Listen to Your Body

Whenever I haven’t worked out for a week or two, I can feel my heart beating a little harder when I lay down at night. There’s a bigger rhythmic thud in my chest. And if I have an ear buried in the pillow I can hear and feel my pulse in my head more than usual. A more noticeable heartbeat and pulse have become a clear signal that I need to get back to exercising regularly. If I’ve been lazy, or have lost track about how long it’s actually been since the last time, I’m more aware now of ways my body is telling me where I’m at.

Perhaps you get similar messages. From your heart or the tightness of your chest. Jitteriness, shortness of breath, or a general feeling of anxiety. Aching muscles and tendons. Rumbling and popping in your digestive system. Difficulty getting your mind to focus on more than simple, short things. Headaches and bags under your eyes. The color of your pee and the (ab)normality of your poop. (Yeah…poop. You know about the Bristol stool scale, right?)

All of these things–and more–are signals of how your body is doing and what needs attention. How near or far you are to being balanced and healthy. The fewer, more regular signals you have, the more likely you are well off. If every inch of your body hurts, or you feel like you could close your eyes and pass out, you need to slow down and heal.

The signals are not always easy to detect or interpret. Maybe you don’t feel something until you turn a certain way or lie down. Some signals can be unfamiliar until you look into it a little more. You need to do a bit of Googling or ask professionals what’s going on–while making sure you keep cyberchondria in check. Other signals you only begin to pick up on clearly when you do some kind of mindfulness or meditative practice that gets you more in tune with yourself. Things like stress, worry, or sleep deprivation can drown signals out completely.

The causes behind the signals are not always obvious either. Am I short of breath because I’m out of shape? Because I’m at a different altitude than usual? Because I forgot to eat before I had coffee? Because I freaked the hell out when I thought I saw a giant spider 20 minutes ago?

But even asking such probing questions at all is a revealing and meaningful start. Ultimately, the signals are there so we can do something about what we’ve put our body through. The food and drink that goes in, the sleep and rest we make time for, the stressors we’re being bombarded with, and the things in the environment around us that are impinging on our cells. The signals have a source, and if we can identify the cause then we know what to change or adjust to find balance again. Emotions are their own special kind of signal, often revealing where we’re at with our relationships and attachments.

Every so often, I get lightheaded and have a harder time concentrating and spitting sentences out. I put it together a while back that it happens when I didn’t eat a big enough meal or the right combination of food. In those instances, I need to stop what I’m doing and find some applesauce or a handful of gummy bears. After that, I can feel my energy and focus come back online, like WALL-E after soaking up the sun’s rays. I’m glad I’ve got that signal figured out now.

So listen to your body. Try to be aware of the signals it’s sending, and figure out what’s causing them. We’re all meant to have balance, energy, strength, and focus. Homeostasis. Listening to your body will help you understand what you need to do to get there.

You Are Not Your Job

Work is the nexus of activity and identity for millions of people. The standard workweek in the United States is 40 hours—almost a fourth of the total time in a week—with many people exceeding 40 hours per week. And, however much we may try to avoid it, jobs bleed into the hours when we’re not on the clock, too. There are things to get done and commuting before work (with occasional time-stealing black holes of dread). Plans, commuting home, and various ways of unwinding and recuperating after work. And days off (from work) where we attempt to rest and play hard in the downtime before work starts again.

Time is frequently organized around jobs with periods of ramping up before and cooling down after. It can be difficult to start and stop work without any carryover. Especially at a time when work texts, emails, and phone calls can interrupt at any time. Thanks, smartphones.

We regularly describe ourselves in profiles and to other people as a teacher, a barista, a musician, a small-business owner, and so forth. Or if we don’t currently have a job, as unemployed, a freelancer, a job-seeker, or retired. We talk about who we are as the job we have, the work we used to do, or the job we wish we had.

The way we spend and organize much of our time, and how we view and describe our own identity, is in relation to work.

Work, of course, is the way people make money—the predominant way we conceive of and exchange value in the world. Few people are in a position to chose not to work. Homes, food, transportation, education, healthcare, and more, all require quite a bit of money. And so most of us are forced to sell a large chunk our time, energy, and talent as labor for someone else, with the result that a lot of what we do in a given week and how we think about our lives is centered around that work. It’s almost natural to identify who you are with your job—given how much time it entails and the value (income, primarily) you get from it.

