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  • feedwordpress 16:00:34 on 2022/07/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Crying in the Bathroom, Erika L. Sanchez, , , questioner   

    Erika Sánchez: “I Realized…You Can’t Achieve Your Way Out of Trauma.” 


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    Interview: Erika Sánchez

    Erika Sánchez is a poet, novelist, and essayist. Her debut poetry collection, Lessons on Expulsion (Amazon, Bookshop) was a finalist for the PEN America Open Book Award. Her debut young-adult novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Amazon, Bookshop) is a New York Times bestseller, a National Book Awards finalist, and is currently being made into a Netflix film directed by America Ferrera. Her memoir, a collection of essays called Crying in the Bathroom (Amazon, Bookshop), just hit shelves.

    I've read both her novel and her memoir, and I couldn't wait to talk to Erika about happiness, habits, and mental health.

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Erika: I have to take solitary walks to feel balanced. There’s a large park and river trail close to my house that I love. It’s a beautiful piece of nature in the city. I enjoy the trees, the birds, and the people, most of whom appear to be in a happy mood. Whenever I start to feel anxious or depressed, I make myself take a walk even if I don’t want to. By the end, I usually feel refreshed, and I have drawn some sort of conclusion or made a connection I didn’t expect. My imagination comes alive. My mind wanders in all directions because I’m present, which perhaps makes no sense to anyone but me.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    At that time, I thought that if I achieved enough success, my depression would magically disappear and that I would be happy for the rest of my life. It wasn’t until I had a mental breakdown after my first two books were published that I realized this wasn’t true. You can’t achieve your way out of trauma. At 18 I also hadn’t yet learned that I have a mental illness that requires medication. I now understand that I literally can’t experience happiness when my brain chemistry is not right. Thank you, science!

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit – or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    I don’t always particularly enjoy working out—it’s a love/hate relationship— but I force myself to do it because I know how relieved l will feel after the fact. My favorite form of exercising is running outdoors. I like to get fresh air and enjoy the scenery. There’s something very satisfying about exerting myself physically. I’ve also shifted my perspective on working out. I make myself move because it feels good, not to lose or maintain my weight. Even though I’m incredibly slow, I feel like I deserve a parade when I’m finished.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    I’m a Questioner!

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    Social media is a real pain in the butt for me. Part of me wants to delete it forever, but another part of me enjoys it and believes it’s now necessary to my career. Sometimes I scroll mindlessly, and I hate myself for it. Sometimes it becomes a compulsion, and it makes me feel very gross. I’m still trying to figure out my relationship to it. I don’t want it to take up too much space in my brain. I want to be present in the world.

    Have you ever been hit by a lightning bolt, where you made a major change very suddenly, as a consequence of reading a book, a conversation with a friend, a milestone birthday, a health scare, etc.?

    This happens a lot when I’m reading or taking a walk. A few months ago, I was at the park and realized that I carried my female ancestors with me. Their flesh is my flesh. I believe both my rage and talent come from them. I’m the first woman in my family to have the opportunity to determine my own life. I had been working through a lot generational trauma, and that fact stunned me. I cried it out and felt stronger for it.

    Is there a particular quotation that has struck you as particularly insightful?

    “I stood at the border, stood at the edge and claimed it as central. l claimed it as central, and let the rest of the world move over to where I was.” –Toni Morrison

    Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?

    Books change me all the time. One that comes to mind right now is When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron (Amazon, Bookshop). I read it when I was recovering from a very severe bout of depression. It helped me reconnect with my Buddhist faith and find meaning in my suffering.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:00:05 on 2022/06/16 Permalink
    Tags: , , Finding Ecohappiness, , questioner, Sandi Schwartz   

    Sandi Schwartz: “Nature Stimulates Creativity.” 


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    Interview: Sandi Schwartz

    Sandi Schwartz is the founder and director of the Ecohappiness Project, and an author and journalist who specializes in parenting, environmental, and wellness topics.

    I couldn't wait to talk to Sandi about happiness, habits, and her new book, Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer (Amazon, Bookshop).

