Punch those glums in the jugular

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Let’s be real- the glums (e.g. “bleh.”) or angsties (e.g. “eek!”) can come upon us all.* You’re sitting home alone, eating your third bowl of sprouted corn flakes for that day, and suddenly the absurd nothingness of your life sets in. Do you allow your mind to take that turn down Despair Drive? Or do you grab the wheel and screech triumphantly into Laughter Lane?!

If Laughter Lane is your destination of choice, here are some tried and true (by yours truly, at least) methods for punching those glums in the jugular.

1) Purposely befriend and hang with people who think your problems are lamé

It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s refreshing to be with people who don’t care (beyond how it makes you feel) if all the rats in your experiment die, or your hairline is receding, or your boyfriend’s sister said you dress like a skank. Friends like this help me reorient and realize that many of my issues are pretty isolated and low-impact in the grand scheme of things. #perspective

2) Move dat bodaay!

You’ve probably read somewhere that running and yoga help reduce stress. But while I do both so I can be a Fast and Flexible Fran, I can still mull over my problems and bad feels as I do them. Instead, weight training dispels the glums the best for me.  I can’t think about anything else when I’m training except my form and breathing. That narrow focus is a peaceful Japanese garden compared to my usual wild bramble of thoughts. Plus, weight training gives you the benefit of ‘mirin’ yourself in the mirror afterwards, which has been clinically proven to chase the glums away.

3) Look at perty stuff

Maybe this is more specific to me, but my work ain’t pretty. I dare you to google ‘transcardial rat perfusion’. Now imagine picking up a rat turd with a paper towel. That’s not all I do, PTL, but both of those are a part of my life. After prolonged exposure to this sort of ugliness, my soul begins to shrivel like a humiliated grape. It’s restorative to go look at beautiful houses around the well-to-do neighborhoods in my area, or even wander around some fru-fru store like Pier 1 Imports and let all my senses be assaulted with glitter, bergamot and lavender candles, and plush pillows. Ahh. If you are the manliest of mans and would feel emasculated doing either of those, go to a gun store and admire the beautiful machinery of the newest Kimber or something. Gah!

4) Be unimpressive 

When I was in undergrad, I became obsessed with “holistic excellence.” Consequently, even my so called “down time” was somehow impressive or admirable, like reading Aristotle or running to break a personal record. Now, I give myself the indulgence of lounging in my pj’s and watching You’ve Got Mail for the 3,547th time. And I don’t feel guilty about it. For you who are already experts at being unimpressive, this point may seem cray. But, if you err on the side of perfectionism, just stop. striving. for a little while.

5) Get artsy-fartsy, but hold the fartsy.  

If you’re already an artist of some sort, then you do you. But if you are like me with practically no artistic ability, here are some ideers- make up a new recipe off the top of your head, color in one of those super elaborate coloring books for adults, write a short fictional story, spray-paint a random object, play with Legos.. whatever. Usually I have this glorious creation in mind, but the end product is so absurdly ugly that it makes me laugh uproariously. So either way.. glums be gone.

6) Love-text 

Similar to drunk texting, except you’re drunk on LOVE and you selectively target your fam and your closest friends, not your exes. I like to text, one by one, everyone I love with “I LOVE YOUUUUU” or *kissy face kissy face kissy face*, or ‘ ❤ ❤ ❤ ‘ .. etc. If that’s a little over the top for your personality, then you can opt for something like “You’re not all bad” or something similarly stoic.  Not only does it give you warm fuzzies, it gives your loved ones warm fuzzies, which make your own fuzzies that much fuzzier. Eh, what? Okay, moving on..

Bonus: In a pinch, watch the YouTube clip of Will Ferrell and Christina Aguilera performing the Tight Pants Song on The Tonight Show. Glum cannot withstand its power.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

* By glums, I mean a temporary, purely emotional (sometimes hormonal) downshift in mood. These tips aren’t meant to cure long term probs that have psychological &/or spiritual roots. If your problems aren’t temporary and they go deeper than feeling slightly ‘blue’, please make steps to talk to a counselor. For realz.

 

The only reason I haven’t roundhoused my trainer in the face

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Imagine this scenario: A man is staring intently at a woman’s body. After a few seconds, he tells her, “Hey, squeeze your butt.” Should the woman –

  1. Ignore him
  2. Call the po-po
  3. Give him a roundhouse to the face
  4. Nod appreciatively and squeeze her butt

If you’re a fiery woman like myself (#gallofire), you probably immediately chose option c – roundhouse to the face. Especially if it’s the sort of situation where the woman was at work and the man was some leering co-worker. I might choose option b if the woman was walking to her car at night and the man reeked of alcohol or some illicit substance. Option a would probably be best if the woman is walking down the street, and the man is yelling out of his car window. Option d is clearly NEVER the appropriate response.. or is it??