A lucky few get value beyond income. Relationships that transcend co-worker, or character growth, or personal satisfaction. But the percentage of people who really like their job is very small. Most of us do not and will not work the job of our dreams. Instead, we sell ourselves to do some combination of tolerable tasks and sheer drudgery. If you define yourself by your work and you don’t find your job meaningful, think your company or job responsibilities are embarrassing or intolerable, or you don’t make enough money to actually live off, your sense of identity and self-worth are going to be pretty shitty.

If you are working your dream job—fantastic. You are indeed lucky. But even those who are could suddenly lose it. Strongly identifying with your job doesn’t leave anything else to define yourself by if things change. And we’re all familiar with real or fictional stories of the workaholic who ruins their life and the lives of others by doing nothing but work.

It’s as cliche as an inspirational quote book to recognize that life is much more than the money you make, the job title you have, or the business you work for. But the overwhelming obligation and influence of work make it difficult to keep perspective. We have to remind ourselves that there are other forms of value than money–forms that are rarely achieved in workplaces today. And remind ourselves that work is something we do rather than who we are. Life is not merely for laboring for pay until you retire or die—though it can definitely feel that way.

Life is for discovery and pushing the boundaries of who you are as a person. To do our best to live well in a holistic sense. We need to make our actual selves the center: our emotions, relationships, interests, and potentials. Not what we do to get paid. It can be difficult to do that, but not impossible.

Most of us need to get better at how we use what we call free time or leisure. The typical impulse when we have time to do whatever we want is to veg out. But leisure is not necessarily a lazy or unproductive thing (unproductive–there’s another work reference butting into the rest of our lives). Leisure, when it’s done well, has a self-enriching and value-creating result. Maybe you watch an hour or two of Netflix because you feel like you need it. But then you move on to messing around on an instrument for awhile. Or to baking or cooking. Hiking. Coloring. Reading. Building. Or some other activity that challenges you in healthy ways and gives you a rich sense of purpose and identity. The contrast between some repetitive drudgery you do at work and the deep flow and meaning you experience doing something like hiking or composing a song is striking. But the contrast doesn’t exist if you always choose to veg out instead of exploring your interests and potentials.

Free time is also for relationships. A crucial part of who you are is being a friend, a mother, a brother, a spouse. There can be a temptation to veg out when we spend time with others, too. Like going out to get mindlessly wasted together instead of doing something that actually deepens the bond you share. Maybe it’s a couple nice drinks in a place where you can have a long conversation. Or going to the gym together. Or cooking a multi-course feast and losing track of time enjoying it. Leisure is often better when it’s with others, and it can be a shared way of upholding and expanding identity and self-worth.

And leisure is also good for getting your emotional self and internal monologue on track. Much of it happens as a byproduct of doing the right kinds of activities with the right people. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to do some self-reflection or meditation. It allows you to process through emotions, anxiety, crazy thoughts and bad narratives running through your brain, and things in need of healing. For me, yoga is an important part of my free time. But if something like that is too much, maybe it’s as simple as sitting on the couch without any noise or distractions, breathing deep and slow, and paying attention to what comes to the surface. What kinds of emotions do you feel? What are your heart rate and stress levels like? What kinds of hurts do you notice? Meaningful free time includes healing and restoration.

As long as our economic and social structures remain as they are, most of us will have to continue to devote big pieces of our lives to jobs. But we shouldn’t define ourselves by them. While we keep a post-work future on the horizon, we can be more intentional with our free time. Then the right things are at the center of how we think about who we are and how we grow over time. You are not your job or the job you don’t have. You are a human being—more expansive and interesting than anything you do for a paycheck can contain.

A World of Hurt

Our bodies are shaped and altered by our experiences.

There’s a scar on my left ring finger that runs from the top knuckle through the nail. Anytime the scar catches my attention, the memory of the injury that caused it flashes into my mind. Here I am carving a stick with my pocketknife at summer camp as a teenager. One second, everything’s fine. The next, there’s a deep gash down the middle of my finger and red beads of blood dripping onto the dirt below.

