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Post image for The 65 Most Helpful Posts on Raptitude

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.

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Post image for Clean the Tiles, Not the Floor

One advantage to having stark checkerboard floor tiles in your bathroom is that it makes the floor much easier to clean.

I pondered this midway though a home-based silent retreat, as I attempted to clean my bathroom like a monk would – intentionally, without the aid of podcasts, or even daydreams.

I was lying on my side, getting to the trickier tiles beneath the clawfoot tub and its small maze of exposed pipes. Gently contorting myself to get my arm in there, I was surprised at how the task wasn’t even a fraction as unpleasant as I had imagined.  

All I ever had to do was choose a tile and wipe it down, which is always easy. Then do the same with an adjacent tile.

As long as zeroed in on the current tile, rather than think about the dozens of tiles I had yet to clean, there was minimal discomfort and no tedium. Whenever my mind started to drift that way, I remembered my elegant strategy: look at a tile, and clean that tile. As far as I could tell, nothing more was required.

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Post image for How to Make Friends as an Adult

I have two aims for this post: to dispel one of our most harmful cultural myths, and to help make you at least one lifelong friend.

It’s worth saying again that good friends are the best thing in the world. They make the good times great and the bad times not so bad. They make you wiser, kinder, smarter, and more interesting. They help you develop your strengths and survive your weaknesses. Nothing else I know of does all of those things.  

Friendship is precious, but it doesn’t have to be rare or elusive. You may have been told, like I was, that it is “very difficult” or even “virtually impossible” to make friends once you’re done school. After a few decades of heeding this warning, I now recognize it as a self-fulfilling nonsense belief we should all ignore. Since abandoning this myth, I’ve had a steady stream of new friends and friend circles, and it is probably the most fulfilled area of my life.

Before we continue, a crucial point: I am not especially talented at friend-making. I have a history of social anxiety and general awkwardness, and I possess correspondingly underdeveloped small-talk skills. I miss obvious cues and say things at the wrong moment. I’m definitely in a lower bracket of the natural friend-making ability scale.

And that’s a very good reason to listen to my advice, rather than that of a networking expert who worked in real estate for thirty years. If I’m able to make friends as an adult, chances are excellent that you can too.  

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Post image for Own the Tools

When I need to look up a word, most of the time I do it in a paper dictionary. 

I’m pretty quick at flipping to the right place, and I try to get quicker each time. However, it will never be as quick as typing the word into Google.

My switch back to paper wasn’t motivated by cantankerousness. It wasn’t a romantic thing or a hipster thing, or an “I love the smell of books” thing. I just found that after years of relying on online dictionaries, a real one offers a better experience in every way except the speed.

The whole experience is cleaner and more purposeful. A paper dictionary contains complete answers for almost any conceivable “What does this word mean” problem — and nothing else. No matter which word has you puzzled, the real dictionary has inside it a small patch of print that will perfectly solve your issue. It exists only to deliver this solution, and has no ulterior motives.

While using this tool, you will not accidentally start responding to political hot takes, or adjusting your fantasy football lineup. The paper dictionary, like a decent pen or an oven mitt, was designed to deliver only what you need in the moment you access it – knowledge of what “obtuse” or “dysphoria” mean — so that you can carry on with your work.

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Post image for News is the Last Thing We Need Right Now

Forget about 2020 and its particular themes for a moment.

Imagine you lived in a small, relatively peaceful town somewhere, a thousand years ago. For the vast majority of each day, you’re focused on your immediate surroundings: your work and the people around you.

However, you do sometimes hear about events that happened elsewhere. The local butcher was reportedly robbed by thugs last night. A boy in another town fell into a well and drowned. Far to the east, fighting has broken out between two neighboring kingdoms.

You didn’t experience any these events, but you understand that they happened. It is unpleasant to hear such accounts, but you’re glad to know a bit more of what’s happening out there. You now watch for robbers when you visit the market. You tell your kids not to play near open wells. When you go to the tavern, you ask for updates on the foreign conflict, in case it worsens.

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Post image for How to Handle the Beast

The Beast showed up around Christmas last year, and stayed till April.

During those months it was difficult to get anything done, or believe getting things done was a thing I could still do.

You might know the Beast too. It has many forms. The Doom-Anxiety Beast. The Regret Beast. The Despair Beast. The Shame Beast. Psychologists have names for some of them.

Whatever the form, the Beast has certain characteristics. It saps your sense of agency and forward motion. It robs you of what might feel like your birthright: the basic ability to function to society’s standards. You lose the sense that you can steer the boat.

The Beast may stay away for weeks or months or years. Then one Thursday afternoon, when one too many things goes wrong, it darkens your doorway again and you know that life might be different for a while.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that’s a good thing. Many of you do though. For what it’s worth, I’ll share what I’ve learned about tangling with the Beast.  

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Post image for Three Recession-Proof Investments for 2021

Tough economic times are no barrier to getting rich, unless you believe monetary wealth is the only kind.

Monetary wealth is the only kind of wealth that has no intrinsic value. It only gives easier access to some of the stuff that actually provides well-being: shelter, tools, social status, freedom from certain kinds of stress and toil, pleasures and conveniences, and opportunities to do what’s meaningful for you.  

If piles of money are not forthcoming — or even if they are — why not go directly for the intrinsic value?

Given the hobbled state of the economy, here are three lucrative areas to invest in, requiring no monetary capital. Unlike stocks or mutual funds, they tend to perform better during times of hardship and recession, providing direct gains to well-being in both the short- and long-term.

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Post image for How to Gradually Become a More Relaxed Person

I’ve tried many getting-to-sleep tips over the years, and one of the best involves vigorous stretching in bed.

Lying on your back, you extend your arms and legs out, squeezing your butt and pointing your toes, stretching in both directions like you’re a giant banana. This is to create muscle tension throughout the whole body.

You hold the stretch for a few seconds. When you release it, a certain feeling that is almost the opposite of tension — a feeling of relief and relaxation — floods into the body. It feels great, and seems to prime the body for rest.

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Post image for How Are You?

In March, just after things got serious, I asked in a post how you were doing, and what life looked like from where you are.

There were over 600 comments from all over the world, each person reporting on their inner and outer environment, as it appeared then.

Time felt so slow that month. But then summer happened, and we each tumbled onward into our weird new normals, learning what we actually need to stay sane and what we don’t. Tears were shed. Souls were searched. Pizzas were ordered. Zooms were Zoomed.

Then I blinked, looked up from my desk, and discovered that seven months had passed, Flight-of-the-Navigator style. The tree outside is now caked in snow, I have a beard, and according to the math I am in my forties.

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Post image for The Healthy Emotion We Don’t Get Enough Of

With winter approaching, I’m brainstorming ways to help myself, my friends and family, and my readers to stay sane.

Darker, shorter, colder days are already harder on our mental health, but this time they’ll be combined with the isolating effect of pandemic lockdown. So we’re looking at a new challenge level.

I’m not yet sure what my full Winter Sanity Program will entail, but it definitely involves lots of walks.

Going for a walk is an age-old salve for many ills: isolation, disappointment, drowsiness, worry, heartbreak, writer’s block, general stagnation, and boredom. The activity of walking benefits the mind and body in ways we’re still discovering, due to its all-star ingredient list of fresh air, exercise, change of scenery, contact with nature, and contemplation time.

A recent study has identified another beneficial ingredient of walking: the emotion of awe.

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