Four Interesting Ways to Learn More About Yourself

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In some ways, you might think that it’s easy to know who you are and what you’re all about. After all, yours is the only perspective, you will ever have. However, the human tendency towards self doubt and denial can often blind you from the greatest truths about your own identity.

Maybe you’re the kind of person who tends to think about the desires about those around you, before even your own. Or, perhaps, you are so focused on what you feel that you “should” be doing, that you find yourself at a loss to understand what it is you truly want to be doing.

Another reason that you may want to take some time to be more introspective, is that, like everything in this world, you are changing at every moment. Every new thought that you have, every action that you take, all of these things have led to this particular moment where you exist.

You probably had very different interests when you were a middle-schooler vs. today. You may have been all about pizza and burgers as a child, but now you find that you are a health food aficionado. You may have also changed your mind about political issues over the years.

The fact that you are a being that is constantly changing, means that it’s important to take time to pause and evaluate where you’re at today. However, learning more about yourself does not have to be a boring chore.

Here are four ways to learn more about yourself.

Try an “Escape the Room” Challenge

Have you heard of Escape the Room? They’re a huge trend that’s popping up all around the world. The premise is this, in order to win the game and “escape the room,” you have to work collaboratively with others to solve puzzles.

Escape the Room games will help you learn more about yourself, by allowing you to see how you do under pressure. You can learn what your teamwork style is and learn more about the way you respond when faced with challenges.

Here is a website that has an extensive Escape Room Directory. The list is organized alphabetically by country. The United States listing breaks it down further by state and then by city.

Take a Personality Test

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most popular personality tests. What’s great about this test is that there are plenty of online companies that will provide this test for free. They’re typically a Freemium model, where, if you find yourself interested in learning more about your personality, you can pay to get a more detailed report.

I found out that I’m an ENFP, the personality type that Myers-Briggs calls “The Campaigner.”

I’ve taken the test several times, but most recently at Truity. To take the test for free, select “The TypeFinder® Research Edition.” Choosing this free version gives them permission to use your answers for their research.

Another site that I’ve used and enjoyed is 16Personalities.

To learn more about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), you can visit the Myers & Briggs Foundation website.

Try out MIT’s “Moral Machine”

MIT’s Moral Machine simulation asks you to decide what a self-driving car should do in a number of situations: where the car must choose to whether to save the drivers and passengers or the pedestrians in a fatal accident.

This simulation will help you learn more about your moral assumptions. It’s an updated take on the philosophical “Trolley Problem,” which originally proposed by Philippa Foot in 1967. It was also written about extensively by Judith J. Thompson in the Yale Law Journal in 1985.  In fact, the “Trolley Problem” was the moral issue that led me to major in Philosophy at Boston University.

At the end of the simulation, you will get to see a summarization of what factors you tend to value most. Are you someone who values people following the law? Or are you someone who wants to protect even the law-breakers? Did you tend to save the senior citizens or children? I don’t want to give too much away, but it really is an interesting and thought-provoking simulation.

Try A New Fitness Activity

Maybe you’re not the typical gym goer, but have you thought about trying rock-climbing at an indoor gym? Or you could try kayaking or Dragon-Boat racing.

Or maybe tapping into your inner-child is that way to go. You could join a Kickball league, or get friends together to play some good old-fashioned Wiffle ball.

If studio classes are more your style, a lot of studios will offer discounted or free classes for new customers. Some interesting studio classes are popping up, like Acro-Yoga and Burlesque dancing. You can also try out discounted fitness classes by purchasing class-packs on Groupon, LivingSocial, or GiltCity.

I’d love to hear from you. Please let me know if you’ve tried out any of these suggestions. And if you take the MBTI test, please feel free to share your results. As I said before, I’m an ENFP. 

Connecting with Others in the Age of Social Media

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A study by Dr. Brian Primack et. al in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found an association between feelings of social isolation and higher levels of social media usage.  Social media purports to connect us, and yet, despite the constant sharing of Facebook Statuses, Instagram posts, or tweets, it can actually make us feel more alone.

While I am an active user of social media, I also remember fondly what it was like to call up my friends on their land line in the late 90s. Instead of texting, we had hour long phone calls, giggling over the boys we liked and planning our outfits for the school dance. Even email was more personal back then. My friends and I would exchange long emails to each other. Whenever I received an email, it was exciting, because it was usually a message from one of my friends. Today, it seems that 95% of my emails are from companies promoting their brand.

So the question remains. How can we make meaningful connections with one another? While there certainly is value in social media, we need to also recognize that the primary purpose of these platforms is marketing. Facebook’s algorithms would rather show you paid advertisements than posts from your friends. After all, this is how they make their money.

Facebook and other social media are great tools to promote your side hustle or your business, but I would argue that social media is usually not the best option for staying connected with others. So here’s some food for thought:

Instead of “liking” your friend’s Facebook status, why don’t you send her a text and ask for a good time to chat on the phone?

Instead of tweeting a complaint about a local coffee shop, you could politely ask to speak to the manager.