When the memory pops back into my brain, it’s vivid–like I’ve traveled back in time. The place I was sitting. The trees. The streaks of sun beaming between them. My finger throbbing and anxiety starting to rise. The hike from where I was to the medic on the other side of the camp. Sights and feelings and even smells from years ago return. Crazy how a little scar can do that.

Each of us carries the stress, body blows, and trauma from our past. Everything from short-lasting irritations like kitchen burns and poison ivy to the deep, long-term effects of abusive family members or struggling to pay the bills. They leave physical marks and psychological wounds.

Bags under the eyes. Cuts, scrapes, and scars. Cavities, hangovers, and extra pounds in the midsection from emotional eating and drinking. Shortness of breath. A weakened immune system. Trouble concentrating. Self-doubt. Depression. Feeling guarded or on edge. And many other impressions and effects.

We are natural, physical beings. We have these strange and fascinating flesh-and-blood bodies. We are not indestructible. Nor do we float through the world as untouchable, immaterial spirits. Sticks and stones do break you. And words–in fact–hurt, too. Sometimes a single word from a certain person in a certain situation feels like a punch in the gut.

Our experiences change us inside and out. Hopefully, there are plenty of good experiences that change us for the better. It is universally human, though, that through the course of our lives we will live through a world of hurt. Things we didn’t ask for or want. Some heal soon afterward and are mostly forgettable (like a careless knife gash at summer camp). Others linger and fester and undermine our ability to function. After some hurts, it’s hard to go on at all.

As flesh-and-blood creatures shaped by an endless variety of hurts, there’s a deep need for each of us to really know ourselves so that we can move forward. Where we’re at and how we got here.

How do you feel right now? Content? Deflated? Energetic? Weak? Flexible, light, and free? Or tight, heavy, and aching? Do you have cuts and bruises in the midst of healing? New wrinkles in the corners of your face? A racing heartbeat? Has someone’s cruelness thrown you off track?

When we more clearly see what all of the different hurts we’ve experienced have done to us, we’ll better understand what needs to heal so we can find wholeness. Oftentimes, we need people we love and trust to help us fully see and recover. No one can go it alone–especially when you’re wounded.

It’s hard to be human. We each go through many unique hurts. With over 7 billion people on the planet, that’s a lot of damage in need of healing. How can you and I encourage each other’s healing instead of increasing the damage?

Making Relationships Last

Around Valentine’s Day last year, I wrote about the need to go beyond showing love on just a couple big days with big gestures if you want to be truly romantic. A thoughtful gift or a meal shared at a trendy restaurant on February 14th can be a wonderful thing. But there are a lot of hours and days through the rest of the year when there isn’t a holiday to celebrate and you create (or don’t) the love in the air. Turning romantic sparks into long-burning flames is what makes a relationship a lasting one.

OK, great. Sparks into flames. What are some ways you can do that? As someone who has been married for 7 years–and together for 8 years prior to that–I’ve learned a thing or two about keeping a relationship strong, fun, and new. Not perfect (you can ask my wife about the boneheaded things I’ve done). But lasting and growing.

Be really, really good at talking and listening to each other. It’s nearly impossible to over-communicate and be too good of a listener. Work toward being able to talk openly about everything. Yup, even that. (What did you just think of? Have you talked about it?)

Be really good at talking about things that are going well, and things that aren’t. Every couple argues. You’re going to have competing goals and desires, misunderstandings, and silly skirmishes about things like figuring out what to eat (You pick! No you pick!). You have to learn how to argue well. How to disagree honestly and patiently. How to maintain your own dignity and point of view, while doing everything you can to respect and understand theirs. Figure out what the healthy, mutually beneficial resolution is, and how you can get there together. Arguing well is about finding your way back together when you got miles apart. Not who has the best one-liners and Exhibits entered into the court to prove a point.

The rest of the time–when you’re not arguing (which is hopefully most of the time)–you have to be forthcoming about how you feel, what you plan to do today, how you can get errands and chores done together, and everything else that’s happening in your lives. Keep the conversation going back and forth all the time. If you frequently find yourselves on the couch or in bed quietly immersed in each of your phones, you’ve got some work to do.

