“‘The important thing about imagination is that it gives you optimism,’ said Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Positive Psychology Center there.
His work is dedicated to studying human agency, which is predicated on efficacy, optimism and imagination. …
The hours spent fantasizing and daydreaming about future plans are valuable, Dr. Seligman said. They allow people to escape routine, and cultivate hope and resilience. …
‘Imagining the future — we call this skill prospection — and prospection is subserved by a set of brain circuits that juxtapose time and space and get you imagining things well and beyond the here and now,’ Dr. Seligman said. ‘The essence of resilience about the future is: How good a prospector are you?’
And that’s the case regardless of whether one’s imaginings of the future are over-the-top and unbelievable, or seemingly mundane. …
…Dr. April Toure, a psychiatrist who specializes in working with children and adolescents at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn [said] ‘Even though it’s not considered a core symptom of depression, the absence of hope is a common symptom.’ … Future thinking, or “the imagination and belief that something better is coming,” is crucial to getting through hard times.Tariro Mzezewa, “Go Ahead. Fantasize.” NY Times (January 16, 2021)
A Statement on Black Lives
I stand in solidarity with everyone fighting for Black lives now, and with Black activists who have been fighting for social justice for generations. I recognize the toll of systemic injustice on all Black people. I call for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breanna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and all those who’ve lost their lives to police brutality. I am grateful to Black people because I have benefitted from advancements in civil rights won through Black struggle. I acknowledge that my model minority status has been used to deny the reality of injustice experienced by Black Americans. I recognize the work I need to do as an Asian American to check my privilege, increase my cross-racial solidarity, and confront anti-blackness within the Asian Pacific American community. I recognize that this statement is just the beginning.
A Note to Self
Here are a few ideas I’ve been thinking about over the past two weeks. This has helped me feel more grounded, less reactionary, less needy for validation, more authentic, and more helpful.
Less is more.
Choose quality over quantity.
You don’t have to resolve them. You don’t have to weigh in much of the time. Know your values. Feel secure in the actions that you are taking. It’s OK to hold multiple contradictions, and to care for multiple communities, issues, and concerns.
Things are complicated.
It’s normal to feel a lot of feelings right now. Different people will be on different pages. Everyone falls short sometimes. Don’t sweat the small stuff. In five years, what will you want to remember about this time?
It’s noisy out there.
Opinions are just that. Remember who’s been doing the work all along. Listen to people whose insights are grounded in practices that you respect. Turn down the volume on distractions.
One step at a time.
When problems feel overwhelming and abstract, identify small concrete steps. Start there.
It’s healthy to take breaks from social media.
Get off the hamster wheel of reacting, sharing, checking, scrolling (/feeling outraged, judgmental, exhausted, numb). There is plenty of information out there. Balance sharing with synthesizing new information and formulating deliberate action steps.
Know your spheres of agency, your voice, your platforms, and the differences between them.
Social media is just one tool. Turning off the firehose affords the mental focus to re-center and act in other spheres of agency. Within each sphere, find your lane. You don’t have to occupy every lane.
Don’t forget to balance the negative with the positive.
There are many reasons to feel and express rage, despair, grief, outrage, and sorrow. And… there are many reasons to feel connection, gratitude, love, joy, transformation, and hope.
When the negative feels personal, pervasive, and permanent, it is critical to our sense of hope—and to our resilience and sustainability—to affirm the realness of the positive.
The surefire way to boost your mood.
I found it’s surprisingly easy for days to pass without exercising, now that gyms are closed in NYC, and many people are self-isolating, working from home, consuming news, or prepping. (I can only imagine what friends and family in the Bay Area are doing under the shelter-in-place order.)
I just got back from a workout at a park. This is the best I’ve felt physically and mentally in days! I really needed that, and I’m sure I’ll need a reminder to do it more (as long as it’s safe for me and for the greater good).
