For the last few years I have been struggling with external stresses never presented to me before. My mother, the head of household and my only parent has been in and out of the hospital leaving us not only in a steep financial crisis but it has also left me with the insecurity over her health, living and my future. Recently, my emotions have escalated to the point where I’m being consumed with anxiety and depression. It has affected the way I see myself and the world around me. Due to these previous unforeseen obstacles and their ability to tear down my resiliency I’ve developed the terrible habit of waiting for happiness. Waiting for my financial situation to be ideal in order to treat myself. Waiting for my day to be perfect in order to not worry about the future. Waiting for my mood to change on its own and allow me to enthusiastically seek companionship from my loved ones. Sitting, waiting, and wishing things were better every day. Repeating to myself “I was never like this before. I was always more at peace and knew how to handle stressors. I’ll get back to it… one day.” Knowing that it takes more conscious efforts in order to be happier as happiness is a habit not an outcome, I’ve made the decision to no longer delay my happiness but to begin my journey back to stability.
This will be on going and will require a commitment to myself. Mental and emotional hygiene is something we don’t learn in school. We can’t take a class on how to bounce back from trauma, heart break, rejection or any of the psychological scars we all carry. There’s a million books and advice columns that all preach the same practices just in different ways. It’s almost too easy to seek that guidance and it’s way easier to become discouraged of even trying in the fear that even Siddhartha Gautama himself can’t put your soul at peace. I believe everyone’s journey is different. Some things that may work for me may not for others and vice versa. The true determinate is trial and error. Ultimately, I hope my posts will inspire and maybe even kick start a movement in your own lives!
There’s a complexity even in the idea of happiness alone. To clear things up for my own peace of mind I’m going to define it, for myself:
My happiness will be a resiliency to stress and the appreciation of every day. My happiness will be a security within myself not dependent on external factors.
I will welcome any other positive conclusions as well but for now that is my goal.
Every resource recommends that having a perfect balance of exercise, eating right and appreciation every day results in HAPPINESS.
Well, coming from someone who finds it difficult to get up on most days and some days am pinching pennies for my next meal, it’s hard to appreciate life when you’re just not in a good place. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is more enlightening when your lower tiers are being threatened.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (千里之行，始于足下) is something I reference to a lot. I find that it is a faithful reminder that no matter how long or strenuous a task may seem, it ALL begins with ONE step.
Let’s break the process down:
Exercise for the Depressed and Stressed
Pick 2-3 days (or just one, depends on how you’re feeling) of the week to do something small that exerts energy. I like to either walk around my block or dust of my baby dumbbells and use them while I watch Netflix. This is more psychological than physiological for me. I feel good about myself for even trying which eventually develops into me perhaps riding my bike or going for a run. The goal is to not only make exercise a habit but to look forward to it. Maybe even be able to wake up early in order to enjoy it! We’ll see!
For now, a nice walk around the block will do. I recommend planning for a few days rather than every day because you should allow yourself time to be with your thoughts.
When you’re healing you need to be gentle with yourself.
Eating Right When Money’s Tight
I love going out to eat and trying new restaurants! I would consider it one of my favorite pass times. I get pretty sad when I can’t even afford to go out to lunch on my work breaks and grab a $6 SubWay sub. In order to not only avoid beating myself up about food but also save money I like to map out my necessary food costs. Buying groceries and making my lunch for the week saves me around $300 a month. With that in mind, I like to go grocery shopping on Sunday’s, right before my week starts. It helps me feel ready and excited for the week. Publix is convenient but a trip to Trader Joe’s saves me nearly half of what I would spend at Publix.
During those weeks that I have a little extra cash I make sure to invest in necessities so the days that I have nothing I can still have food at home. Cut out snacks! Imagine if what you bought you had to survive off. What do you really need to be consuming? Put the chocolate chip cookies down and grab a sweet potato and some fish. Good food will also help improve your mental stability. Baby steps towards the right direction.
Constantly give thanks for the food that you are eating! Living in a first world country does not make poverty impossible. It’s the little things like food on your plate that have become so normalized that we begin to take them for granted. I remember days when I didn’t have money for any type of meal and no one knew and I survived off the kindness of others. Thankful every day for that. May I never forget that what was, can easily be what is.
Some religions believe that praying before eating isn’t for thanking God but for sending positive energy to the food you are about to consume in order for it to nourish your deeper energy levels. Since all matter is made out of energy and the food we eat was once or still is a living thing-plant or animal- then theoretically we CAN transfer our energy and receive theirs. For a glimpse of this topic click here and here.
Psychologically, people remember the past as happier than it really was. There are various studies explained further here. I became aware of this during my Cognitive Processes course and just tossed it aside as another thing to study for. Then there came the time when I caught myself reminiscing about the past and how easy I had it and punishing myself for being ungrateful and letting opportunities just pass me by. I was so stupid, that’s why everything bad was happening to myself. I then began to examine my stupidity and found that in fact, I’m not stupid. The amazing times that I was reminiscing were indeed good times but I failed to recall the moments before or after and the background noise of my life at that moment. I was actually in a better position in the present than I was in my past! From that day forward I vowed to make a conscious effort in appreciating at least ONE positive thing about my days. I began my 365 account after seeing my friends account, @lifeofpollo. Basically a 365 is a live and public diary. Every day I post 1 picture with a summary of my day as a caption. It’s been interesting to scroll down my days and look back at how not-so-bad my life is and take into consideration what today has to offer. I would keep a journal but the fact that I have followers puts a pressure of consistency on me therefore I keep up with it. There I go using cognitive dissonance in my favor.
Follow my 365: @blessingsbytheuniverse
TREAT YO SELF
Over all, remind yourself that you should TREAT YO SELF.
If I don’t have the means to materialistically spoil myself then I’ll give myself internal spoiling. Sit down and write yourself a letter of encouragement or praise. Watch your favorite movie. Read up on a new idea. Take a nap. Do ANYTHING that keeps you away from punishing yourself. On the flip side, a great way to make yourself feel better is to help others! TREAT OTHERS, not as catchy as treat yo self but you get my point. Start with giving one compliment a day if you want to do more, go ahead! This also helps you begin noticing all the beauty around you and the silver lining in every day. From there you can do random acts of kindness whether it be to pay for a stranger coffee or simply send a sweet message to a loved one. Try it! Not just once, try it a few times and see how you feel after.
I was largely influenced after watching this Ted talk about positive psychology. It only reassured me that small steps in the right direction every day are key into developing a happy and healthy lifestyle.
I’m a masochist in the sense that I enjoy keeping up to date with the not-so-happy things occurring globally. After reading an article on vice and discovering the site Action For Happiness, I gained insight on how to balance my daily existential crises and enjoy the present moment. I’m fully aware that no big change will happen all at once, with just one person. I can only make daily efforts to better myself and hope that it cascades into the betterment of others.
It all starts and ends with our own mental and emotional hygiene.