Why Is It Called Toxic Positivity?

While everyone chases this amorphous and loaded term, “happiness,” the truth is that it’s okay not to be happy sometimes. It’s impossible to be upbeat and optimistic all the time. It can actually do more harm than good to try. Blacking out or avoiding any negative feelings means we’re completely disregarding an entire range of emotions and invalidating them. This kind of focused ignorance is often referred to as toxic positivity.

What Is Toxic Positivity?

Why is it called toxic positivity? What is so toxic about wanting people to feel good? Toxic positivity specifically refers to the belief that, regardless of situation or obstacle, people should maintain a positive mindset. 

There’s nothing wrong with trying to cheer yourself up or show some semblance of healing from tragedy and trauma, but toxic positivity doesn’t allow people to go through the process of dealing with complex emotions. Instead of working through difficult feelings, the shame of feeling sad or the influence of others who don’t want to hear about your sadness pushes a falsely-cheerful veneer.

The harm in false happiness is that it gets in the way of open and honest mental health processes and eventual acceptance. Toxic positivity dumbs down tangled feelings and minimizes any human moods outside of joy or contentment.

Why Is Toxic Positivity So Harmful?

Living my entire life with clinical depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder, I am often dealing with feelings that are hard to work through. Sometimes, when I’d talk to friends or family about the way I’m feeling, they’d tell me to “cheer up.” They would explain all the good things in my life and what I had to be grateful for. People often implied that it was my choice what type of outlook I woke up with in the morning. That’s not how depression works.

I do not choose to wake up feeling physically pained to even exist. I do not choose to lose complete interest in objects, activities, and people I love. I do not choose to be unable to lift myself up out of bed or take care of personal hygiene. I do not choose dark and morbid thoughts and self-destructive ideation. No one would choose that. I do not wish these feelings on my worst enemies. I also do not choose to have crippling anxiety about checking door locks and arranging items by size and making sure the oven is off. These are functions of a neurodivergent brain.

That’s not to say that I cannot grow, cope, and find ways to exist peacefully, but minimizing the chemical and biological struggles in my head in favor of “oh, just be happy” is the equivalent of telling someone who lost a close loved one to “get over it.”

I know these statements and sentiments are not malicious. The person legitimately wants you to feel better. They are also selfishly not wanting to face difficult thoughts themselves, though, and looking to fast forward the conversation past whatever bad thoughts or obstacles you’re facing. It is within their boundaries to choose the energy they surround themselves with, but this still serves to invalidate you.

If anything, toxic positivity creates additional agony. Not only do you feel the existing pain, but it’s compounded with shame and guilt. It stunts personal growth and progress. It makes honest emotions feel unnatural and leads to repression. When you’re at your lowest point, being told to “think good thoughts” can seem absolutely cruel.

At its worst, toxic positivity is also a form of gaslighting. Someone is creating a false narrative and causing you to question your own reality, undermining how you think and feel.

How Do I Avoid Toxic Positivity?

If you find yourself “faking it” and putting on a happy face when it’s not how you really feel, take some steps to develop a healthy, supportive approach and treat yourself more kindly.

Be honest about how you feel. Instead of outright rejection of feelings of discouragement, anger, or sadness, be open to them and let them in. Be a supportive friend to your complicated emotions and let them speak. Trust your intuition and understand that life’s moods ebb and flow and sometimes you need to sit with bad feelings for a while to process them completely. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s realistic to face adversity, tragedy, or trauma and to be stressed, worried, afraid, sad, or angry.

Be mindful of your inner monologue. If you’re looking for ways to quickly sidestep negative feelings, try to understand why. Are you trying to put on a brave face for someone? Are you trying to prove something to someone? Are you feeling judged? Are you feeling shame or guilt? Try and understand why you’re not allowing yourself to feel things.

Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself. While it can be uncomfortable for conflict-averse folks, confrontation of someone’s toxic positivity also gives them a chance to learn and grow as well. It helps people understand and evaluate their words and actions. If they respond in a horrible way, it may be time to cut them out of your life.

Use your thoughts creatively. However you feel, it can be cathartic to put those thoughts and feelings toward the creation of something. A DIY project, writing in a journal, doodling, painting, playing music, or anything where you can channel those emotions into creating can be a valuable coping mechanism when you’re feeling awful.

Human emotions are all valuable, real, valid, and necessary. They give us insights into unconscious parts of ourselves, how we mentally and physically deal with stress, and even awareness of situations or relationships that require change. Let your reactions, moods, and emotions teach you something, but don’t let them control you.

How to Move From Wanting to Do Something to Doing Something

turning desire into action dumb bells

Much of life is spent planning to, yearning to, and wanting to accomplish something. We spend so much time thinking about how amazing doing that thing would be, how it would improve our lives and give us fulfillment, but we struggle to get going.

Why does it take so long for each one of us to transition from the planning and idea stage to design and implementation?

