36 Truths from 36 Years

Positively Present - Age Is

Today I turn 36! Age is just a number, they say, and the older I get, the more I realize the truth in that statement. With every year, I feel both changed and exactly the same. There are parts of me that will always be and there are parts that will shift over time. One thing I know for certain is that, the older I get, the less I know. I gain wisdom, yes, but I also gain the realization that so much of life is a mystery (and so much is uniquely experienced in ways that are difficult to put into words). 

This time of year always puts me in a state of reflection, and this year I've compiled a list of 36 things I've learned (some of them just this year!). I might not know everything, but after 36 years in this place, I've learned something. Like the quote above implies, with age I've figured out a lot about how the world works, but I'm willing to get out of the way of what I don't yet understand. Miriam Makeba also said, "Age is wisdom, if one has lived one's life properly. It is experience and knowledge." Many bemoan getting older, but I'm thankful for it. Knowledge and wisdom is so important to me and the more I live, the more I discover. Here are just a few of the things I know so far...


  1. You are who (and where) you're meant to be. All of the time.  
  2. Opening your mind leads to more connection and contentment. 
  3. Being good at something isn't necessary for it to be good for you. 
  4. There's nothing wrong with enjoying being alone a lot of the time. 
  5. Healing (physically and emotionally) can take longer than expected.
  6. The fewer expectations you have, the more you'll enjoy it. 
  7. Wanting something (or someone) can be better than having it. 
  8. Paying attention to how people make you feel will provide clarity. 
  9. Laughter isn't technically medicine, but it is a kind of healing magic.
  10. It's alright (and normal) to have mixed feelings about those you love.
  11. Knowing the why of your moods can help you work with them. 
  12. Gratitude journals sound cheesy, but they actually do something. 
  13. You're allowed to say "no" -- yes, even to people you love. 
  14. The longer you keep doing it, the more you're going to learn
  15. What you focus on the most is what you will find.
  16. To deal with differences, try to seek out similarities. 
  17. When it comes to anxiety, try acceptance over avoidance
  18. Give yourself credit for the positive choices you're making. 
  19. Your thoughts are tinted by tons of things; they're not facts. 
  20. People usually want to help, so don't be afraid to ask. 
  21. Happiness and positivity are not the same thing. 
  22. Things you dread are usually not as bad in reality.
  23. Look out for the gray areas; very little is black-or-white.
  24. Creativity and worry are connected (for better or worse!).
  25. Doing absolutely nothing isn't always a waste of time. 
  26. Choose the words that follow "I am..." carefully. 
  27. A lot can change in a very little amount of time. 
  28. You're not obligated to be now the person you were then. 
  29. Just because something hasn't happened doesn't mean it won't. 
  30. It's okay (and even good, sometimes!) to be uncomfortable. 
  31. What you love doesn't have to make sense to everyone. 
  32. Telling your story can be healing, but it's not required.
  33. How people act is almost always about them, not you
  34. Productivity isn't a personality; you aren't how much you do.
  35. You can (often) control who you allow into your life.
  36. The way you feel now isn't how you'll always feel. 


It's my hope that this list has given you some new knowledge or insights. It's funny to write it because I know someday I'll look back at my 36-year-old self and chuckle at how little I knew. (Yes, I do this with my 26-year-self now.) I'll read things I wrote a decade ago and cringe, thinking how little I knew about what was to come. But that's the cool thing about life: we don't know what's going to happen or what wisdom we'll gain along the way. So, for now, I'll just keep sharing what I know the best way I know how. Thanks for following along with me as I keep learning (and especially as I'm working on my next book, which I'm so thrilled about but which is causing the blog to take a bit of a backseat).

If you want to help me celebrate my 36 years on this planet, consider supporting my work on Patreon, purchasing from the print shop, (use code "august23" for 36% off 'til 8/25/19), or checking out some of my digital products here. I appreciate your support! 

17 Factors That Make Up a Mood

Positively Present - Makeup Mood
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I'm in the midst of working on a very exciting project (can't wait to tell you about it soon!), and I've been listening to makeup videos while I work. I rarely even wear makeup, but there's something about these videos that just works so well as background noise! All that makeup talk in the background has had me dying to draw makeup things so I was thrilled when I thought of the mood makeup idea the other day. 

Once I started thinking about it, I realized just how many things factor into a person's mood! It's incredible! Obviously, some of these impact some people more than others. (For example, I get super cranky if I'm hungry, but not everyone is bothered as much by an empty stomach.) I planned on just drawing the makeup and identifying the various mood influencers, but as I was working on it, I decided I wanted to explore (and explain) each one in a bit more detail. So, here we go...



    The more you know about yourself, the easier it becomes to identify (and predict) your moods. When I was young, I was quite moody and it always felt like these moods came out of nowhere. Now that I'm older (and more self-aware), I'm able to better assess why I'm feeling a certain way. Of course, I still experience a full range of moods, but knowing why they happen helps a great deal in terms of lessening or heightening (or potentially avoiding them -- for example, knowing I get cranky if I don't eat, I make sure to have snacks handy!).


