerns, when I consider them from the wider perspective of all of human history, they seem nearly laughable.

What does it matter if someday things will be hard, if someday I may struggle and suffer? Throughout most of human history we were all struggling and suffering in one way or another for our entire lives. I have already been lucky enough to have enjoyed twenty-seven years of beautiful, easy, happy life. Just a quick google search of the average age people died throughout history shows that I’ve already been extremely fortunate. For the majority of history most people died in their thirties. Why should I feel so “cheated” that I won’t get to be 90? How arrogant. How small minded. I am more than grateful for what I’ve been given. Each morning I wake up is a true miracle, the best gift I could ask for.

In the modern era even the most unfortunate among us have more than our brothers and sisters throughout history had. While our society is still quite far from perfect, it has come so far! I feel ashamed for only focusing on how much farther we have to go while never giving thanks for how far we’ve come. Most of my important opinions and the qualities that make me who I am would have been unheard of, a death sentence even, 50 years ago. I am allowed to be whoever I want to be. I have rights and independence. I am an unmarried, 27 year old woman with no children, my own house, and a full-time job. Simply incredible!

For all the complaining I do about technology and the internet, I am still quite humbled by it. The advancements and inventions that our ancestors have handed down to us are the reason we are here today. They are the reason our species even survived as long as we have. With this laptop, even my phone, I am able to learn about anything I want! I can talk to people across the world, listen to an endless catalog of music, play games, make art. What a simply spectacular world that I get to be a part of!

I suppose for most of my life, I thought acknowledging how fortunate I am and how amazing the world is, would make me complacent towards the suffering and injustices that still exist. It’s certainly still important to work for social change and to make the world an even better place while we’re still here. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be grateful for where we are today. From now on I’m going to try harder to remember that, to fully enjoy and appreciate each moment I am given. What a time to be alive! What a blessing! I am so grateful.

Insights From Resistance

What is the real story behind Grumpy Cat's name? - Quora

We all have preferences. We all have things we dislike or show resistance toward. These feelings of resentment and resistance toward people, places, situations, etc. can be so overwhelmingly powerful that it is hard to think about them or analyze the root of the issue. Instead of challenging these feelings, usually we just feed them. We look for reasons to confirm our feelings and opinions, excluding any information that may challenge them or provide an alternative perspective. Most of us are more likely to react than reconsider. Even the idea of questioning these deep seated ideas can cause more resistance to bubble up.

In an effort to take life (and myself) less seriously, I’ve been trying to practice more curiosity throughout my day. One of the things I’ve been most curious about is why I react with anger so often. For most of my life, it didn’t seem like a question worth asking. Of course I’m angry, I’d tell myself. This is unacceptable. How could they say that? Who could be that stupid!? Etc. Etc. I directed all my questions passive aggressively outward, never even considering that I might be the problem, that my reaction was the thing that needed to change, not the world around me. Even if I do still begrudgingly think someone else is in the wrong, the fact is, the only thing I can control is me. (Well theoretically anyway.)

When I started to question why certain actions or comments even make me angry, I was surprised to realize that most of the time, I had no idea. For instance, the other day my friend was making comments that made me think she wasn’t very good with money or understanding loans/debt. I immediately felt this spark of anger inside me and couldn’t stop that aggressive edge from creeping into my voice. I always feel so ashamed of myself after having these tense conversations. The people I’m talking to must be so confused and irritated by my irrational behavior. Why on earth do I care how my friend chooses to spend her money? It’s none of my business and doesn’t effect me at all. Maybe I’m just jealous that other people don’t worry about spending money or taking on debt like I do. Maybe I feel threatened or worried they’ll think I’m the stupid one who never uses the money I have to make big purchases or improvements to my life.

