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The 65 Most Helpful Posts on Raptitude

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About half the emails I get are people asking if I’ve written any posts about Topic X. Gratitude. Procrastination. Depression. God. Kettlebells.

I can usually direct them to a few articles on their requested topic, because I’ve written so many, and I have a vague mental record of what they’re about and the silly titles I’ve given them.

The next most common type of email I get are people telling me that a particular post made a huge difference in their life. It was just the thing they needed to hear in that moment, and they’re so glad they found it.

Recently it occurred to me that each of these people were more likely to have missed the post in question. The only categorized index of Raptitude’s 500+ entries is my vague mental record of what I’ve written. There’s only one copy of it, and it resides in my head, which is not a very useful location for it. There must have been many more instances of readers not haphazardly finding the thing they needed to hear in that moment, even though it was just a click away.

Time to fix that. I would like this site to be a repository of skills and perspectives that help human beings navigate the strange experience of being human. And it is, but it’s about as organized as a card catalogue dumped on the library floor.

Below are 65 of Raptitude’s most helpful posts – according to me, and you — grouped by topic, with short descriptions when necessary.

I want readers to be able to come to this page any time and find something helpful on whatever they’re dealing with or thinking about. I will expand the list as additional categories and posts come to mind.

These aren’t necessarily my most popular posts, although many are. They aren’t necessarily examples of my best writing either. Rather, they are posts containing the golden wheat kernels of truth that have changed my life, and the lives of the people who write to me about them, in significant and lasting ways.

This is the good stuff. The stuff that makes a difference, the best I can tell.

***

On becoming calmer and wiser

How to Take a Break from Your Mind – A simple way to free yourself from rumination, whenever you need to.

How to Let Go – What it actually means to let something go, and how to do it.

The Only Dependable Source of Happiness – On finding happiness in using each experience to strengthen your good qualities, Stoic-style.

Where There’s Stress, There’s a Story – On seeing through stress by identifying exactly when it first appeared.

Getting What We Want Isn’t What We Really Want – Discovering the difference between happiness and the next thrill.

On getting yourself to do things

You Never Have Time, Only Intentions – Time is never possessed, only used as it comes.

How to Get Yourself to Do Things – Fun, graphical examination of the inner world of a procrastinator, and practical advice.

Four Things Procrastinators Need to Learn

How to Do It Tomorrow Instead of Never – A foolproof way to fool the part of you that puts things off.

The Only Thing You Need to Get Good At – A Stoic angle on living under a colossal to-do list.

On dealing with tough emotions

How to Feel Better When You Don’t Know What’s Wrong – A way to get to a better place in virtually any circumstance.

How to Keep Emotions From Running Your Life – On feeling your unpleasant emotions on purpose so that they lose their power over you.

A Basic Skill We Should Have Learned as Kids – On the life-changing skill of emotional literacy.

The Best Response to Criticism – A nearly miraculous way to soothe the sting and of criticism, and get over your fear of it.

On dealing with hard times

6 Helpful Reminders for the Overwhelmed Person

How to Make Bad Days Okay – On dispelling an illusion that makes bad days seem unsurvivable.

You Can Get There from Here – On accepting that the road to somewhere good always goes through here, even if here sucks.

You Must Go Do the Next Thing – On the paradox of moving forward from life-stopping events.

On connecting with other people

How to Make Friends as an Adult

A Common Habit That Costs Us Friends – Friendships need maintenance and usually one person does it all.

When in Doubt, Make Soup – How to have regular, deeply therapeutic get-togethers over soup.

A Small Habit that Could Save the World – Cultivating a better-than-indifferent sentiment towards strangers can change your life, and the whole world.

On connecting to the world around you

A Million Nameless Joys Await – On the rich galaxy of hyper-specific pleasant experiences, such as Stepping Into Your Old Familiar Boots After Taking Off Skates, and many more.

