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Let yourself feel the good feelings in your PhD

Sometimes we need days, weeks, months like that though, right? I’m reminded of a thing I recently saw online from Matt Haig which said “Resting is doing” and never have I read something so true.

Far from it being an empty space of nothing, the resting and the stepping away is actually where so much can happen. New thoughts, creative solutions, ‘a-ha’ moments, insight, reflection, deep thinking and allowing, and the sheer, pure pleasure of just being (which, really, is where most of the magic happens).

These last few weeks, I have purposefully dialled things down a bit, having realised that I’ve not actually allowed myself a full, proper break for longer than about 2 days since completing my monstrous PhD revisions.


And now that I’ve allowed myself to have it, IT FEELS SO DAMN GOOD…

..which is what this email is about – THE FEELING GOOD FEELINGS. 

There’s this weird messed-up narrative in academia that we have to be miserable and struggle in order for our research to be valuable. (The same could be said about modern life and a patriarchal, capitalist society in general, but I digress). 

So we feel guilty about feeling good… or even about just wanting to feel good. 

In fact, it’s the opposite that will make us better researchers producing better research (and heck, even if we don’t produce better research – don’t we deserve to be happier and feel better just because that is a basic right, full stop?) 

So, I say:

1. actively seek out the people who make you feel the best version of you

Even if you have a horrible supervisor, even if that one project team member keeps giving you grief, even if your entire family is up your arse about when you are going to finish the PhD and ‘get a real job already’, you don’t have to offer them the starring role in your life. 

Instead, find your people who support you and understand the value of what you’re doing. Surround yourself with the people who will make you feel more of yourself. Be precious about who you spend your time with and only let in the people who light you up and help you feel lighter, easier, good


2. seek out the things that make you feel good

This could be actual physical things, like surrounding yourself with comforting precious items from loved ones; or activities that reignite your spirit and motivation. 

There’s already so much out there always conspiring to make us feel a bit worse about ourselves (or we do a very good job at doing it to ourselves). We don’t need to make things worse by making the feeling-shit-ness our accepted, default setting.

Look for the better-feeling things. And let it be okay that you want to feel better. 

It might be unrealistic for you to go from zero to 100 overnight and to suddenly feel fantastic! awesome! amaaaaaazing! The realities of research life do mean that we’re probably always juggling a lot and there are some very real worries and obligations we need to think about. 

But sometimes, even just making the decision that you want to feel a bit better can make a huge difference. Perhaps just that wanting to feel good can nudge you towards the right (kinder, more helpful) people; or give you that extra push to find a different way to do something so you can relieve the pressure or receive help.

Know that it’s okay to want to feel good. 

And it’s okay to not want to feel terrible.

You don’t have to justify it, or explain yourself to anyone. 

It is your flipping human right to feel good, whole, supported, and at ease. 

And it is okay to say FUCK NO to something that isn’t serving you….

…or a big HELL YES to the things that do or will. 

When you feel good, your research will be better for it.

So will your work life. 

And most, most, most importantly, SO WILL YOU. 

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