Don’t let things become predictable and routine. You shouldn’t be exactly the same person today as you were to your mate yesterday. Learn and grow. And encourage your significant other to learn and grow, too. Do things that enable you to learn and grow together. Classes, vacations, documentaries, hanging out with new people, and other things that will cause you to stretch what you think and what you do. Things should never stay the same between the two of you for very long. You both should know and feel that the relationship is going somewhere. That you’re growing in the ways you want to individually, and growing closer together.

Do surprising little things each day to show your mate how important they are and how much you care about them. Notes and doodles, an inexpensive gift on a random afternoon, home-cooked meals, massages and other loving touch. Sometimes small, unexpected things can change the course of a whole day and how good you feel about each other.

Make sure you have shared values. Sometimes opposites attract. They balance each other out in just the right ways. But if you have completely antithetical outlooks on life and core values, you’re very likely going to arrive at an impasse and part ways eventually. Incompatible religious or political beliefs. Whether or not to have kids or how to raise them. A generally hopeful and optimistic perspective versus a mostly cynical and nihilistic one. Some values and beliefs can change over time or be accommodated. Others are deal-breakers. You and your mate need to know that what matters to each of you most is at least complementary–if not very similar.

Don’t keep score. It doesn’t really matter how much or how little your significant other has done for you today or this week. If you truly love them, you should be more concerned about their well-being than your own. If they truly love you, they should be more concerned about your well-being than their own. You may do all the chores this week. They might surprise you by doing all the chores next week (because they know things shouldn’t be predictable and routine 😉 ).

Your relationship is probably not going to last if you’re doing exactly enough to keep things 50-50. They did ten points worth of good relationship stuff, so I guess I’ll do ten points worth of relationship stuff. It’s definitely not going to last if you’re angling for 40-60 or even less. It’s not a relationship if only one person is doing the majority of it.

True, lasting relationships become a virtuous cycle of enjoyment and fulfillment when you trust that being selfless with each other will meet each of your needs and desires. You give them your honesty, attention, time, patience, creativity, benefit of the doubt, generosity, faithfulness, and the rest of you, and trust that they’ll give you the same.

If you can talk and listen well; learn, grow, and surprise a little everyday; make sure you share what matters most; and don’t keep score; your relationship will burn with more and more heat. And you’ll know that your future together will be even brighter.

This Week in Upgrades: November 28

Are you still full from Thanksgiving? I’ve eaten Brussels sprouts every day since Thursday and I’m feeling like a champion. That balances out all of the pieces of pie, right?

I hope you had an enjoyable holiday. Here are some things you might have missed over the long weekend.

Some of the best and worst accents attempted in film.

The US Army has sent an eviction notice to the DAPL protesters.

In the US, 40% of food is wasted. Why do we throw away so much?

Here’s the best burger from each state. Is your favorite on the list?

Did you watch the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix? What did you think?

What do you do when you can’t get along with your boss?

“If you want someone to listen to you, don’t offend them.”

People are making themselves miserable trying to feel happy. A reminder that happiness is more than a feeling.

Thanks, as always, for following along with Upgraded Humans. Have a wonderful week!

Happiness is More than a Feeling

Have you heard of the drug Wellbutrin? It’s prescribed primarily for people diagnosed with “major depressive disorder” or “seasonal affective disorder.”

Sometimes the people prescribed Wellbutrin have recently suffered the death of a loved one. The American Psychiatric Association’s handbook used to strongly caution against doing so. The “bereavement exclusion,” as it was known, pointed to grief as a natural process in the face of traumatic loss. Even as we had developed mood-boosting pills for just about everything else, grief was such a powerful and known agony it remained a special case to be wary about handling with antidepressants.

But in the most recent APA handbook, the bereavement exclusion was controversially removed. The line between grief and major depression has been blurred. Mourning the loss of a loved one for more than two weeks is now considered a potential mental health risk. Considered abnormal.

We live in a happy-obsessed culture. There are an increasing number of official disorders and ready-made fixes for those disorders. There’s little room left for normal moments of unhappiness–even grief. Take a pill and cheer up already. Happiness maintenance has become a whole industry. And a lot of businesses are making great profits from the millions of Americans who aren’t feeling happy.

If we stop and think for a minute, though, do we even know what it means to be happy? If I asked you to describe happiness, what does it entail?

When does it happen? Why does it happen? Can we make ourselves happy? If so, how? Is a pill a good way to support happiness?

