In Read This for Inspiration, Ashly Perez (a former BuzzFeed employee) gathers bits of inspiration that she's found helpful in her life — words of wisdom about creativity, self-worth, motivation, relationships, feminism, and more — and pairs them with dreamy illustrations from multiple artists. Below, we bring you six of our favorite passages, each having to do with living in the present, loving yourself, and appreciating life.
1. Get grounded.
Existential grounding is a technique that can alleviate a stressful day. My therapist described it to me through the lens of pets. Pets provide existential grounding because they show us there is a way to live other than our own. They calm us down and remind us that the pressures in our lives are largely of our own making.
Observe something today that is alive but not human; a dog, a cat, a bee, a flower, a tree, or whatever else you like. Let its existence wash over you. Let it ground you.
2. Do what you love.
Many of us experience a time in our lives when we feel lost. Maybe you went through a breakup, lost a job, or experienced the death of a loved one. You are on a precipice, and now the anxiety of uncertainty has settled in.
It was during a time like this in my own life, after I had graduated from college and had no job prospects, that I discovered some advice that broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer's father had given her when she was stuck in the same boat of not knowing which way to proceed. He said:
Do what you love.
Do it in the most exciting place possible.
Make sure it helps people.
That's it. And it's evergreen. Even though I'm past that terrifying moment of uncertainty, I've found that this advice helps me whenever I'm at a crossroads or given an opportunity to reassess a situation.
3. Take your space.
Have you ever noticed how rebellious flowers are? Growing where they shouldn't be. In between cracks in the asphalt, on the sides of roads. They take their space, even when the world has not made room for them.
4. See the beauty in the broken.
In the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, when pottery breaks, it is not automatically thrown away. Instead, the pieces are carefully collected and reassembled into a complete piece, its cracks filled with gold. What was once broken is made beautiful again — even better than before. Literally translated, the word kintsugi means "golden joinery."
Sometimes we're too quick to throw away the pieces of our own proverbial pottery. Embarrassed and ashamed of failures, our inclination is to start fresh as soon as possible — to pretend like we never made a mistake in the first place. But in doing so, we lose the beauty that comes from picking ourselves up and making ourselves whole. Perhaps like the kintsugi pieces, what makes us beautiful is our mistakes and the ways in which we've grown to fill in the cracks of our failures.
Before you give up, before you throw away what you've done so far, fill yourself with gold. Proudly display the beautifully veined pottery that proves how far you've come.
5. Know that you own your value — it isn't assigned by anyone else.
In 1885, the painter Vincent can Gogh remarked to his brother Theo in a letter regarding his art, "If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat, even if it looks like grass at first."
Even if it's not clear to everyone else what you're doing or how you're going to be successful, know that you own your value — it is not assigned by anyone else. You know you are wheat even if all that's visible right now is a blade of grass.
6. Practice easy gratitude.
Perhaps the most effective way to be happier is to be grateful for what we already have. I know, I know. But honestly? It's a hell of a lot easier than changing everything about yourself and constantly striving to be a new, better you.
To help you out, here are some quick things you can do today, for free, to start practicing gratitude.
Change the lockscreen on your phone to a picture of the best thing that happened to you this week. Maybe it was a pretty flower, a selfie with a friend you haven't seen in a while, or a photo of your dog sleeping. Whatever it is, it's going to make you smile every time you see it. Make a habit of changing this picture every week to help you remember there's always something new to be grateful for.
Write down three things you were grateful for today. Less traffic? A yummy breakfast? The song you were listening to ending just as you arrived at your destination?
Text someone you haven't seen in a little while and thank them for a memory you have together. It's easy to forget we have friends and experiences all over the place. You can call upon them any time. ●
Reprinted with permission from Read This for Inspiration: Simple Sparks to Ignite Your Life by Ashly Perez copyright © 2020. Illustrations by Jen B. Peters, Sarah Walsh, Marisol Ortega, Olivia Herrick, and Danielle Deschenes. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.