Self Care and I how I found Happiness

I lied. Happiness is not something to be found. Happiness is the shimmery ray of light that you exhale whenever sea foam touches your feet, or when you drink a hot beverage as the world thunders and pours outside your walls. Happiness is feeling like a sexy motherfucker inside your own imperfect skin, or sitting below sunshine.

My life right now seems pretty damn good. I’m at the high point of the emotional roller coaster, breathing in life, crushing the negativity. And yet I find that my life is not too different from when I started this blog. Back then, I felt like I had hit a concrete wall, and the blood inside me had gone cold. I’m still quite anxious, boyfriend-less, and trying to sort out my family problems. What changed?

I did. I changed. And here’s how you can change too:

  1. Gratitude

Have you ever noticed how many amazing, smile-inducing things there are in your life? Keep a journal where you consistently write what you are grateful for. Here are a few of mine: I am grateful for…

  • The smell of popcorn
  • Being able to give advice to a friend
  • Warm and sweet cappuccinos on rainy days
  • Opening a new packet of contacts
  • Crunchy apples in February
  • My growing faith in God
  • The memory of snow
  • My tired eyes, and the fact that they remind me that my days are productive
  • The guy who offered to pay for my coffee without expecting anything in return

And the one I keep going back to:

  • Even though I find it unbearably hard to be grateful today, I am grateful because today must have been many people’s best day of their lives. Here’s to hoping I have one of those smile-filled days soon.
  1. Self Care

Sometimes you just need to chill and be an unproductive sloth. Take a bubble bath or a warm shower, go get a massage or a manicure. Treat yourself to a huge dessert.

Work out, no excuses. Search the internet for something that works for you, commit to a 30 day plan and stick it out.

I wish you fairness and happiness.

Aisling

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Dear future daughter: here’s the best advice I can give

Dear future daughter,

When people ask me about the most important thing I’ve learned thus far, I can’t help but think about how destructive I was as a young teenager. If the old saying is true, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, you will be relentless, vicious and (secretly) scared to death. I think I can help you.

I know that all of a sudden, you’ll go from being the class nerd, to the girl all boys want to feel up at parties. You’ll go from wearing limited too tracksuits and looking like a character from a bad sitcom, to wearing nothing but shorts, fishnets, crop tops and winged eyeliner. You won’t have a clue about what the fuck goes on around you.

One day, someone will hurt you. One day, some 19 year old predator will fix his eye on you. One day, you’ll feel like the bones in your body must stick out even more. You’ll learn to hate yourself, to avoid your reflection, to count calories and skip meals, to mutilate your own skin.

I need you to forget about all this shitstorm around and think of your best friend for a minute. What would happen if he or she ever told you that you looked disgusting? How would you react to them pinching whatever amount of fat you have on your body?  What if they suggested you should grab a razor and slash your wrists up? And how would you feel if they pointed out that barely noticeable pimple or scar or whatever imperfection on your face, and told you it completely ruined you? What if your best friend ever told you that you were not worthy of being loved, or cared for, or an incredible human being?

Let me answer those questions for you. You would cut that bitch out of your life for being cruel, cold and critical. You would be outraged at them for daring to treat you with such a blatant lack of respect and disregard for your feelings…

And yet I know that you will do all of the above to yourself. You are not your enemy. Treat yourself like a friend, and do not tolerate doing to yourself what would be unspeakable if someone else did it. What you say to yourself in front of the mirror or when you shut your eyes to sleep at night is no worse than what a toxic friend could possibly tell you. Don’t tolerate all that negativity inside you: You are worthy of being loved, worthy of inner peace.

If you manage to make that inner voice your friend, and find peace within yourself, I promise, you will come to find that facing the world outside of your head becomes a million times better, and way more gratifying.

Love,

Aisling, and (in theory), your mother.