How can we accomplish this task more efficiently and consciously instead of wasting so much time daydreaming?

Here are some examples of things I’ve wanted to accomplish for a long time:

  • I’ve wanted to start my own business for years. I know working for other people is not in my best interest and I’m much better suited to controlling my own destiny, but I keep putting it off. The idea of jumping headfirst into an unfamiliar realm without the backbone of a constant salary and benefits makes me uneasy. However, the only thing keeping me from starting my own business and navigating those waters is my own fear.
  • I’ve always wanted to write a novel. I have ideas for both nonfiction and fiction novels. I know that I have the ability to write these novels. However, when I have the free time to get them done or get started, I don’t. I think about all the obstacles and naysayers and negativity standing in my way and I just stop dead in my tracks. Maybe I’m too afraid of judgment or feel like I lack the focus necessary to accomplish a novel.
  • I’ve wanted to go back to school and get at least a master’s degree. I’ve always been a person who enjoyed learning and achieving and I feel that I should start down that path sooner than later. The doubts about incurring student loan debt and it not being a worthy pursuit always prevent me from taking the dive.

In every example above, it’s fear, uncertainty, assumptions, procrastination that keep me shackled to my comfort zone.

It is these thought patterns that keep all of us from becoming the best versions of ourselves and giving new things a try even though these new things could change our lives significantly for the better.

How exactly can we go about solving this problem and motoring ourselves into active resolve?

  1. Purpose: Clearly write one sentence that lays out your purpose in completing this task.
  2. Head-on: Recognize your fears and doubts and journal about them. Don’t run away from the doubts, but embrace them and do the thing anyway.
  3. Be realistic: Truly consider if this objective is something that is meaningful to you. Is this something that you truly want?
  4. Lay one brick at a time: The smallest wins can empower you to take bigger steps and if you can accomplish something minor every day, every week, every month, then you can keep that momentum flowing more easily with the existing inertia.
  5. Reflect and appreciate: If this goal makes you feel joy deep inside, then chase that feeling. Does it make you feel alive? Are you taking the time to reflect on your small wins and how they contribute to the larger action?

The more we take the time to actively write about, think about, and take actions toward our goals, the better we get at accomplishing this more often. The residual benefits that true purpose contributes to your mood and self-confidence are important to recognize.

Don’t feel trapped in your life. Instead, pivot and do something different. Do something new.

Why Time Is Your Most Valuable Asset and Why Its Worth It to Pay to Gain Some Back

There is a fundamental part of linear existence that you’re granted a limited supply of: time. It is your most valuable asset and the amount you’ve been given slips away with every passing day, so it’s important to use it with planning and direction.

From the day you became conscious, the countdown has begun. No one knows how much time they’ll have in their life, but the only assurance is that it’s finite.

As you grow, it becomes increasingly apparent that there’s less time to spare than when you’re a carefree youth. People around you begin to get sick, die, and you’re faced with the preciousness of each tick of the clock. Between work, love, experience, family, and all of your other responsibilities, time spent on one pursuit inevitably steals time away from another one.

Is Time’s Importance Always the Same?

It’s puzzling, but time can have a value that is amorphous. As a child, you see time as extremely slow. Summers seem to last forever, the school day will never end, and even 30 minute car rides seem like an eternity. As an adult in working life, though, years blow past you like leaves in the wind.

Time seems to get more valuable as you get older, but that also could be because your awareness is growing. Time and place resonate more when you stop and think about them. The busier you are, the faster the days go by.

How to Trade Your Money for More Time

To deal with so many competing obligations and an endless string of repeating chores, I tend to offload as much of it as I can to third parties

I’ve been a bit more lax about lawn care and have decided to let some patches grow freely to save the bees and create a more diverse ecosystem, but also to save me time.

I pay contractors or electricians or painters or automotive companies to service parts, change bulbs, paint rooms, put up decorations, or fix my mailbox. I Instacart from time to time when my Sunday is full of activities.

All of these little expenses are worth every penny to put some time back in my pocket.

Passive Income

With enough passive income, you can become less dependent on working a 40+ hour week in your career. Money that is made while you sleep and go about your day can subsidize your lifestyle and grant you more time so that you’re working 20-30 hours a week instead of 40.

This frees up time to travel, spend time with your family, volunteer, relax, or do things that leave a positive and lasting impact beyond just a paid day job.

Some Examples of Passive Income:

  1. Writing an ebook or creating a course that you sell
  2. Renting out a room in your home, a guest room, or an income property
  3. Renting out a parking space at your home
  4. Sponsored blog posts or social media posts
  5. Creating a blog or YouTube channel that you monetize through advertising/sponsorships

The above are just some random ideas, but there are many more if you take the time to do some quick online research and find ways to use your existing skills, assets, or possessions to make a side hustle in unconventional or creative ways.

What Are Some Practical Tips to Get Time Back in Your Day?