How about setting up a Skype date with a long distance friend, rather than simply commenting on their latest Instagram post?

This is not to say to avoid social media like the plague. After all, Facebook events are a quick and easy way to invite friends to your next potluck dinner. Twitter is very useful for tweeting complaints to airlines and other bigger companies. And sometimes you just want to see some delicious food and cute puppies and kittens on Instagram.

However, I highly recommend that you recognize when social media is helping you, or simply making you feel more isolated. In my own life, I aim to use social media more intentionally and recognize when a phone call or a long chat over coffee would be a better way to connect.

How do you like to connect with friends, family, or acquaintances? Do you find that social media helps or hinders your ability to connect meaningfully with others?

 

 

5 Easy Things To Do When You’re Feeling Down

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If you’re feeling down on yourself, overwhelmed, or lost, here are five easy things you can do to help put you in a better mindset.

1. Look at Cute Videos of Baby Animals

Unless you somehow hate all animals, baby animals make the world seem like a better place. The smile response is pretty instantaneous. For one of my favorite baby animal videos, check out Nayembi, a baby Gorilla at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Spoiler Alert: The girl likes her broccoli!

2. Do a 5 Minute Meditation

I like to use the app, Calm (available on Android and iOS). If you prefer not to use an app, you can simply focus on your breath. There are many variations on breath work meditation. My favorite to do to calm myself down is to breathe in for 4 counts and breathe out for 8 counts. This helps you to breathe in deeply and breathe out slowly.

3. Remember to HALT

HALT is a technique that asks you to examine whether you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Sometimes you may be feeling down, but are not sure why. Remembering to HALT will help you pinpoint what you are feeling, so that you can do something about it. If you’re hungry, eat a healthy snack. If you’re angry, you could vent your feelings by writing in your journal. If you’re lonely, reach out to a friend by phone or text. Or better, yet, schedule some time to hang out face to face. Finally, if you’re tired, make sure to get enough sleep.

4. Put Away Your Screen

Right now, we live in a world where screens are everywhere. They are at home, at work, and in your pocket. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts, even looking away from your screen for 5 minutes can be helpful. It also has the added benefit of resting your eyes.

If you’re not sure what to do with yourself without your screen, that’s a sign that you may need to limit your screen time. It’s okay to start out slowly! Try mindfully brewing yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Or refill your water bottle and sip it slowly for five minutes.

5. Plan Something Fun to Look Forward To

When you’re feeling sad, a great trick to feeling better quickly is to make plans to do something incredibly fun or enjoyable. When it comes time to do the thing you planned, you’ll make yourself feel much better. However, the anticipation of the fun event will make you feel better even sooner.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Check the upcoming showtimes at your local movie theater. Pick a showing and put that on your calendar. If it’s a particularly popular movie, you can buy your ticket in advance.
  • Plan a board game night with your friends
  • Check out a local event website and pick any event that appeals to you and fits your schedule.
  • Text a long-distance friend that you haven’t heard from lately and plan a Skype date.

I’d love to hear your suggestions as well. Please let me know in the comments what helps you when you’re feeling down. Take care!

 

Reflections on Politics, Gratitude, and Thanksgiving

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This seems like a good time to write a post about gratitude. Sometimes I think that when we hear the word gratitude, we immediately groan and prepare ourselves to be told how we ought to be thankful. Or maybe that’s just me? I think the issue that I have with gratitude is that we’re often told we should be grateful for something in response to a negative emotion we’re having. If I’m having a bad day and I’m sad or anxious, the last thing I want is for someone to tell me that I should be more grateful.

I think it’s the way that gratitude is often held up as an obligation that really rubs me the wrong way. After all, it’s not a choice between being sad or being grateful. Gratitude does not and ought not to overrule your feelings. For example, while I am grateful for things like my Fiance, my dog, my family, and my friends, I am at the same time also fearful and sad about the state of politics in the United States at this moment. My reaction to Trump being the President-elect is not to think that at least I don’t live in Syria. So yes, I am grateful for my relative safety compared to those in Syria, but that does not negate my fears of living under a President Trump.

Gratitude has its place, certainly. However, I think that gratitude should come out of a sense of love for one’s blessings, rather than a sense of obligation. Gratitude should not be something that will negate righteous anger, or understandable sadness and anxiety. Even if you’re feeling sad for no reason at all, it’s very hurtful for someone to tell you that you ought to disregard that feeling and be grateful, when that’s the last thing you could imagine feeling.

I think what I’ve discovered this Thanksgiving is that gratitude can coexist with a range of feelings, and that we should be wary of those who tell us to accept unfair circumstances just because someone out there has it worse than us. Gratitude should not give way to complacency. I will remember my gratitude for my country, but this gratitude will not make me stand idle in the face of hatred.

