Last week, I posted the image below on my Instagram feed, and people seemed to really love the concept. It's one of my most popular posts -- and, though the concept is positive, the lyrics I wrote about aren't typical of what I usually share on Instagram (aka, not the most inspirational!).
The attention this photo received definitely piqued my interest so I thought I'd write about the process of what I like to call Song Lyric Therapy (or SLT, for short). Even though it's fairly obvious how it works -- find lyrics, write it down, reflect -- sometimes it's helpful to have all the steps in front of you to motivate you to actually do it.
Music is an incredibly powerful force in my life, and lyrics in particular have always had a profound impact on me. For 20+ years I've been practicing SLT and it's pretty amazing. And it works no matter what emotional situation you're in. I've done it when I'm falling in love, when I'm going through a break-up, when I'm trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I've also combined with Quote Therapy, which follows the same general process, but instead of lyrics, you use quotes. Sometimes I even get crazy and combine the two, haha!
If you're a lyric lover like I am, here's how you can use SLT to get in touch with how you're feeling:
STEP 1: COMPILE A PLAYLIST
You might already have some songs that you're listening to on repeat, or you might want to create a special playlist just for your specific situation. I originally to made playlists in iTunes, focusing on specific situations, like: The Positive Breakup, Staying Sober, Single at Christmas, etc. I then started making my weekly playlists on YouTube so you guys could listen too, and now I've finally gotten Spotify and I'm making lots of themed playlists over there (some recent ones include: Autumn Woods, Be Here Now, Hang in There, Love Yourself, Positive Vibes, etc.). Where you create your playlist is up to you -- just make sure it's somewhere you can listen often and easily add songs if needed.
STEP 2: GET INTO THE GROOVE
This step is all about listening closely to the words. Listen to your playlist over and over again. Some people (like me!) are super lyric-focused and can't help but listen to the lyrics and try to apply it in some way to their own lives. But some people aren't as into lyrics and in this step they've gotta step up their listening game. There are no right or wrong lyrics to look for; the key is to pay attention to the words that speak to you, that give you a feeling of, Wow! that sounds just like what I'm experiencing right now! If you pay attention to songs you're drawn to, you'll realize that you love them so much because you relate to them in some way.
STEP 3: WRITE THE WORDS
After listening to your playlist frequently, it's time to document those words. I prefer to handwrite the lyrics and add color, doodles, etc. to make the process a bit more fun, but you can write yours in an form you like: in a notebook, on your computer, in a note-taking app on your phone. Whatever method is easiest and most inspiring for you, do that. As you're listening to the songs, aim to pinpoint one or two lines from that song that really speak to you. While you can write down huge chunks of a song (or the whole thing!), I've found it most useful to really narrow my focus to one or two lines so that I can go deeper on those in Step 4.
STEP 4: MAKE TIME TO REFLECT
After writing down your lyrics, set them aside for a bit before coming back and re-reading them. You can highlight words that really speak to you (as I did above). As I'm reviewing the lyrics, I ask myself, Why did this line resonate with me? What about these words makes me feel something? What does this particular phrase say about how I'm feeling? Sometimes I just answer these internally and reflect on them, and sometimes I write down my replies. Either way, reflecting on the lyrics provides not only better understanding of the situation, but also of how you feel about the situation. And knowing your feelings is key to choosing how you think, act, and react.
I've been using SLT for as long as I can remember, and I find it incredibly useful. If you're looking to do some soul-searching, if you're feeling uncertain about some aspect of your life, or if you're just curious about connecting with your feelings, I highly recommend giving this a try!
Want me to make a playlist for your situation? Leave me a comment below or send me an email, and I'll create a Spotify playlist for you!
"Fade Out" — Tegan and Sara "Wildwood" — Fleurie "Tag You're It" — Melanie Martinez "Low" — TRACE "Gone" — Michl "Tell Me"— Capitale "Out of Mind" — Tove Lo "I Need a Forest Fire" — James Blake "Let's Be Still" — The Head + the Heart "Madhouse" — Luna Aura
So many people moan about getting older (and I've been known to do so on occasion...), but the other day I had this thought: There's no greater gift than another birthday. It's a tad cheesy, yes, but it's so true. What could be better than being given an opportunity to be here, to keep living, to experience the highs and lows of life, the unexpected twists and the comforting consistencies?
