I’m using emojis to 💪 my health this year!

“If you think people in 2017 care about your grand vision for improved todo workflows or whatever you’re probably gonna have a bad time.”

It’s Black History Month. Students riot over politics. Romance is in the air.

So what does your personal health even mean? Why do we care anymore?

Because it’s more than how many hours of sleep you get each night.
Because it’s more than how many cups of water you drink a day.
Because it’s more than quitting, saving, or cutting ___ out either.

Those are important things, but for me it’s always been more about mindset.

Maybe you’re like me. You thought your problem was setting priorities and keeping them. That was, in fact, my New Year’s theme last year. If you’re lucky like me, others suggested it might be even more about changing your priorities and communicating them. I’m finally understanding the relationship between this and the tips everyone and their mother has packaged up in books, webinars, and listicles. At best, these methods are training wheels to master your health or the “functional and metabolic efficiency of a living organism. In humans, the ability of individuals or communities to adapt and self-manage when facing physical, mental, or social changes.” At worst, they are crutches preventing you from developing your own health.

I’ve realized my New Year themes are not really goals but intentions. I have themes, because the whole idea of keeping to rigid New Year’s Resolutions always sounded to me like a miserable plot line from a bad sitcom. I noticed I’m not alone. I found the idea everywhere — written inside business magazines, amongst tips for a better home, and in the archives of Oprah.com — to set afire my intentions instead of my goals. 🔥

So here are three intentions on health I personally discovered last year that I will illuminate now:

1. Taking care from a place of love and not fear.

Advice to “stop caring so much” never made much sense to me. Without care, I saw myself becoming either a monster of unchecked emotions or a shell of meaningless logic. However, awareness that comes from a place of fear — of “should”s and “until it’s perfect”s and “have to be right”s — adds unnecessary pressure to health, work, and life. Do the extra work because you want to do it. Sleep when you’re tired. Don’t obsess about what else you have to do.

Though as anyone who has caught themselves spending an hour too long working ineffectively or struggling through a night of insomnia will tell you, it’s much easier said than done.

I try to meditate about 15 minutes a day. One of my favorite meditations that helps me get “unstuck” involves picking an overwhelming feeling of the day and just marinating in it. I observe the thoughts fueling my feeling. I think about where in my body the feeling lies. How is it making my arm, my neck, or my head tense? Or, do I feel too loose and disconnected? Which parts of me are actually more relaxed when I feel this? Often, I find I cannot hold onto one feeling that long. I get tired of it naturally before it is time to clear my mind and relax back into my surroundings.

More often, that feeling remains after I meditate. But it is easier to take the next steps to manage it. That way, I can see past what preoccupied me and address the underlying issues beyond the feeling itself.

When I meet and work with people from different backgrounds than me, I can easily cave into the pressures of what I feel I must do to be “respectful.” The pressures build into increasing resentment. Yet no matter how much money I spend or time I volunteer, I’m not able to single-handedly change an entire society’s systemic views and biases. So I’m letting go of that daily responsibility. Now, it’s easier to listen to those around me and their increasingly diverse voices. I am able to better understand the triumphs they have had and the struggles they face. While this lesson started out with helping myself, it is also reflected in the Art of War. It’s also surprisingly more altruistic. In taking better care of myself and my own voice, I somehow learned why we want to and how we can better give people with different histories more opportunity to be heard. I can be less influenced by my own subconscious biases, and actually treat them more like the people I grew up with. ❤️️💛💚💙💜🖤

“Optics and subtle cues matter. If kids absorb lessons from who’s on TV, then the rest of us undoubtedly absorb messages from just about every app we touch.” — written by a friend for Fast Company’s The Future of Work

2. Fighting the “bad” by working with it.

There is a common parable attributed to Cherokee Indians, Evangelical preacher Billy Graham, and Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. The tale of two wolves explains how we have wolves inside us constantly at war with each other. One of kindness, bravery, and love. Another of greed, hatred, and fear. The one that wins the battle is the one you feed.

Before we ask how we set ourselves up for success. Before we ask how to keep fighting the good fight, ask why we must constantly be at war. We don’t always need to fight to win.