Can we make ourselves happy all the time? Should we?

Is happiness a bodily sensation? Is it a state of being?

Is happiness maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain? Is it the feeling that happens when you eat delicious food, hear awesome music, watch hilarious comedy, have heavenly sex, consume perception-altering substances, and see Instagrammable sights? Is it having a lot of money, popularity, or power?

So many questions and so little clarity. We say happy or happiness like we’re all talking about the same thing. But are we?

Pharmaceutical companies operate with a definite sense of what they think happiness is: pleasurable brain chemistry. For them, sadness and other painful detours from happiness are simply a “neurochemical problem.” You have to get the brain chemistry right again–perhaps with a pill that they conveniently make.

Let’s be clear: there’s nothing wrong with pleasurable bodily sensation. There are some pretty great feelings from the food, the music, the comedy, the sex, the alcohol or caffeine, the views. But they always fade. You take the last bite. The final joke is told. The buzz wears off. The vacation ends. The body cools off after sex.

We even adjust to and can become bored by certain pleasures in a process called hedonic adaptation. Sometimes when you’ve had a hit of this and level out, you either need a bigger hit or a different kind of hit to achieve the same level the original pleasure gave you. This is what’s behind the vicious cycle of addiction.

Even if we could constantly find new ways to experience nearly seamless pleasure, the reality is that sometimes things just aren’t OK. No amount of retail therapy, alcohol, ice cream, sex, or whatever else we ingest or participate in can cover the hurt, confusion, and loss of self.

We experience and are meant to experience hundreds of different emotions. They’re our push-notification system for life. Not all of our experiences are positive and awesome and exhilarating. Pixar’s Inside Out nailed this truth. Sometimes joy is laced with sadness. Sometimes fear and anger need their moment. It’s not healthy to aspire to be feeling good feels all the time.

If we do aspire to that, we’re quite likely to overeat, have one-dimensional relationships, have a difficult time overcoming loss and struggle, aspire for more money without ever feeling like we have enough, equate worth with stuff rather than relationships, and worse.

That’s not what being human is about.

I believe that happiness is about wholeness. And I’m in good company. Aristotle and other Greek philosophers used the word eudaimonia, which is often translated as “happiness.” But he wasn’t talking about pleasant brain chemistry. He was talking about flourishing. About being an integrated, growing, maturing, thoughtful person. A state of being rather than a state of mind.

It’s about exercising and challenging your human capacities. About being fully human–as far as it is possible for you. It’s about finding a lasting groove rather than momentary self-gratification. Being engaged in the process of living like you’re headed somewhere. Pushing the limits of your intelligence, emotional depth, creativity, physical strength, kindness, love, and everything else that makes you you. “…To do all the characteristically human things well and from the right motives,” as Anthony Gottlieb describes it in The Dream of Reason. You see the world and yourself in the world, and there’s a powerful synergy and intelligibility.

Some days are awesome. Some days are shitty. But no matter what today feels like, we have to figure out how we’re going to be fully human in it. To flourish in it.

There is no flourishing pill. There are times when we need to grieve. To work through the hurt and brokenness. Or to work through confusion. Or to remind ourselves that we still can. These, and a million other life experiences, are “characteristically human things” to do as well as we can.

True happiness is far more than pleasurable sensation. It’s about lifelong flourishing. True happiness is a life well lived.

What Are Emotions For?

Have you been afraid lately? Maybe while watching a horror film on the couch ? It’s that time of year, right?

Have you recently felt angry or confused? With this mess that we’re in, I’d be surprised if you weren’t.

How about joy–a wave of unadulterated bliss? The word joy can connote a kind of cheesy or naive thing. But some experiences are genuinely blissful. I hope you’ve had some of that recently.

Through the course of your life, you’ll experience the whole spectrum of emotions…

Anger

Apathy

Shame

Hate

Fear

Worry

Confusion

Jealousy

Envy

Panic

Sadness

Grief

Momentary Depression

Happiness

Contentment

Joy

Karla McLaren, in her book The Art of Empathy, organizes human emotions into the sixteen categories above. And, she further explains, each emotion can occur in soft, moderate, or very intense states. Anger, for example, can vary from irritated (soft) to aggravated (moderate) to enraged (intense). Even the same emotion at the same level of intensity can differ in sensation. Irritated is a little different than impatient, which are both slightly different than displeased. Even though they’re all fundamentally a soft form of anger.