    Gretchen: What’s a simple activity or habit that consistently makes you happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative?

    Sandi: I treasure my morning walks, whether they are in my neighborhood, at a local park, or during the summer along the beach. Listening to the birds chirping, breathing in the fresh air, and mindfully viewing the colorful nature around me is my daily meditation. Getting this exercise and meditative time in kickstarts my day so I can clear my head. As a writer, I often come up with ideas for blog posts, articles, and other projects during my walks since nature stimulates creativity.

    What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?

    The most fascinating aspect of happiness to me is that we each have our own baseline, and even when we have an amazing thing happen and we get a boost of happiness, we end up back at that set point. Genetics influence 50 percent of our happiness, while our life circumstances control 10 percent. That leaves us with 40 percent to take our own action to try to feel happier. Knowing this helped me understand my own personality and happiness level to accept what my baseline is and to recognize what I have some control over to change how I feel.

    You’ve done fascinating research. What has surprised or intrigued you – or your readers – most?

    Everyone is always fascinated to learn that we can benefit from nature connection even through a screen or virtual reality. Scientists are closely studying this concept and are finding that simulated nature can have medicinal effects, although not as effective as being immersed in nature. In an analysis of over thirty studies that reviewed the effects of spending time in nature versus urban environments, researchers found that being exposed to nature led to people feeling happier whether they were outdoors or viewing nature on a screen. They also discovered that simulated environments with realistic images of nature, such as interactive VR, led to greater psychological benefits than less immersive choices like photographs.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit – or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    One of the most important habits that I am trying very hard to keep is writing in my brief evening journal. I write five bullet points: the most important aspect of my day, something social I did to connect with others, and three pieces of gratitude. I find that keeping this daily habit helps me feel more balanced and my emotions in check. My biggest challenge from the pandemic was getting way too comfortable being at home, so my goal these days is to try and be more social. Tracking this in my journal helps keep me on track.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger

    I am a Questioner; no surprise there. I am very self-motivated and tend to do what I want on a daily basis, minus my commitments to my husband, children, and work clients. I definitely wake up every day and think, “What needs to get done today, and why?” I am constantly updating my daily to-do lists and personal goals. I am also thirsty for knowledge and love asking questions and doing research to find the answers. I also resist doing anything that seems to lack purpose. Additionally, I am an INFJ and have a huge need and passion to change the world, which is evident by my focus on environmentalism and exploring how nature can improve well-being. If I am not living my purpose, I begin to struggle emotionally. I crave new challenges and goals.

    Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits or your happiness? (e.g. travel, parties, email)

    I am a homebody and most effective in meeting my goals and sticking to my habits when I am at home with my routine. Therefore, anything that knocks me off my game, like travel or stressful situations, interferes with my ability to keep my healthy habits that improve my happiness.

    Is there a particular motto or saying that you’ve found very helpful?

    My husband taught me a very helpful phrase that I turn to often when my anxiety is acting up: “This too shall pass.” I find this quote very soothing, as it helps me shift my focus from the stressful situation that is freaking me out to realize that I have faced many similar challenges and was so upset, but time marched on and they are now distant memories. If we can master this type of shift in our thought process, then we can have more control over our strong emotions like anxiety.

    Has a book ever changed your life – if so, which one and why?

    Many books have changed my life. I truly believe that books come into my life when I need them. I might just happen to see a book at the library or in a bookstore, or maybe a friend or someone in a Facebook group posts a recommendation. It’s as if the book calls out my name. Some examples include The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz (Amazon, Bookshop), Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks by Barry McDonagh (Amazon, Bookshop); Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen (Amazon, Bookshop); and Gretchen’s book, The Happiness Project, which changed the trajectory of my career path to focus on positive psychology and ultimately the intersection of nature and mental health. [Gretchen: That's so wonderful to hear!]

    I also believe that authors write the books they need the most, and that’s what happened with me and my book, Finding Ecohappiness (Amazon, Bookshop).

     

     

     
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