I don’t usually ever come to a decision about exactly why a lot of things make me angry. But to be honest, the reason doesn’t necessarily matter. Just the intention to be curious about my emotional response to things is enough to diffuse the rage inside me. Curiosity comes with a sense of openness, while anger, stress, sadness are more closed states. Both cannot exist within you in the same moment. It can be difficult initially to make that mental switch from closed to open, but once you do you can feel a noticeable difference. Not to mention, the more you practice flipping this switch, the easier it becomes.

Let’s practice a little exercise together, just so you know how it feels to be in a state of resistance. Imagine one or more opinions or beliefs you hold very strongly. Then just imagine trying to purposely challenge those very beliefs/opinions. Try imagining ways you could be wrong or misguided. Try to think of some good qualities or points of the opposite perspective. Quite difficult isn’t it? As someone who is very opinionated and stubborn, even this simple thought exercise makes outrage and fierce resistance start to rise up within me. I can feel my chest tightening, I can feel that closing sensation in my heart space. I immediately notice thoughts crowding my awareness trying to defend rather than challenge my beliefs. What a reaction to something so simple and harmless! I find it truly fascinating that this is so difficult for me. It is an amazing opportunity for insight into my own biases.

I think there is a lot to learn from our own resistance. It always brings to mind the saying, “would you rather be right, or be happy?” Once my sister said to me that she’d actually rather be right! I was shocked. That is the power of resistance. You can become so resistant to different ideas or circumstances and at the same time, so attached to that resistance, that you’d rather give up your happiness than alter your perspective. That is why it is so important to work on cultivating our curiosity as often as we can.

As you move through your day today, pretend you are a scientist or a researcher observing this human being called the “self.” When you catch yourself getting caught up in anger or your resistance to things, just think, “how interesting,” make a note of it, let it go, and move on. Life is so much more enjoyable when we remind ourselves that it doesn’t have to be so serious all the time. None of us really know why we’re here, where we came from, or where we’re going. All we can do is try to enjoy where we are right now. And the only way we can do that is by staying curious, staying open to all the new information and experiences this life has to offer. Let’s make a game out of it. Let’s see who can waste the least amount of time on petty irritation and useless resistance. Let’s see who can be the most curious, the most open. The game starts now!

Can I Love Myself Even Though…

My new favorite mantra is, “can I love myself even though…” I fill in the blank with whatever I’m struggling with or judging myself for at the time. It has been a huge shift in perspective for me. It gives me that perspective which allows me to refocus and consider what the goal of this life truly is. Even though it’s extremely hard for me, my main goal in life is to love myself and others and be a positive force in the world. Love is the greatest gift that we have been given, and there is no greater way to express our gratitude for this miraculous capacity for love than to let that love light shine bright enough to encompass our whole being and those around us. It’s more fun to imagine life as a game than a test. It’s not a game of aggression and struggle against forces trying to destroy us either. It’s a casual game like the ones I enjoy most of all. It’s simply about exploring, being curious, and having fun, seeing what wonderous things we can create along the way.

It’s easy to become distracted by all the negatives we’ve been conditioned, and to a certain extent, designed to focus our attention on. We are constantly trying to find happiness and self-acceptance by changing external circumstances. If only I was skinnier. If only I was smarter. If only I was less anxious. If only, if only, if only. Now when I notice myself getting upset about these rather trivial imperfections, I’ll say to myself, “can I love myself even though I’m imperfect?” Then I listen to that opening feeling in my heart answering back with a resounding, emphatic, “YES!” If my initial reaction is a stubborn “no”, (as it sometimes is) then I’ll ask myself to give it a try anyway. I’ll look at it as a challenge to work with and overcome. It doesn’t have to be so serious. It’s all a part of the game. Looking at it this way keeps me from judging myself for judging myself, which is obviously counterproductive. Instead I become curious and excited to tackle this new challenge.

