Wednesday, January 28, 2015

on staying positive

A new year inevitably means new year's resolutions. I haven't had strict "resolutions" for the past few years, because my resolutions are always pretty much the same: keep exercising, keep reading, and keep budgeting. In fact, my Book List/Currently Reading tab began as a way to keep track of the books I read at a time when I had fallen out of the habit of reading for fun. Ever since I took off the pressure of making "New Years Resolutions", I found that I was more successful at achieving my three simple goals. I just used the new year as a time to remind myself to stick to these three lifestyle choices.

However, I did want to add in another mini-resolution for 2015: staying positive.

I know that positivity is kind of a buzzword within the blogging community right now and I think that it's a great thing that a lot of people are talking about it. For one thing, it's a great reminder when you see another person post about positivity. More importantly, it's fun to see how others keep themselves focused on staying positive, because we all have different activities that put us in a positive headspace. Getting a range of ideas for staying positive only gives you more material to work with!

Here's what I do to stay positive:

- surround yourself with positive people // I have seen this one on a number of lists and for good reason. I am definitely someone who sucks up emotion (particularly negative emotions) like a sponge, so if I am constantly around negative people, then I become negative too. I think that more people see certain emotions as being particularly contagious: Sara Ahmed writes that "Anxiety is sticky: rather like Velcro, it tends to pick up whatever comes near". I think the same can be said for positivity as well, which is why I try to surround myself with people who are intentionally positive.

- force yourself to refocus // I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to falling into negativity. For various reasons I also tend to lean more towards negativity than I'd like to admit. To combat that tendency, I started keeping a special notebook in which I write down five things I am thankful for each day. I heard on NPR's "The Science of Happiness" that the happiest (i.e. the most positive) people were also those who were the most grateful. It's easy to forget the many good aspects of your life when you are hitting an emotionally low point. However, I've found that manually changing my perspective and making myself write down the good things in my life has made me a more positive person.

- learn to think long-term // Sometimes the things that make us more negative are situational. Often times this means that you can't always remove yourself from the person or situation that is causing you to be more negative. This could be something like loss of a job, family issues, or financial issues. What helps me during moments of situational negativity is to remember to think long-term. Whatever the situation is, it will not be that way forever. In the meantime, take care of yourself and do as much as you can to keep yourself positive - whether that be teaching yourself a new skill, pouring new energy into hobbies, or even exercising. Taking your mind off the problem and looking toward the future definitely helps to but some things in perspective.

How do you keep yourself positive?

Monday, January 26, 2015

from the bookshelf: non-fiction

I have already compiled (some) of my favorite fiction books in two previous posts, but I decided to do another book-centric post focusing on some of my favorite non-fiction books. I'm going to do a bit of a grab-bag here since "non-fiction" is such a wide umbrella term for anything from history books, essays, academic articles, how-to books, and so on. So here are a few of my favorite non-fiction reads from my bookshelf!

Bomb Power by Gary Wills
One of my side interests includes the communities that pop up around the creation of the atomic bomb, along with the emotional resonance the a-bomb has as a cultural symbol. Gary Wills does a fantastic job of breaking down how the atomic bomb has a profound cultural, social, and psychological impact on those who created the bomb in the first place. Although the bomb is sent to demolish an enemy, no one on either end of the bomb remains unscathed. Fun fact: The Manhattan Project (the group charged to create the atomic bomb during WWII) was heavily tied to the University of Chicago, so I was able to go through the archives and read through actual documents from the Manhattan Project while I was working on my thesis! Nearly all documents including memos, letters, notebooks, and actual physicis...stuff, are in UChicago's archives. The nerd in me was OVERJOYED. 

The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Emerson is the stuff of high school English classes and I am guessing that at some point (especially if you attended school in the United States) you have already read a few of these essays - does the idea of turning into a giant transparent eyeball sound familiar? I believe that I read Emerson's essays when I first began attending college at the age of sixteen and something about his style of writing really caught my attention right away. In fact, it was such an obsession that one of my friends bought me a hard copy of Emerson's essays which remains with me to this day (see above photo!).

Empathic Vision by Jill Bennett
This book played a huge role in my Master's thesis and continues to be a text I repeatedly go back to. I will admit that it is a very dense book, because it delves deeply into both affect theory and trauma studies. However, what I like about it is the way that Bennett focuses on how art (visual art) can become a means through which trauma and affect can be discussed. A really fascinating read for anyone who is interested in art, theory, and socio-political issues.

Japan's Total Empire by Louisa Young
I am continually surprised how little many people in the West really know about what went on in the Pacific during WWII. As someone who is Japanese and as someone who studies texts from the WWI/WWII era, I make it a point to read up on as much history as I can. So when a friend of mine suggested this book to me, I decided to give it a shot. As terrible as it is to read about atrocities that one's country has committed, it is even more terrible to ignore what happened in the past. This book addresses the political and economic relationship between Manchuria and Japan, as well as the historical events that led up to Japan's involvement in Manchuria. It was a very insightful and eye-opening book.

Fair Isle Knitting by Alice Starmore
Now for something very different - a knitting book! Knitting is one of my favorite hobbies and the fair isle style is my absolute favorite style. I have done quite a bit of stranded knitting in my time, but I am nowhere near skilled enough to pull off many of these designs. My favorite part of this book (aside from all the great patterns) is how the colors and features of the natural landscape inspire certain patterns - there are a lot of great side-by-side shots showing the colors of nature alongside a knitted pattern that was inspired by the landscape. It's a great book to page through for inspiration!

This is a great reminder to reread some of these favorites!

.wp-caption { background: transparent; }.image-attachment .entry-content .entry-attachment { background: transparent; }