The Alternative to Thinking All the Time – Most moments give us two choices: appreciate your sensory experience, or slip into more dull, repetitive thinking.

How to Improve Your Quality of Life by 90 Percent – The third-ever Raptitude post. 2300 words on exactly how I enjoy the details that make up an ordinary day.

On staying sane in modern society

One Way to Stay Centered in a Divided World – The life-changing practice of reading opinion pieces that make you uncomfortable.

Five Things You Notice When You Quit the News

Go Deeper, Not Wider – A counter-philosophy to our culture of excess.

Most Problems Never Have to be Solved – A more graceful way to field the many “oh no” moments that occur during a modern workday.

On learning serious mindfulness skills

Note: We’re not just talking about “trying to be more present” here. We’re talking industrial-strength, life-altering attentional skills one can learn with daily practice.

A Complete Guide to Actually Getting Somewhere with Meditation – A roadmap to truly “getting” meditation.

How to Make Meditation Ten Times Easier – I believe this simple shift in approach can precipitate a breakthrough for most beginners.

How Mindfulness Creates Freedom – A graphical explanation of precisely how mindfulness meditation changes your life.

On cultivating gratitude

How to Create Gratitude – By far the most potent gratitude exercise I’ve ever come across. It will make you cry.

Gratitude Comes From Noticing Your Life, Not From Thinking About It – Awkward title, but a crucial concept for graduating from “I should feel grateful because I have a lot of great things.”

How to Become a Luckier Person Overnight – Radical gratitude experiments for exploding disappointment and self-pity completely.

Your Whole Life is Borrowed Time – See life as a bonus round, and it becomes magical.

On making ordinary experience enjoyable

How to Enjoy Life – There is a way to attend to mundane tasks that makes them go from tedious to interesting.

How to Walk Across a Parking Lot – The “highest of arts” as Thoreau put it, is to affect the quality of an ordinary day. Here’s one example.

How to Sit in a Chair and Drink Tea – Another example.

On self-control

The Gentle Art of Self-Control – Using the elegant “velvet rope” strategy for guiding yourself away from unhelpful habits.

Mindfulness is the Opposite of Neediness – On one particularly underappreciated benefit of mindfulness practice: it makes temptations less magnetic.

Wise People Have Rules For Themselves – Wise personal rules make you free.

On self-esteem

Don’t Worry, Everybody Else is Crazy Too – On the folly of trying to appear normal.

Where Self-Esteem Comes From – Certain activities make us like ourselves. Do them.

The Art of Looking Like a Fool – Our own stupidity grows when we try to hide it. Embrace your inner fool.

On staying sane around modern technology

The Life-Changing Magic of Unfollowing Almost Everybody – When you follow people on social media, choose the content you want, not the people you like.

The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed” – On rediscovering a nearly-extinct experience: being in a crowd whose attention stays in the room.

It’s Time to Put the Internet Back into a Box in the Basement – A bit of a rant, but it contains a clear vision for a healthy relationship to the online world.

On dealing with lifelong issues

With Lifelong Struggles, Effort isn’t What’s Missing – You’ve tried the bootstraps thing. It’s something else.

It’s Okay to Feel Bad for No Reason

How to Handle the Beast – On surviving visits from the Beast, whatever form it takes for you.

On dealing with other people’s bullshit (and your own)

How to Lose Your Mind Responsibly – On knowing your push-buttons and taking responsibility for them, if only for your sake.

Why The Other Side Won’t Listen to Reason – Understanding why good people disagree so strongly on moral issues.

How to Be a Good Stranger – How to defuse our reflexive judgments towards slow sidewalk-walkers and other accidental enemies.

On being a good person

Are You Good Enough? — On our unmeetable criteria for “good person,” and how to live with our own moral shortcomings.

On Getting Good at Being Good — A parable that follows trying to be as good as possible to its logical conclusion.

On getting at the Great Truth of Existence

How to See Things As They Are — A simple practice that gives you a glimpse at what the sages call emptiness.

