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Pop Culture

Legendary writer Kurt Vonnegut cleverly explains how to write the 3 stories everyone loves

Notice anything similar?

kurt vonnegut, fiction writing, story structure

Kurt Vonnegut explains the shapes of stories.

To be a great fiction writer requires understanding basic story structures and being clever enough to disguise them so your audience doesn’t know they’re watching or reading something they’ve seen before.

Academics suggest that there are only a finite number of plots and structures, but that number varies based on who’s doing the talking.

Writer Kurt Vonnegut, best known for his satirical works on American politics and culture, including “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Cat’s Cradle” and “Sirens of Titan,” was obsessed with the shapes of stories and summed up his views in one powerful sentence: “The fundamental idea is that stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper and that the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.”


In the video below, Vonnegut explains why the shapes of three different types of stories, from “person gets into trouble” to “boy meets girl” to “Cinderella,” can all be summed up on two axes: the Y represents good and bad fortune, the X represents the beginning and end of a story.

The first question is where the main character or protagonist starts their journey. Are they in a state of good or bad fortune, and how does that change from beginning to end?

“Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it,” Vonnegut says with a smirk.

The video is an intriguing look into the mind of a highly original writer and gives excellent insights into the basics of storytelling.

Sandhya with other members at a home meet-up

South Asian women across the country are finding social support in a thriving Facebook group devoted to them.

The Little Brown Diary has over 40,000 members, primarily between the ages of 20 and 40, and 100 subgroups devoted to niche topics. Some of these include mental health, entrepreneurship, career advice, and more.

Members of the group can discuss their experiences as South Asians, inner conflicts they face, and even bond over their favorite hobbies. The Facebook group has become a safe place for many of its members to find support in the most transformative periods of their lives. These include:

  • Supporting women in domestic violence and sexual assault circumstances
  • Sharing mental health and suicide resources
  • Connecting members to support each other through grief and loss
  • Helping members find the strength to get a divorce or defend their decision to be childfree
  • Helping them navigate career changes
  • Helping to find friends in a new city
  • Finding a community of other neurodivergent people in their shoes

“I joined the online community because I was looking for that sense of belonging and connection with others who shared similar experiences and backgrounds,” expressed Sandhya Simhan, one of the group admins.

“At the time, I was pregnant and eager to find other desi moms who could offer support, advice, and friendship during this significant life transition,” she says.

Another group admin, Henna Wadhwa, who works in Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., even uses the group to inspire new areas of research, including a study on ethnic-racial identity at work.

“I was surprised and excited for a group that brought together South Asian/brown women. I wanted to meet other women with similar research interests and who wanted to conduct academic research on South Asian American women,” Wadhwa says.


While social media isn’t always the best place to spend our time, studies show that the sense of community people get from joining online groups can be valuable to our mental health.

“The presence of LBD has allowed so many South Asian women to truly feel safe in their identity. The community we have built encourages each person to authentically and freely be themselves. It is a powerful sight to witness these South Asian women be vulnerable, break barriers, and support each other in their journeys,” says Wadhwa.

Hena and Neesha

According to an article in Psychology Today, a study on college students looked at whether social media could serve as a source of social support in times of stress. Turns out, these students were more likely to turn to their social media network rather than parents or mental health professionals for connection. The anonymity of virtual communities was also seen as appealing to those experiencing depression.

“The social support received in the online group promotes a sense of well-being and was associated with positive relationships and personal growth,” the article states.

This is why finding a community of like-minded individuals online can have such a positive impact in your life.

“There are almost half a million women in our target audience (millennial South Asians in North America) and about 10% of them are part of LBD. It’s been a game-changer for our community. LBD is all about embracing your true self and living your most authentic life. It's amazing to see how the members support, relate, learn, and lift each other,” says Wadhwa and Simhan.

Three woman walking down city streets.

A forensics student named Alex recently shared vital information on TikTok that all women should know. She detailed the specific signs male predators are looking for when they choose a victim.