 

How to Learn a New Hobby for Free

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Lately, I’ve been feeling like I don’t have enough time to do all of the things I want to do. I wonder sometimes if I want too much. I’m the kind of person who always has two or three hobbies at a time. When I’m pursuing a new hobby, I read blog posts, borrow books, and watch online videos, all in the hopes of mastering the knowledge that I need to be successful. However, I often move on to the next thing when I meet the first obstacle or challenge in my way. Knowing this, my goal is to approach hobbies in a way that I’m not wasting my money, but making good use of free resources.

There are many ways to educate yourself about your new hobby for free. Here are a few ideas:


Check out your library’s resources
  • Even if you don’t go to the library very often, many libraries have electronic resources. For example, with a library card from the Cambridge Public Library and Boston Public Library, I have access to Lynda.com for free. I can borrow 10 eBooks, audiobooks, or TV/Movie selections per month from Hoopla and download them directly to my iPad. If your hobby involves science, history, or the arts, there are even more free resources available. Many libraries have extensive online academic journals that give you access to all kinds of research and studies.

Ask your friends/ acquaintances
  • Perhaps you have a close friend who is more knowledgeable than you about something you’d like to learn about. Or maybe they’re interested in learning more and want a buddy to help them be accountable. (This works really well for hobbies that involve activities, such as rock climbing, yoga, or some other new workout)

  • Chances are you probably have way more Facebook friends than friends you see on the regular. So why not post a status about your new hobby and ask for resources or advice? If you see some of your Facebook friends posting about a hobby you would like to learn more about, post a comment and give a compliment or ask a question. People love talking about their hobbies and would likely point you in the right direction for free or low cost resources.
The Internet
  • One of the wonders about the internet is being able to find information quickly and easily about pretty much any niche topic. Depending on your interest, those who pursue your desired hobby may be on different mediums. For example, photographers love posting things on Instagram as it’s a medium for photos. However, if your interest is in computer programming, you’re more likely to find them on a programming subreddit or on Stack Exchange.

One more tip. If you’re anything like me, remember that you don’t need to be perfect. It’s fine to enjoy singing even if you’re no Adele or Lady Gaga. Just because you want to take up soccer doesn’t mean you have to be some kind of pro. Do what you enjoy. When learning a new skill or hobby, the journey is half the fun.

At the end of the day, just go forth and learn and try new things.

Sunday Mornings

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Do you ever feel like Sundays get a bad rap unnecessarily? People love Saturdays, and yet Sundays (at least for those who typically work Monday through Friday) seem to get the short stick.

This Sunday morning, I’m writing from  my laptop at the Harvard Square Starbucks. I’m sitting on the second floor, looking out and watching people walk by. Sometimes, I’m struck by the Sunday blues, worrying about what I should have gotten done before the end of the weekend, or wishing that I had just one more day left of free time. However, today I’m feeling pretty good. I find that it helps to do a few productive things on a Sunday, but spend Sunday morning doing something relaxing. For me, that’s hanging out with a nice cup of coffee.

Maybe you have a few chores you absolutely need to get done today. If so, then plan on when you can do them, but also make sure to fit in some time doing a fun activity that will leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, ready to show up to work tomorrow and be productive.

Here are just a few ideas of how to spend a Sunday

  • Go for a walk
    • Walking is free! If you live near a park or a hiking trail, that’s ideal, but even if you live in the city, there are plenty of places you can go for a walk and see the sights.
  • Play with a pet
    • I think this is especially fun when you have a cuddly, furry animal, but if you have some other kind of pet, that can be fun too. If you can’t pet your fish or your tarantula, maybe take some new photos of them!
  • Catch up on reading
    • Whether you’re reading blogs, magazines, novels, or non-fiction books, reading is a great way to spend a Sunday morning. If you read a lot of books, you can also keep track of them on GoodReads. You can rate what books you like and it will even give you suggestions for what to read next

Hope you enjoy your Sunday!

Enjoying the Weekend

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It’s the long weekend (Labor Day on Monday). I know it’s a while since I’ve posted, so I wanted to give a quick update.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying going to Spinning classes. I like to go to Turnstyle Cycle in Kendall Square. I’m debating about trying SoulCycle one day, but to be honest, I’m a bit intimidated by its cult following. Maybe that’s something I’ll have to wait to do until I’m more experienced at spinning. I also enjoy riding my bike outdoors, but I have a bit of anxiety when it comes to taking my bike off the trails and onto the city streets. My boyfriend suggested a phone mount so that I can put my phone up to use it as a GPS while biking, which I think is a pretty good idea. He got one for me on Amazon, and it should be coming in a few days or so.

Anyway, this is the long weekend, as you probably already know, and I’m enjoying every bit of it. This morning Tom and I went to a BBQ at our friend’s apartment in Porter Square. One of our friends made the most amazing Pork Butt roast. He used a sous-vide to cook it and then finished it on the grill. It was absolutely delicious.

We have another BBQ tomorrow at another friend’s family’s Labor Day weekend party. Her family lives on the coast, and since there’s a hurricane warning, I’m really hoping we don’t get hit too hard.

How are you spending Labor Day weekend? If you have a moment, leave me a comment! If you have a blog, be sure to let me know what it is so I can check it out as well!

XOXO

Caitlin