Sometimes, there are no sides to a battle. Sometimes, it just is a really tricky situation. It’s tempting to want to blame someone. It’s tempting to riot and protest. It’s easier to keep bleeding from your wounds than to make that call. I spent hours calling my health insurance earlier this month. I considered not paying my insurance in January, because of how Blue Shield of California hiked up my Premium on one plan, renewed my plan while simultaneously enrolling me on a second plan, and kept mixing up details in follow up emails explaining “why.” I was so angry. I’m still frustrated with how it went down. In the end though, I realized it’s not worth my time winning that battle. Taking care of my health means self-care sometimes as boring and mindless as flossing my teeth. Remembering to keep a cup for water around even if I’m just walking to another room. Knowing when to see a doctor. Keeping track of the bills.

Working on awareness also means letting go of constant judgment of what is “good” versus “bad.” I greet my thoughts and feelings as they come. It’s okay to have them. I don’t have headaches these days like I used to, but I am struggling to sleep. With my lessons in mind, I can take concrete steps to try to improve my sleep. I’m taking vitamin D3. I’m looking into buying a sun lamp, but they’re expensive… I also keep track of my lack of sleep. I have fun sharing insights like “sleep quality affected by the moon.”

Wondering if the answer to sleeping is to join a witchy-women-coven? To dance, rest, and explore in the wild away from the city lights? 🌕✨

Who knows? I’ll keep investigating with my heavy mind and open heart 💗

Screenshots from my Sleep Cycle App showing metrics from 4+ months of data. And no, the dip in the graph isn’t at all synced with my menstrual cycle

3. Communicating about myself is my job.

People sometimes ask me if I ever fight with my boyfriend and how we make up. We do, but I usually start the fights. I usually end up resolving them too. The fact I was always the one digging up the underlying issues used to make me feel pretty guilty. Now, I know that it’s actually a wonderful skill.

Managing other people’s expectations, having awareness of who you are, and bringing recognition to your capabilities are extremely useful skills when working with others. By doing so, we may also transform our vulnerabilities into attractive and powerful opportunities. At the end of the day, communicating these things is more important than getting the job done at all costs. The people who don’t understand this are not the ones I want to work with. They are apt to leave their friends and co-workers high and dry. It sure takes a lot of work: writing, talking, and explaining all this. Still, I plan to keep cultivating these skills to facilitate my professional relationships, work with my accountability buddies, and stay in touch with current friends and friends-to-be.

I’ve also been playing with using more emojis in my emails and chats online. Honestly, I’m only starting to embrace these little icons expressing emotions again. But I enjoy how they bring extra warmth, joy, and brevity to otherwise very dry negotiations 😊

Most days, I love my work with conscious entrepreneurs. I love that I work with people who mix in humor and hope with the darker and deeper parts of life. It’s a skill we’ve honed through necessity. I attract and am closest to very self-motivated people in life. They pursue so much that they rarely notice the many little accomplishments they make moving them closer to the world they long for. Their work, their experiences, and the way they think inspire me so much. This post about treating willpower as an emotion by my friend Nir Eyal inspires me too. I notice it when I go dancing. Although I love dancing, there are days I don’t feel like it’s worth the effort. My willpower is just not there. So instead of dancing, I think of just putting my shoes on. I can always sit out or go home if I need to. But there’s the chance I’ll find the dance that lifts my spirits up and makes it all worthwhile. Nir’s MEA (Minimum Enjoyable Action) principle puts a new spin on this age-old mentality to better measure our intentions for the year.

Because of who my loved ones are and how they care, I feel like one of most romantic gifts I can offer right now is this explanation. How I’m committing to better health. I’m still making sense of most details on my own, but I’ll keep on sharing my intimate thoughts, feelings, and ideas like this when I can. This way, we may help each other develop stronger and more meaningful relationships with ourselves.

And for my health this year, the smallest and most enjoyable step is to simply note how my body and my mind feel each day emoji-style
😳 😓 😣 ☹️ 😄 😘

This is the bottom-half of the 2nd image in this article. It’s taken from the Pingxi Lantern Festival in Taiwan taking place today. 1st image from Facebook Design taken from Reactions: Not Everything in Life is Likable.
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