The terms “life hack” and “self-care” have reached buzzword status in recent years, bringing with them occasionally negative associations. Taking time for oneself can be interpreted as an overly indulgent activity. But in our dark and uncertain political climate, chasing happiness and comfort where you can find them has the power to ground you in the present moment, recharge your energy, and give you the resilience and hope you need to carry on.
In The Little Book of Life Hacks, comic artist Yumi Sakugawa challenges America’s peculiar “protestant work ethic” and how often it’s at odds with a culture that insists we find happiness, romance, and the perfect manicure. The illustrated book follows her two prior meditation guides, as well as the comics Ikebana (Retrofit Comics, 2015) and I Think I Am in Friend-Love with You (which went viral before it was published by Adams Media in 2014).
Throughout, Sakugawa offers up a number of entirely useful self-improvement strategies, from taking care of your hair and decorating your apartment on a budget to learning how to love your body. Along the way, she builds a quietly radical universe, one where women of all colors, sizes, and styles partake in self-care, guilt-free. Dive in with Sakugawa’s creations, along with her commentary, below.
“I definitely spent a lot of time creating the rules of the universe, like it has to be really diverse, all body types and sizes,” says Sakugawa. “It’s a universe where all the inhabitants are really supportive and mindful and introvert-friendly. That’s why, for example, there are certain pages where there are no images or words, just swaths of color. The idea of giving space for the eyes to rest so that readers aren’t overwhelmed with information was really important to me.”
“Sometimes with lifestyle books, especially if they’re written by really famous celebrities, there’s that feeling of inaccessibility: Like you’re not good enough if you don’t have these certain lifestyle benchmarks. But I really wanted everything to feel very accessible, where the entry point is available to everyone, which I think is why I added details like little faces to fruits and refrigerators.”
“Fashion is this really wonderful way of greeting this new day with your intentions. I love the quote, ‘We’re not human beings having a spiritual experience, we’re spiritual beings having a human experience.’ And so I feel like as spirits in this physical human earthly form, it’s fun to dress up this human avatar that you’re in to greet the particular energies of the day.”
“Whether it’s a story or an illustration or a meditation guide, I think what I’m interested in the most is creating a space for readers where some kind of healing shift occurs, where there is this palpable shift or clearing of perspective, where you’re given permission to see or feel things or process things that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.”
“Especially among women there’s this underlying fear that if you really indulged in every single one of your desires, you’re just going to go off the rails and your life is going to be ruined, right? Like, ‘If I buy one expensive dress, I’ll buy 10 expensive dresses, and I’m going to go bankrupt.’ I feel like the very first step is just giving yourself permission to have desires without censoring yourself.”
“And then, when you have these desires, instead of repressing them, just really allowing your body to feel the full extent of it in this really mindful way. And as you open your channels and give yourself permission to just feel desires, in tandem with just meditating and being a mindful person, I want to believe that there’s an inner compass where, the more you healthily indulge in your desires, you also know when you don’t want something.”
“We’re still grappling with the legacy of that protestant work ethic. We live in a culture where there’s still so much guilt associated with taking a rest, treating yourself. I even make this sort of logical fallacy in my book. I say something like, ‘If you’re having a bad day, have a cupcake.’ Or, ‘You worked hard, so have a manicure.’ Now, I would reframe it—you could be having a really great day and have a cupcake, or you could have gotten nothing done, because that’s what you want to do.”
“When you love your own life, I think that gives you a sense of pride and ownership that infuses everything. You’re going to want friendships that are really supportive. You want a home that is really this sacred space for you, that really honors and celebrates your particular needs as a person. And then you want to make the food that tastes good to you, which is also healthy for you. You want to take care of your own body more.”
All images courtesy: The Little Book of Life Hacks (St. Martin's Press, May 2, 2017).
Note: Pages have been cropped and excerpted to appear in this format. Comments have been edited and condensed for clarity.