We are all born full of love and acceptance. I see the truth of this in the faces of the children I work with every day. It’s only as we grow older that we begin to close our hearts to the world and to ourselves out of fear. And when you stop and think about it, this fear or anxiety we feel is an instinctual act of self love. We have these feelings so that we are able to recognize danger and protect ourselves. You aren’t broken. You mind and body are just doing their best to keep you safe. It’s up to us to use our higher consciousness to teach our minds and bodies that it’s okay to relax. The more we practice opening again, the easier it becomes. Sometimes when I’m having a particularly difficult time, I’ll remind myself of that. Even though it seems impossible to practice self love and self care right now, I know that it will only get easier and easier if I keep trying anyway, if I forgive myself for all the hiccups and hard days along the way.

This mantra doesn’t always have to be directed at self-criticism either. For example, sometimes I get overwhelmed with how much I want to do around my house. In that scenario, I’ll ask myself, “can I love myself even though my house is a bit messy or not exactly the way I’d like it to be?” Then rather than ruminating on all I’ve got to do, I’ll instead focus my energy on the fact that I can love myself anyway. It really takes a lot of the pressure off and reminds me of what’s truly important.

As you go through your day today, I encourage you to try this mantra out for yourself. Notice how different our “problems” feel after reaffirming our love for ourselves. When we give ourselves the love we seek, everything else starts to feel a little less important, less scary, less urgent. There is nothing for us to fear, no suffering that can touch us, when we truly practice self love and self compassion each and every day, when we love ourselves even though…

Self Love with ADHD: The Big Heart Approach

Two Faced

I haven’t heard this term used as much as I did when I was in high school, so in case you haven’t heard it before, I’ll explain what it means. Someone who is “two-faced” acts differently depending on who they’re around, more or less. This is usually seen as more than the normal differences we all show depending on the context we’re in. It has a negative connotation. You are friendly to someone, then talk badly about them behind their back.

For me this never made much sense. I would rather someone who didn’t like me, still be nice to me in general. They’re free to say whatever they want when I’m not around. Doesn’t hurt me if I can’t hear it. It always seemed more considerate to me to air your grievances out of earshot. Why hurt someone unnecessarily when you’re venting? We all need to complain about one another now and then, even when we generally get along.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot this morning. I went to my company’s other office earlier to help out. As usual, once I’m back in my office, I regret the things I said there. It’s not that it was anything particularly harsh or cruel. I just have some small points of irritation with a coworker at my office. Don’t get me wrong, I love this man. He’s incredible and I even think of him as a father figure sometimes. His small bothersome qualities are far outweighed by his amazing ones. However, it’s still nice to vent sometimes to people who understand. In my mind, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I still feel guilty. I’m horrified to think that he would find out about and feel hurt by anything that I may have said. That certainly was never my intention.

Another aspect to this is my tendency to people please. If other people are complaining about someone, I’m apt to join in with whatever my issues with that person are. However, I would rarely ever care enough about these things to address them with the actual person. I hate confrontation, and I will happily go along with the way someone likes to do things even if I find it tedious or tiresome. I’m too afraid to do anything besides agree with whoever I’m speaking with at the time.

This people-pleasing, anxiety ridden nature of mine is usually my excuse when faced with these types of situations. Yet I worry that’s just a copout. I can’t just cry, “anxiety” whenever I do things that aren’t socially acceptable. Am I just trying to avoid being held accountable for my actions? Is this the way other “two-faced” people feel on the inside? Or do they actually have malicious intentions? Does it even matter when all others see are the actions we take? Then again, maybe I’m just over analyzing as usual.

ArtStation - Two Faced, Deniz Aygün

Taking Risks

I’ve never been a risk taker, nor am I at all competitive. Gambling makes no sense at all to me. I’ve only done it a couple times and it was quite unsatisfying. I guess I’ve never thought of myself as very lucky either. I never really won anything. When you start out with that kind of mindset, why would you be competitive or take risks? It seems inevitable that they would only turn out badly for me. Unfortunately, taking risks is an important part of life. If you don’t participate, you’ll never be disappointed, but you also won’t ever advance.