How I Stopped Procrastinating Part 2

Part 1 can be found here

It is commonly acknowledged by sailors and writers alike that Siren song will lead men to an enchanting death. Ulysses (Greek Ὀδυσσεύς Odysseus; Latin: Ulixes) knew the previous fact. Upon learning that Siren song would render him incapable of returning home to his loving family, he ordered his sailors to tie him to a mast, swords pointed, to prevent him from jumping into the ocean.

As it turns out, Ulysses is not only interesting because of the depth of his characterization, he also gave Tamara Gendler, Yale Philosophy professor, an idea on how to end the procrastination cycle (see the full video here).

See, you need to stop lying to yourself. You know that no matter how strong your initial willpower to not check Facebook while you’re working, quit smoking, start working out, [insert whatever you’ve been blatantly putting off here], you always end up procrastinating. In my first post about procrastination, you understood why you procrastinate, and now I’m here to tell you how you can stop.

The big secret? Get yourself a mast and tie yourself to it. Need to stop checking out pages while trying to be productive? Use websites like Cold Turkey to temporarily block your access of certain pages before you get tempted to use them. Want to work out more? Spend money on a fun class you want to try out, splurge on hot workout gear, give someone you trust a motivational sum of money and make them promise to only give it back if you reach your goal (quick author tip: HIIT is BOMB, 20 minute workouts for 30 days straight and the weight just melts off. Google Jillian Michael’s 30 day shred.) I digress, if you put money on your project beforehand, you’ll more likely work to achieve your goals. None of that “I’m too tired/It’s cold outside/I’ll start tomorrow” bullshit because now your money is on the line. Invest in yourself.

Get to know yourself. Do you always need a snack before studying? Do you need a quiet room? Get all of your requirements sorted beforehand, so you’re not making up lame excuses to get up all the time. Know that once you start you do not have permission to stop until you reach a reasonable goal.

Finally, reward yourself. Make your brain know that workout=hot bath or shower, 45 minutes of studying=20 minutes of Youtube videos, 1 month no smoking=treating yourself to that new thing you wantI’m telling you, Parks and Recreation was on to something when they invented “treat yo’ self”. Aristotle said that a repeated action becomes a habit, and habits are easy, second nature. Rewarding yourself helps turn your goal into a habit.

Along the way, there will also be days when you feel like you can’t anymore. There will be days when your body feels so heavy you will need to sleep and blow it all off. Your health comes before everything. Eat your favorite comfort food and go to bed early, have a good, long cry, confide in a friend or in a stranger. It’s  OK. The next day, wake up early and finish your responsibilities, talk to yourself, get back on track, smile. I believe in you.

Take a deep breath.

You’ve got this.

Aisling

Stay tuned for part 3. I would love your feedback in the comments.

 

 

 

How I stopped procrastinating (and got a 40 on the IB Diploma) pt.1

Winter is coming in a metaphorical sense because our finals are just around the corner. Winter is also coming in a literal sense, which means food and alcohol and parties in copious amounts.

You’ve said it a million times to no avail, but this time, you are convinced that you will study for your exams, and you won’t gain weight over the holidays, etc. Except for the tiny fact that you won’t, not unless you change your strategy.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

I’m no different to most students, unless you count the fact that I stopped procrastinating a long time ago, and before I tell you how, you must understand why you procrastinate.

I’m a finance major, which means I’m a fan of cool graphs, like this one:

ainslies

Those things up there are called Ainslie Curves, and they depict hyperbolic discounting. In short, Ainslie Curves show us that human beings suck at making decisions because we’re fucking sloths and hyperbolic discounting is a fancy name for when you prefer a smaller, short term reward to a larger, long term reward*. When you prefer to binge watch Netflix shows instead of studying for an exam, you’re a victim of hyperbolic discounting. You know that studying will get you a better grade (aka “what you should be doing”), which in the long term will make you happier than the hours you spent watching Netflix (aka “what you’re actually doing”), but OHMYGOD watching your show feels so necessary RIGHT NOW.

