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Tell me what you miss, and I’ll tell you who you are. Here’s a thought experiment. Clear your mind, close your eyes, and simply ask yourself: What do I miss most right now? Capture the first thing that comes to mind. Not the second thing, which will be what you think you should miss most. The first, automatic thing. And to be clear, I mean a specific thing in your own life, something you can control.

“This time we’re in is interesting because we’re spending less time and energy trying to look good and mirror societal ideals,” notes Kathleen Smith, a licensed therapist and the author of Everything Isn’t Terrible: Conquer Your Insecurities, Interrupt Your Anxiety, and Finally Calm Down. “The pandemic has drowned out a lot of that day-to-day noise that tells us who we should be and what we should want, the things that distract us from what we really value.”

Many psychologists believe that your most immediate thought is also your most honest (it’s what drives psychology studies like the implicit association test). The key is not to judge whatever comes up. And don’t feel guilty if it’s not what you think it should be. It’s okay if you don’t suddenly love the “simple things” as much as your scallion-regrowing, sourdough-starter-nourishing friends seem to. Accepting your true self is always going to get you closer to happiness than anything else will.

Write down what you come up with. Save it somewhere you can return to once you’re out and about in the world again, when your pseudo-self reawakens. And when the bustle of life is once more so noisy you can’t hear your own thoughts, take a peek. It just may help you stay grounded, make an important decision, or steer your ship on a bold new course.

What You Miss Most Is an Essential Clue…