Woe, #19: Thanks, I hate them all: 5 wellness tips you hated the last 1000 times you saw them on Insta and 1 tip that’s maybe useful
Hello and welcome to Woe. It’s not Wednesday and I’m uncharacteristically... not full of woe. Yes, I know there’s a war in Ukraine and Texas is planning to steal trans kids from their accepting parents, and intellectually I think those things and many others are terrible, but I just started a new job so I’m a little hypomanic and, well, full of joy and excitement. This is a rare state for me and I know all too well it doesn’t last, and yet I also know that I need to soak up the feeling of feeling good, that, while I have to be careful not to let it get out of control, I also need to savor it. Like actually just sit here breathing deeply and experiencing something other than sadness.
How rare is this? In 2021, out of 1003 data points in my mood tracker, on a 5 point scale where 5 is feeling awesome, which is what I feel right now, I felt awesome 3 times. In that whole year. I felt good (4 points) 119 times that year, and I felt bad (2) and awful (1) for a combined 538 times.
Anyways. I can and should write a whole issue about the phenomenon of hypomania, how it differs from mania, and why it’s very common for bipolar folk to get hypomanic when they start a new job (i.e. I knew this would happen and planned for it.) But that is not this issue.
This issue is some wellness tips that are 100% on point but you’re so fucking sick of seeing cute instagram posts in some annoying cursive font telling you to do this shit that you feel like doing these things would actually be capitulating to some toxic positivity enemy out to turn you into a pod person.
Also 1 tip maybe you haven’t heard QUITE as much and maybe will annoy you less.
Okay, let’s go.
Savor. This falls under mindfulness/enjoyment and it means that instead of cramming your face full of ice cream without actually even noticing you’re enjoying it you slow down and pay attention to the thing you’re enjoying. This works because it heightens the good feelings in the moment and solidifies your memories of them for the future. My big savoring moments in the winter revolve around sumo oranges. When the pandemic came I became convinced that we would never be able to get sumo oranges again. I fucking love sumos. So I ate every sumo orange like it might be my last. And, I dunno, they really may dry up some day, and I want to be able to recall all my sumo eating experiences. So I make sure I’m not doing anything else while I’m eating my sumo. I just eat my sumo. I know, I know, you just want to cram your face full of ice cream and doomscroll. I get it. Me too. It's okay for you to hate this tip.
Gratitude. This always sounds so fucking goody goody or wholesome and I’m one of those people who struggles with the notion of being wholesome even though in fact I do plenty of perfectly wholesome things, like always taking my meds on time and cooking dinner for my family and stuff. But gratitude really does make you feel better, because when you remember stuff you love about being alive you activate the paths in your brain that love that stuff and those paths are happy paths and they make your brain make more happy chemicals. I did a whole instagram video on gratitude journaling that you might check out if you’ve been a gratitude skeptic, but, it’s still annoyingly wholesome so I get why you hate the idea.
Drink less booze. LAME. I hate this one. I like booze. I like whiskey and I like wine and I like campari and mezcal and I like mimosas and I like weird cocktails with pieces of burnt wood in them to add the smoky flavor. But... alcohol is a poison and a depressant and it screws wildly with your sleep cycles and is just generally hard on your body so reducing your booze intake is, unfortunately, a solid wellness tip worth considering. There are a lot of non-booze but boozy-tasting beverages out there now and I haven’t tried them all and I’ve also tried a lot of shitty ones but I do like Kombucha if I want something fizzy and weird tasting and I can recommend this one fake booze company called For Bitter For Worse but unfortunately that’s not a referral link, just a regular one.
Move your body. Even just a little. I used to claim this one didn’t even work for me, which is not entirely false, because I have never experienced anything like a runner’s high while doing any physical activity --ever, and also my family seems to be genetically programmed for famines and we just... don’t naturally want to move our bodies much. We’re really really into conserving calories. The activation energy it takes to get me to move most of the time is just way too much. What I have found about moving my body is that I can in fact get myself to do my one sun salutation and 10 pushups in the morning or if not in the morning later in the day, and even just that tiny, tiny amount of moving my body makes a surprisingly big difference. Also it helps that I never say “exercise” ever ever ever, because exercise is the worst. I’m not making myself exercise, I’m just moving my body, just jostling myself around some so I can ground myself in it and be present -- okay yes this is way too instagram wellness-y I’m stopping now.
