Let Yourself Feel

There are bound to be days and moments of nostalgia- defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a place or a period with happy personal associations. As a highly empathetic, experience-driven person, day after day nostalgia creeps up on my thoughts.

Is it healthy or unhealthy to be nostalgic? About 15 years ago, researchers would highly agree it was unhealthy to dwell in the past. It can become this habit of living in the past and can be the root cause of much depression. However, more recently, researchers have also argued for its importance in the human experience.

Greek academic Constantine Sedikides talks of nostalgia as the “perfect internal politician, connecting the past with the present, pointing optimistically to the future.” All experiences in my life are interconnected and plays a crucial part in the next, I know past experiences have only created more joy in the next.

If that’s the case, then why does nostalgia feel like I’m stuck in the past?

“Nostalgia compensates for uncomfortable states, for example, people with feelings of meaninglessness or a discontinuity between past and present. What we find in these cases is that nostalgia spontaneously rushes in and counteracts those things. It elevates meaningfulness, connectedness, and continuity in the past. It is like a vitamin and an antidote to those states. It serves to promote emotional equilibrium, homeostasis.”

I preach the importance of living in the moment and the importance of gratitude. However, I am starting to understand why with the 80% of my brain that is subconscious will occasionally shock me with feelings of loneliness and a longing to be in the past. Every time it does, I am torn in between thoughts of guilt because I should be simply thankful to be where I am and thoughts of kindness (to myself) because it’s okay to feel. In fact, according to Sedikides and Wildschut, it’s important to feel nostalgic to balance our emotional health.

In fact, this research also suggests nostalgia has a grounding effect. “In difficult situations, it appears that nostalgia grounds you. It gives you a base on which to evaluate the present as a temporary state, and in doing so it perhaps builds resilience.” 

To leave my vulnerability on the table for all the see, the above states my current state of mind. Nostalgia about Austin, about Cambodia, and many other past experiences has crept up a lot more this past year. Despite the sadness and lonelieness, I feel at the time, I am also reminded that the present is a temporary state. Whether this portion of my life experience is a year or a few years, it is temporary.

Knowing it’s temporary not only builds resilience in my growth but also serves as motivation to work towards my desired goals, work towards a place and an experience of immense joy and meaningfulness.

If you merely skimmed all the above and skipped to here….. then you need to slow down, take 4 deep breaths and scroll back up and read my post. 


For a more detailed read of research on nostalgia, read “Look back in joy: the power of nostalgia.”

Are you open to listening?

Have you ever simply meditated and thought about who you were a year ago? two years ago? three years ago? Sure, it may seem like you have the same hobbies, the same friends, or the same job- but what about your values? Your thoughts? Your attitude? Your desire to grow and learn?

It absolutely blows my mind how much I have grown in many ways. I’m not even sure how to elaborate and express my thoughts at this current moment but I wanted to write… so here I am, writing a post, attempting to dissect my growth.

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Less than a year ago, I attended my first and most incredible #Daybreaker event in which I received the above card. It sits on my fridge as a daily reminder to listen. For a more detailed write up of the event, check out my post a year ago – 24 hours of inspiration.

Since then, I’ve learned to listen to my soul, listen to my thoughts, my heartbeat, and my body. Too often, we are taught to “do this or that” regardless of what happens. We work overtime and late at work because that’s what society praises, we stay up late and pride ourselves on functioning with little sleep because we can do more and show the external world how much we are getting done. Especially growing up in Hong Kong, where the city never sleeps, I had nights after nights where I’d slept merely 3 hours before work, exercise and partying all over again.

Now, on a daily basis, I have learned to evaluate my emotions and my nervous system by listening to my breathing, focusing on my heartbeat (especially in float tanks), and listening to my muscles (to prevent overtraining).

When we are open to listening to our bodies and our mind, we become aware of the messages our bodies are sending us – we can then learn to optimize what we are fully capable of. 

I’ continue to grow and learn on a daily basis. I’ve come a long way since July 2017 and I’m incredibly excited for the growth to come for years to come.