Her video is based on a 2013 study entitled “Psychopathy and Victim Selection: The Use of Gait as a Cue to Vulnerability.” For the study, researchers interviewed violent criminals in prison and asked them the type of women they’d be most likely to victimize.

The study found that the criminals all agreed that how the woman walked was a deciding factor.


“What the selected women all had in common was the way that they walked and how they generally held themselves in public,” Alex says in the video she later deleted but has been shared broadly across the platform.

@gatita_bunee

How to walk for your safety! #women #safety #tips #walking #kidnapping #murder #attacks #fyp

“The selected women all had a similar ‘awkwardness’ to the way that they walked and carried themselves,” she continued. “The first part of the woman had a gait that was a little bit too small for their body, which resulted in smaller steps, slower speed and their arms more typically to their sides, or crossed, as well as their heads being down and not really taking in their general surroundings, which indicated three different things to these potential attackers.”

The woman’s body language signaled to attackers that she was fearful and anxious and because her head was down, she'd be easier to surprise. Alex then described the second type of woman the criminals said they’d target.

“On the other hand, the other part of the women that were selected had a gait that seemed a bit too big for their body and their arms tended to flail to the sides and seemed just overly awkward,” Alex continued.

The woman with the bigger gait signaled to potential attackers that she may be clumsy and won’t put up a good fight. “Because their arms were out and flailing to the side, it left the lower body open to, again, come around and grab them,” she said.

woman walking, predators, crime

Two women walking down the street.

via Mâide Arslan/Pexels

The video was helpful because Alex also discussed the types of women the attackers wouldn’t pursue. Alex says these women “walked with a gait that tended to be more natural to their body.” She adds they moved at the same pace as those in the immediate area, with their shoulders back and chins up and asserting a general sense of confidence.

“Essentially, the women that were not selected gave off an energy that said, ‘Don’t mess with me. I will put up a good fight.’ And that’s why they weren’t selected,” Alex said. “I know that it sounds silly, but something as simple as the way you walk or the way that you carry yourself in public could determine the likelihood that you become a target of a predator.”

Alex concluded her video by sharing an acronym that can help prevent women from being victimized while in public: STAAR.

S(tride) — Walk with a natural stride to your body and not too far apart or short.

T(all) — Stand tall. Keep your shoulders back and your chin up. Assert a natural confidence and dominance to those around you.

A(rms)—Swing your arms naturally by your sides, avoiding keeping them too close to your body or flailing out of your natural range of motion.

A(wareness) — Stay aware of your surroundings. Take notice if something feels or looks off.

R(elax): Stay cool, calm, and collected and don’t indicate to a potential attacker that you feel or see something is wrong.







Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Family

Here are 13 of the 'most surprising' things people learned after getting divorced

"The person you married is not the same person you divorce."

A couple is having a hard time in therapy.

Studies show that after the death of a spouse, getting a divorce is the second most stressful life event a person can have. It’s even worse than going to jail or losing one’s job.

Going through a divorce can be incredibly stressful because it involves significant changes in nearly every aspect of life. The process can feel overwhelming, from emotional upheaval and legal complexities to financial adjustments and parenting challenges. It often means redefining personal identity and future plans, which requires time, patience and support from loved ones to navigate successfully.

However, there can be many positive sides to getting a divorce, the biggest being able to get away from someone who is causing you grief. It can also be a means of escaping a tough financial situation or distancing yourself from toxic in-laws.


Getting divorced can also open the door for some much-needed personal change.

A Redditor who goes by BondEmilyBond asked divorced people on the AskReddit subforum, “What's the most surprising thing you learned from getting divorced?” Many people were happily surprised by some of the lessons they learned from getting divorced and the positive outcomes they never expected.

While the post could have easily turned dour, many shared that getting a divorce allowed them to grow in ways they never expected. The separation was also an opportunity for many of their spouses to grow as well.