There have been many times, for many reasons, that I wasn't certain I would celebrate another birthday and so, while I'm not always this obsessively grateful (though I'd like to be!), I do feel particularly thankful as my birthday rolls around each year. I am here and, while it's certainly not all sunshine and rainbows, I am so glad to be adding another candle to my birthday cake.
In celebration of the big three-three I've rounded up a list of 33 things that I've learned over the past three+ decades. Below is a video in which I chat about these lessons (click here if you can't see it), and, if you'd rather read them, they're written below that!
#1 You have control over your attitude.
External factors play a huge role in how you feel, but it's so important to remember that you -- and only you -- control your attitude. At every single moment, you are able to choose what you focus on. And what you focus on can have a huge impact on how you feel and act.
#2 The "wrong" thing is sometimes right.
I've learned from trial and error that "good" and "bad" or "wrong" and "right" isn't always as clear as we'd like it to be. Sometimes the "wrong" thing is actually the right thing to do. And sometimes...
#3 The "right" thing is sometimes wrong.
... what seems "right" is actually wrong. Just because someone (or society) tells you something is the right thing to do, that doesn't mean it is. I've learned to take the right / wrong dichotomy with a grain of salt. It's up to you to choose what's right and wrong.
#4 Keep your mind (and heart) wide open.
Open-mindedness is absolutely vital for making the most of life. You don't have to agree with everyone or everything, but I've found that listening to others (with an open mind!) makes everything easier (and more interesting!).
#5 Figure out what you really love doing.
I'm fortunate enough to have figured out what I love -- writing and creating -- at a very young age, but I've seen way too many people just floating uncertainly through life. Figure out what you love doing (even if it's weird!) and do it as much as you possibly can.
#6 Try as many new things as you can.
Admittedly, I'm not the most adventurous soul, but every time I've ventured outside of my comfort zone and tried something new, I've learned something about myself or the world. I'm still working on this lesson, but I know it's so important!
#7 Have a goal other than "to be happy."
I've talked about this before, but happiness shouldn't be your goal. You cannot and will not be happy all the time. Chasing happiness will not make you happy so find a goal or a purpose that's not your own personal happiness.
#8 Finding the good in a situation pays off.
Optimism has always been a challenge for me (which is why I started this site!), but every single time I've chosen to focus on the positive in a situation, it's made things better. Look for the good. Always.
#9 It's okay not to like what others like.
One of the most important lessons I've learned in life is that it's okay not to like what other people like. Likewise, it's okay to be into stuff that other people think is weird. Life is short; don't waste it following trends you don't care about.
#10 Hate and resentment are never, ever useful.
This probably isn't the most earth-shattering lesson, but it's one that too many people forget. When you hate, resent, or hold grudges against others, you only hurt yourself. I love T.Swift, but bad blood is just bad news.
#11 Society's rules don't have to be yours.
You don't have to follow society's rules just because they're there. I don't want to get married or have kids or work a typical 9-to-5 job even though those are things you're "supposed" to do. It's your life; don't let your society dictate how you live it.
#12 You can change any time you want to.
Just because you were a certain way before doesn't mean you always have to be. You can change -- the way you feel, the people you're with, the job you have, the place you live -- any time you want to. It won't always be easy, but change is always possible.
#13 Pay attention to how people make you feel.
How does it feel after you've spent time with someone? Pay attention to that. If you feel drained, that person is no good for you. If you feel uplifted, pull that person closer. Choose to surround yourself with people who make you feel good.
#14 You define what the word "success" means.
Success is whatever the hell you want it to me. My new favorite quote (by Sarah Jones) is: What if joy was my only metric for success? Determine what you want your metric for success to be and measure you life by that. (Tip: It doesn't have to be money, a fancy title, or a perfect family.)
#15 Treat others how they want to be treated.
The golden rule -- "treat others how you'd want to be treated" -- isn't so golden in my book. You've got to treat people not how you want to be treated, but how they want to be treated. Don't know what they want? Ask!
#16 Never, ever stop being thankful.
