“Shallow” mood boosters


Whether you’re struggling with anxiety or just having a bad day, you probably have tricks to make yourself feel better. I recently wrote about one of my favorite tricks for when I’m in a slump, but what about all those other times when you’re sad or lonely or scared or nervous?

There are a lot of things that I thought were too shallow to be real remedies. I should channel it all into being one of those really hot gym chicks or reading a really good and deep novel about happiness and life journeys and stuff or some introspective buddhist poetry or something.

But I am not an eat-pray-lover. Those things just give me more anxiety because I feel like I should be doing that. (Cue Carrie Bradshaw’s ‘Are we should-ing all over ourselves?’ which is top 10 Carrie for sure.)

Some things make me happier, and some things just distract me. Distractions, by the way, are completely legitimate in the realm of anxiety. Distractions, in fact, are something that my therapist recommends, whether it’s counting all the “A”s on the seatback airplane safety card, or spelling out all the vegetables in the grocery store. But there’s also a lot of distractions that take away from real things that you’re avoiding. There’s a difference, and that’s a whole separate post to come. But there are a lot of things that make me happy that seem sort of, well, shallow. And that thought chipped away at the happiness I was getting out of these things. It took me a long time to finally accept these things as totally OK and acceptable and real and impactful.

  • Sun (even if it’s not warm weather). Growing up in Seattle, it was as rainy and overcast as you’d imagine. Some people love it, but some people are hormonally allergic to it. I’m in the latter group. So now, on sunny days — especially when the weather’s been overcast or rainy — I make a massive effort to go for a walk, or sit out by the pool, or just keep my home flooded with natural light outside. It’s a massive boost for me.
  • Planning a trip. This is by far my favorite activity of all time. I think I have as much fun planning as I do actually on the trip. If you’ve ever traveled with me or been exposed to me while planning, you know this. It gives me something to look forward to, to channel my anxiety into (planning is a major source of feeling in-control), and to play to my strengths and therefore make me feel great. The flip side to this one is that in the past I’ve used travel as more of a distraction from dealing with things in my life that needed fixing; I’ve had to work past that (mostly with my trusty therapist, which you should be able to guess by now).
  • Going out and doing something. I usually don’t want to leave the house or be seen or attempt to have fun when I am down. It doesn’t feel genuine. But for the times when I was accountable to someone else to show up to a dinner, or get coffee, or see a movie, or whatever: It almost always brought me out of my funk. It’s definitely a fake-it-til-you-make-it trick, which feels (duh) fake. So now if I’m in an unhappy place, I try to go out to dinner or do something from my spreadsheet of local places I want to visit (yes, I have a spreadsheet of fun things to do. I LOVE SPREADSHEETS LAY OFF ME). PS: Some people — especially those suffering with depression or similar — may not find this to be a helpful or even doable trick, so I want to note that this is simply something that works for me. If it’s not your thing, I do not intent to create any feeling of guilt over not being able to “suck it up and go out.”

  • Having a skincare routine. Early on when I was first seeing her, my therapist introduced the idea of creating rituals in my everyday. She would suggest things like “having a cup of tea” and “putting on a face mask.” I just thought that I had no time for boring stuff like that. But a few months ago (years after she first suggested this), I went to a skincare class at Sephora with my friend Mary, and somehow that experience completely opened my mind to the world of skincare, with which I am now obsessed. It doesn’t take long — only a few minutes every morning and every night — but it makes me feel like I’m really doing something good for myself. Skincare is not something that everyone gets into, but the real takeaway here is having a doable/repeatable daily ritual that prioritizes self-care.

This is a small cross-section of a much bigger list, of course. I’m always learning new things that give me a boost of happy when I most need it — and I’m always looking for more! What’s your favorite way to pull yourself up when you’re down?

New Year’s Resolution: Self-Develop

By now you know my heart beats a little faster for New Year’s Resolutions. This post rounds out my three-part 2018 resolution breakdown.

As a teen with a developing body my yearly goal was always to lose weight. It was one of those classic scenarios where now, looking back on it, I was totally fit and looked fine and would be happy to look like that again. The funny thing is, even though I’m probably the least ~well shaped~ I’ve ever been, I have no goals about weight loss or measurements or eating those awful fat-free diet foods that I was super “into” at 14. I’m somehow the most happy with myself and don’t view myself very negatively. Yes, obviously there are days when I regret having love handles and feel uncomfortable. But on the whole I am super content.

Learning to manage my anxiety means that I went through a long process of discovering what makes me feel content, happy, safe, and free, and then actually practicing those things. It’s surprisingly harder — or perhaps more time-consuming — than it sounds, and I’m still discovering and evolving those practices. A recent one: Having a skincare routine. I think a lot of people agree that their skin has a major impact on their confidence. That’s always been true of me. I never had a big interest in skincare because I thought it took too long and it was impractical to have all those products when I travel so frequently. But last month I took a skincare class at Sephora — it was surprisingly educational — and I have found that in the morning, it makes me feel like I’ve done something good for myself to start the day, and at night it reassures my brain that I’m totally unwound and ready to sleep. It’s awesome. And bonus, my skin looks and feels fantastic.