    What we've experienced in life can have a tremendous impact on our moods. For example, if you once had a horrific experience at a county fair, going to an amusement park, fair, or circus might impact your mood for the worse. This is an extreme example, but our experiences shape our points of view in subtle ways too. Certain smells, sights, or sounds might trigger a recollection and you might not even realize that your mood has shifted because a certain smell wafted past! 


    The weather affects some people more than others, but a great many people I know have moods that are influenced by what's going on outside the window. Some people thrive on a hot, sunny day while others can't wait for the rain to arrive. Cloudy days (particularly if they come in week-long stretches) can bring down a mood in many people. Not to mention, some people can physically experience weather in their joints, sinuses, or other areas. Pay attention to how you feel during certain weather cycles. You can't control the weather, but you can use it to anticipate how you'll be impacted. 


    Some people (like me!) are just more prone to moods. I know some people who are typically pretty even-keeled, no big highs, no big lows. I, on the other hand, can experience a huge range of emotions (and sometimes all at once!). When considering what influences moods, it's important to factor in temperament because most people have a general range of emotions. It's not better or worse to be more "moody," but it's something worth understanding (and accepting) about yourself and those around you.  


    The more grateful you are, the easier it is to be in a better mood. (I'm pretty sure some studies have shown this to be true, but I know from personal experience that it's the truth, at least for me!) Keeping a gratitude journal can sound kind of cheesy, but ever since I started doing so years ago, I've found it to be so helpful for my mood. Whenever I feel really down, I think of what I'm fortunate to have in my life, and I immediately feel (at least a little bit!) better. 


    Hunger levels and mood seem related for a lot of people. Not everyone notices a drastic change in mood when they're hungry, but I think it's human nature to be a least a bit grumpy when we have empty stomachs. (After all, eating is part of how we survive!) As someone whose moods are definitely impacted by my hunger level, I do what I can to prevent extreme hunger (lots of little meals) so that I can at least positively impact that aspect of my mood. 


    The environment you're in plays a huge role in your mood. If you're somewhere you feel comfortable, relaxed, and at peace, it's going to be easier to be in a good mood. If you're in a place where you feel overwhelmed, hyper-stimulated, or uncomfortable, keeping an upbeat attitude is going to be trickier (though it's certainly possible!). We obviously can't avoid every environment that feels less-than-perfect, but it's worth noting where you are and what your mood is so you can at least be aware of what environments are more mood-boosting. 


    Closely tied with the environment factor is the memory you might have a certain place, person, or experience. Positive memories of a place will likely boost your mood when you're there, while negative memories might make it a bit tougher to feel happy in that place. Memories can change over time (fade, be replaced) and so they can be very complex and layered. They can't always be changed, but sometimes creating a new, happy memory in a previously mood-lowering spot can transform the way you experience it. 


    Everyone handles stress differently, but, for most of us, the more stressed we are, the harder it becomes to be in a good, relaxed mood. Stress is, unfortunately, a part of life, but if we find stress greatly impacting our moods we can work to lower stress levels or, in cases when that's not possible, we can find ways to combat the stress. I, personally, find yoga, drawing, and being around dogs to be some of the best tools in my stress-busting arsenal, but it might take some trial-and-error to figure out what works best for you! 


    Your state of mind can significantly influence your mood. If you wake up with a good attitude, sure that everything is going work out just fine, it's easier to cope when conflict and struggles arise. However, on the flip side, if you're certain everything is terrible, you're going to have a tough time making the most of even the best moments. A positive mindset takes time and practice, but learning to be optimistic makes a huge different when it comes to any emotional state.


    I could probably tell you, without a calendar, what day of the month it is based on my mood alone! Not everyone's mood is heavily influenced by their hormones, but, if you pay attention to how you feel at different times in the month, you might realize that your hormone levels do impact your mood. (While it hasn't been proven that men have monthly hormone cycles, they do apparently have daily cycles so, if you're a guy, pay attention to your moods during different times of the day.)


    Some people aren't greatly influenced by those around them, but most people are impacted in some way. Some people thrive around a lot of other people; others prefer not to have too many humans around. Some people are incredibly tuned into the moods of others (typically known as empaths) and are typically swayed a great deal by the way others are feeling. Other people are oblivious to the moods of others. Regardless of how you feel around other people, it's likely they influence your mood in some way (for better or worse!)


    Exercise is a mood-booster so the more you do of it, the easier it is to be in a good mood (unless you have an unhealthy relationship with exercise and overdo it). For the average person, even just a short walk or a few jumping jacks can lift a mood a little bit. If you're not a habitual exerciser (me: looks in mirror with raised eyebrow), it's worth incorporating into your routine for some mood-boosting benefits. It doesn't have to be a lot, but it can make a big difference (so I've heard...). 


    At any given time, we can only see from one point of view (both literally and figuratively), so this obviously impacts our mood. If you can't see the whole picture (and it's pretty hard to, since we can't look everywhere at once and we have no idea what the future will hold so even if something seems terrible now, we don't know if it'll ultimately be great), you might be missing out on something that could influence your mood. Thinking about this can be frustrating, but accepting it can make it easier to cope with your current perspective. 

