Researchers asked hundreds of people what advice they'd give to their younger selves and it turns out we think about this a lot.
If you could travel back in time and give your younger self some advice, what would you say? New research suggests mulling over this question is a very common human experience.
Robin Kowalski was so “laser-focused on school” as a teen that she’d tell herself to lighten up a bit and enjoy life more.
“I would have stopped to smell the roses, and that’s a message I shared with my own children,” Kowalski, 55, a psychology professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, told us.
Kowalski is the lead author of the first study to look at what kind of advice people would offer to their younger selves if they could.
It turns out we think about this stuff a lot, with a third of adults pondering the subject “spontaneously” at least once a week. The experience can also be therapeutic: The Child Mind Institute in New York City has a #MyYoungerSelf campaign inviting people who grew up with a mental health disorder to share messages of hope.
Even Oprah Winfrey, 65, thinks about what she'd say: She'd tell her younger self to "relax, stop being afraid" and to believe "everything is going to be alright."
On Taking Care of Yourself:
Many people have trouble being kind to themselves, here are some common threads people wish they could have told their younger versions with hindsight:
- “Be kinder to yourself.”
- "Don't eat that. Just don't."
- "Eat your veggies."
- "Drink more water."
- "Do more yoga, don't forget to take a moment for yourself to breathe. You don't breathe, you die."
- “Always know your worth.”
- “The world is bigger than you think it is and your worries aren't as important as you think they are, just be you.”
- “Don't worry if you look different, or feel you look different, from most other people. There is much more to you than what others see on the surface.”
- “Don’t get so caught up in the difficulties of the moment since they are only temporary.”
- “Don’t dwell on the past. Just because it was that way doesn’t mean it will be that way again.”
And our favorites (coincidentally most relevant):
- "Wash your hands more often."
- "Germs suck. SANITIZE EVERYTHING!"
Curious to learn how you can keep yourself protected by bad bugs and germs and stay healthy?