Put your phone down and focus on the people and experiences right where you are in IRL. This tip is hateful because it does not work and then you just feel like a dumb, phone-addicted failure. What does work is to throw your phone in a river. I dunno, doomscrolling is genuinely terrible for all of us and I am always trying to cut back on it. Sometimes I manage to leave it in another room and that works quite well because of my aforementioned genetically programmed inertia. “oh well, I’d have to get up and walk 15 feet to get my phone, I guess I’ll just lie here and read a whole book instead.” But, not nearly as often as I would like to. So sure, this is a solid tip, but it's not very practical, is it?
Anyway you already knew all that crap and you hate every bit of it. “What else have you got up your sleeve, woman?”you’re asking. Oh, I could offer up so many things. Laughter yoga. Float tanks. Aromatherapy. Morning pages. Masturbation. The Art of Living’s secret breathing exercises (no, actually, that is a cult, but there are plenty of not-secret breathing exercises you could try). I'll do a post someday on some of the weirdest shit I've tried in my quest to not feel like shit all the time.
But here is my most treasured wellness tip:
There’s lots to feel hopeless about in the world. There’s a lot of pain and destruction and despair. But destruction and despair and pain and hopelessness are never, ever, ever the whole story. Everything we see around us, everything we are, is the result of something else that ended. Everything.
When you center hope, you can access a deep well of something I don’t quite even know how to describe. Call it Presence, call it Creation, call it God or Goddess or Gaia or the whole damn Unfolding of the Universe. It is not certainty, it’s not a plan, it’s not any kind of solid ground at all, but... it’s something real, and it doesn’t require you to exercise or abstain or journal or savor or put your phone down-- although you might do any or all of those things in service of or in addition to centering hope.
Centering hope is the most important thing I know to do for myself and for everyone I love and for the world and that is why I talk about it constantly. I can’t tell you exactly how to do it. It doesn’t fit neatly into a checklist and there definitely isn't an App for That. Folks with a religious or spiritual bent can find a lot of guidance that direction, of course, and I spend a lot of time in this newsletter and in the other one trying to talk about what hope looks like and who else can show it to you and how you find it for yourself, but ultimately your hope is your own to find.
I can't tell you how to find your hope, just that you definitely should go looking, every single day, any which way you can.
PS I really do have to recommend sumo oranges. Like, really. I’ve had sumo oranges that tasted better than entire years of my life.
PPS: Like I said, I just started a new job. I'm committed to keeping up both my newsletters, but if I said I was gonna keep doing them both weekly then a. that's the hypomania talking and I can definitely not keep that up and b. I haven't even been keeping it up already, I'm managing 1 a month for each of them. So that's what I'm committing to. 1 woe per month. If I manage to do more, great, gravy. If not, then great, I didn't set myself up to be a hopeless failure with no follow-through.
PPPS: "Amy, are all your newsletters just gonna be about hope now?" I dunno. Many of them, probably. But probably not. I have a lot of other stuff I want to write about too.
PPPPS: Mood back down to a 4. Which is good, because for me, Awesome, while awesome, is also a little worrisome. While hypomania, unlike full mania, isn't too likely to turn catastrophic, it can turn sour in ways that feel pretty shitty. When I'm hypomanic I devote a lot of attention to practices that moderate that energy/excitement/joy even as I savor it. It's a hard balance and sometimes it gets me down, that I have to Manage Feeling Awesome like it's some kind of horrible disease state, like it's fake or wrong or evil. But then I find my hope and I reframe it as a powerful force that needs to be Respected. Like Willow learning to harness her magic. Anyways. I need to settle myself and get sleep.
As always, I love to hear from my readers so let me know how this lands.