Given the range of intensity for each emotion, and the subtleties of a particular intensity level, there are probably hundreds of distinct emotions we can each experience. To top it all off, we often feel multiple emotions (each one of different intensity) at the same time. Soft shame with intense worry with moderate sadness, for example. No wonder there are days when you just can’t adult.

Surely there’s a purpose to these rushes of feeling. Human beings have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years, and we’ve had emotions longer than we’ve had language and names for them. They must have been around for that long for a reason. What does it mean when we feel these sensations, and why are there these particular kinds of sensations–worry, jealousy, happiness, and the rest?

Antonio Damasio, a professor of neuroscience, describes emotions as action-generating neurological programs. As a nerd, I like the precision of that description. But that’s a bit dry and abstract. Maybe we could think of emotions like the push-notifications on your phone. With phones, a notification pops up to alert you—based on some event or some person’s actions (a weather alert, a message from a friend, being tagged in a post, the final score of a game). You see the notification and what it’s for. Then you take the necessary action to complete the process (reply, like, swipe to see more, put on a jacket, celebrate in the streets, etc).

Emotions are like the push-notification system for our selves. When triggered, emotions draw our attention to things happening around us or to us that we need to respond to. Different emotions are triggered by different situations. Anger arises to “address challenges to your voice, standpoint, position, interpersonal boundaries, or self-image.” Contentment arises “to help you look toward yourself with pride and satisfaction.” And similarly for each of the other emotions.

With every emotion, there are a variety of responses we might carry out. Some are more helpful and some are (much) less helpful. To go back to our friend anger, if someone pisses you off, there are a lot of ways you can follow through on your anger. You could scream–at them or privately in another room. You could beat the crap out of someone or something. You could try to ignore or suppress the fire burning inside. You could acknowledge your anger and try to understand what challenged your voice, point of view, or personal boundaries.

When we’re not angry, it’s pretty easy to recognize that acknowledging anger (or any emotion) and maturely thinking through why we’re feeling it is probably the best route to go. But, of course, some emotions–especially in their intense state–can make it incredibly hard to be mature and thoughtful. We often react without thinking at all. A little while back when I was angry, I erupted instinctively and broke a window by throwing my wallet at it. Absolutely moronic. But for a moment it felt like a sweet release. The broken glass everywhere and the window in need of repair made it clear that was the wrong response.

So when an emotion arises–when our body gives us a notification about what life is doing to us in that moment–how can we better understand what needs to happen? What’s the right conclusion for the action-generating neurological program? Again, Karen McLaren is super helpful.

First, she says, you need to recognize and name the emotion you’re feeling (or emotions–plural–if there’s more than one at a time). We can get mixed up. It doesn’t help that often when someone is having a strong emotional experience we describe them simply as being emotional. Why is Andrew emotional right now? Ugh, I’m so emotional.

OK! There’s a lot of emotional activity going on. Which emotions? Sad is different than afraid or worried, but they can be confused. We have to learn how to identify the particular emotions–the notifications–we’re receiving. When an emotion wells up inside, take a moment to name it. It can be surprisingly revealing when you pinpoint what you’re feeling.

Next, you need to question the emotion. OK, I’m feeling angry. I know that I get the anger notification when my sense of self or personal space is challenged. So: “What needs to be protected? What must be restored?” Those are the key questions for anger. Each emotion has its own set of questions (check out McLaren’s book for the full list). Worry, to consider another emotion, “arises to help you organize, plan for, and complete your tasks…to help you orient to possible upcoming change, novelty, or hazard.” Worry happens when the path just ahead is uncertain. So, if you’ve identified that you’re feeling worried, ask yourself: “What triggered this feeling? What really needs to get done?” What got you going on this worry train? What do you need to do to be as ready as possible for what’s ahead?

Happiness, contentment, and joy are unique in that they give rise to statements rather than questions. If you’re feeling one of those three emotions, you simply get to say thanks. Whatever is going on in your life is rewarding. Savor it.

