Category: Diary

Should and Shouldn’t

I upped my reading goal at the start of the year (from 12 books to 24 books). There’s a shelf on my bookshelf of “books that I should read but haven’t read yet” and after ignoring that shelf for way too long, I set up a recurring reminder – “read the books you’ve already got!”

So after I finished a book that dad gave me for Christmas, I went over to my “books I should read” shelf and picked out one that seemed interesting: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. I vaguely recalled that my sister brought it over one day, so I asked her about it before reading it. She said that one part of it had been recommended to her, and she’d read that part and then handed it to me (and of course she’d told me at the time – which specific part to read!) but she couldn’t remember the important part anymore. I just started reading it from the top.

Turns out, it’s one of the earliest best-selling books on cognitive therapy, which I also vaguely recall learning about in psychology at uni.

The book begins by introducing some cognitive therapy concepts:
– mild depression isn’t caused by imbalances of brain chemicals, it’s caused by a negative/distorted thought that can change how you feel, which can then can spiral into further negative/distorted thoughts and feelings
– the thoughts cause the negative feelings, not the other way around, so if you can address and change the thoughts, then you change the feelings
– mild depression can be treated by cognitive therapy as effectively (or more effectively) than depression medication

The book then gives the reader a quiz to figure out what kind of depression they might have – normal fluctuation of moods, mild depression, or deep depression. (I got “normal fluctuation.”)

The book then gives an overview of ten main “cognitive distortions.” For some of the distortions, I was like: “Oh sure, I do that.” Like the Overgeneralisation distortion – I’ll think, “I always find it hard making friends these days!” – which then is paired with the Mental Filter distortion (focusing on a negative detail) – “this person’s body language completely shut me out of the conversation they were having with another person, and we were the only three people in the room!” – which can lead to: “I am an unlikable person.”

Butttttttt, the distortion I found super interesting? Should Statements.

Lemme just copy that bit here (p47):

Should Statements. You try to motivate yourself by saying, “I should do this” or “I must do that.” These statements cause you to feel pressured and resentful. Paradoxically, you end up feeling apathetic and unmotivated. Albert Ellis calls this “musturbation.” I call it the “shouldy” approach to life.

When you direct should statements toward others, you will usually feel frustrated. When an emergency caused me to be five minutes late for the first therapy session, the new patient thought, “He shouldn’t be so self-centered and thoughtless. He ought to be prompt.” This thought caused her to feel sour and resentful.

Should statements generate a lot of unnecessary emotional turmoil in your daily life. When the reality of your own behaviour falls short of your standards, your shoulds and shouldn’ts create self-loathing, shame, and guilt. When the all-too-human performance of other people falls short of your expectations, as will inevitably happen from time to time, you’ll feel bitter and self-righteous. You’ll either have to change your expectations to approximate reality or always feel let down by human behaviour. If you recognise this bad should habit in yourself, I have outlined many effective “should and shouldn’t” removal methods in later chapters on guilt and anger.


I find this interesting because I feel like I am battling “should statements” all the time. (Even at the start of this post – “books that I should read but haven’t read yet”.) And I’ve reflected over the past couple of years that – especially in regards to my career – I’ve been sensing that the “should statements” are more damaging than helpful, and I’ve been trying to reduce them.

So Ima keep reading this book and I’ll see what help it can give me.


Baby’s First Bluetooth Earphones

It feels weird to call them earphones instead of headphones.

Anyway, James has been telling me for years to try some bluetooth earphones, and I just thought they were soooo ugly, and my Sennheiser in-ears (from 2016) worked fine, so it didn’t seem worth spending the money. I was going to wait until my Sennheisers died and then buy some true wireless earbuds – not the Apple ones, because they never fit my LADY-EARS, but something else. (I was considering the Anker Liberty Air, but they’re not yet available in Australia.)

But recently James needed to buy some new bluetooth earphones, so he did all the researching and comparing and deciding, and chose some NuForce sport earphones. He said, “Come on, come on, try them!”