Lately I have really been struggling about whether or not to take a big risk. I’m indecisive as it is, so it certainly doesn’t help when it’s an especially important life decision that I have to make. Although I love my job as a child advocate, I never intended to find myself here. Before accepting this job, my goal was to become a teacher. I went through the whole process to make myself eligible, then kind of forgot about it as I became more and more enmeshed in my new work environment. I never thought I could love my job so much. Not to mention I deeply enjoy spending time with the friends I’ve made here every day.

With funding cuts and our therapist, whom I’ve grown close to, leaving, I began exploring the idea of teaching again. After discovering that the funding has been somewhat fixed (thank god), I was prepared to put the teaching idea on the back burner again for awhile. Then one of the school districts near me put up a job opening for a third grade teacher! It is quite rare for there to be an position available in my small area. I had to at least send in my resume.

Now that I’ve done all I can, I’ve been trying to decide what I’d like to come of this if anything. Part of me is extremely excited at the idea. Although, originally I wanted to teach in a high school, now that I’ve had more experience with young children, third grade may be even better. I particularly loved third grade when I was in school. So maybe that’s a sign of some kind. It does seem like teaching will be more work than what my current position entails, but it would be so nice to have more stability, income, and time off. What a delight it would be to have snow days again!

There are definitely a lot of pros and cons to both outcomes. I guess I should consider myself lucky that that’s the case. For now, all I can do is wait to see what happens. I know I will make the best of whatever the future holds for me.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The Brain-Gut Connection

By now, most people know about the gut microbiome. Maybe not the term, but we have a vague understanding of things such as probiotics and antibiotics. It’s very trendy to drink kombucha and eat fermented foods like kimchi in an effort to nurture our gut bacteria. I mentioned in another post how wild it is to find out we are nearly equal parts human tissue cells and germ/bacteria cells. On my way to work this morning as I listened to a podcast episode all about the brain-gut connection, I found out some even more startling and fascinating information.

Every day science is learning more about the helpful bacteria in our digestive systems. It’s quite the complex subject, far more complicated than simply pro and anti biotics. I learned today that there are also things called prebiotics and postbiotics. Prebiotics are the fibrous material that the gut bacteria eats, and postbiotics are the waste materials that the bacteria excrete, which actually ends up being beneficial to our physical as well as our mental health.

I was shocked to discover what a huge role our gut microbiome plays in our mental health. Further research may even uncover that this is the root of all our mental illnesses. Of course, as a vegan, I was intrigued to learn what kind of a difference a plant based diet would have on all of this. I know that farmed animals are routinely given antibiotics to keep them “healthy” even in atrocious conditions. My initial instinct was to feel even more sorry for the animals themselves. Not only are they physically suffering, but god only know what those conditions, PLUS an obliterated gut biome is doing to them mentally. I hadn’t even considered the implications of this on human health. Not only does consuming meat fill us with carcinogens, growth and stress hormones, and cholesterol, it is also destroying our gut biome with the antibiotics absorbed in the flesh of the animals we consume.

Initially, I felt pretty smug about this. Just another reason veganism is the only healthy diet. However, I knew that my mental health, while much improved by a vegan diet, wasn’t completely cured by it. As the podcast continued on, it explained that while meat contains antibiotics, so do the fruit, vegetables, and grains that we eat. Apparently Raid was originally patented as an antibiotic! Raid is also something that, despite all the awful things we know about this poison, is still used on virtually all the crops commercially grown. I suppose organic crops may avoid this, but honestly I don’t know. Call me a skeptic, but I never believe things labeled as “organic” are actually grown organically.

Many of you may take away from this information that we need to balance out our antibiotic ridden diet with lots of healthy probiotics. However, it’s not so simple. Apparently probiotics, though still good for us, are not actually helpful in the ways we intend them to be. Instead, it’s more important for us to focus on consuming foods that are rich in prebiotics. This provides our gut bacteria with the fibers they need to flourish. These foods include things like chicory root, dandelion greens, garlic, onions, and bananas.