As you can see in my journal page, my “self-develop” goal is not centered around one aspect of myself. I’ll break down what each one means to me.

  • Read: I hesitated to put this on my goal because I thought I would fail. But then I realized, it feeds into other areas of my goal, like relaxing. And even better: I’ve already read one book this year!
  • Having fun with health: I dread going to the gym when I’m not inspired. If you do a workout and it totally sucks, you’re pretty unlikely to return, right? Instead, I’m prioritizing workouts that I enjoy. I love Barre3 and it’s only a short drive from my place. I also really like doing spin classes, which I can do in my building’s gym. (We have an awesome virtual system, kind of like Peleton.) And Tim and I love hiking and going out into nature, or traveling to a new city and seeing it by foot. It’s FUN, and I want to do it.
  • Relax: I’m a highly strung person. I am super organized, was born with a self-imposed perfectionist tendency (s/o to my therapist who’s helped me tame this!), and feel most satisfied when I experience lots. But over the course of my life, I’ve rarely remembered to make time for relaxing and unwinding. It’s not self-indulgent. It’s necessary for mental health and honestly for spiritual, physical, and all the other healths.
  • Español: I tried to use Duolingo to learn some Spanish before our South American honeymoon last year. It was a fabulous mini-foundation but I saw how much I’d barely scratched the surface of this whole language. Learning a language is satisfying intellectually, adds to my understanding of my own language, and it opens up a huge door for communicating with people I normally wouldn’t be able to. (There was a lot of miming to taxi drivers when I didn’t know exactly how to say what I needed to.)

So how’s it going so far, now that we’re a month and a half into the new year? You already know I’ve read a book (and I can’t shut up about it — please read ‘The Girl with Seven Names’ so we can discuss it). I am writing this not long after a workout at my building’s gym, during which I read the March issue of Martha Stewart Living. I went to Kauai to have a relaxing trip, and I’ve been trying to build it into our everyday lives a bit more. (And thankfully my husband provides regular reminders with his own, more finely-tuned need for relaxation.) I am still searching for some things in this life, but how to develop myself to be even happier is not one of them. It’s the best, most peaceful feeling. Now, time to go find my next book.

What do you want to work on this year? Any book recos?

PS: I’ve been getting a LOT of comments on my bullet journal. I’m obsessed! I got all my gear on Amazon: dot-matrix notebook | fine-point markers | stencils (MUST!) | washi tape



You know how every time a character in a movie needs a change of heart, they witness something that reminds them how short life is?

That just happened to me.

Tonight, I left a regular day at work to go to a regular doctor appointment and then my regular exercise class (spin) and my regular Tuesday night pub trivia. I was feeling super full, having eaten too much sodium paired with a beer, and paid my tab early and left.

Half a mile before home, I was approaching the last big intersection in my route. All of a sudden, I saw a bike flip, and a man wildly roll across the road. He had been hit by a white Prius.

Everyone stopped. There was a three second delay at least. Finally the car right in front of me put on flashers and I saw a woman run out into the road. The man in the car next to her did the same. The Prius pulled to a stop on the other side of the intersection, and the driver at fault ran to the victim as well.

As far as I could tell, the victim was alive. He was unmoving in the road, but in the fetal position, which tells me he was conscious enough to move instinctively. Three drivers and a pedestrian were helping him. The Caltrain was going by. It was chaotic.

The traffic began to build up behind the scene of the accident. I was first in line behind the immediately witnessing cars. I had an easy way to go around the scene, but I felt obligated to stay and stare in shock and empathy. I wasn’t helping at all, but it felt wrong to drive away. Finally, one of the drivers who had stopped to help the victim began directing traffic around the scene. I was the first to take his cue. I was so relieved.

The guy was likely alive and was probably going to stay that way. The reckless driver stopped and did the right thing. But I was still left with a huge, full-being shake-up. This guy had to have been in SO MUCH PAIN. And he was there. Did he have people who would know and care for him? Did he work in an industry where he’d be disabled from his job forever? Moreover, if he did actually die from the collision, where would he end up and would he be good with his life?

This is all WAY too deep for a regular Tuesday night. But I chose to leave early and witness this accident and be reminded that being miserable for some greater end goal is not worth it because a white Prius could hit you on your regular Tuesday night. You can plan for the future all you want but some things just aren’t in your control. Saving money is good. Flossing is good. But doing stuff you hate and believing that this stuff you hate will someday become better is not worth it. Something I hate is my self-taught habit to always apologize for myself. Like my wants and needs aren’t good enough. That’s, uh, insane. Apologizing is good when you’ve done something wrong, but it’s not so good when you are making yourself feel wrong.