Once it’s gone, it’s gone, so making an active effort every day to maximize your productivity and enjoyment of your down time is vital. Here are a few tips:

  1. Draft Out Your Day: At night, take some time to write out the tasks you want to complete the following day. Of course, unforeseen things will arise, but knowing the absolute minimum you intend to accomplish every day gives you a realistic expectation of how much of yourself you have to spread around to different activities. It is extremely rewarding to be able to cross things off your to-do list.
  2. Weed Out Distractions: I turn my phone off or hide it in a different room during the day to ensure my focus is entirely on what I’m trying to accomplish. I do the same when I’m spending quality time with a person or group of people. I will give myself a lunch break and certain times during the day where I can catch up on what I missed, but having that distraction limited has a profound effect on what I get done in a day.
  3. Figure Out What Eats up Your Time: If you log the start and end time of anything you’re working on, you can start to see patterns emerge. You’ll be able to better understand what takes the most time. If the juice is not worth the squeeze, limit the time you spend on anything non-essential.
  4. Leave When You Plan To: Whether it’s a night out or a meeting at work, try your best to stick to the time you’ve allotted for these events. If you’re having a good time and want to stay later at a party, do it, but be the owner of your own calendar.

Value What Makes You Feel Good

As I’ve said ad infinitum, make time for things that make you feel good and cut off things that don’t.

Read a book that moves you instead of forcing yourself to binge watch a TV show to keep up with the gossip. Don’t respond to text messages or calls from people who don’t make you feel good to interact with. Set up boundaries around your time. Make the most of your time. You don’t owe a second of your most valuable asset to anyone except yourself and who you choose to care about.

Don’t help others build themselves up, build their dreams, or attain happiness by ignoring your own. Time is fleeting, time is fluid, and time is precious. Whether it’s relaxing on the couch or writing the next great novel, whatever makes you happy is an effective use of your time. Time enjoyed is not time wasted.

Tips on How to Defeat Negative Thought Patterns When They Emerge

Sometimes motivation is lacking, you’re feeling out of sorts, your energy is low, and your focus is waning.

It’s not abnormal to go through these mental phases from time to time and it’s just as equally likely to climb out of these ruts with some regularity.

Typically, negative thought patterns surface in two kinds of scenarios:

Physical: You’re not sleeping enough. You’re spreading yourself too thin at work or in your personal life and you’re mentally exhausted. You’re exercising more than what could be considered healthy and productive. You can barely keep your eyes open.

Mental: You allow your thoughts to spiral and reel into dark places. Your self-doubt, uncertainty, insecurity, anxiety, and impostor syndrome run wild. You lose focus and allow thoughts to run away with themselves and you lose any sense of self-esteem.

When I’m overly tired, overly worried, starting a new job, going through an interpersonal conflict, or I’m not sleeping enough, these two factors can often times work in tandem.

It’s important to to take a step back mentally, in times like these, and learn to filter out the noise.

As a clinical depression sufferer, I understand times like these more than I’d wish on my worst enemy. My most potent ally when I’m feeling this way is to try and not listen to my own thoughts.

The childish, negative, repeating, thoughts that swirl through my head about my incompetence, my faults, my failures, and even the existential pointlessness of human life all play ad nauseam. Anger, selfishness, pettiness, hatred are common symptoms.

Projecting these energies internally as well as on others, this is not the best version of me. This state of being is symptomatic of suffering. These feelings are understandable, but that doesn’t mean we have to give them power.

While these thoughts are weighing you down, though, letting them wash past you and focusing on your actual needs should be the goal.

Take care of yourself. Stop responding to emails and text messages. Take some time away from the computer. Hug a pet. Go for a walk. Remember that you have an innate right to your own sense of agency. Aside from bodily needs like air, water, and sustenance, you can comfort and care for your body and mind how you see fit.

Don’t believe in the person your panicked, fearful, desperate mind tells you that you are. This mind is an unreliable narrator and it’s speaking out of extreme discomfort and pain rather than truth. Your true self comes from what energizes you and brings you focus and fulfillment.

Notice these dark thoughts, though, and acknowledge them. Ignoring and stuffing emotions down deep doesn’t lead to happiness either. Give yourself the time to process and walk through these thoughts without judgment.

It can also help to talk to a third party about this. Don’t be too proud to reach out for help. Professional help, friends, spouses, coworkers, leaders in your community groups can all be tapped in times of need.

After you’ve taken care of the mental inventory, consider doing something physical or productive. Mow the lawn. Take a walk. Build something. Draw something. Write in a notebook. It feels good to cross things off of your to-do list and it can provide precious moments of distraction when your brain isn’t feeling just right.

Truly, it’s okay to feel like this sometimes. Depending on your situation, there are varying degrees of longevity and regularity of these thoughts, but don’t judge yourself for them. Instead, recognize them and take the steps to care for yourself in a way that allows the shortest runway of these phases.