Imagine now a very different environment from all the ones I mentioned above. The man and woman are at a gym, they know each other, and the woman is paying the man to train her to be a magnificent beast of lean, mean muscle. Part of his job involves watching her closely as she performs different exercises, and telling her when she really needs to rev up her glute activation to perform various exercises. Now, in this very different context, not only should she not be offended, fearful, or activate her ninja mode, she should be grateful that he is performing his job correctly.

So look over options a-d again. They are all very different actions, all appropriate at one time or another, to the exact same event. The main factor that determines the appropriateness of each action is the context of the situation.

What helps us use context flexibly, at the millisecond timescale, to figure out the most appropriate action?

hippocampus

Enter one of the most magnificent brain structures of all time, the hippocampus! You actually have two, each one close to your ears, a few millimeters deep in the brain. The hippocampus doesn’t just ‘do’* one thing – it is most known for its role in memory – but one function it is undisputedly crucial for is taking in info about single ‘items’ (the man) or events (the man telling the woman to squeeze her butt), and incorporating them into the context (the workplace, parking lot at night, street, gym). These item-context associations are super important to send along to other brain regions to use to select the appropriate action (roundhouse, call po-po, ignore, nod ‘n squeeze).

You should also appreciate that the brain does this automatically and instantly. When my trainer tells me to squeeze my glutes, I don’t have to pause for 30 seconds, ponder through all the possible range of responses, mindfully take in my context, and then select an action. Instead, I choose option d – nod appreciatively and squeeze my glutes. I’ve never come close to giving him a roundhouse to the face. Amazing.

The real, every-day importance of the hippocampus is especially visible when the hippocampus stops functioning properly, as in Alzheimer’s disease**.  Once the disease progresses so far, people with Alzheimer’s disease are no longer able to respond to individual items and events in a context appropriate way. That may be one reason why they make inappropro innuendo with the voluptuous waitress, or offend the ears of their innocent grand-chillin’ with a string of foul language. Their hippocampi are becoming dysfunctional, and are less able to help them take in the item/event with the context so they can act appropriately.

So don’t take your hippocampus for granted – protect it by eating less brownies, and exercise like a beast. You don’t want to be that person who attacks their trainer for just doing their job. How embarrassing.

Oh hippocampus, thank you for all that you do. ❤

TAKE NOTE: If anyone says anything about squeezing my butt outside of the trainer-at-the-gym context, you WILL get a roundhouse to the face!!!

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Practically no brain structure ‘does’ one thing, or does it by itself. If you cut out the hippocampus and set it on the table, it wouldn’t ‘remember’ anything. It’s crucially interconnected with a network of other brain regions that it receives info from and sends info to.

**Alzheimer’s disease affects many brain regions, and other brain regions are also involved in appropriate behavior (e.g. prefrontal cortex). But, the hippocampus is one of the first and most severely affected in Alzheimer’s disease, fo’ sho’, and it engages in intimate pillow talks with the other brain regions involved in appropriate behavior as well.

— I AIN’T MAKIN STUFF UP  —

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4179699/

Harry was wrong, and here’s why.

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In one of my favorite rom-coms of all time, When Harry Met Sally, Harry and Sally argue about whether or not men and women can be friends. Harry of course says no, although later he adds a stipulation that they can if one or both are involved in a serious relationship with someone else. Although I love the movie, I hate this answer. Thus, I offer you my own, better answer. (YOU ARE WRONG, HARRY!)

So, can single men and women be friends? I argue YES, but with several limitations.

  • Some women can never be friends with any men
    • This is the flirty, needy type who doesn’t see men as individuals, but as soulless tools of validation. They can’t go to a ball game, go on a hike, or watch a movie and be chill. They have to make sure that the focus is always on them and how adorable they are.
    • How to spot: Refusal to participate in activities that do not highlight their cuteness; confusingly wild laughter at their own ditzy behavior
  • Some men can never be friends with any women
    • This is the guy who constantly infuses romantic advances into every interaction. They can usually trick us women for a while by seeming like that sweet friend who just wants to be a shoulder to cry on, but if you give them an inch they will take a mile. They’re basically loitering around in the pretense of friendship, hoping that the woman will someday rise from her slumber and be filled with overwhelming love and affection for him.
    • How to spot: An overuse of emojis in text messages; awkwardly long hugs; usage of pet names
  • Some men and women can never be friends with each other
    • These are the people who really can generally be friends with the opposite sex, but when it comes to this one particular person, their friend skills wash away in an ocean of attraction. I see this a lot with people who date and then try to be friends afterward. I think it’s just more difficult after you’ve romanticized with someone to spend time and talk with them and not “go there” again. You’ll be laughing over some past experience with an angry waiter or something and then remember, ‘oh yeah, that was the same night we went on a romantic moonlit walk and he told me I was the most beautiful girl he had ever met’. It’s difficult to remember that, rally with a quick Anchorman quote, and proceed casually.
    • How to spot: If you’re ‘just friends’ with someone but would feel a little burned if they started dating someone; if you get irrationally angry with that person for relatively mild disagreements (don’t forget: indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love!)

