Let me say right off the bat that I can only speak about my own experiences. I’m not a fan of articles with lists that tell people how to BE happy, as if there were some magical formula for happiness. I’m not here to preach religion or exercise or some new age book that you need to go out and buy. This is what works for me. If anything, this post is more for me, because sometimes I forget how to be happy. I’ve struggled with mild to moderate depression and anxiety since I was thirteen. I’ve taken medication for it when I felt like I needed to, but I like to view that as a last resort. Working in a mental health facility, I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t take medication if you need it. I’ve witnessed it help so many people struggling with a variety of mental illnesses. Again, I’m speaking about my own experiences. There’s no shame in seeking professional help.
I’m still growing up and changing, so the following things might not work for you or even me in ten years. But hopefully you can take something away from it. Because for the first time in my life, I feel like I’ve finally figured out how to be in charge of my own mental health despite any circumstances of my life. Whenever I’m feeling out of control, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed, this is how I stay positive, unwind, and stay in control of my own happiness:
1.) Know your triggers.
When I get sad, all I want to do is be home and sleep. Sometimes, that’s exactly what I need, but most of the time that’s only going to feed into a deeper depression. If I’m stressed, I want to consume all the fast food I can get my hands on. Again, sometimes in moderation, a brownie is all I need to feel better at the end of a long day. But I know myself and what will trigger me into a bad spiral. So in those circumstances I get my ass off the couch (or sometimes my husband does, because he also knows my triggers, sometimes better than I do). Instead of caving into the temptation of Taco Bell, I’ll find a new recipe to cook for dinner and get myself excited for that. Other times, I cave, throw myself a pity party, and vow to do better tomorrow. And that’s okay too; I’m only human.
2.) Let yourself think the situation through.
Go to the dark place. Let your mind work out what is the absolute worst thing that could happen. When I’m feeling anxiety about something, it’s usually because I have some irrational fear of the unknown and haven’t let myself consider the worst possibility. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the worst possibility isn’t that bad. And my brain is logical enough that I can formulate a plan to get myself out of the worst possible outcome. That’s usually where I find relief and feel stupid for worrying about something in the first place. I put myself back in control.
3.) Change your environment.
Get rid of clutter. Make your bed. Reorganize your closet. Open a window. Go outside. I know it may seem obvious and a little silly, but it really works for me. I’m a bit of a clean freak so clutter stresses me out more. When I’m having a hard week, simple things like having clean clothes, planned meals, and fresh sheets make all the difference in my mood. If I start out the day not being able to find the pants I want to wear, tripping over shit in the living room, rushing breakfast, and worrying about what I’m going to make for dinner, it’s going to be a bad day and multiply on the factors of my day that I don’t have any control over. Get your shit together and you might be able to trick yourself into thinking you actually have it together.
4.) Find an outlet.
I have two major ways I rid myself of pent-up stress, anxiety, and depression, and I’m doing both today. This morning I went running for the first time in… let’s just say it’s been too long. I’m not sure why I stopped in the first place, really. Like I said, sometimes I just forget the things that make me happy. I started again because I’m so out of shape and angry for letting myself feel this bad physically and mentally. I got so caught up in the stress of my life that I forgot running makes me happy. I’m not even an athletic person and I’m slow as hell, but it doesn’t matter. I feel like I can conquer the world afterward. My second outlet is writing. And here I am. In college, I felt that I didn’t have time to write for pleasure and I felt like I would be judged by putting it on the Internet, but I’m learning not to care. Both running and writing have taken different forms throughout my life, but they’ve pretty much remained constant: writing and cardiovascular activities make my mind, body, and soul feel more aligned and happier in general. Find the things that make you feel good and do them. Take a yoga class. Listen to a chill playlist on Spotify. Go to church. Meditate. Reread your favorite book. Ride a bike. Go on a coffee date with a friend. Soak up some vitamin D. Drink your favorite tea. Start an arts and crafts project. Go to a wine tasting. Swim naked. I’m not judging. You know what makes you happy. Stop complaining about lack of time or money and just do it.
5.) Be around the people who feed your happiness.
At this point in my life I feel like I’ve really figured out who these people are, but I remember being a teenager and how long it took me to realize some people were dragging me down. Negative people are unavoidable, but you don’t have to put your time and energy into maintaining relationships with them. It’s that simple.
6.) Remind yourself of what went right today.
It is so easy to focus on all the things going wrong in my life, of all the things I don’t have, and the things that I’m not. I actively remind myself that I have a roof over my head, a loving husband, supportive parents and friends, a good job, food to eat, and clothes on my back. Take five minutes a day to write down all the things that went RIGHT that day instead of wrong. Tell yourself that you’re beautiful, smart, and capable of handling whatever gets thrown your way today. Acknowledge to yourself that you’re having a good hair day, even if nothing else feels like it’s going well. Things could always be worse and they are for so many other people, and dwelling on the negative isn’t going to help anyone. Fix what you can, accept the things you can’t, and move on. I accept that there are times when I will be sad and need to cry, but I’m not going to let it consume me. I accept that I will be afraid sometimes, but it won’t control my life.
I hope you all have a positive week. XOXO