It’s challenging to be self-aware both mentally and physically, but caring for yourself takes introspection, coping mechanisms, and personally-tailored self-care methods that make you feel safe and supported.

How Do I Overcome My Cynicism and Embrace Happiness?

Does mistrust of others hold you back in life and prevent you from being happy, showing love, being transparent about your feelings, or accepting love yourself?

Cynicism is the inherent distrust of other people’s perceived selfish motivations. Especially in our current world, cynicism is in no short supply. You believe that there’s nothing waiting for you in other people beyond betrayal and manipulation.

While being skeptical is an important life skill, cynicism shouldn’t be its default setting.

What Does It Matter if I’m Cynical?

While boundaries are an essential part of life, unwillingness to place any trust in others makes collaboration impossible.

The driving force in your life should not be the fear of other people. Some people are worthy of your trust. Some people are worthy of your love.

You can’t live your entire life alone and you should not build such high walls that people who could be beneficial to your life, mentors, lovers, and colleagues have no way of connecting with you.

Both mentally and physically, this cynicism will harm you and hold you back.

What Are Some Meaningful Steps I Can Take to Quell My Cynicism?

  1. Create Boundaries: This one in particular may seem antithetical to the idea of fighting cynicism, but it’s an incredibly important step.

    You cannot begin to lay the foundational layer of building trust with others without defining your hard no’s in interpersonal relationships.

  2. Follow the Path of Nature: Going all the way back to the Greek Cynics and their philosophical tenets, nature provides us with the correct way to live.

    Be flexible and flowing to life’s challenges, but hard and steadfast when push comes to shove.

    Also, walking around nature itself is a great way to remind yourself that not all is wrong or bad in the world.

  3. Take Inventory and Practice Gratitude: What can you eliminate from your life and what can you donate? These can be as simple as inanimate objects that give you stress or unhappiness or people in your life that take too much of your energy.

    If you take inventory of the things and people that make you happy and energize you, you’ll find a wealth of gratitude.

    Finding the objects and people you appreciate most goes a long way in redefining your worldview and accepting that positivity and trustworthiness is possible from others.

  4. Embrace Happiness: Don’t always assume you’re going to have a bad time or someone else is out to get you.

    Try to be interested in conversations with people, accept their invites sometimes, and don’t be blind to things other people can teach you.

    Write down positive experiences, make an active effort to remember them. It’s easier to recall negative thoughts, so it’s time to find new ways to remember the good times.

  5. Focus On Mindfulness: You don’t realize when you’re on autopilot. Be conscious, be aware, and be present in every moment of your life.

    When you’re sitting on a park bench admiring the scenery or enjoying a delicious meal, remember where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing and savor it.

    The minute details and beauty of existence are so important to take stock of with regularity.

  6. Laugh Every Day: You should find something to smile about or laugh at every single day. Even if it’s small or absurd like your dog squealing when he yawns, focus on those moments.

  7. Disconnect: You know it’s hard to disconnect, especially if your job revolves around a computer, but you should find ways to be happy and content when the devices are away.

    Take a bubble bath or go for a walk or eat a meal with your partner and agree that the phones stay away. Those moments of connection with nature, yourself, other people, or your pets are priceless.

  8. Be Yourself: Just like setting up boundaries takes examination, self-examination is important. Who are you? What are your principles and objectives in life? What interests you? What drives you? How do you spend your free time? What do you do for self-care and to relax?

    Knowing yourself is the majority of the battle because you’re the best architect of your self-care and journey.

  9. Examine Your Echo Chamber: What types of people do you surround yourself with? Who do you follow on social media? What groups do you consider yourself a part of? What kind of news and blogs do you consume?

    All aspects of influence from the people in your life to the ideas and perspectives you subscribe to should be examined to see if they are contributing to your negative thought loops.

    It’s important to take a look at the way you think and what effects your media consumption has on your state of mind from time to time.

  10. Note Best Qualities and Find New People With Those Attributes: After taking inventory of your friends, family, and loved ones and the positive values they bring to your life, note all the qualities in them that you hold most dear. Write them down, think about them when you’re talking to new people.

    As new people exhibit those same qualities that bring you joy and make you feel comfortable with being vulnerable with them, embrace that trusting them may come easier.

    Finding new people to allow into your circle that have earned the right to be trusted is the whole goal of reducing your cynical outlook and will help to enhance your life and teach you new things.

Now, What?

Tackle the steps above in whatever order you choose and implement these changes. Hold yourself accountable. The only way to make life changes stick is to be honest about them and your progress. Lay a single brick each day.

Whether you let 100 new people or 1 new person into your life and make yourself vulnerable, the trip was worth it.

Personal growth and happiness go hand in hand with recognizing your negative patterns and taking active steps to change them.