Book Recommendation:
Own the Day, Own your Life by Aubrey Marcus

If you are inspired and would like to take a step into optimizing your life on a day to day basis, you have to get Aubrey Marcus’s recent book Own the Day Own your Life. Breaking down from the moment we wake up, to the moment we sleep, Aubrey provides invaluable strategies with fascinating scientific research for optimizing our capabilities.

I’ll leave you all with a short snapshot of inspiration from the book:

“SEE YOUR FUTURE I want you to imagine yourself a year from now. You know that in a year you are going to be different, whether you do nothing or something. And the choices you make between now and then will determine that difference. But for today, I want you to imagine owning all those other days. Visualize that you wake up with purpose and clarity. You push yourself against resistance. You take control of your diet and supplementation. You turn dead time into alive time. You work effectively and aren’t afraid to power down the engines to rest. You train your body into a durable, capable machine. You connect with yourself, your friends, and the universe. You turn sex into an adventure of pleasure. You go to sleep with a mission, and actually … sleep. Imagine what a year of living like that has done for you. Walk in the shoes of that new person. See yourself through that person’s eyes. Look in the mirror at that body. Maybe the circles under your eyes are gone, and that stubborn weight has lifted—mentally and physically. See what has happened in your career, and in your family. That person is you, on the other side of Resistance. If you see it clearly enough, it will be done.”

 

True awareness of our body and mind

Since working at a fitness club the last few months, I have, as I should be, been exercising and working out a lot more. It feels great to get back into an exercise routine- and to bring it up a notch. For those who don’t know, I am currently in the process of studying for an ACE personal trainer certification. My goal is not necessarily to be a full-time Personal Trainer afterward, but to certainly assist my friends, family and to have the knowledge is invaluable.

With that said, I have been much more aware of my body and my movements since then. To be fair, I started feeling certain pains and tension in various parts of my body that I have felt before (but ignored). After years of simply thinking the tension will go away, I decided it was time to take care of it and learn where the pain came from.

In between conversations with physiotherapists, personal trainers, and knowledge gleaned from podcasts and books- I have learned an immense amount. Our mind and body are incredibly integrated and unfortunately, most of our lives, we are culturally conditioned to either focus on our mind (cram for exams, stay up all night, work hard party hard, etc), or focus on our body (but only when we get injured or sick).

When was the last time you let your body heal and recover?
When was the last time you allowed your mind to detox and declutter? 

It’s not easy to do both. Neither is it convenient. However, the reward of your productivity and how every single part of your body will feel (from your gut to your muscles and beyond) is worth the hard work and discipline.

A few strategies I have adopted recently include:

  • Cold Showers (Wim Hof Method)
  • Starting the day by drinking a glass of water with Sea Salt & Lemon (Aubrey Marcus, Own Your Day Own Your Life)
  • Starting the day with a 10 to 15-minute movement routine (Exercises provided by my physiotherapist to improve my shoulder stability and muscle imbalances)

Fun Fact: I started taking cold showers about a month ago and about a week ago, the hot water in my condo building decided it was going to stop working. Thankfully, I’m already taking cold showers so it didn’t quite affect my daily routine too much! 

Some adaptations are harder than others to implement, but just like how we have to spend effort and productive time exercising to gain the results we want to achieve, we have to intentionally practice cognitive awareness and functional movement. Start with one adaptation at a time, and notice how your body and your mind molds and shapes. Each person adapts differently to change, do what makes you feel the most ALIVE and WELL. 

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See below for a few resources I have been listening to (podcasts are incredible if you tend to do quite a bit of driving throughout the day on your commutes. Trust me, it’ll make you enjoy your commute instead of being angry and impatient)

Anchor Your Intention

Lately, I have been diving into an abundance of podcasts while driving. The last time I listened to this many podcasts was when I lived in Los Angeles and it took me 30+ minutes every time I got in the car to get most places. I thought I had escaped that life being in Austin… although I still drove most places, it did not take nearly as much time and the scenery was always so beautiful that I could drive in silence and be content.