I am really grateful to all the instructors, trainers, and physical therapists who have shared this knowledge with me, so that I can form my own exercise plan even when gyms are closed and classes are canceled. If you need some inspiration, here are some suggestions…
If you have a few square feet of space…
…And zero equipment:
- stretches: hamstring, quad, leg-cradle, arm circles front/back, hip hinge
- full body: push ups (and push up variations like Spiderman push ups), burpees, mountain climbers, sit-outs, jumping jacks, inchworms
- core: planks (and plank variations: shoulder taps, three-point planks, side planks, side plank hip dips, side plank reach-through’s)
- legs: squats (and variations like piston squat), lunges (and variations like lunge holds, lunge dips)
- hips/glutes: bridges, single leg bridges, birddogs
- an exercise that PTs call a T-walk but it’s basically like a walking, no-weight, single-leg Romanian deadlift)
…And a yoga mat, towel, or rug:
(Or you DGAF because your tailbone is made of carbon fiber.)
- core: abs: sit ups, crunches, bicycles, leg lifts, Russian twists, in-outs, reverse crunch, V-ups, deadbugs
- up-downs (switch from high plank to low plank one arm at a time)
- Supermans, darts
..And a stable couch or chair:
…And wall space:
- wall sits
…And a way to slide:
E.g., you have hardwood or tile floors plus a small towel. If you have carpet, try using a furniture slider.
- One-armed slider pushups
- Lunge slides
- Body saw
- Knee tucks
If you have a garage, driveway, yard, or rooftop, plus a pair of work gloves:
Set up a cone/water bottle/anything to demarcate a distance. Or choose two opposite walls. Then try the following exercises in a lap or a line.
- Try the stretches in the few-square-feet section above, taking steps in between reps.
- skipping, swinging opposite arms high and low to stretch your shoulders
- lateral-shuffle (two steps in, turn 180º, two steps out)
- three steps/ touch the floor
- walking lunge
- lateral plank walk
- lateral squat walk
- bear crawl (forwards and backwards. If this seems easy, try keeping your knees 2-3 inches above the ground, take small steps, and go slow.)
- Spiderman push-up
If you have a bench, stoop, or concrete/brick planter:
- step ups (and variations, like step-up to raised knee)
- box jumps
- Bulgarian (rear foot elevated) split squat
- (if you have a yoga mat or towel) elevated glute bridge
What’s this from?
These exercises I’ve learned from various bootcamp and TRX classes, martial arts, and physical therapy (PT). You may know these exercises with different names. If you’re unfamiliar, Google them.
I’m not a trainer, so take this with a grain of salt. Obviously, talk to a doc if you haven’t started an exercise program. If you’re unfamiliar with the exercise, start small and prioritize technique and control (many exercises are dangerous when performed incorrectly). Use common sense and take any precautions to avoid injury.
Some helpful habits I’ve learned from PTs.
- Keep your core engaged (draw your navel back towards your spine).
- Keep your shoulders down and back.
- Protect your back by keeping a flat back when doing wall sits, deadbugs, leg lifts, etc.
- Protect your knees by never letting your knee go past your toes, when doing squats, split squats, lunges, etc.
For most of these exercises, you can try 30-second intervals, or 3 sets of 10 reps.
If the exercise is too hard, start with a simpler variation, or less time, sets, or reps. If it’s too easy, add time, or progress to advanced variations. If it feels repetitive, try a super set (instead of 3 sets of exercise A, then 3 sets of B, then 3 sets of C; intersperse the sets A, B, C; then A, B, C; then A, B, C. Get it?).
Mix It Up
Working out with a partner is fun and can help you stay motivated. Buddy systems are great ways to form new habits. Try using a video chat to work out together yet remotely. Or, meet up at a public park (and maintain social distance. Nothing wrong with air-high-fives!).
Add spontaneity by setting a timer for 10, 30-second intervals and take turns leading an exercise, such as abs exercises. To make it more creative, add a rule that if anyone suggests an exercise you’re already done, they have to do 10 pushups.