How You Can Make Important Changes and Maintain Them Permanently

“I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” – Stephen Hawking

Change is hard. Everyone has things about themselves, their environment, or their lives that they want to change, but find it difficult or impossible to pivot and keep momentum after the initial sprint.

New Year’s resolutions are the perfect example of change we want for ourselves, but often allow ourselves to forget about. We go into the new year with a whole idea in our head of all the things we want to improve, but by February that resolve is long gone.

There are paths to change, however, and ways to improve the chances of sustaining those changes long-term. Nothing good comes easily. Failure is inevitable at some point in human life, but each failure is another step toward success.
Consider the anatomy of lifestyle changes below and try to be mindful of these facets with each and every change you try to implement in your life.

1. Overcoming Languor: You enjoy the quiet times and often feel tired, but how can you find motivation? Be deliberate, set goals, and track your progress against those goals without judgment. The more intentional your goal-setting becomes, the more likely you are to actually measure your success. Each measure of success is a tick in the “motivation” column. The more small changes you propose, the more you can complete.

2. Ignoring Outside Influence: With so many lost, stressed, or overall miserable people you encounter in life, it’s important to resist being dragged down yourself. To deal with the whirlwind of influence, it’s best to create inside influence. Create influence from your own dreams, wishes, feelings, and emotions and spread that positive energy into the world around you. There is also an added benefit of positively influencing those you interact with and helping them find their own reasons to make changes too. If there is someone that truly cannot be reached without professional help or they’re entirely resistance to your needed changes, you may have to weigh the pros and cons of cutting them out of your life.

3. Finding Happiness: Doing things you don’t enjoy is certainly possible and sometimes necessary, but not over an infinite timeline. Sustainability comes from activities that make you feel energized and happy. Choose a positive change activity in your life that you absolutely adore. Cling to the happiness.

4. Celebrating Milestones: You often hear the phrase “celebrate the wins” in your daily or corporate life and it’s true. Just like goal-setting, focus on small wins and aspects of your plan for change that have made you happy. Take the time to be grateful for being alive, having a bed to sleep in, and eating 3 meals a day. Don’t forget about all the small things in life that make you smile. Even if you’ve only accomplished 1% of your end goal, that progress and that laid brick are what make the wall’s completion possible.

5. Integrating into your Life: Making your changes and progress part of your everyday life so much so that you crave their completion is how you keep changes permanent. Do it at a regular time, consistently. Surrounding the change with events that coincide (i.e. you wake up, walk your dog, then do your exercise routine, then have a cup of coffee), you’re creating catalysts on either end to make sure the change sticks. These touchstones will help remind you every day of the change you’re making and help it feel more natural rather than a tack-on activity.

On that note, for my personal accountability’s sake, here are some changes that I’m trying to implement over the next year:

My Planned Changes

Write More: Writing is my passion and I’ve made a trackable vow to write at least 500 words a day on any subject.

Lose Weight: My goal is to lose 30 lbs by the end of 2021 through diet, exercise, and calorie tracking.

Spend More Time Speaking Positively About Life: Writing articles like these helps, but I want to find one thing every day that I’m grateful for and keep note of it.

Read More: I want to read at least 100 pages a week of books I have not read before.

Stop Ordering Out So Much: I am pledging to cook all but 2 meals a week.

Exercise More: My goal is to ride the Peloton for at least 20 minutes every single day.

Change Careers: I know I’m not happy in my current career path, and I want to make a serious career change by the end of 2021.

Travel More: I intend to go on 2 more trips to cities I have not visited before by the end of 2021.

Love More: This one is harder to quantify, but I want to openly show people I love how much I love them through kind words and acts of service.

You can change and you will change over and over again. Failure is a part of that process, but no work of art is truly complete. Believe in yourself and hold yourself accountable. 

The Beautiful, Beneficial Relationship Between Baths and Mental Health

baths and mental health

Life can be hard sometimes. There are the daily stresses of work, family, friends, rambunctious pets, a commute, and simply days where you wake up feeling off-balance. How do you go about finding a release for all of these pent-up feelings and anxious thoughts?

Something you can do to treat yourself is to find time for a relaxing daily bath.

Since even before the pandemic forced us all into quarantine for our own safety, I’ve been a staunch proponent of taking daily baths.

As someone who has struggled with clinical depression for his entire life, I’ve noticed a clear link between my long baths and an improved mood, mindset, and relaxed demeanor going into the late evening.

My mental health has vastly improved since taking this type of time for myself every day to let the day’s and world’s problems escape my skin and my muscles and my brain and just allowing myself to be present in a single, comfortable moment.

There is an obvious relationship between mental health and baths and the various reasons for this connection span multiple layers of experience.

Warm Temperatures Help You Relax

Your body is always looking to maintain a constant, comfortable temperature in order to regulate body functions. Because of this regulation, any sharp spikes up or down in temperature to your body cause a physiological reaction to correct these spikes. Whether it’s shivering to warm up or sweating to evaporate heat away from your body, this process can be useful in building toward relaxation.

