Outlasting the Extinction Burst

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They say the night is always darkest right before the dawn. A flame rises just before it goes out. Dying creatures have a last surge of energy just before the end. And often, when life seems hardest, something good is about to break our way—I call it “the storm before the calm.” Psychologists call it an “extinction burst.” I’m writing this with a heavy heart at a point when outworn prejudices are spiking in my country. I’m finding the concept of extinction bursts comforting, and I hope you will, too.

Here’s how it works.

Somewhere, in a university laboratory, a rat sits by a machine, pressing a […]

Anti-Anxiety Practices

“Tell me,” wrote poet Mary Oliver, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Which led meme genius, Sarah Lazarus, to ask, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious month between Covid waves?”

I laughed when I read this. Nervously.

We’re all a little nervous these days. In fact, many of us are flat-out panicked. Mental health studies show that diagnosed anxiety disorder has quadrupled during the pandemic. But just as we can minimize our risk of viral infection, we can reduce our anxiety with a few simple practices.

Anti-Anxiety [...]

Big News—Oprah’s Book Club!

I have incredible news! My latest book, The Way of Integrity, has been selected as the next Oprah’s Book Club pick! This is such a wonderful thing I’ve never let myself hope for it (well, okay… maybe a couple of times).

Have you already read the book? If so, you’ll know why I’m so excited. I put my whole soul on the page with that one in my quest to heal what’s broken in the world one life at a time.

And Oprah got it. I mean, she GETS it.

This is what Oprah said about the book:

“For over fifteen years, I [...]

On Resolutions

Many years ago, my then three-year-old daughter Katie told me, “I just met the nice fat lady who lives next door.”

“That’s great, honey,” I said. “But from now on, let’s call her Mrs. Ellis.”

Katie frowned, “What if I forget?” 

“No problem,” I said, “I’ll remind you.”

Katie thought a moment longer, then asked, “What if I refuse?”

That was one of those special parenting moments, the moments we realize we have no ultimate control over our own tiny toddlers, let alone anyone larger. 

“Oh well,” I remember thinking, “at least I can control myself.”

As if.

January is the month when many of us, overfed [...]

Long Dark Nights

When I moved to Boston, the most northerly place I’ve lived, winter hit me like a hammer. Massachusetts can get colder than a psychopath’s heart, but I could handle that. It wasn’t the cold that got me down; it was the darkness.

Living up north, I understood why so many winter holidays focus on light. Long before the first Christmas, Nordic pagans lit bonfires at the winter solstice. Hanukkah and the Hindu Diwali are both “festivals of light.” Kwanzaa is all about candles. Lighting winter’s darkness can raise our spirits no end.

But this can go too far. Electricity has allowed [...]

Conversations Across Time

I owe my mental health to thousands of different counselors, almost none of whom ever met me. What they did do was write books—books I read and reread until they became part of my psyche. Books that taught me how to be happy.

When I was young, my anxiety and depression made me somewhat unusual. These days, they’re par for the course. This is partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019, ten percent of Americans reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. In 2020, that rose to over 40 percent. Other mental health issues—insomnia, alcoholism, drug addiction—also skyrocketed.

We all [...]

Light Side Rising

So there’s this board game called Dark Side Rising. It’s based on Star Wars and features Darth Vader, so I guess you could say it’s pure fantasy. 

But every morning, when I get up and read the headlines, I smack right into things that aren’t fantasy: continuing racism, sexism, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, violent pointless arguments, the Taliban yanking Afghanistan backward into the Dark Ages. 

The dark side rising.

Sometimes, I just go right back to bed. 

But then, after lying in defeat for a while, I remember something. We live in a dualistic reality. For every up, there is a down. For every [...]

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