Life is Looking Out a Window — An obscure and powerful insight: where others see your face, you have a clear, unperturbable window. Live from it.

Time is Something We Do, Not Something We Experience – How time is an invented human habit that makes the present moment into a problem.

This Will Never Happen Again – On appreciating the quality of impermanence, and the peril of overlooking it.

On reflecting on the cosmic significance of your weird little life

Where the Wealth Was All Along – On looking at your life from the day after you die.

Don’t Forget How Strange This All Is — Looked at objectively, life reveals itself to be curious and absurd, which is very liberating.

You Are the Greatest Story Ever Told – An early post on the fascinating practice of viewing your life as a mysterious and beautiful film.

A Brief Guide to Recreational Time Travel — Quintessential Raptitude stuff. Explore the fourth dimension in your mind, and watch your world explode with meaning.

Your Life is Always Just Beginning – How any moment of your life can be viewed as its very beginning.

I invite suggestions. If there are posts, or entire categories that you think should be here, let me know in the comments. I’ll update this resource as I publish new posts and rediscover old ones.

***

Photo by Jess Bailey

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A Raptitude Community

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Natacha February 2, 2021 at 1:32 am

Thank you for that David! I will have some waiting time in a waiting room today, so it’s perfect for me

Levi February 2, 2021 at 2:16 am

Great initiative! I see some of my old favorites but also some I have missed. Will check them out. Also, this is a good outline for the book I (we) want you to write. Just saying. :-)

Marian Lund February 2, 2021 at 2:22 am

Oh, WOW! What a gift. Can’t wait to dive in. Thankyou!!!

Kevin February 2, 2021 at 3:45 am

If anyone is feeling overwhelmed with doomscrolling on Twittter, David’s article about the “Magic of unfollowing almost everyone” is a must read. I used the method he describes and it made my time on the platform much more enjoyable.

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 10:22 am

It’s a pretty good place to start. The process is straightforward and fun. For me it created an immediate and lasting change in the social media experience. Wish I’d done it a decade earlier.

Brian February 2, 2021 at 7:58 am

First thought: your writing could be a graduate course in psychology. In being human. You could call it “How to Human”. Second thought: I will read every one of these blogs and journal what I got out of each one. Third, I will forward this to everyone I hold dear to me–and everyone I avoid holding dear to me. Be prepared for an onslaught of subscribers–I’m sure I won’t be the only one doing sending this on.
David, you are a gift. Thank you for being generous with yourself. You make a difference.

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 10:44 am

Thanks for being such a supporter and advocate Brian.

eema February 2, 2021 at 8:11 am

thanks, david.
i so enjoy your writtings.
it does nudge me in a better direction
regars eema

Linda Lesperance February 2, 2021 at 8:45 am

David, Silly question here….why not put this brilliant list of posts into a book form. I know I would certainly purchase one. Thanks. Linda

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 10:21 am

That’s a good question. I have struggled with the notion of repackaging or rereleasing old material, but I’m starting to get over that. I always feel like it has to be new. But that doesn’t really make sense. I have twelve years of material that most readers have never seen. It would also give me a chance to revise the clunkier ones.

Nina February 2, 2021 at 10:33 am

Same here, and I would probably buy copies for all of my friends.

Seriously, how does David NOT have a five-book deal with Harper Collins??? It blows my mind. His writing is so lucid, so useful, so direct, so full of memorable tricks and ideas. If I owned a book by David, I would have to stop myself from highlighting every freaking sentence.

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 10:36 am

Aw thanks Nina. I will shed some light on this in an upcoming post.