So I was like, “OK, OK, OK!” and put on Peacock Tail.

I listened with the NuForce.
I listened with the Sennheisers.
I listened with the NuForce.
I bought the NuForce.

Boy Things and Girl Things

I have a boy child and a girl child. Every few months, I’ll meet someone who finds out (that I have a boy child and a girl child), and sometimes they comment:

“Ohhh, it’s so true, isn’t it?! Boys and girls are just so different!”


“Oh, me too! It’s so true what they say, boys are just into boy things and girls are into girl things.”

I don’t answer when people say that, because I find there’s no point. And usually the person has continued on to tell me about all the boy-things that their boy is into, and how their girl is completely different.

Sometimes, however, they comment:

“Did you get a real boy-ey boy and a real girly girl?”


“Is it true, what they say? Are they really stereotypically into ‘boy-‘ and ‘girl-things?'”

I had one of those comments last week. I usually reply to those kinds of comments, because it feels like the person is actually listening and curious:

“Well. I could say ‘Yes.’ My boy likes LEGO and train sets and marble runs and engineering things. He likes digging ‘channels’ or ‘moats’ in dirt or sand. He likes being outside for a million hours, my girl doesn’t. My girl likes playing with our toy stroller, toy food and toy kitchen. She loves playing with dress-ups and make-up, whereas my boy’s not into it. It’d be really neat and tidy to stop there. But that would be ignoring so many of their interests. My boy also likes playing with the toy stroller, toy food and toy kitchen. They both like mud, sand, water play and swimming. They both love climbing and riding bikes. They both love painting, art and craft. They both love music and dancing. My boy’s not into TV shows with fighting and baddies like PJ Masks, he’s into tender shows with a loving main character who tries to solve a problem – like Wallykazam or True. My girl loves cars and balls, but my boy’s not that interested in those. She also likes construction toys, and is just getting into LEGO. So the full picture is more complicated. Y’know?”



Self Care Update

So, you say, how is that self care stuff going?

Oh, really well! Thanks for asking.

A couple of notes –

Skin care: I haven’t noticed any difference from a bunch of different products I’ve tried, but a few of them are really slow & long-term (like sunscreen, chemical exfoliation, vitamin A, and peptides). However, DECIEM’s Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG does what it says on the packet: it destroys eye puffiness, which is great for when you have a terrible night’s sleep – – – – and DECIEM’s C25 has reduced my sun pigmentation.

Mood: I’ve been taking St John’s Wort for over 2 months now, and: I have not woken up in a bad mood or had an inexplicable bad mood once. I think there was, like, one day in that entire time when I felt truly grumpy, and that was during the day, after a bunch of things happened that were difficult. So, it’s an investment (about $1 per day), but I believe it’s working. I have been feeling more relaxed and happy than usual, and I haven’t even been doing much yoga! Time will tell. (Also – maybe related – I’ve been really enjoying a turmeric drink every night, and I found this interesting piece on turmeric the other day.)



Self Care

As usual, I’ve been doing / experimenting with a bunch of Self Care things.


I really wanted more music in our lives. I wanted more music in my world, in my everyday! But I also imagined a family who woke up to music, who bopped around while making breakfast, who had a little boogie while getting dressed, that sort of thing. A couple years ago, I said to James that I wanted to be able to walk into any room and ask for music. “Play some groovy good morning music!” – but choosing a system was daunting and seemed like it could possibly be an expensive mistake/regret. So I held off, and held off, until one day I was at a friend’s house and she had a Google Home Mini, and I looked up the price, and I thought: “Damn it, for $50, I’m going to give that thing a go. If it sucks, I can sell it on Gumtree and try a different one!”