For the rest of the emotions, the ones that generate questions, the final step is to act. What did the answer(s) to the questions tell you? If you’ve nailed down the emotion is anger, did someone’s action invade your personal space or suggest you’re inferior? How are you going to address that with them in a mature and thoughtful way (rather than blowing up in their face or chucking a wallet at the window)?

Did you think someone slighted you but actually they didn’t? Sometimes the action is to check that what you think happened is what actually happened. We always need to go deeper than perceptions. As McLaren says, “…emotions are always true, because they’re always responding to emotionally evocative stimuli, but they’re not always right, because the stimuli may not be valid.”

If we go through all the steps of this action-generating neurological program reflectively and wisely–feeling, naming, asking, acting–we’ll finish it and be back to a place of balance. That’s the sign that your action was a fitting one. It takes practice, and we all blow it sometimes. Shame is an emotion, too–”to help you moderate your behavior and make sure that you don’t hurt, embarrass, destabilize, or dehumanize yourself or others.” When we feel shame, the questions become: “Who has been hurt? What must be made right?” Those will get you on track to fixing things.

We have emotions for a reason. They draw our attention to what’s going on. Each sensation is unique to correspond with what’s happening. Ask the questions. Enjoy the rushes of happiness, contentment, and joy as they come. Emotions are the original notifications in our lives. Don’t swipe them away.

This Week In Upgrades: May 9

Hello there! Happy Monday to you. I’m still wondering where the weekend went, but let’s make this week a good one.

This past week gave us a mixed bag. We found out Alaska is absurdly warmer than it should be. Alaska is a bellwether of climate change, and things like this are not good signs.

In less dire but still saddening news, we also found out that Disney plans to replace the Tower of Terror with a Guardians of the Galaxy ride. I loved Guardians of the Galaxy, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. Tower of Terror was my first true thrill ride as a kid. I suppose change is inevitable though–especially for theme parks trying to stay current.

In really encouraging things, there’s a movement now even among many doctors for a single-payer healthcare system. Pretty soon this is going to reach a tipping point–to the benefit of American doctors and patients alike.

Also very encouraging, this long-term study appears to show that there is no link between cell phones and brain cancer. I hope other studies confirm the same findings.

A review of clinical trials has demonstrated that acupuncture has real health benefits. Have you done it? I would really like to try it sometime.

To be sure, here’s an important reality-check on scientific studies in the media from Mr. John Oliver. Thank God for Last Week Tonight. Let’s all stay a little bit skeptical.

The ride-sharing app Lyft has found their vehicle, and apparently they’ll start launching their self-driving electric cars in 2017.

Google has also found their self-driving vehicle, but why did it have to be a minivan?

Did you grow up on Barbies or Transformers? Can we let toys be toys?

SpaceX has hired a renowned costume designer to make sure their suits are as badass as their mission programs.

Have a brilliant week! Whatever happens, try to focus on self-compassion instead of self-esteem.

 

This Week in Upgrades: December 26

 

Staying positive when you’re surrounded by negativity.

 

Humans are “agents of disturbance” in nature, and have been for longer than you might be thinking.

 

Discovering “American” cuisine state by state. Anyone for some beaver tail stew?

 

New research suggests that humble people may have more self-control.

 

When you think about how your food is harvested, does it look like this?

 

Real life is always the funniest. Incredible 2015 news bloopers.

 

Ongoing confirmation of WALL•E. People are pretty good at trashing space too. 60 years of space junk in one minute.

 

French scientists create injectable foam that heals degenerating bones.

 

While much of the United States experiences record heat, there are still places with incomprehensibly cold weather. Winter in the Arctic, summarized.

 

This Week in Upgrades: November 21

 

COLOGNE, GERMANY - MARCH 27 : New conveyor belt system on displa
Photo: BIGSTOCK

Global hunger is about politics–not logistics.

 

In a long-distance relationship? How do you feel about the product Pillowtalk?

 

What’s up with those hoverboards? Is it on your holiday wish list?

 

The last 100 years of American dinners.

 

Making a root beer float from scratch–literally.

 

“We have this unsupervised drug factory in our gut. The question facing microbiologists today is how to properly tend to that factory.”

 

Getting angry is emotionally healthy, but we have to know what to do with our anger.

 

The halflife of online empathy.

 

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can transfer their resistance to other bacteria. Not awesome.