Sitting in a warm bath is an excellent option for rapidly heating your body. A nice, steamy bath feels absolutely incredible as you lower your body into it slowly. Feeling the warm water wrap your limbs and body is a wonderful release.

When you’re finally ready to emerge from the bath and wrap yourself in a big comfy towel, your body is focused entirely on cooling your body temperature down rapidly. This process uses a lot of energy. Expending all of that energy helps your body relax.

Adding Essential Oils

While I’m not advocating that essential oils cure terminal illnesses or act as a replacement for modern medicine, I am a huge champion for them in everyday usage.

Adding a drop or two of certain essential oils like lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, Lemongrass, and many others help clear your sinuses, promote relaxation, soothe your skin, and help you sleep better.

The only caution about adding essential oils to bath water is that you should be careful about which oils and how much of them you add. Essential oils are extremely potent, so please reference research or packaging to understand if a carrier oil is needed. If you feel your skin start to itch/burn, maybe drain the tub and refill.

Typically, I stick to chamomile and lavender in my baths and it has helped my skin greatly. I can be prone to prickly heat and eczema, so the moisturizing and skin healing properties of these two oils has definitely helped maintain a better complexion and assisted with my sometimes dry skin.

Time To Yourself

Finding time out in your busy day to focus on yourself is easier said than done. In this modern world, we all have responsibilities. Whether it’s caring for your children, your loved ones, your friends, your pets, your plans, doing a good job at work, or keeping the house clean, there’s always more work to be done.

However, it’s vastly important to take time away from your daily stressors to be alone with your thoughts. It’s super beneficial to lay back into some hot, soapy bath water and let your mind drift to more serene places. 

Be present and be aware of yourself, your place, and your surroundings in these moments. Too often we’re distracted by everything we don’t have or everything we don’t do or haven’t done or need to do. 

How often do you find time to really appreciate where you are and the preciousness of life?

To me, lying back in hot water surrounded by bubbles is a perfect place to express some gratitude for the beauty of life.

Pain Reduction

Just like hot compresses bringing relief to soreness, a hot bath can do the same thing.

With the addition of some epsom salts to create a hypertonic solution in your bath water, the tub can be converted into a great place for healing sore joints and muscles.

If you’re older or prone to aches and pains, maybe consider some long baths with epsom salts to try and ease your body and your pain level before attempting to sleep or after strenuous physical activity.

Boosting circulation, depressurizing joints, reducing swelling and inflammation, and promoting immune system function are just some of the benefits of epsom salt bath soaks.

The nice part is that, with some stretching after the bath, you can even prolong this pain relief and looseness when you’re out of the water itself.

It’s a great, natural way to help your body heal and ease tension. This reduction in pain and tension improves both your quality of life as well as your mental state.

Helping You Sleep

Sleep is vitally important to maintaining balance in your brain and helping you wake up fresh to start the day, in light of challenges.

Many people do not get enough sleep and baths are a great way to help induce sleep more easily.

As noted above with the effects of rapid temperature changes as well as the use of essential oils, sleep can be greatly influenced by a daily bath. Even the relatively short amount of time you spend in the water relaxing has a noted benefit on the way you’ll sleep at night.

By soothing, warming, and relaxing your mind and body for a defined period of time to help unwind, you’re creating a situation where sleep can come quickly.

The Role of Your Job in Your Self-Care

In most people’s minds, self-care refers exclusively to that time outside of your job when you’re settling into a bubble bath or going on a long nature walk. However, your career is also a part of that process and shouldn’t be seen as something exclusive of it.

Self-care refers to the activities you engage in with the purpose of maintaining mental, emotional, and physical well-being on a regular basis. They’re acts that re-energize and rejuvenate you.

Effective self-care shouldn’t be something that you mark on your calendar as 3 hours a week and then the rest of your time is spent miserable and helpless. Self-care is a 24/7, constant process of acceptance, being attentive of your own wants and needs, and analyzing your own behavior. 

These rituals are key to improving your anxiety, anger, depression, and can positively impact how you interact with both yourself and others.

Your job should always be a part of that internal dialogue. Humans spend, on average, 90,000 hours working in their lives. While stressors are certainly a part of that experience (it’s just part of the human condition), they should not overwhelm or make up its entirety.

Finding Meaning

In everything you do and every ritual you undertake, there should be meaning.

In the jobs we work to afford our necessities, comforts, and our way of life, we see our efforts as nothing more than a list of tasks to check off. 

How can we possibly find meaning in work?

Not every source of gainful employment is impacting the world positively in an obvious way, and sometimes you need to look inward to find a reason to pull meaning from your work.