The first Google Home Mini came – I chose the coral colour – and I LOVED IT. It was exactly what I wanted. “Play me soul music!” “Play kids’ music.” “Play happy music.” We added another Google Home, and another, and another… until we had 5. And now I can wake up, and say “Play my ‘discover weekly’ on everywhere,” (awkward phrase, I know!) and the whole house is filled with music that I like. I think it’s partially changed the way I feel about this house and about spending time here.


I like myself better when I’m reading books. I’ve maintained this habit well. Every day, it’s something I’ve gotta cross off my habits list. Doesn’t matter if I only read one page, I need to do it. And I have to put the book down after (maximum) a chapter, so that I don’t binge-read (and then don’t feel like reading any more books for days to come).

Currently reading: Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader


I also like myself better when I’m listening to podcasts. I’ve subscribed to loads, and I ask the podcasts app to “Play unplayed podcasts,” which plays them randomly. I’m at the stage now with the kids that I’m doing some drop-offs and pick-ups from their preschools, so it means I get to listen to podcasts on one leg of each trip. I listened to an interesting short podcast on hazing yesterday, then today I heard one on the science of happiness, and then one on political ideologies VS political realities.

Podcast episode recommendation: The Future of Meat (Freakonomics podcast)


Around New Year’s, spurred on by the fun of holidaying, the loving-kindness of being with close family & friends, the feeling of a fresh start, I had the energy/impetus to try some yoga at home, with the Yoga With Adriene YouTube channel. I chose a 30-day yoga challenge and was really surprised when many of the sessions were around 15 minutes long. Whaaat?! Too easy! Easy as pickles to fit in my day. I thought it was a bit of a joke actually – that my yoga skills/strength/flexibility/fitness wouldn’t improve with a mere 15 minutes per day. But I was wrong. A third of the way into it, I could feel that I was getting stronger. Halfway through it, I could feel that I was wishing it was a bit harder! By the end of it, I was going to my regular weekly yoga class and I was able to push myself so much more than before. And I feel like my posture is better, which is something I’ve been wanting to improve year after year after year and have never really gotten anywhere. I’m onto a second 30-day series by Adriene now.

I’m also trying to walk outdoors every day. Even if for 10 minutes.


I’m trying to avoid processed foods. And I’ve a ban on ham and bacon.


I hadn’t done any “skin care” before, really, except use moisturiser with SPF15. I saw the lines start to come in around my eyes and the pigmentation on my cheeks from sun damage and thought: OK, I’ll research this. The internet was full of BS advice, so I went to the library. At first I read a beauty book, which was all over the place and contained lots of dubious claims (don’t let water from the shower hit your face, only use silk pillow cases, etc). So then I came back to the internet, researched a bit more, and found some information that seemed more legit.

Anti-Aging Skin Treatments: What Really Works? by Maureen Salamon on LiveScience is a pretty good summary of some of the easiest things that people can do, although I’m not even sure it’s of fantastic quality, because it says that argireline and Matrixyl are the same thing, and from everything else I’ve read, they’re not.

Skin anti-aging strategies by Ganceviciene, Liakou, Theodoridis, Makrantonaki, and Zouboulis on PubMed Central (archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine) is more comprehensive, although it’s almost seven years old, and I imagine there’ve been some advances in the past seven years.

Soooooo I’ve upgraded my sunscreen (too late, duffer!) and have bought some other things. I’m not diving into the deep end with IPL or Botox etc. I’m trying antioxidants, peptides, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, and acid. (Not LSD.)


I’m trying St John’s Wort to see if it prevents my “waking up on the wrong side of bed” kind of days. They don’t happen that often, but I haaaaate when they do. I hate waking up and feeling like I’m in the wrong frame of mind. I do not want to be a grumpy mum. I read that irritability is a sign of mild depression, and I think that when I feel grumpy-for-no-apparent-reason, that could well be classified as irritability. I talked about it with my family doctor, and she agreed SJW (James and I call it “Social Justice Warrior”) can produce good results, but she recommended one particular brand which she said was better quality than the others. (I Googled that theory later and Google agrees with her.) I’m about 2 weeks in, and it takes at least 4 weeks to see if SJW is working.

