A couple of days ago I put a post on Facebook that was kind of emotional and raw. I knew exactly why I was feeling raw, my serotonin was low from a night of rolling during the weekend, but I still wanted to share. I feel like we don’t share our day-to-day negative emotions and experiences in a constructive way on social media, we always seem to either rant and rave about stuff or pretend that our entire world is perfect. We are afraid to be vulnerable and open, particularly when it comes to mental health. Whenever I roll I know that the mental health issues that I deal with under the surface are going to be more exposed, so instead of bottling them up I decided to share them with my network.

Getting feedback from friends and strangers (even when I specifically said I wasn’t looking for that) was both good and bad. I believe everyone that responded had the best intentions, but in some cases, an attempt to diagnose me seemed to be inappropriate unless they knew more about me than you could get from a Facebook post. I guess this is the nature of social media, though when you share a status people assume you want their thoughts on how to fix the “problem”. The general consensus was that I was dealing with imposter syndrome and/or depression, a diagnosis that I don’t completely disagree with. One person also tried to convert me to their religion (I think), which I am sure was well-intentioned because they gain strength from their faith, but it was clear they didn’t know me very well. Just because something (religion, meditation, therapy, etc) is helpful for one person doesn’t mean it is a panacea for another person, if you are going to give someone advice it is best to know something more about that person than just a rant you read on Facebook.

The feedback that I found most helpful came from people who reached out in a personal message to share love and support, instead of posting something public. Those messages felt sincere and I was much more inclined to enter into a conversation and open up. It was through those private conversations that I really had a few epiphanies about my situation and the anxiety I’ve been feeling under the surface the last couple of weeks.

I don’t think depression or impostor syndrome is the right overall diagnosis for me, even if I display some of those symptoms. I think my biggest issue recently is that I’ve been relatively successful at the things I’ve tried and I don’t see any challenges on the horizon. My job is going well, my body is at a health level that I am satisfied with, my book is in the final edit phase, my relationship is great, and my life is pretty damn secure. I know how shitty it is to sound like I’m complaining about success, but for me, struggle is necessary to feel satisfied and happy. I need a challenge and for most of my life, the primary challenge was survival and security. I was stuck on the bottom layers of Maslow’s Hierarchy that now that I have moved up I don’t know how to handle it. I keep feeling like I should sabotage myself so that I have a struggle again.

I don’t really want that, though. I don’t want to worry about paying my bills or whether I’m killing myself with what I eat. I need to move the things I strove for from the “goal” part of my day to the “daily practice and maintenance” part of my day, and I need to find new goals, hobbies, and passions. I don’t know where to start, though.

I am playing around with the idea of writing a new book or starting a podcast, and there are a handful of little skills that I’d like to learn, and maybe I can find some artistic outlets. I also really need to get outside and meet people, working from home traps me inside a lot of the time and it is difficult to make friends in a new town. I need some social hobbies or volunteer work or sports, but man, taking that first step and hanging out with strangers is super anxiety-inducing for me.

I’m going to try, though. I don’t want my new life in Wilmington and the new year to go to waste. This transition is tough, but hopefully, I can make it without backsliding too much.

A New Year is Born

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”

The last 365 days were a whirlwind, both in my personal life and within the world. We saw heroes die and villains raised to power, but we also saw more prosperity and technological advancement than humankind has ever known. My life, as well as the lives of my friends, were filled with successes and failures, disaster and celebration. I mourned the death of friends and felt joy when my friends gave birth, I saw relationships end and new ones begin. It truly was the best, and the worst of times, just like every year will be.

In 2017, I expect much of the same. More icons will die and I will likely lose a personal friend or family member, but new life will come and the world will keep getting better. I’m not really one for specific New Year’s Resolutions, but I do see the value in ceremony and participating in a cultural event that is bigger than myself. Today is a new year, and that symbolism matters and can provide strength, and with that strength and the support of friends I want to refocus my life and seek to make 2017 the best year I’ve ever had. For me, that means finding processes that I can implement to improve my life.

Mental Health – To improve my mental health I need to continue my meditative practice which allows me to focus on the things within my control and ignore the things outside my control. I also need to keep trimming my Facebook feed and unfollow people who only share current events or politically charged posts. Politics and pop culture is beyond my control, which means I am better off ignoring them.

Physical Health – Every day I try and do one thing physically active. That is my only real “goal”, but within that goal, I have other interests I want to explore. I’d like to run a triathlon this year, and I’d like to explore physical activities that inspire challenge me. Yoga, rock climbing, and martial arts are currently on the top of my list to try out. I also want to keep eating healthy, cook more, drink less, and keep improving my knowledge of nutrition.