Needless to say, I’m back to the driving world in Ontario, Canada. It takes me about 20 – 30 minutes to and from work, add a few errands here and there and it’ll be a 45-minute trip. It’s certainly ideal for going through at least 2 podcasts episodes a day.

There’s always a way to make the most mundane tasks of the day useful.

I’ve also added to my diverse podcast list. I use to focus on This American Life, Invisiblia, TED talks, etc. Recently, I’ve dived fully into Tim Ferris, Aubrey Marcus, Ben Greenfield, and Joe Rogan. One thing that drove my interest to them is their desire and constant curiosity about the body-mind connection. They are all (including their interviewees I choose to have on the show) 100% committed to improving themselves through a variety of ways including but not limited to technology, biohacking, science, fitness.

It’s allowed me to think about my own intentions differently in the midst of a transition period. Sure, there are goals and certifications I’m working towards at the moment but it does not take away the fact that I continue to feel lost and lonely in different ways.

However, the stresses of life- especially those we can’t control- will continue to fight us day in and day out. The key is learning to accept them, and realizing why they are a part of our lives at that certain moment. In addition, turning those stresses into growth, knowledge, and self-development. Previously, I’ve written about starting the day with asking ourselves “What is your WIN for the day?” The second question to ask ourselves is:

What is your intent for the actions you’re about to embark on? 

This is an important question to get our mind in the right before any activity or event. Whether you are heading to work, reading a book, or getting ready to sleep- we should remind ourselves what our intent is. Only then will we be fully aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it. There are many moments where our answer might be “because of we have to”, and these are the exact moments we need to ask ourselves the question above.

It gives us an opportunity to shift our mindset, and anchor our flashlight of perception an intent of growth, or making ourselves better each and every day.

Focus on daily wins, not goals.

As James Clear would put it: Commit to a process, not a goal.

We are already getting close to March 2018. Who would’ve thought the first two months of 2018 passed by so damn quickly? Oh wait, this happens every year. I’ve been unemployed for almost 3 months now, and I will soon be working but that’s not the point.

In the midst of my transition and mini career change (…although, did I have a set career to start with? Nope. I have a ton of interest and can thrive in multiple environments and that’s okay!), I have placed multiple goals for myself. I want to have this license by June, I want to eventually get this other license, I want to be able to do this-this and that.

Goals are great, but they can be daunting. I signed up for James Clear’s email subscription recently and this morning, he gave me a much-needed reminder. I was reminded that focusing on the end goal can be exhausting, and only serves as motivation for a stretch of time, then we can easily fall out of the motivation… and return eventually as long as it’s before the date of our desired “end goal”.

Instead of focusing on the goal, focus on the process. Focus on writing every day (which is what encouraged me to write this post to start with. I constantly talk about writing blog posts and needing to keep up with my writing but I only write when I am reminded the last time I wrote was a month ago. My goal has become “write a blog post a day and then I’m good”. No. That’s not okay, if I’m going to keep writing, I need to write on a regular basis whether that means writing for ya’ll or writing privately. 

Focus on exercising every day. There are days I travel, there are days I may be feeling sick or exhausting. However, that does not give me a reason to not spend time stretching at home, or doing a few workouts with the TRX, Yoga Mat, or Resistance bands. There are ALWAYS exercises we can do via body weight or even when we’re working (calf raises when working a standing desk is great!) 

Focus on reading (a book) a certain amount of time every day. As I have been unemployed, I’ve had plenty of time to sit on my butt, look at my phone or my computer… to the point where I’ve been exhausted staring at a screen. I’ve also realized that sure I can read endless articles online to increase my knowledge of various subjects, but it does not compare to sitting and reading a book. Thanks to Michael Harris, I am reminded that many of us have forgotten how to read.


I can keep going on the million things I need to do every day in order to reach my “goals”, but one thing I’ve learned through my free time of unemployment is… it’s very easy to become distracted and want to accomplish and million and one things with ALL the time on my hands.

I’m not going to fall victim to that this time around. I’m going to focus on writing, exercising, and reading every day. I know the combination of the three will bring me to achieving the success I want and desire.

What are you going to focus on? How are you working on your process?