Gratitude is E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. It's taken me a long time to learn this (mostly because I thought it was just a cheesy cliche), but gratitude really is life-changing. The more you practice it, the better your life gets. Seriously. Dooooo it.
#17 Self-love is the foundation for all love.
Perhaps the most important lesson I've learned is that, if you want to love and be loved, you have to love yourself first. Loving who you are vital to creating good relationships, discovering an ideal career path, and just generally loving life.
#18 Worrying serves no practical purpose.
This one is tough. I've learned the lesson countless times (how many times I've worried about something that never happened!), but I still struggle with anxiety and worrying. I'm working on it though!
#19 Bad times pass. So do good times.
When you're going through a tough time, it seems like it'll never pass, but guess what? It always does. And so do the good times. When things are bad, know they will pass and hang in there. When they're good, know they will pass and appreciate every joyful moment.
#20 When it's time to let go, do it.
Another lesson I've been taught over and over again by life, but still struggle to master. Letting go is hard for me, and I tend to cling waaay longer than I should to people and situations. I'm working on channeling my inner Elsa and learning to let that shit go.
#21 You can be scared and still be brave.
It's taken me awhile, but I've finally realized that bravery isn't an absence of fear. Being brave is about being scared and facing a situation anyway. We're all scared of something; instead of running from the fear, face it. You'll be glad you did.
Notice what’s going right.
This goes hand-in-hand with gratitude. So often we’re focused on what’s going wrong in our lives – which is normal, don’t worry – that we forget to recognize what’s going right!
#23 Don't romanticize the past or future.
The past and future aren't real, and, likewise, memories and visions are only ideas, not reality. Rather than wishing I was elsewhere, I've learned to focus on making the most of the present. If you're gonna glamorize something, let it be the now.
#24 You cannot control other people.
No matter what you do, say, or think, you do not have control over other people. Yes, there are times when you can probably manipulate someone, but that doesn't usually end well. When you realize you have no control over others, you'll find a profound sense of freedom within yourself.
#25 Go into it with absolutely no expectations.
Expectations only lead to disappointment. You can have standards, but don't have expectations. You'll only be let down by situations and people. And going into things with no expectations can lead to amazing experiences.
#26 Take note of what excites your heart.
What makes your heart start beating fast? What do you want to talk about for hours? What excites you? Pay attention to those things -- no matter how small -- that get you feeling inspired and enlivened. They will tell you things about yourself you never knew.
#27 It's good that not every wish is granted.
For the past few years, I've been making the same wish on every star I could see. It hasn't come true and I'm starting now to see why. There's something better in the works. If your wish isn't coming true, it's for a reason. Trust.
#28 You'll make time for what you really want.
You all the things you don't have time for? It's because you don't want to do them. We all have the same amount of time in every day. What you want to do is what you'll do. I always have time for the things that really matter to me -- and you do too.
#29 The less you need, the more you'll have.
It's taken me a long time to learn this one, but I finally realize that the rush that comes from material things doesn't last very long. Yes, I still love stuff, but I realize now that it's extra, not essential. (Hint: what's essential isn't something you can purchase at a store.)
#30 Not all thoughts are worth believing.
Not everything you think is a fact, and it took me awhile to realize this, but once I did, it was life-changing. Always take a closer look at what you're thinking and ask yourself if it's absolutely, definitely true. Your mind is a wild place and so much of it is imagination.
#31 Notice mistakes you make repetitively.
I'm really great at making the same mistakes over and over again. What can I say, it's a skill. ;) But, seriously, I've learned to pay attention to mistakes I make repetitively and look closely at them. They teach me things.
#32 Learn something new every day.
Knowledge is power. The more you know, the bigger your world gets. And, if you're reading this, you're fortunate enough to access to the internet, holder of so much knowledge. Use it to up your power. Soak up that info like a dry sponge; learn as much as you can!
#33 Always choose love over fear.
The greatest lesson I've learned is that almost everything you do, say, think, feel can be traced back to love or fear. Those two things govern so many of our choices and beliefs. Pay attention to which one is guiding you and strive to give love the lead. You'll never, ever go wrong by letting love guide you.
So, here I am, nearly 33, and those are some of the most important things I've learned so far. Not bad for only 33 years! I hope you've either recognized these as some of your own learned lessons or you've found some inspiration in them. Life is one great big classroom and the more you learn, the more progress you'll make and the better your life will be. I'd love to hear the lessons you've learned so far in life! Share them with me in the comments!
