If you read closely around here, you probably noticed how vibrant I was feeling when I was in California this fall. While I certainly had some rough times—and some very rough times internally—my time out there really allowed me to ~get in touch with myself~ in a way I maybe never had before.
You know how sometimes you talk with someone else, and you just really click with them? You really connect with them, and there’s this feeling of understanding, of feeling at home in the world with someone who gets you. That’s pretty rare to begin with, but even more rare is actually connecting with ourselves.
To be honest, it hasn’t been all puppies and sunshine (but if someone could arrange both, that’d be cool too) since I’ve been back in NYC. The holiday season was hard on me, and winter in NYC is just a long slogfest of cold, gray days and being stuffed in subway cars in your puffer jacket sweating to death.
Part of my deciding to stay in NYC, and not move to CA (yet. maybe one day!) is that, sure, it was easy enough to get in touch with myself in a gorgeous place. But wherever you go, there you are, etc., and I know I have more work to do to learn to have some level of peace in places other than CA.
So, I’ve been looking to reconnect with myself here in NYC. Here’s what’s working for me. What helps you connect with yourself? [None of this is groundbreaking, but a reminder to myself and maybe you?]
1. Running. I am really my best self when I’m running. I’m happier, I’m calmer, the ideas flow better. I’m not running particularly far or fast right now, so I set my Apple Watch for HIIT, not running, so I don’t get up in my head about my pace. but I am running more regularly than I have in a bit, and it makes me feel just a bit more myself.
2. Yoga. I know you’re also shocked at this one. Even at my most anxious and high-strung, even if yoga doesn’t get me to a completely calm place (damnit!), I’ll still walk out of there feeling a bit more in touch with what’s inside me, rather than being connected to my phone, my to-do list, where I need to be next, or any of the myriad things outside of myself that take up real estate in my brain. I’m a pretty shallow breather, and yoga helps me breathe a little deeper and slow things down. (Here’s an interesting study on the effects of slow breathing and correlation with lower heart rate, etc.)
3. Journaling. Sometimes, I am so resistant to journaling…and when I stop to examine why, I realize that it’s because there’s something brewing under the surface that needs to come up/out, and I’m afraid of it. If you don’t know where to start, you can literally just start by writing “I don’t know what to write”—and I find that usually my words start flowing from there. “This is dumb” is another start that works for me when I’m totally stuck.
3a. Gratitude Journaling. My therapist has me make a list, every day, of five things I’m grateful for. I totally rolled my eyes at her when she first said it…but it’s so helpful. Even if on any given day I’m only grateful for coffee (I do basically write I’m grateful for coffee every day because I do this in the morning) or having a functioning heater (because NYC winter), it still gives me a ton of perspective and makes me realize that I am lucky.
4. Creativity Podcasts: I used to listen to a lot of podcasts about running and fitness, then a lot about mental health/grief, but I’m realizing that I’m the most in tune with myself (and in turn, the rest of the world) when I’m creatively inspired. My current favorites: Beautiful Writers, a show interviewing inspiring writers (I could listen to the Brene Brown interview over and over again) and The Writing Coach podcast with freelance writer Rebecca Webber. I love this second one because it blends inspiration, talk of the craft of writing and more practical business-of-writing tips.
5. Reading. It’s one thing to read trashy novels to escape (and that is 100% fine, amazing and normal) or nonfiction to learn stuff, but I’m so into the stuff that feeds my soul lately. Like everyone else on Instagram, I’m reading Journey to the Heart. It’s a book with daily inspirational entries. I read it in the morning, either before or after journaling, and it helps ground me just a bit for the day, giving me something to focus on, like being present. I’m also finally reading/listening to Brene Brown’s Gifts of Imperfection. Man, is it awakening me to a lot about myself, like using…oh, anything (food, booze, staying busy) to numb my feelings. But we can’t selectively numb our feelings, she writes. Numbing the bad means you numb the good as well. There are so many oh,shit moments like that in the book. I’m still in the middle of it, but I’m obsessed.
I’m at my best when I’m doing all of these (like I’m at my best as a runner if I’m also doing yoga, strength training, foam rolling…), but even remembering one is still helpful to me in connecting myself so I can better connect with others.