This article was published in partnership with KidSpirit, a nonprofit magazine created by and for 11-to-17-year-olds to explore life’s big questions.
Thousands of years ago, long before our age of smartphones and mindful everything, human beings had to rely on their instincts to survive. Taking a wrong turn in the woods might lead straight into a wolf’s den, so these early humans prioritized the identification of dangerous locations in their brains over more pleasurable places, such as a blackberry patch.
But even though we’re unlikely to encounter a wolf’s den on our walk to school, our brains are still wired to dwell on the bad. Take in the Good: Skills for Staying Positive and Living Your Best Life, a new book by the psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher Gina Biegel, is all about how we can move away from these ancient instincts to experience life’s positive moments just as often as, if not more often than, the negative ones.
In this how-to book for teens, Biegel leads readers through a series of fifty mindfulness exercises that include body scans and mindful walking. Biegel has her readers writing, reflecting, and paying attention to their thoughts and emotions in every single activity. In fact, there’s not a page in this book that didn’t make me feel a little bit lighter. You can write about yourself on every third page or so, and for the most part you’ll be writing about things that make you feel good.
Life in high school is fast-paced, and it can sometimes feel like there’s only enough time to go to school, do homework, and sleep. I read this book in the beginning of my junior year, and one idea that really resonated with me was that stress is like waves in the ocean. In order to manage stress, you must notice and ride these waves—and then find a way to “drop anchor.” Now, when I find myself in a stressful situation, I visualize each wave coming up and myself floating over it.
Take in the Good shows us that it’s possible to let go of our biggest stressors, embrace the good things in our lives, and remember what went well, not what went wrong. Maybe by following these teachings we won’t dwell too much on the wolf’s den (or an upcoming exam). Maybe we’ll think instead about how sweet those blackberries tasted in the hot afternoon sun.
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