your friend with the new wellness routine: an introduction

Your friends, offline and on, have a new wellness routine. They swear by it. They’ve never felt [more energized] [happier] [less emotionally unstable] [less existentially unsure of how to carry on in this cruel, unforgiving world]. You should try it. You should try it!!!!

Frankly, I love talking about the things people do to feel well. I love reading tweets about how we should stop saving all of our best stuff for some unknown future date when we’ll somehow be more deserving of small luxuries. I love talking to friends about what brings them joy and what steps they’re taking to make space for the not-so-joyful. As a chronic Googler, I have come across many of the natural remedies for fatigue, anxiety, eye puffiness, tension headaches, lack of focus, dry skin, ennui, constipation, insecurity, impatience, congestion—you name the ailment and I’ve probably Googled its solution. Obsessively. More than once. More than ten times. If I have an FBI agent, they’re rolling their eyes each time they check my Google search history. She looked that up last week. Yes, Brenda, I did, but it soothes me to look it up again. This is my comfort Googling. It is contributing to a false and fleeting sense of wellness. It puts me in control without requiring me to make any tangible or lasting changes. I’m aware of the contradiction, here.

Back to that friend of yours with the new wellness routine. Here’s the difference between me and them: they’ve stuck with the thing. They tried it for a week, two weeks, a month, and it made a difference, so they kept doing it. I, on the other hand, am the person who tried something for three days, it made a difference, it addressed the ailment I was hoping it would address, and I stopped doing it. Why? Because I forgot. I didn’t feel like it anymore. I wasn’t feeling the desperation I felt the day I Googled, “stretches for back pain,” and I won’t feel that desperation for another three or four days when the back pain inevitably returns.

This year, I’m trying something different. (This year, I’m trying something different!!! she cries, certain that a change in calendar year will produce a change in herself. I know, I know. Whatever.) I’m picking one wellness routine (or task, as it may be) each month and doing it every single day. There are a few parameters in place, none of which are strict or particularly scientific, although “avoiding fad routines that pose an obvious health risk” is a fairly strict one. Other parameters are as follows:

  • It can’t cost a ton of money if any at all
  • It can’t require a huge overhaul in the way I exist, or I won’t do it (Know Thyself)
  • It can’t take up a ton of time or effort, which is essentially the same as the above

I think I’m a decent test subject. I have an interest in improving my well-being, but I tend to lack follow through, so performing these tasks for an extended period of time seems likely to produce a notable (or noteworthily un-notable) change. I have lived with severe anxiety for most of my life and my nervous system is a little (it’s cuter when we say “a little” when what we mean is “extremely, horribly, life-altering-ly”) chaotic as a result. I plan to incorporate these routines into the mid-late morning, which is when I am, I’ve discovered, most likely to grow anxious, fatigued, and dissociative. The motto, here, is, “It would be cool if this helped!”

Here’s why I’m actually a terrible test subject: my baseline of calm-and-grounded has shifted rapidly for the better in the last two months or so thanks to a year-plus of effort and intensive EMDR therapy. I made a few changes at the end of 2022 that are probably already helping, like taking a daily vitamin *daily* instead of once every two months, eating more consistent meals instead of shoveling handfuls of crackers in my face every time I realize that I’m hungry, getting better sleep, cleaning and organizing my apartment after four-point-five years of shoving everything into closets, going out into the world without dissolving into immediate fight-or-flight, et cetera.

I should also mention that some of the things on the list are things I’ve already tried many times but have never successfully turned into a daily practice. I’m talking about using a sun lamp when it’s dark as shit for the entirety of Pittsburgh winter. I’m talking about meditation. I’m talking about some of the other things I plan to do that I wrote down on a notepad and then misplaced and can’t remember now but will find eventually. A lot of these things aren’t brand new to me but doing them daily will be.

How do I plan to track my progress? I don’t know. Vibes. I told you I’m a terrible test subject. Also, if I like a thing, I’ll probably keep doing it, which means that this experiment may get less and less reliable as each month passes and I’m just stacking helpful habits on top of helpful habits. The truth is that this isn’t for the good of the general population. This isn’t meant to be a gotcha or whatever, I’m not trying to prove or debunk anything. I just want to feel better, which feels like a worthy enough cause. This is for the good of me.

Why, then, am I writing about it? Because I am a writer. I require attention or I will wither away. Also because if I don’t, I really will gauge the usefulness of each routine or lack thereof based on vibes, alone. Now, we’re in this together, and by we, I mean the me that does the thing and the me that writes about it. And you, if you’re interested in following along.  

So, that’s it. That’s the plan. It’s not a great one, but it’s a plan, and for an astounding eleven days, I’ve stuck with it. Seems promising! See you again at the end of the month to determine whether daily sun-lamp-ing (January’s task because, as I’ve said, the sun does not exist in Pittsburgh between the months of November and March) is hot or not. Later!

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