Self Experimentation – I am going to continue to experiment with my body and mind. This includes introducing new nootropics and supplements into my diet, as well as trying new things that have interested me but that I haven’t explored as much as I’d like, such as parts of my sexuality, skydiving, read more books, pagan spirituality, podcasting, theater, gardening, volunteering, woodworking, and art.

Writing – I try and write or edit every day. Right now my focus has been on my book, but once that is completed in the coming weeks I am going to start blogging more again. I also would like to take some creative writing classes, continue with the grammar lessons on Khan Academy, read more, and try to expand my vocabulary.

Fiscally Responsible – The less money I need, the less I need to work and the more leisure time I have. I want to keep finding ways to trim my budget and spend less money. I’ve done a pretty good job so far by living without a car, getting a gym membership at the YMCA, and cooking 90% of my meals at home. But there are still places to improve.

Relationships – One thing that I’ve been lacking in Wilmington is new relationships. It is difficult to meet people, particularly when I work from home and am fairly introverted. I need to start getting out of the house and trying new things to meet people.

So, those are my basic goals. The best process for me is an Excel spreadsheet that I mark off as I accomplish something in each category each day. Sometimes the accomplishment is small like I priced out skydiving lessons, but the process works for me. Any day where I am able to advance my health in some of those six categories is a good day. I find this method to be much more effective for me than setting goals like “Lose 10 lbs.” or “Read 30 Books”.

I’m excited for this next year and everything that it can bring in my life. Most of my unhappiness this year was due to things outside of my control, hopefully, I won’t fall into that trap as much in 2017.

My Need For Feasts

I spent the last five days “feasting”, and boy did I need it. I ate anything that I craved, including heavily processed foods, I stayed up late playing video games or watching movies, I drank more beer than necessary, and I neglected my fitness routine and my writing. I need a time dedicated to possible gluttony and slothfulness to be healthy and happy in my life, and I also need it to grow stronger.

Part of life is having a good time and enjoying leisure. Pleasure is a good thing and we should enjoy it when we can. It is certainly important to eat healthy foods, exercise, and be responsible, but that isn’t the point of living. Those practices are means to an end, and the end is joy and pleasure and fun and new experiences. We can’t spend our whole lives preparing and getting ready for some unknown day in the future when we will cash in all our hard work. No, we should seek out vacations and long weekends and sinning in regular intervals. If we don’t allow ourselves to enjoy life a little bit it can be mentally unhealthy.

If I don’t allow myself to enjoy life a little bit it can be mentally unhealthy. The first two days of my winter feast I felt incredibly guilty. I had this feeling in the back of my mind that because I wasn’t being 100% productive towards goals I was being wasteful. I felt like inefficiency was a betrayal of some sorts and I felt an internal panic. I got anxious and frantic because I was watching Netflix instead of writing, I was eating french fries instead of vegetables, and I was playing video games instead of reading. This knee-jerk anxiety towards leisure is unhealthy for me and I need to allow myself to be inefficient occasionally, I need to allow myself to be human and to have a few days or hours of guilt-free living in the moment. This is a psychic muscle that I must in order to have a healthy mind. It is unhealthy for me to hold myself to an impossible standard and sabotage my own happiness because I’m not living up to that standard. Hell, I may not even care about that standard but decades of schooling and working in an office has internalized a need for constant productivity at all costs.

Now that my break is done, I am now 10x more motivated than I was a week ago. The aches in my body from eating terribly, drinking too much and neglecting my exercise motivate me to get back into a healthy routine. The time off from writing and creating allowed me to come back more focused and with a handful of new ideas. I’m ready to finish my book, start new projects, and see what I can do with my body. I’m actually excited again to experiment on my mind and body.

If I had just pushed through the winter season without a break I would have burnt out on everything. These last five days made me realize that I really need to schedule in feasts, as well as other “off” time throughout the year. I need to establish systems of leisure and celebration, and I think using the seasons is a great way to do it. The pagans are on to something with seasonal festivals and I think having a 5-day break every 3 months is a good foundation for me. I think I’ll pair that with monthly long weekends and one day a week where I don’t have any specific goals or measures. Those types of breaks should help keep me healthy, allow me time to appreciate the reason for living, and excite me for future productivity and fitness.

Now I have some things to look forward to. Next Wednesday I can take the day off if I want and relax, and in a few weeks I’m going to Colorado for a wedding and may not do anything productive, and then in March is the Spring Equinox and I will feast again. All of it guilt free and filled with pleasure.


“Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside of their reasoned choice.”
– Epictetus, Discourses, 1.18.21

When I first read this passage during my morning reading I found it to be so simplistic that it was almost meaningless, but the more I think about it the more I realize that this sentence may be the foundation of Stoicism. Invincibility is what the Stoic life philosophy (as well as most religious practices) attempts to give all humanity.