Here are 13 of the “most surprising” things people learned from getting a divorce.

1. "The person you married is not the same person you divorce." — Royal_Arachnid_2295

"Very true! One thing I learned getting divorced fairly young (33) was that we only have one life, you have to make sure you’re happy. Marriage was not the partnership I expected, especially after having kids. I was doing the majority of the household work while also doing the majority of the childcare and working full time. I suddenly realized this couldn’t be the rest of my life. And things are so much better now." — Klopije

2. Sometimes, everyone needs to change

"How I DID need to change certain parts of myself and my life, but I was not the entire problem in our marriage." — Ughfinethisusername

3. "I expected to be heartbroken but mostly just felt relieved." — Oddwithoutend

"What is worst than being alone? Wishing you were alone." — AnnatoniaMac

"When the time came for me to spend my first night in my shi**y apartment, I unlocked the door, walked in, sat down on my couch, turned on my TV and then it hit me: No matter what I did that night, nobody was going to yell at me. And I felt so much relief in that moment, I was free and I didn't even realize that I hadn't been. I came to love that shitty apartment. My daughter and I lived there for three years (she's with me 50% of the time) and those were three of the happiest years of my life." — Spcoalpresense

4. You're never completely rid of your ex

"Not from my experience, but having children with your ex means you're not really rid of them, ever. They will always be around unless the children choose to remove themselves from their lives at some point. That includes the extended family, too, so it's a package deal at every event. It's not like they magically go away after the kids turn 18, though you do get to deal with them a little less." — Magicrowantree

"This is true, but I learned that it's much, much, much easier to be divorced with kids than it is to be unhappily married with kids." — Rusty0123

5. "I felt even more lonely when I was married." — bunbunzinlove

"First husband and I went to see 'The Misfits,' the 1961 Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable movie at the vintage movie house. At the very beginning, she's getting a Nevada divorce, and tells her husband: 'If I'm going to be alone, I want to be by myself.' He doesn't realize it, but that was a turning point in our marriage; that line floored me." — Flahdgal

6. Lawyers are expensive

"Sometimes you have to pay them to be able to communicate with someone you’re not able to communicate with." — Youngest_Syndrome_78

"Your lawyer is as expensive as your relationship was terrible/you or your ex is stubborn." — Youngest_Syndrome_78

7. Being alone is freedom

"How content I could be on my own. Never having to compromise throughout the mundane moments because you are living alone is very freeing." — Independent_Sunshine

"You know what I feel when I walk into my small divorce apartment? Peace! Blessed peace. No one's criticizing me. I'm not responsible for someone else's disappointing life choices. I am not his rage sponge, anymore. Goodbye, McMansion in the suburbs. Don't miss you." — Kit3399

8. The stress can be unbearable

"You can almost die from grief and disappointment." — HeartofGold48

"During one of our last fights, I fainted, fell backward on the concrete floor, and got a concussion and MRI. Apparently, stress can do that. The physical impact of divorce is something I never expected." — Haunting_Cattle2138

9. True love is awesome

"Pretty much how awesome life can be with a caring, kind, supportive spouse. I had no idea how bad I had it until the old one abandoned ship, and I met the true love of my life." — Relax-Enjoy

"This is so true. If you’ve been in an emotionally abusive relationship for a long time, experiencing real love is just astounding." — InactiveUser247

10. Unhealthy can be normalized

"You know, I remember at one point in my marriage thinking 'I guess this is just how it works.' After being unhappy for so long, it just seemed like the normal. But I've definitely found out that no, it's not how it works! A relationship can be happy and supportive, without you feeling like you have to do all the work!" — Anothercrockett

"Same. I put my emotional and physical needs on a shelf, just chalking it up as 'my lot'. The rest of my life was great (kids, family, friends, house, money, pool)... It wasn't until she dropped the D-word on me at the beginning of the year that I let my feelings of neglect out." — IBSeanB