"Stay High" — Tove Lo "Everybody's Hurting" — Krista Polvere "Wander" — Tim Atlas "Cool Girl" — Tove Lo "Marco Polo" — China Lane "Lethal"— BLAJK "Tell Me I'm Wrong" — Future Jr. "Too Good" (Cover) — Sonna Rele "Fools" — Troye Sivan "Honey" — Miles de Carteret
Want to really live your life to the fullest? Then it's high time you spent some time thinking about death.
I've recently become obsessed with The School of Life's YouTube channel, and a recent video -- Reasons to Remember Death -- really caught my attention. Death is something a lot of people don't like to think about, and rightly so. The unknown is scary, and death is the biggest (and most inevitable) unknown we face. As scary as it is, it's useful to think about it and, as The School of Life suggests, use that fear to our advantage. The video kicks off with this powerful statement:
Many things we're meant to tackle are left aside because we're scared.
We're scared to fail. We're scared to be alone with our own feelings, scared to eject certain people from our lives, scared to tell our partners who we really are, scared to take our dreams seriously.
From fear, we delay the lives we know we should be leading.
So many of us are afraid of what others might think of us, what risks we might have to take, or what we might lose if we show the world who we truly are and go after what we truly want. The thing is: there's not a lot of time. We're only given so many days, so many moments, and we don't know how many of those we have left. Rather than letting the brevity of life terrify us to the point of immobility, The School of Life suggests:
We should use the thought of death not to make us despair of life, but to shake us into committedly pursuing the life we know we need to lead. We will act when the fear of death is finally allowed to trump the fear of failure or humiliation, compromise or shame.
Deliberately scare yourself about the only thing you need to fear, and thereby be liberated to get on with everything else that so badly needs doing.
I urge you to scare yourself a little bit this week. Think about what it will be like to be lying on your deathbed, reflecting back on your life. What will you want your life to have looked like? Are you doing what you need to make sure it looks what way? If not, why? What are you waiting for? When do you think the time will be right? (Hint: it's never the perfect time to do anything that's hard.)
When you consider consider death -- scary as it is -- you'll realize that so much of what you spend your time worrying about isn't all that important. You'll feel freer and braver. You'll want to go after the things you really, truly want (even if those things seem a bit crazy).
Don't delay the life you should be living. If you're not already living that life (and I hope you are!), find a way to take action now -- today, if possible! -- to move toward with living a life you'll look back on with gratitude and joy. Of course, life will never be perfect (and it would be boring if it was!), but life shouldn't be governed by the fear of failure, the sharp nudge of shame, or the cunning guise of compromise. Life should be ruled by pursuing the things that truly make you feel alive, fulfilled, and consumed with appreciation.
There's a Latin term, momento mori, that means "remember that you have to die." It originated as a reminder to victorious generals not to get to caught up in praise after winning a battle, but instead to be humbled by the notion that they, too, would someday die. While the root of the concept was about humility and virtuous living, for me momento mori is about living a positive, fulfilled life not only because it's wonderful for you to make the most of your life, but because I truly believe that if you are doing things that bring you joy, gratitude, and fulfillment, you will ultimately make the world a better place. You living a good life is good for the lives of those around you and those who will continue to live long after you're gone.
Life is like a giant ocean and everything we do has a ripple effect. The ripples we create -- both good and bad -- spread out and out and out. They reach so many more people than we realize. What you do with your life matters, and the more you fear death, not life, the more you'll make the most of every moment you're given. The better your moments, the more good ripples you send out into this great big ocean of humanity.
I know death is scary (I won't pretend I've come close to accepting it yet, though I hope one day I'll find peace with the inevitable...), but it's important to use it to your advantage, rather than avoid it. We're all afraid, but it's so much more useful to fear death than it is to fear life. Try not to think of the space between right now and your last day as a negative (a limited amount of time) but as a positive (an exciting challenge to make the most of these remaining moments). Regardless of how many days you have left, I believe you deserve to live them to the fullest, and, more importantly, I believe you have the strength and knowhow to go after the life you deserve right now.