a few months back, i watched a documentary called “stutz.” it’s a fantastic doc, directed by jonah hill, which highlights his therapist, phil stutz, phil’s unique teaching techniques and jonah’s endearing relationship with him. i absolutely loved it and walked away with many different, simple tools to take for a spin in my own life. there are a few practices that i have maintained since watching the doc, but one in particular, i feel, has been a complete game changer for me. it’s called the “string of pearls” list.
in the doc, jonah talks about a very dark moment in his life where it was hard for him to even get out of bed in the morning. so, dr. stutz, suggested he begin keeping a list called “string of pearls,” where no task or accomplishment in his life took hierarchy over another. getting out of bed was just as important as winning an emmy or creating the next film. this idea, that no thing takes precedent over another really landed with me and allowed me to breathe a sigh of relief.
recently, i was challenged by several months of extremely low energy and simple, daily routine tasks were excruciatingly painful. i still have strings of days like this, of which i have come to accept the ebbs and flows of my cyclical nature, but sometimes, it’s all just… HARD! and for someone who’s always on the go, always accomplishing, days when all i have in me is to go from the bed to the couch doesn’t seem like any kind of accomplishment, at all.
not only that, but, for so long, the big achievements in my life have been the main driver and when those aren’t present, it can feel like there’s not a lot of excitement or accomplishment in everyday living. the dopamine high’s of big achievements from a very early age, set my “normal” to a very different level and finding excitement in simplicity and a slower pace of life has been challenging, to say the least.
if you’re not very familiar with how our dopamine system works, maybe this will help you have a better understanding…
dopamine is the neurotransmitter that drives pleasure and reward. performing on stage… a large hit of dopamine. winning awards… a large hit of dopamine. releasing an album… a large hit of dopamine. as you can see, my system was drenched in massive hits of dopamine, which has only continued to cause me chase the big achievements that provide those dopamine hits. but, what happens when i’m home and in between all of these dopamine rushes? day to day life just doesn’t seem to satisfy my brain, or it hasn’t in the past, but keeping a “string of pearls” list has been a great hack for my noggin. i look forward to adding a new moment of my day to my list. and every time i add a new task to my “string of pearls” list, i get a tiny DRIP of dopamine, which is ultimately what we want when it comes to healthy dopamine levels.
dripping dopamine (getting sunshine, exercising, learning a new task or information, cold water exposure, meditation, getting a massage, listening to music… adding a new task to our list 😊) is much safer and more sustainable in the long run than a flood of these feel good chemicals (alcohol, drugs, engaging in risky behavior, too much social media, gambling, gaming… for me, too much touring 🙃). so… every time i add a new item to my list, it provides me with a little trickle of dopamine and helps me feel accomplished in my day. i’ve begun to appreciate and love all of my little, daily tasks and have a deeper appreciation for the “mundane.”
what i’m finding, is the “mundane” isn’t really mundane at all. every daily routine task is important. the care i give my life, my body and those i love is crucial for a life that flourishes and thrives. the little things have become something i hold with as much equal weight as the enormous successes and the highest highs of life.
to give you an idea, my list looks a little something like this…
fed fleetwood ✔️
took my supplements 💊 ✔️
made eddie coffee ☕️ ✔️
wrote a blog for soe ✔️
30 min of sauna 🧖♀️ ✔️
breathwork 🌬️ ✔️
fed myself well 🍴 ✔️
not only does my list help provide me with tiny trickles of dopamine, it also helps me reflect on my day and take notice of all the supportive things i did for myself and those i love.
it’s so easy for my brain to find the one thing i did during the day that may not have been the healthiest choice, the conversation that went wrong or some mistake i made and ruminate only on THAT thing. so, in order to retrain my brain to focus more on what is positive, i take a moment every night to look back at my list and celebrate all the goodness that happened within the day. and some days, that “goodness” is moving from the bed to the couch and resting.
yes, this practice takes time, but it’s worth it and almost like gamifying your life, but with this game, there are big mental rewards. if you want to try this practice in your own life, i have a few suggestions…
step 1 – download the “day one” journaling app. you can absolutely keep a list in your notes on your phone or in an actual journal… (ha, putting pen to paper, what a novel idea, lol), but i’ve found the “day one” journaling app to be very useful in keeping my “string of pearls” list and all of my other random thoughts in one place. you can create your own folders, for which i have marked one, solely for “sting of pearls.” if you can’t tell, i really love this app!
step 2 – keep track of your day, all the little, supportive choices you make for yourself and the way you support those you love. remember, no thing takes president over another thing. no matter how small you perceive the gesture or task to be, it counts!
step 3 – look back at your list at the end of the day and celebrate your wins, celebrate you!
if you give this practice a spin, let me know what you think. it will take a moment to get into the habit of keeping your list, so stick with it.
i love you!