  15. HEALTH

    This is a big influencer because it includes both physical and mental health (which are very connected!). If you're going through health troubles or struggling mentally, your mood is likely to be impacted significantly. While we can't control every aspect of our health, there are things we can do to take care of ourselves so that our bodies (and minds!) are in the best possible shape. What we eat, do, think, and don't do influences our health (and mood!) so it's worth at least trying to be healthy. 


    The media you consume (social media, TV, Internet, books, podcasts, etc.) can impact your mood more than you might realize. Not all media consumption is bad, so it's worth paying attention to how you feel when you're consuming different kinds of media (or when you're on different social media platforms). You have a lot of control over what you consume (you don't "have" to watch anything, unless it's part of your job to do so) and knowing how your consumption influences your mood is important! 

  17. SLEEP

    And, finally, sleep! Sleep, for most of us, significantly changes how we feel. A good night's sleep can completely transform a mood. Little to no sleep makes for very cranky, delirious, and (when driving, etc.) dangerous moods. Personally, I think the optimal amount of sleep varies a great deal from person to person (and by age group), so it's a good idea to tune into how you feel after certain amounts of sleep to know what will likely cultivate the best mood for you. 

When I first made this illustration, I really didn't consider just how many different factors go into a mood! Whenever I'm a good or bad mood, I can typically pinpoint one main reason why I feel the way I do, but now I'm starting to understand just how many aspects impact the way I'm feeling. Even though this is quite a lengthy list, I bet there are even more factors that go into a mood. If you can think of any I've missed, leave them in the comments below! 


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6 Ways to Shake Things Up

Positively Present - Shake It Up


For months and months, it felt like a dark cloud was hanging over my head. I don't know if it was seasonal depression or regular depression or just part of my biological mental ups and downs, but, man, was it rough. I didn't feel like doing anything, and I didn't feel like I'd ever get out of that dark fog of what felt like nothingness.

But, over the past few weeks, there's been a shift. I've felt something start to change, the clouds start to part a bit, if you will. I don't know if the darkness is gone (I mean, is it ever?), but I do feel a lot better than I was feeling. In fact, the other day, I was driving and it just hit me: Wow, I don't feel terrifically sad right now, and that sad feeling feels a lot like a memory I can't quite recall. This is often how it is with me -- when things are good, it's hard to remember them ever being bad; when they're bad, I can't imagine it'll ever be good again. 

I was stopped at a red light, thinking about how different things seemed now than even a few weeks ago, I was so thankful that the darkness (whatever it was!) seemed to be passing. I've been, little by little, starting to feel like myself again, so I thought, why not shake things up a bit? I know, this might, to some, seem precisely the wrong time to shake anything up, but, after months of nothingness, of feeling perpetually blah, shaking things up feels like the exact right thing to do! 

I've been trying a few of these shake-things-up ideas, and I thought I'd share them with you in case, like me, you're at a point in your life when you need to switch things up a bit (but not in a change-career-paths, sell-all-your-stuff-and-move-to-the-beach kind of way!). 



Even if it's just somewhere in your town, go to a new place! This is a pretty easy way to shake things up (but not too much!). Obviously, going on a grand vacation to new country or something would work too, but, if you're like me, and you don't like too much shake up, just checking out a new spot (a restaurant, shop, museum, park, etc.) can enliven your day just a little bit! 



I tend to bring this tip up a lot here on Positively Present because I personally love my routines. They're just so comforting and, because they are so familiar, I don't have to think much about them, which frees my mind to think more about creating! But switching them up (even just a bit!) can add a nice little spice-of-life to the day. 



This one I haven't yet tried, but it seems like quite a good way for heavy phone users (like me!) to shake things up. If I didn't look at my phone for 24 hours, my whole life would be so different. (To be honest, I don't even know if I could manage this, but it sure would be worth a try, if just to shake me out of my phone-clutching habits!)



Most of us have a lot of stuff we don't really need, and I don't know about you, but I always feel so refreshed and satisfied when I go through my things and donate them to people who might actually use them. This might seem like a "shake it up" activity, but I really do feel exhilarated when I do it (organizing nerd alert!) so I count it as a way to shake things up. 



Personally, I try to do this daily. It doesn't always happen, but every time I take time to sing and dance, I feel better. There's also all different kinds of music and vibes for a solo dance party so you can switch it up just by changing the tunes. It sounds silly, but singing and dancing really has an amazingly positive impact on my mental state!



Another one I've yet to try, but am very intrigued by: sitting with boredom. I generally don't get bored (and why should I, with all the tech and books and music and art at my disposal?!), but boredom can be useful and if it's not something you experience often, embracing it could be a interesting way to shake things up. Just sit with it and see what happens!


So there you have it! Six fairly easy ways to shake things up in your day-to-day life. If you're going through a dark period, give these a try (even though I know it's really, really hard to do) because they might just help. If you're in a sunny time in your life, also consider shaking things up. There's no easier time to do it than when you're feeling that sunshine-y mindset. Regardless of whether you try these ideas or not, I hope they've inspired you to think a bit about how you might want to shake things up in your life. You don't have to embark on some dramatic journey or aim to transform you life in order to shake things up a bit! 



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