11. You're more attractive than you thought

"How many men I knew that wanted to date me lol." — OK_Acanthistta5022

"My current partner also had this realization. The moment her separation became public then certain 'friends' were circling. She was still of the opinion that women can have truly platonic male friends, which they can, but the majority I believe have other motives." — LordBiscuits

12. Couples are great at putting on a facade

"When I got a divorce, it turns out it was the beginning of a spree of divorces in my neighborhood among my friends. In a 2 year period, 5 couples I knew in my neighborhood got divorces. All of them, to a tee, were couples that I thought were very happily married. It sparked a lot of frank and open conversations among me and my newly-divorced friends about marriage, relationships and goings-on that I had never had before. Turns out I was living a really dull and sheltered life. I was astonished at how much infidelity was going on, for example. There were shenanigans going on everywhere. ... So the takeaway for me was, couples can be very good at putting on a fake front of happiness." — framptal_tromwibbler

13. You can still be friends

"You can still be mates. It's not all 'burn your ex to the ground' sh**e. It is perfectly possible to get on with everyone (including in-laws). Sometimes marriages just do not work out." — CarpetGripperRod

"Plus, the new partner can actually be pretty ace! She’s wonderful to my kids and has always treated me with nothing but love and respect. My kids come first and I can’t see any downside to them having more love in their lives." — Substantial-Land-248

Woman shares 'immaculate' new way men hit on women

Relationships are as old as time itself. And nearly all of them have awkward beginnings. For men, there is often the expectation of taking action. You can't go too far without crossing ethical boundaries but if you're not assertive enough, good luck waiting to be swept off your feet. And for women, well, let's not even get started. As simple as love and attraction may appear on the surface, in practice they are anything but.

If it's a man approaching a woman, oftentimes the woman is unsure how the interaction will end should she not be interested. There are all sorts of reasons for apprehension on the woman's part that some men looking to court may not fully understand. But one woman has taken to social media to share her excitement over a "new way of hitting on women," which may help ease concerns. The woman goes by the name Tee Rex on Instagram and eagerly tells viewers from her car about an experience she just had.


"I just got hit on and I hate getting hit on but the way that this person hit on me was immaculate and I want to share because I feel like men are doing a tough, there's a lot of hate going towards men who are literally just trying to find love," the woman says.

She explains that he did "the normal thing" when men hit on women but immediately after asking for her phone number, the man says, "I am safe to reject."

"Just taking the extra steps to make a woman feel safe and respected goes a long way (sadly) so I’m glad you had this experience vs the far too common unsafe experience," one commenter said in response.

"Wow impressive and I would be even more impressed because he’s also demonstrating he has self worth enough not to lose it if he is rejected. Good quality," another woman praises.

"I thought this was going to be another bullsh*t tip… but I’m definitely adding this to my arsenal," one man writes.

Some men took the time to explain the concept to other men who are skeptical.

"Fellas if you haven't heard numbers of stories about how dudes be aggressive and retaliatory when getting rejected, you're living under a rock. A woman was recently murdered for this (not the first). The problem is we take this personally and it might seem ludicrous because some of us ourselves know that we're not like that. That still doesn't dismiss the fact that it happens A LOT to the point women have to plot ways of avoiding it. But this is social media, we gotta be contrary lol," one man explains.

"Crazy the number of dudes who see this as self-deprecating vs a reflection of both his social awareness and self-confidence. And for those who see this as defeatist - is it really a win if she’s only not saying no because she’s AFRAID," another man asks.

While saying the exact phrase, "I am safe to reject" may not be everyone's ideal line, if a man knows he wouldn't pose a risk to women after being rejected, it wouldn't hurt to put that out front.

Several men in the comments shared that they say things like, "It's cool if you say no" or "No pressure to say yes." These small phrases give women who may be feeling afraid from past experiences a sense of relief and the room to give an honest answer.