So, as I reflect on my movie-plot-device evening, I’m going to go to sleep. At like 9pm. Because I like sleeping more than I like being tired throughout a busy day. I owe it to my colleagues and my loved ones to be bright and ready to support them. And I won’t apologize.

Ageism and understanding yourself

For much of my life, I felt like I was the wrong age, or born in the wrong year, or just not the same as people my age. I would avoid telling people my age and relished the times that my grandparents’ near-blind friends asked my sixteen-year-old self if I was in college.

As I got a bit older and began undergoing the maturation discovery phase that is college and early adult life, I found myself acting like most people my age. I joined a sorority, shook off a lot of inhibitions (and gained some back, thankfully, after graduation), and began learning the balance of caring for myself and having a really great and memorable life. There were plenty of times I felt “mature,” probably due to the perceived independence of being on a campus and not in your parents’ home. But there would be spans of time when I would be a near-hermit, get really thrown into scheduling my part-time job, internship, and school and would avoid my social life. During these times, I almost felt estranged from my peers. This isn’t their doing at all: it was mine. I couldn’t reconcile having fun with being responsible.

Fast forward to today. I think I can officially say that while I’ve certainly not perfected my balance, I’m absolutely the closest I’ve ever been. Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned makes me comfortable:

  • My one-bedroom apartment is kept clean and tidy. For the most part, this is by doing small things regularly — not one big clean-up on occasion.
  • I put my financial health very high on the priority list. This has been the biggest struggle for me, surprisingly. Historically I’ve been very financially savvy and disciplined, but since my cost of living is so enormous in the Bay Area, I’m learning to dial down my “fun budget” to keep me happy.
  • My cat actually gets the attention he deserves, including lots of cuddles and actually cleaning his litter box. (I can’t believe I only did this once a week or so when he was little. Poor guy.) It’s little, but it’s got huge payoff.
  • I’m in a really, really good relationship that makes me want to keep myself happy in all other regards so I can keep the relationship happy.
  • Exercise is an absolute necessity to manage my anxiety. If I don’t exercise, anxiety reduces my productivity and makes me less rational and generally sends me into an unhealthy snowball-effect.
  • Thanks to a year with the best therapist in the world, I know a lot of “triggers” that set off my anxiety, including little things like being tired and getting overheated.

Age DGAF-er

Age DGAF-er now

And now, for the first time in my life, as I’m just a few weeks away from my 26th birthday, I’ve noticed that I no longer am quite as afraid to share my age. Part of that is because at a certain point age difference is not much of a factor when relating to others. A bigger part of my newfound age-acceptance, though, is knowing that exactly who I am is exactly right for me. I always felt like I wasn’t in the right skin from an age perspective, and instead of fighting the uphill battle of being the “right” age, I am the right me. At times I’m a little boring now. I don’t care. I love it. It’s perfect.

When things are good

You know when you’re REALLY happy with life? I don’t just mean when you realize it once as you sit with your legs dangling off a dock into a lake at your family’s summer house. I mean when you consistently realize, day after day, that you’re truly content. It doesn’t have to be constant ecstasy. It’s just a constant elevated baseline: you’re happy.

There’s one phenomenon I’ve noticed when you’re really happy: You don’t do everything, and you don’t even think about it.

Let me clarify. I’ve been really happy for the past couple months. Last week, I realized that I had straight up FORGOTTEN to work out for over a week. This isn’t the best thing for me, since I need exercise to manage my anxiety and to feel energized and feed my happiness. But I hadn’t avoided exercise: I’d just…forgotten. I was happy, living life day to day, and not worrying about what I “should” be doing.


I generally hate Carrie’s dumb articles on ‘Sex and the City,’ but she had one really good line that has resonated with me for years. She asks, “Are we should-ing all over ourselves?”

Yeah, this is a pun on poo, but it’s a pretty good point. We stop ourselves from contentedness by placing all these expectations — these “shoulds” — on ourselves. Goals are important and exciting and help us #GetThingsDone, but goals are ideally focused around progress that’s proven to make people better and that makes sense for you.

Shoulds stop us from feeling good about ourselves. Shoulds tell us that we aren’t ever good enough. Shoulds are the enemy of happiness.

I began leaning into my regular achievements and letting that be enough. This transformed my life and allowed me to be happy; it also made me a more effective friend and employee (amongst other things).


When you are #blessed enough to be at a happy place in your life, savor it. Don’t dampen it with shoulds. We tend to think that happiness is unmerited if we’re mid-career rather than on top, or if we have a lot of friends but no romantic partner. Guess what? Happiness is TOTALLY merited. Preexisting happiness makes that eventual promotion or relationship SO much sweeter. Seriously. Take my word for this. You know all that advice that “you have to love yourself first?” That applies to all areas of your life. Your boss won’t buy stock in you unless you’re a shareholder as well. That cute guy isn’t dreaming about the girl who is embarrassed to be herself.

Don’t should. If you have achieved your goals and have become a version of yourself that YOU like, celebrate it. You’re enough.