Nina Charest February 2, 2021 at 11:01 am

Intriguing! :)

Don’t get me wrong, I love the simplicity and “purity” of what you’re doing now, so don’t change anything if you don’t want to! But at the same time, I would love for more people to know about you. Everything you post is thoughtful, honest and a pleasure to read, and tends to distill things down to immediately applicable shifts in mindset. (“Feel the air fully” has been helpful to me on countless occasions!)

devo February 2, 2021 at 10:44 am

conspicuous by its absence, physical exercise (not even kettlebells) made the 65 cut

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 11:17 am

Ah, good call. That’s a good idea for a new category.

Steve Mays February 2, 2021 at 11:02 am

Your wisdom has meant a great deal to me. thank you.
I quickly scanned previous comments and didn’t see any reference to tags but that would seem an obvious way to access your previous posts by subject.

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 11:14 am

Hi Steve. I have considered tags but there are two big problems.

Firstly, I’d have to go through all 500+ posts and tag them, and that’s… not happening.

The other issue is that I have never found tags very useful. The’re too general. For example, there might be 85 posts that would receive the “mindfulness” tag, but only about five or six of them are especially helpful to someone who wants my best advice on learning mindfulness. Tags refer to general topic areas, but not the purpose of the post, or the benefit of reading it. Every time I’ve searched a blog by tags I get a bunch of what I’m not looking for. So I’d rather categorize them by what they specifically will help people do, and only select the most helpful ideas.

steve mays February 2, 2021 at 11:20 am

Good points. FWIW, I’ve used categories and tags (WordPress) to bring some order to the 6,000+ posts (almost 20 years!) on my blog. Don’t know that tags have been helpful to the 5 or 6 people who read my blog, but handy for me. A way to see what has been important to me over the years. Again, thanks for Raptitude

https://www.smays.com/tag-cloud/

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 11:28 am

Wow! If I had started from the beginning, with very specific tags like you’re using, it might have worked for me. But that ship has sailed haha.

Always good to see your avatar in the comments Steve.

Brenda February 2, 2021 at 11:41 am

I had been hoping for a Raptitude book one day, one that I would gift to every friend. Perhaps one day! Meanwhile, I will so enjoy and share this curated collection.

Micaela February 2, 2021 at 12:24 pm

Thank you for this.
Raptitude is precious to me and i save most of your posts and some the comments that they generate. I might not follow for weeks, but it makes me feel welll to know that they’re there safe and ready and i can read and reread anytime i want, need or have the quality time to dedicate to them as i do to all people and things i cherish.
Raptitude makes a difference whether or not i ressonate to everything you write, as i very often do. It is like a sibling or friend’s number i can call to talk about thigs, big or tiny.
You make a difference to many people in as many walks of like, and i want to thank you for myself at least this once. You are a wonderful person, kind and generous (this post illustrates how you go even further to organise everything so that we can reach out easily what might apply better), you write in an enlightened but also visceral way, you’re caring, positive and funny.
So thank you for you, David.

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 3:25 pm

Aw thanks Micaela. Enjoy the posts!

Patricia February 2, 2021 at 12:27 pm

This is a great idea. It will make it easier to go back and find things that were helpful, but I’ve forgotten.

Karolina February 2, 2021 at 1:12 pm

Hi, David! Just wanted to thank you for making this list. I actually wasn’t even aware that you don’t have one, but I do remember looking for some specific posts of yours, and sometimes not being able to find them through your search field. This is so much better because people will be able to read many things they wouldn’t specifically search for. I hope you’ll eventually include and categorize all of your posts – every one of them is worth reading and could change somebody’s life. Keep up the great work! :)

David Cain February 2, 2021 at 3:29 pm

I’m going to put the best ones into this index, anyway. There are a lot of ideas that I don’t really agree with or make use of anymore, and I want to point people to the durable, most useful ones. There are a lot more that belong here though, and I’m glad I have a place to collect them now.

Elizabeth M. February 2, 2021 at 1:28 pm

Oh, it is like Santa has recovered from his busy season, and delivered a bonus bag of gifts of things to think about.

It is snowing all day today, and then switching to eight days of bitter cold. This bag of gifts is just in time for a meteorologically designated reading week.