Pop Culture

17 'unwritten rules' people live by to make the world a better place

Golden rules of kindness, compassion, and good ol' common sense.

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

Kindness is simple. But in our complicated world, it’s easy to forget. That’s why we have catchy little words of wisdom, like “do unto others” or “be the change you’d like to see in the world,” to help us remember the power of connecting to our hearts and each other.

These proverbs might resonate differently, depending on an individual’s values, but ultimately they all say the same thing: choose to be a good person. And honestly, whatever rhyme gets us there is a good one.

Recently, user MeringueOne7397 asked the Reddit community: “What is an unwritten rule that you always follow?” and the responses are a brilliant example of this concept. While some answers are perhaps a bit more poetic, others are completely mundane. But they all point towards a path that includes compassion.

Check out 17 of the best ones, and see if you might want to incorporate a few yourself.


1. “If you make the mess, you clean it up.”

2. “Let people off the train before you get on.”

3. “Be hesitant to take criticism from people you wouldn't go to for advice.”

4. “Never answer a ‘stupid’ question like it's a stupid question. There's a reason the person didn't know, didn't get it or misunderstood. Not knowing information is not stupid.”

5. “When walking down the sidewalk, phone is in my pocket. If I need to look at it -- move aside then take out the phone.”

phone etiquitte

"When walking down the sidewalk, phone is in my pocket."

Photo credit: Canva

6. “Always be polite. I don't care what I'm doing or what kind of a day I've had. I always make sure to say 'hey how are you?' And 'thank you, have a nice day' whenever I talk to people like shop assistants. Politeness is so underrated in general.”

7. “Don't cheat. Let vehicles merge. Be kind.”

8. “Always be nice to everyone you can, you never know when you will need help from someone.”

9. “If someone has headphones in, don't try to talk to them.”

headphones

"If someone has headphones on, don't try to talk to them."

Photo credit: Canva

10. “Assume someone is just venting, and offer comfort and listening unless they specifically ask for advice. ask if they want advice if you have any to give.unsolicited advice can often come off the wrong way.”

11. “When driving, wave when someone lets you over.”

12. “You don't call people after 9:00 Unless they specifically said that you could or it is an emergency.”

13. “Waving to the person behind who let you into traffic…I will not quit doing it. Basic good manners.”

driving etiquette, driving skills, driving manners

"Waving to the person behind who let you into traffic…I will not quite doing it."

Photo credit: Canva


14. “Never blindly accept statements as true, even if they are from people you trust. Not because they are lying to you, but oftentimes people just make mistakes or are bad communicators.”“

15. Don't make fun of things people can't control i.e. their teeth, their laugh, etc. You could be giving someone a lifelong complex and insecurity that can have untold emotional damage.”

16. “Treat others as I want to be treated. Assume benign intent (until proved otherwise).”

…and last but certainly not least…

17. “Put your damn cart in the collection area after grocery shopping.”

grocery cart theory

"Put your damn cart in the collection area."

Photo credit: Canva

popular

The rise in mental health awareness has been great—but we're missing an important element

We should all be taught the tools to manage our brain.

Can we start taking a more proactive rather than reactive approach to mental health?

Nearly 300 years ago, Benjamin Franklin gave us the saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Oddly enough, he was talking about fire safety in that instance, but it holds true for health as well. It's arguably better to proactively prevent a problem than to wait for a crisis you have to fix.

It's taken a while—and there's still a ways to go, especially when it comes to insurance coverage—but disease prevention has caught on in the physical health world. We don't just treat illness when it comes; we know we need to proactively maintain good physical health. We have PSAs about eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly to prevent heart disease. We have dieticians and nutritionists who research what foods our bodies need (and need to avoid) to function at their best. We consume calcium to prevent osteoporosis and wear sunscreen to ward off skin cancer. We talk about the importance of sleep to let our bodies repair themselves.

Kids learn about physical health maintenance and disease prevention in health classes, and they should. Why don't we teach mental health maintenance the same way?