Refer back to the graph. You’ve just gotten the idea that maybe you should be studying, or exercising, or waking up earlier, so you care more about this than doing instantly-rewarding things like scrolling through Facebook, eating a muffin or attending a party. You’re determined to reach your long term goal. However, as time advances a few thoughts creep into your head… “Maybe one muffin isn’t so bad” or “I’ll just check Facebook really quickly”, you’re operating at the intersection between the two graphs above. Next thing you know, you start valuing what you’re actually doing over what you should be doing, and you justify your action by thinking “who cares, it isn’t that important” or “I’ll start later” or “fuck it, I’ll be a stripper”.

Everything seems okay when you’re procrastinating, until your Netflix show is over, you’re tired of social media stalking or the muffin is all gone, you’ve left your “fuck it I’ll be a stripper period” and then… “WHAT ON EARTH HAVE I DONE?!”, panic, panic, panic. “What you should be doing” once again tops your “things I care about” list, but now you have less time, now you can’t get that long term reward.

Just like in rehab, we start by admitting to ourselves we have a problem, and that is the fact that we are all a bunch of hyperbolic discounters, and that George Ainslie would be very, very unhappy with us. This is your first step to breaking the procrastination cycle. Now you understand that reaching most long term goals and refusing short term temptation will only get harder with time, but the reward you get in the end for it will be much more valuable.

You are a rational creature, which means you should aim to act rationally. The animal part in you will tell you to delay your long term reward, it is your job to tell it to sit down and shut up.

Make sure you stay tuned for part 2 with more grounded advice to stop procrastinating. SHARE this post if you know a few procrastinators who need a dose of Ainslie.

Good luck!

Aisling A

*Simplified concept, read more by clicking on the hyperlink

On Preaching and Practice

My friend Lena is undeniably, unbearably sexy and smart. She has the world in the palm of her hand, and she could eat it all in a single bite. How in the world could she ever be insecure?

I had the aforementioned question asked to myself a few hours ago by Lena herself, over a lukewarm black coffee and a half finished chocolate pastry at a hipster-ish café outside of uni.

The thing about Lena and I is that we are opposite sides of the same coin. One guy I dated even dumped me because “it’s eerie how alike Lena and I are” (no, I’m not even kidding). We seem to be the same person… until you learn about our love lives. She’s the girl who always has a boyfriend, I’m the girl whose closest experiences with romantic relationships involve texting someone from another continent and/or making out in the backseat of some Uber. Her biggest issue is she doesn’t even know if she’s okay with being alone anymore, my biggest issue is feeling like wtf I’m going to die a virgin with 17 cats that only like me because I give them food.

Here’s where the title of the post comes in: For me it is quite clear that Lena is being dramatic, for her it is quite clear that I am being dramatic. She isn’t the type of person who takes shit from anyone, so she would clearly be fine on her own, she isn’t codependent, she simply found a great person after she broke up. I also realize that there is no reason why I can’t be in a relationship. After all, I am only 18 and the chances of me dying alone are still slim (Note to 40 year old Aisling: It’s up to you to confirm this in the comments).

Things seem less dramatic when we see them from someone else’s perspective, problems seem smaller, windows seem bigger, life seems longer and suffering feels shorter. No matter how many times people tell us we are smart, or beautiful, or amiable or DESERVING of love, it takes a single blow to our self esteem to puncture our hearts. We stop seeing the big picture! And yet our friends and bystanders seem to know that we exaggerate our problems, and we know they exaggerate theirs. It’s time we consciously leave our pity party and walk out of this vortex that makes our problems seem ten times worse than they are.

I will see my problems as a just arbiter, panic gets me nowhere. Ask yourself: What advice would I give myself if I were just one of my friends? You’ll come to find that you would likely not be as harsh on yourself, and that your freakout-inertia is leading you to bad places. Write yourself a letter as if you were giving advice to a friend with the same problem, then practice what you preach! If all else fails, go and talk to a person you trust, hearing it from someone else always helps.

Stop. Breathe. You’ve got this.

Aisling A.