Here are some possible reasons to glean some aspects of fulfillment from your job:

  • Utilizing your creativity
  • Practicing critical thinking skills
  • Growing your marketable skill set
  • Interacting with coworkers, clients, and business partners and growing your network of friends and colleagues
  • Being dependable and giving your life structure
  • Adding directly to the success of a company that represents a cause you care about
  • To protect and provide for your loved ones
  • Innovating, disrupting, and injecting change into a slow-changing organization or field

Even if indirectly, your job can be a source of confidence, discipline, growth, learning, and a place to exercise aspects of your mind, emotions, and personality that you don’t otherwise get to flex in everyday life.

Stepping Back and Reflecting

It’s easy to let the positives of your job get overshadowed by the stress and expectations, but it’s important to take the time to (figuratively) step 20 feet away and take a look at your career from the outside.

Are there things you’ve learned doing your job that you wouldn’t have otherwise had experience with? Are there people you’ve connected with who you would not have met otherwise? Have you had the opportunity to contribute in a quantifiable way to the success of others or a concept or an organization?

It’s easy in the throes of day-to-day drudgery to focus entirely on the negative space. It’s natural to want and feel unfulfilled when you’re not in control, but this humbling experience can also be a blessing. Service to others can be a great way to build confidence and teach you gratitude.

As you carry out the duties of what is expected of you each and every day, take the time to look back on the work you’ve put in and the ways in which the challenges have expanded your knowledge or made you feel accomplished. 

The journey shouldn’t be overlooked in favor of the destination.

Putting It All Into Practice

Mindfulness is the most important process that contributes to effective self-care methodology. Recognizing the branching emotional and mental pathways of your day is the first step to understanding and caring for yourself.

After you achieve a level of understanding, however, it’s time to turn that right thought into right action.

After finding places to draw meaning and examining your work from a distance, what can you do to continue these rituals everyday to keep building and refining your new positive, aware, grateful mindset?

  • Go on a morning walk or do some type of physical exercise first thing after waking up. This will be a framing moment for your entire day and starts you off in control of the situation.
  • Take 15 minutes of your lunch break to meditate, practice breathing exercises, focus intensely on an object or word or person, and take control of your wandering thoughts for a few short moments. Hold a thought instead of letting your thoughts hold you.
  • Wait 2 minutes before responding to any ping, phone call, or email message and consider the purpose of the message and what you want to convey in the response. Be in control of your message.

If you’re arriving at the end of this discussion and you’re wondering about one single thread that ties all of these thoughts together, it’s taking the power back.

Sure, we’re all human and we all have moments of anger, sadness, anxiety, and quick decisions, but even small changes and moments of reflection on the ways we think and act are vast improvements. 

We can take the time to understand, examine, and be aware of where we are and what we have to be thankful for.

These are all bricks to lay toward effective self-care.

How To Plan For Professional Networking

The old adage about “who you know” seems contrite, but the art of effective networking can completely change your life, your career, your opportunities, and your compensation.

If you’re someone who keeps to yourself or you’re more socially awkward than most, you’ll need to put in some work. It’s called net-“working,” after all.

Do Your Research

If you’re at a new company, it’s important to explore all avenues of career progression. When you see or meet someone with a job you want, ask them how they got there. Find out the channels they traveled through to end up in your desired position.

It’s not enough to just do this once or a handful of times and constantly evaluating your branching career paths and updating your lists of key contacts in those positions will serve to keep you focused in your pursuit of a dream job.

Make Time

It’s really not enough to simply reach out and e-mail the folks you want to know, work with, or shadow–you have to see them face to face. Plan coffee talks, take them to lunch, grab drinks, and really pick their brain to ask personally and professionally pointed questions about your biggest curiosities.

Build rapport, but don’t lose sight of your purpose in all of your social interactions in the workplace. Be pragmatic. Think several steps ahead of the conversation and go into every chat with a plan of action and a clearly defined, desired result. This will keep you on task.

Conversations will happen organically, but you should be the one mediating the flow of subject matter when it veers off the tracks.

Shadow When Possible

The best way to learn a skill is to immerse yourself in its mastery. Find someone whose knowledge you want to tap into and whose skill set matches the place you see yourself ending up.

Don’t be intimidated by the experience gap between you and this person and remember that walls aren’t built in a day. All you have to do is lay a single brick.

When you’ve grown close enough to someone you’re networking with, ask to shadow them. Make note of their process, speed, and efficiency and write down the skill gaps that are holding you back from achieving that level of mastery. Make a conscious effort to review these notes and continue to improve yourself.

Throughout the shadowing period, ask for best practices and pro tips for achieving the speed and accuracy of your mentor and also ask for detailed reasoning when they make a judgment call. You need to understand how they think and perform not simply to mirror their behavior, but to put your own spin on things and to translate their success into your own unique path to success.

You always need a benchmark before you can improve a process.

Lend A Hand

No work is beneath you. If you go int a role too proud, you’ll be seen as a know-it-all. Like Kendrick Lamar says, “Be humble.” You can be confident and knowledgeable without coming off as pretentious.