A peaceful, happy life comes from control of your emotions and understanding that most things are not within our control, which means they are generally a waste of time to worry about. Unfortunately, like all ethical standards, it is an ideal that we all can aim for but never really achieve. It is a secular version of being Christ-like or attaining Nirvana. It is a noble pursuit, but the path never ends.

So, if this invincibility is impossible to attain, why should we try? And, maybe more importantly, how do we do it?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think having a peaceful mind allows me to have a better life, as well as improve the lives of others. I have a finite amount of mental energy and if I waste it on things outside of my control then I can’t use it on the things within my control. If I use my time and energy to read Facebook articles or worry about Trump as President then I have less time and energy to create art, take my dog for a walk, call my best friend, or volunteer at a homeless shelter. Trump and virtually everything produced by the media is completely outside of my control, but my dog, my writing, my friendships, and my community are within my control.

The mind is a physical organ with limited energy reserves, just like the rest of my body, and my mind can be improved. The strength of my mind is a mixture of genetics and my history, both of which I can’t do anything about. I am not helpless, though, because I can implement practices that will improve my mind and bring me closer to invincibility. So, here are the practices that seem to be working for me:

Cut Out Negative Stimulation: This is primarily directed at Facebook, but also other media sources. The vast majority of what I read on Facebook does not make me happy and it doesn’t improve my life, so I’ve reduced my Facebook time to 10 minutes per day and removed the app from my phone. I have kept the Facebook Messenger app so that I can communicate with friends, and I still use positive social networks like Instagram, UnTapped, and Goodreads. “Staying Informed” is overrated and I can do that by reading a few headlines a day, at most. For example, I don’t think it is necessarily harmful to know that a major world event happened, but I can gain that knowledge in just a few seconds.  I don’t need minute-to-minute updates or to read every opinion in every newspaper or blog about the event The additional value I receive for every extra minute I spend on the same piece of news drops quickly.

Minimize Decisions: Reducing the amount of decisions I make during the day helps free up mental energy for the things I care about. This includes eating the same meals daily and only owning plain t-shirts and jeans. I also use the app “5×5” to plan my workouts for me and I only check my emails twice a day. The more things that I can automate or turn into mindless habits, the better.

Exercise: The mind is a muscle and exercise is good for it. This includes physical exercise through daily weight-lifting, jogging, and/or yoga, but also includes mental exercises to wake up my logical facilities. Learning is good for me and helps me be more productive, so each morning after a cup of coffee I get on Khan Academy and spend 30 minutes or so learning new math skills. Reading, as well as creating art (whether that’s writing, painting, playing a musical instrument), also help exercise the mind. I try and write daily, as well as spend some time in the morning reflecting on a stoic passage (compliments of “The Daily Stoic”) and read each day. My daily readings vary wildly depending on my interest at the time and I’m currently reading two pieces of non-fiction, one piece of fiction, and a graphic novel.

Mindfulness Meditation: I guess this is technically an exercise, but I feel like it deserves a special mention. Spending just ten minutes a day trying to meditate can really strengthen the mind and bring clarity, as well as enhance creativity and peace. I use the “Headspace” app for this.

Nutrition and Sleep: Eating a balanced diet with minimally processed food is absolutely essential for my mental health. A diet that is heavy in vegetables, fruits, and legumes gets me all the micronutrients I need and makes me feel energized throughout the day. I also try to drink only water, coffee, and tea, which is nice. I think sleep is underappreciated. I used to say I could never be a “morning person”, but that really wasn’t true, I never tried. Now, I am in bed by 10 pm and up at 6 am, and I try not to watch movies or get on the internet after 9 pm. I only use my phone to listen to an Audiobook to help me fall asleep, and I use the “Twilight” app to keep my screen red. I get way more done now that I’m on a sleep schedule that maximizes my time awake with daylight.

Better Living Through Chemistry: Most of the stuff I do is pretty cliche… eat right, drink water, get sleep, exercise, etc. I think those things are the foundation for my pursuit of invincibility and a good life, but I don’t think we should neglect modern science. I am a big fan of nootropics and take L-Theanine in the morning with my coffee, as well as Choline/Inositol, Gingko Biloba, and DHEA twice a day.

I’m very happy with my current practices, but I don’t want to remain stagnant. I want to keep pushing my mind and body and improve my inner peace. There are certainly more toxic things that I can cut out of my life and ways in which I can refine my current systems, as well as change them as my life changes. Habits are important, but they all should be evaluated from time to time to make sure they don’t become something I do just “because that is how it has always been done”.