Suzy February 2, 2021 at 1:35 pm

This list, and your gift of clarity… are so beneficial to me that I’ve just increased my Patreon subscription. thank you!

David Cain February 3, 2021 at 10:48 am

Thank you Suzy!

Karla February 2, 2021 at 4:26 pm

Upon recently discovering Raptitude, I’ve jumped around the archives choosing to read posts based on the titles. I soon learned your titles aren’t too literal (much like Led Zeppelin song titles). I enjoy your writing so much that I decided to read every one of your posts in chronological order. After reading each one, I summarize in my words what it means to me, or what strikes me as important. My summaries are about 3 to 4 short paragraphs or just several bullet points, one post per page. My little notebook is like a little bible that I can read any page and be reminded how to be a better human. It’s not indexed, so finding particular subjects takes time. I’m only up to July 2009 and still reading!

David Cain February 3, 2021 at 10:50 am

Wow, that is a major project, but others have done it. Just as a warning, there are also quite a few lame throwaway posts in the beginning, before I started to use a quality over quantity approach. I’m sure you’ll know which ones I mean :)

Hardeep February 3, 2021 at 12:26 am

Excellent helpful posts posted.
Every post is well thought and very apt.
It has been a great reading.

Gonzalo February 5, 2021 at 10:23 am

Thank you very much, David! Excellent for rereading and re-enjoying your writing. All best for you!

Adam K February 6, 2021 at 3:27 pm

This is absolutely getting bookmarked and shared. Thanks for putting it together.

My all-time favorite is Welcome to the Future. Looks like that didn’t make the cut, but there’s a treasure trove of goodness here.

David Cain February 8, 2021 at 12:05 pm

I forgot about that one! It is a favorite of mine too. The tone might be a little too snarky for a “most helpful” list :)

David February 8, 2021 at 6:02 am

Thanks for doing this David – always good to revisit your writings, and now that they’re categorised by “the way my mind is currently making my life miserable” I can quickly find some helpful thoughts! Amused to notice that the piece that brought me to Raptitude is missing – “Procrastination is not Laziness”. No exaggeration to say that reading it changed my life. Keep up the good work, all the best!

David Cain February 8, 2021 at 12:20 pm

You’re right, I should add that one. It is way too long, but I do get a lot of those sorts of emails about it.

a.m. February 11, 2021 at 1:03 am

In one post (or even in the comment section) you mentioned the book “The Now Habit” and it has helped me a lot. The new perspective on procrastination is a real game-changer. So, thank you, and yes, more articles about procrastination are always welcome!

Rachel Massey February 9, 2021 at 3:22 pm

It’s good to know that, in your head at least, God and Kettlebells are next to each other.

Joao February 12, 2021 at 11:53 am

A great resource. David, please include “A Day in the Future” on this list. It’s just the best. And for people who haven’t read it, you won’t regret it:

https://www.raptitude.com/2011/01/a-day-in-the-future/

Allan B. Fein February 14, 2021 at 2:15 pm

David, I wholeheartedly agree with all of the comments / people who have mentioned the contributions you have made to so many lives. Reading the wonderful praises literally brought tears to my eyes. You are a gift to so many. I have been a follower of Raptitude for many years and you have contributed to my wonderful life many many times. Thank you so much David.

David Cain February 15, 2021 at 9:38 am

Allan! Always so good to hear from you. Writing this blog has been an incredible experience, but what has made it magical is getting to meet long time readers in person, and getting to know a bit of the human behind the names and avatars. That’s what has made it real for me. I’m looking forward to the world opening up again. Lunch is on me next time :)

Rebekah Joseph February 15, 2021 at 1:48 pm

I don’t know what category this post would fall under, but “16 things I know are true but haven’t quite learned yet” is one that I refer to over and over and over again.

niloo March 5, 2021 at 8:35 am

This list, and your gift of clarity
thank you!

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