Whether it’s someone you’re shadowing, someone in your service line, or someone completely separate from your current field, offer help when you have bandwidth.

Whatever you volunteer for, there is an expectation of follow through, so make sure to provide support that is of value.

The more you show your worth and value without going so far as to become a doormat, the more respect you will get ad the more you will be talked about.

Being talked about is a good thing because it means that they remember you.

Do Something: the How and Why of Volunteering

Why Volunteer?

The average person volunteers very little of their time to helping others. It’s incredibly easy to sit back and complain about things, maintain a cynical view on life, and focus only on the negative aspects of life and human suffering. While there are an insurmountable number of calamities in the world, sitting back and lamenting about them gets you nowhere.

No matter how insignificant you feel your contribution may be, even the smallest iota of positive influence and change you endeavor to send out into the world is worthy of your time and effort. No fight was ever won with a single battle. It’s a “death by a thousand cuts” situation. Every little bit helps.

People can have all kinds of reasons for wanting to volunteer. Most want to help others or feel like they’ve contributed some good in the world.

Despite your inner guilt, it’s also okay to want to glean some benefits for yourself from the act of service.

Volunteering is more of a loop than a straight line of giving. Although you may be the one selflessly providing for others today, you may require a helping hand from others in the future. It’s about paying it forward and being there for your fellow human.

Some possible motivations:

– Feeling needed
– Sharing something you’re good at with others
– Inspiring people
– Demonstrating commitment to a cause
– Feeding the hungry
– Teaching a life skill like reading or writing
– Challenging yourself
– Padding your resume
– A need for change
– Personal familiarity with the cause or tragedy
– Pride
– Meeting new people
– To escape

These are just a handful of justifications for your plunge into volunteerism, but there are countless more that I haven’t covered.

What personally motivates you? That’s the first consideration you should be making when determining how you’d like to give back.

Regardless of what inspires your decision to volunteer, you’re doing the right thing by exploring the options.

Where Do I Start?

Another facet of volunteering is deciding what conviction of yours is most important to you. What are the principles you’d like to uphold through your service?

If you’re compelled to increase local education, volunteer at your library or offer to help struggling students in elementary schools with their reading. Tutor someone in a subject you’re familiar with. If you’d like to lend advice to people, consider working as a life coach. Mentor folks in their career path, try to point others in the right direction.

There is an unlimited array of options for volunteer organizations, so the trick is to find work that you value. If you’re not into serving food or picking up litter, offer to help build homes or playgrounds or volunteer at a local hospital. The possibilities are endless, but the work will mean more if it’s for a cause that you wholeheartedly believe in.

Local vs. International

Do you want to help the community that you live in or would you rather travel abroad to struggling countries? While this seems fanciful or impossible, many organizations make it a reality for people to travel around the world to help others. Look into the Peace Corps or Greenpeace or, if you’re the religious type, consider becoming a missionary. Even Teach For America can send you to unexplored parts of your own country to lend extra help to needy school districts.

If this is your first foray into volunteering, though, I’d suggest that you start local. Begin on a smaller scale and look for local causes that interest you. Maybe there’s a book fair or carnival going on that you could lend your services to. There could be a local Boys and Girls Club that needs coaches or chaperones for their events and sports activities.

There’s always something to do.

Reach Out for More Information

Once you find a purpose that you’d like to explore, the next step is to gather as much information as you can.

Do a Google search and read the mission statement of the organization. Reach out on their contact page to one of the organizers and see if you can get some additional information, figure out times that they’re most busy, and acquire a list of activities that you could help with.

Get to know people in the organization and explain your background and preferences. What are you good at? What, specifically, can you contribute? Ask what their needs may be. Consider filling an immediate need and think about learning a new skill, even if its outside of your wheelhouse. This experience is about both helping others and, for yourself, growing internally and expanding your horizons.

It’s also important, if you’re employed, to ask your boss or human resources person to outline the do’s and don’ts of taking a volunteer day at your company. Most companies now give at least 1 paid day a year where you can volunteer for an event of your choosing. The only barriers may be coverage and the timing of the event. Make sure it’s not during a particularly busy quarter where your presence is indispensable. Sit down and discuss the possibilities with your employer and let them know that you’re flexible. With a little bit of balancing, I’m sure there’s opportunity to get something on the books for your volunteer work.

Get Training and Get Started

There may be some amount of training required before you start your activity. Make sure this is part of the information you request from the organizer. Perhaps there are certain protocols that must be followed in order to be considered for the opportunity.

If there is a formal orientation, make sure to be in attendance. If there’s nothing formal, then shadow an experienced volunteer. Ask lots of questions and learn as you go.

As long as you’re open-minded, can take direction, and you actually show up, you’re well on your way to being an asset.

Additional resources:

Teach For America
The Peace Corps
Boys and Girls Clubs of America
Coach Training Alliance
The Red Cross 
The Salvation Army
Habitat for Humanity