Perhaps even more interesting than all of that information is the link between the gut microbiome and hunger/cravings. Hunger seems pretty simple. When our stomachs are empty, this space sends a signal to the brain that we need to eat, right? Wrong. It’s actually the small friends (and foes) in our guts that are giving us these signals. In a study, subjects were told to fast for 14 days, only consuming water and a prebiotic solution. Despite consuming no actual food, the subjects reported having no hunger pains or cravings throughout the 14 day period. The gut bacteria was well-fed by the prebiotic solution, therefore no hunger signals were being sent to the brain.

In addition to this, what kinds of foods we crave can also be linked to our gut bacteria. Some bacteria like to eat very sugary, fatty foods. Rather than having anything to do with “willpower,” our ability to choose healthy foods has a lot to do with what types of bacteria we have in our gut. The good news is, that if we can manage to resist these impulses to eat sugary, processed foods for a few days, those pesky bacteria will die out, taking the cravings along with them.

I was so blown away by all of this information, that I’ve been sharing it with anyone who will listen. Of course that means I had to make a post about it. Considering I only heard about this stuff a few hours ago, I wouldn’t recommend you simply take my word for it. But I do encourage all of you to look into it for yourselves. I certainly plan to do lots more research on this topic myself. I may even order the book The Energy Paradox by Dr. Steven Grundy, who was the guest on the podcast I listened to today. I absolutely adore learning new, helpful information like this. The implications of this knowledge are potentially life-changing.

A scientist explores the mysteries of the gut-brain connection |

The Beautiful Absurdity of Life

If you haven’t watched Bo Burnham’s new Netflix special, Inside, you need to go watch it. It is truly a work of art. I haven’t been able to stop singing/listening to his songs for days now. It is surprisingly profound and meaningful while also highlighting the hilarious absurdity of it all. It’s beautifully put together visually and musically. It is the perfect representation of the collective experience of humanity throughout the pandemic. It touches on so many important aspects from mental health to the unsettling advancements of technology to climate change to awareness of social issues.

The best part of the special in my opinion is that just when you start to feel weighed down by some of the heavier topics, he bursts into these little Jeff Bezos songs that absolutely kill me. It’s like, yes, the world is falling apart, your mental health is crumbling, life is full of stress and uncertainty and injustice and death, but hey, Jeffrey Bezos! He’s killing it. He’s doing great. Good for him. It’s too perfect. It’s a reminder that no matter how bad things get, we can still find so much to laugh about. We can still find amusement in the strangest places. We can step back and enjoy the delicious ridiculousness of it all.

Never lose sight of that sense of humor. I’m the first to admit that I have the tendency to take life far too seriously. I struggle to make even the most benign decisions because I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect. I’ve spent years stewing in anger and anxiety about things that I, ultimately, have no control over. While political and social issues are, of course, important, it’s not worth agonizing over every second. Planning and doing the work to improve your life and take good care of yourself matters, but not if you never actually take a moment to find joy in the simple things.

Above all, most of us want to be happy. We have a lot of ideas about what we need to do to ensure that we are and that we don’t “waste” this gift of life. But unfortunately at some point, we all lose sight of the reason we are doing all the things we do. We forget that while we may start with the best intentions, in the end, we don’t have to do anything to be happy, besides allow ourselves to be. We end up making ourselves miserable with the very things we began with the intention of making ourselves happy.

Despite all the pain and suffering in the world and all of my own personal issues, I still truly believe that joy and happiness are the true essence of life. We are all here to explore, learn, and enjoy. Laughter is one of the greatest gifts that we’ve been given. It would be a shame if we didn’t let ourselves have some every day. So make sure that you find time to laugh today! There are so many reasons to be depressed and anxious and angry, but despite it all, there are just as many reasons to be happy and grateful. It’s up to us where to place our focus. I, for one, want to make an effort to enjoy as many moments here as I can.

Inside,” Reviewed: Bo Burnham's Virtuosic Portrait of a Mediated Mind | The  New Yorker