BUT if you don’t fall into any of these categories, and neither does your friend of interest, REJOICE! My guy friends bring such amazing joy and rich perspective to my life. I hope that we can all stop over-sexualizing everything and just enjoy members of the opposite sex as the unique, beautiful unicorns of individuals that they are. ❤

 

An analogy, if you will.

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I’m running a marathon. Why? Well, many years ago I earned many accolades for a 5k that I ran, and I do love my accolades. So much so that I decided I should be an ultra-runner. I knew that to do an ultra-run I had to run a marathon first, and so I signed up with much rejoicing.

From mile 1 of this marathon, I started to panic. I wasn’t ready. I had barely trained, and I learned quickly that the strategies to run well in a 5k were not going to work well for a marathon. Even more unsettling, the other racers made it clear within the first mile that they had trained well and were in much better shape than I was. Somehow, I struggled through like a rubbery-legged fawn and made it through the first few miles. Around the halfway point, I even received a little confidence boost from realizing I was still more or less keeping pace with the other runners. Some runners had already dropped out, and I felt a little special that I had decided to stay in.

Miles 13-25 though, were a bit horrific. At several points, I stopped running completely. Once I even ran in the completely wrong direction, until my exasperated marathon trainer grasped me by the shoulders and set me back in the right direction.

Almost every marathon runner considers stopping at some point, but I have considered it multiple times within every mile. I tell you, it is psychological torture. What makes it worse is that some runners that began at the same time as me, or even one to two hours after me, have already joyously crossed the finish line. In the meantime, craggy seasoned runners keep on running up next to me and saying “You feel bad now? Just wait until you begin the ultra-run! This marathon will seem like a light jog to your mailbox!” Others have told me that no one cares how I run this marathon, as long as I cross the finish line. It’s how I run the ultra-run that matters. While I get their point, that’s hardly motivating for me while I’m still dragging myself through this marathon.

You may be thinking, “Poor thing, she probably has a crappy marathon trainer.” But that’s not true. My marathon trainer is amazing. Other runners envy me. He makes me feel guilty because the guy frickin’ loves to run so much, and he really wants me to share that joy. He never asks me to run faster, because he wants me to want to run faster – to experience the pure joy of running. He says he can’t imagine doing anything else besides running.

But I can see myself doing almost anything, including several things that don’t involve running at all. Running isn’t my passion anymore. I don’t know if it ever was. I’m starting to wonder if I just enjoyed winning trophies at the end of my 5k, but I’m not sure if I actually enjoyed the run. I always cringe a little bit when people automatically assume that, because I’m currently running a marathon, my all-consuming passion is running. They like to say stuff like, “But of course you’re an amazing runner! You’re in a marathon!” But that doesn’t really mean anything. You’d be surprised at how relatively easy it is to sign up for a marathon even if you’re not qualified. It really just comes down to who is willing to put themselves through that torture. So please – stop assuming that 1) I love running and 2) I’m good at running. It makes my bad mile-times that much worse. I’m not being modest – I’ve been running for a while and, trust me, I’m not someone for a newbie runner to model their training plan after.

Now I’m on the last mile. People are yelling “Sprint! You can do it!” but all I want to do is crawl to the side, curl up in a ball, and die. I’ve firmly decided I never want to even attempt an ultra-run. I’m happy for those that do, but it’s not for me. I like the general idea of people out there running, and I’m thankful for the fortitude this marathon has given me for whatever I attempt in the future. But, I don’t feel any compulsion whatsoever to be a part of any future runs. If my marathon is really all about the ultra-run anyway, why should I care about finishing this marathon at all? I don’t plan to use any fragment of cardio capacity that I gained through this marathon for anything else I take on. Is it for the trophy, then? I don’t even really want the trophy anymore, because so many other people with this trophy are actually runners who completed this marathon for the joy of running. They trained, they persevered, they deserve it, and they’re rightly an inspiration to others. If people see my trophy, they will assume that I’m one of them, but that’s not really fair. And when I insist otherwise, I’ll just seem demure.

Maybe I should forget about the ultra-run, forget about the trophy, forget about feeling guilty about having no joy in running, and just focus on reaching that next tree. When I get there, I will try to find some lovely rock in the distance to run towards. At this point, the finish line is less about accomplishment and more about looking forward to being done with running. So I WILL finish this damn race, if only for freedom from the race.