For sure, the dramatic rise in mental health awareness and education in the past decade or two has been extraordinary, fulfilling a long-neglected need. People are far more aware, accepting and understanding of mental health issues than in the past, and we've come a long way in removing the stigma of mental illness.

But our approach to mental health awareness and education is still largely reactive. "If you struggle with anxiety/depression/etc. it's okay to seek help and here's where to find it" is the most common messaging. And that's great—a huge step up from "Suck it up, buttercup. If you need therapy, you're a psycho." It's good that we've normalized going to therapy if you have a mental health issue, and it's good that we've reduced the shame of taking medication to manage mental health disorders. However, as a parent whose kids have struggled with various degrees of anxiety, I think we need a more proactive approach—one that focuses on mental health maintenance and provides tools that might prevent disorders from spinning out of control in the first place.

When I started taking my daughter to therapy for a debilitating anxiety disorder, I was surprised to find out how much I didn't know about how anxiety actually functions. I knew the basics of the "fight, flight or freeze" response and I knew anxiety meant that instinctual survival system was overreacting. What I didn't know was that the logical approaches my husband and I had tried to calm that system in our daughter were actually making her anxiety worse.

Thanks to her therapist, we learned all about the amygdala (the brain's fear center), what it responds to and what it doesn't. My daughter learned to recognize the cues that her anxiety was in its early stages, like a snowball starting to roll down a mountain, and how to manage it before it became a thundering avalanche. We learned that our repeated reassurances that everything was fine actually reinforced her anxiety instead of alleviating it, which is totally counterintuitive. My daughter learned how to talk to her brain when it told her something she feared was going to happen. Instead of saying, "No, that bad thing isn't going to happen," (the amygdala really hates being told it's wrong), she learned to say things like, "Maybe you're right, maybe you're wrong—let's wait 10 minutes and see what happens." That small difference in language inside her own head made a world of difference. Literally life-changing.

I don't have an anxiety disorder, but sitting in on her therapy sessions helped me learn a ton about how brains work in general. And it definitely helped me be better able to help my children. In every session, I kept wondering, "Why have I not learned these things before? Why do they not teach us about managing thoughts and feelings in school?" We all have brains. Most of us struggle with our brains misbehaving sometimes. One in three adults will deal with an anxiety disorder in their life, and many more will experience fear or worry that doesn't rise to the level of a full-fledge disorder, so isn't "How to manage the amygdala" something all of us should learn?

Imagine if we started developing skills and tools to manage our brains at a young age instead of waiting for mental health disorders to develop before learning them. Schools started down that road with social-emotional learning (SEL), which teaches teaches kids about recognizing their emotions and manage them with breathing exercises and the like, but SEL unfortunately got wrapped up in the craze over curriculum and has been banned in some states. But we don't need that large of a curriculum umbrella for simply teaching kids how their brains work. This is basic health information. Maybe people worry that proven mindfulness techniques will turn too woo woo or something, but there's plenty of evidence-based, research-backed, non-controversial tools we can share to manage and maintain our mental health.

And I'd argue such knowledge is far more useful to the average person than, say, knowing how to factor quadratic equations.

I have personally witnessed how passing on the strategies we learned with my daughter to her younger siblings helped them learn to manage their own anxiety so much earlier. Could we have prevented my daughter's anxiety disorder completely? I doubt it—some of us are genetically hardwired with certain tendencies. But I do think we could have prevented it from becoming debilitating if we had known from the start how to navigate what her brain was doing, saving her years of anguish and frustration.

While we can't necessarily prevent mental health disorders, we can set people up with a much fuller mental health toolbox a lot earlier than we do. We all benefit from understanding our own thoughts and feelings, and the idea that we should all learn more about how our brains work is…well, a no-brainer. Of course we need to treat disorders when they occur, but let's get proactive in how we manage mental health as well. With mental health issues reaching epidemic levels, it could only help.