I’ve also been using the app “Moody” to track mood and mood factors. I think the biggest factor – by far – is whether I’ve had a good sleep or not. The second biggest factor (which is not even close to sleep quality) is whether or not I’ve had some “me time” (i.e. time-out from being the primary carer). Both of those factors seem pretty obvious, but I hadn’t realised how extremely important good sleep was to my mood (good quality sleep and good length of sleep). Duh.

I really like Flow magazine and their first issue for the year had a little workbook on improving one’s life by changing some little things. One suggestion was to “change one habit daily.” So I set “Daily 1 different habit” as one of my habits in my Done tracker app and I’m trying to do that too. Choose a morning tea instead of coffee. Walk instead of drive. Talk to the person in the queue with me instead of leaving them alone. Those sorts of things. I really like “change one habit daily” as an idea.

And… after listening to the The Science of Happiness podcast today, I’m trying the end-of-day exercise “3 good things,” where you spend 10 minutes writing about 3 good things that happened that day, and why they were good.


This one’s all about being in the moment and “not saving the good silverware” and just enjoying life. Sounds so simple, right? This is the area I’m having the most trouble with. Some days present quite easy: like the other day, we were at the park with some other families from the kindergarten, and one family suggested we have fish & chips in the park (on a beautiful summer’s evening). Perfect! Enjoyable!

Then another day my kids got home from preschool and wanted to do some painting. I love painting and they love painting. So it seemed like a win-win. I started out feeling like I was providing an experience for them that they absolutely loved – but after a while, the 4YO was getting frustrated that he couldn’t mix the right colour, and the 2YO was getting paint on everything in the house, and it just… wasn’t… enjoyable.

So then I think, maybe I just need to think about how am *I* enjoying life, separate from my time with the kids? But the truth is, I don’t have much of a life of my own at the moment. I’ve been considering night classes? Or something like that? (I don’t know what to study.)

I’m trying to “follow my curiosity” too, still. It’s hard to indulge in it. At night, it feels like, “Oh I have two hours, I need to do all these tasks like reconcile the budget and plan Sky’s birthday and help out the kindergarten with this graphic design thing!” but, like last night, sometimes I have to put those tasks on hold and just get lost in the internet. And you know what I found last night? This wonderful essay by Sufjan Stevens on his childhood, How I Trumped Rudolf Steiner and Overcame the Tribulations of Illiteracy, One Snickers Bar at a Time.


19 for 2019

I was listening to the Happier podcast and Gretchen Rubin was talking about a little thing she does each year, which is to make a list of things she’d like to do (with the list number corresponding to the year number).

I thought that was pretty cute and wrote up my own 19 for 2019 without thinking too hard about it, so I’d get a list that was kinda… “of the moment.” I’ve done a couple already!

  1. 24 books / read habit
  2. Eat more plants
  3. Try the local farmers’ market
  4. Choose a home renovator
  5. Get a cool cubby house
  6. Consider something for kids to climb too
  7. Journal habit / write habit
  8. Sketchbook habit / art habit
  9. 12 new classes / workshops
  10. Choosing to enjoy life everyday*
  11. Be more eco friendly
  12. Make house even nicer e.g. no clutter
  13. Be less sedentary / daily walk
  14. Ballet posture
  15. Meet new people
  16. Play an instrument
  17. Clear desk
  18. Clear inbox**
  19. Less computer time

(And there was space left on the paper so I wrote “celebrate / luxuriate / appreciate” at the end – which are all to do with the “Choosing to enjoy life everyday” one)

* “Choosing to enjoy life everyday” is hard to explain. It’s not “choosing to be happy,” it’s more like a combination of “use the good china” and “spend out” and “live a little” and “because you’re worth it™️” and “YOLO”

** “Clear inbox” refers to a real, live, overflowing inbox next to my desk, full of papers. Not my email. My email is fine!