Happy or Healthy?

Happiness is an interesting word to me. Some days it’s all I’m looking for; other days I don’t even worry about it. I have a complicated relationship with happiness and ‘being happy’, and for a good reason. I feel like it can be a buzzword in the mental health community that is overused and misunderstood. So instead, I’m more concerned with being healthy rather than being happy.

I know I’ve done this before, but I feel like Google search results speak a lot so here is some more fun info again. When you Google ‘how to be happy’ you get more than 4 billion results. When you search ‘how to be healthy’? One billion. Sounds like a lot, but it’s only a quarter of what ‘how to be happy’ has. Why do you think that is? I think it’s because people have a tendency to place a priority of being happy over being healthy. And yes, I’m one of them. But hopefully not for long.

When you think about being healthy, what’s the first thing you think of? Probably your physical health. I don’t blame you. Physical health is supremely important and your wellbeing depends on it. But it’s not the only type of health you should take care of – not by a long shot. Dr. Bill Wettler came up with the Seven Dimensions of Wellness in 1976 and they include:

  • Social Wellness
  • Emotional Wellness
  • Spiritual Wellness
  • Environmental Wellness
  • Occupational Wellness
  • Intellectual Wellness
  • Physical Wellness

Yes I know, I’m going to want to push mental health, which in this case is encapsulated in Emotional and Social Wellness. But each type of wellness is important in leading a productive life – and can certainly lead to a happy life. Instead of worrying about if we’re happy, why don’t we worry about being healthy? And I’m not just talking about exercising a few times a week or meditating more. We need to attack each part of our health as if it’s important as going for a run – because oftentimes it is. My friend Pat wrote a great guest post a few months back about flexing your ‘mental muscle’ and it is indeed a muscle. A muscle that we must work at and strengthen, same as any physical muscle we have.

So yes, I would advocate for practicing being healthy over being happy. Because more often than not, if you are living in a healthy manner, in every facet of the word, happiness is sure to follow. And if it isn’t, that’s okay. I haven’t stopped trying, and I hope you won’t either.

Why I Care What People Think

If you Google the question ‘should I care what others think?’ You’ll be flooded with tons of different articles. Some consider the question, but most of the results are listicles about not caring what other people think. For some, it’s a life hack. For others, it’s a motivational technique. Lord knows the Huffington Post has done a piece or two on it.

Honestly, it’s a nice message designed to help people feel more positively about themselves. But what if you aren’t so kind to yourself? What do you do then?

I used to tell myself that it didn’t matter what people thought of me, only what I thought of myself. If someone didn’t like me? Oh well, their loss. If someone made fun of the way I looked or acted? It didn’t matter, because what they thought about me didn’t matter as much as what I thought about myself. And this philosophy carried me through most of my childhood even though I was ignoring one crucial element of my mindset – I didn’t think I was all that great.

It wasn’t a big deal at first but as my mental health worsened and my opinion of myself sunk lower every day, I contemplated why I never cared what people thought. What was my reason? I talked to some of my friends about what they thought of me as a person and – since they were my friends they might have been biased – I was told that all in all, I’m a pretty decent person. But that didn’t matter to me.

I realize this approach of not caring what people think is to combat people’s negative opinions more than their positive ones, but I don’t think that distinction is made often enough. No, you shouldn’t care what others think of you if they think negative things. But if someone thinks you’re great? That you’re a special person, and you’re perfect the way you are? Embrace that. Don’t forget those things that people say about you that are good. Because on those days when you aren’t feeling so great about yourself, when you’re struggling with self-doubt and self-worth, maybe you won’t have to only rely on what you think of yourself to get you through that difficult time.

This is very much me talking the talk when I should be walking the walk (and I’m sure my friends and family tend to agree with that), but I think that even if this isn’t always achievable, it’s still something we can strive for. So yes, you shouldn’t always care what people think. But there are people out there who think the world of you; it can’t hurt to give them a listen.

Life Updates

Hello everyone! I know it’s been awhile since I posted last, but I’ve been a little busy. Life happens, you know? And I figured I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I didn’t share that part with you because as life goes, so does mental health.

For the past month I’ve been finishing up an online course to achieve my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification. Once I am fully certified, I will be able to apply to teach English in tons of countries around the world! I still have a few more months of my practicum (practicing teaching and teacher observation), but I am very excited to be certified and begin some new adventures!

But I’m not in any rush to go somewhere for the time being. I’d like to save up some money before I travel, and I have some weddings to be in (because apparently that’s a thing that happens when you get older), among other things.

I’m also doing my best to live present and enjoy where I am in life, which is quite difficult for me – but I’m doing my best! Luckily, being on a consistent dose of medication helps me achieve (some) balance in my day-to-day life, which helps me get through days that can sometimes be difficult. Though it took me years to get there (more on that in a future post, I promise!), being able to maintain some level of consistency in my life has played a huge factor in how I go about my day. I might not be where I want to be, but I think I’m where I need to be – which is quite alright with me.

How Busy Should I Be?

Things are very busy in my life right now. Between my job and an online course I’m taking, I feel like I haven’t had time to myself in quite awhile. I know I should be more annoyed by that fact, but I’m not…and it has a lot to do with my mental illness.

When my mind is occupied, when my life is busy, things are good for me mentally. I go from one task to another focused and in control and, though it is exhausting, it keeps my mind at ease. When I am not as busy, however, is when things can take a turn. My mind wanders, and not in the fun, daydreaming type of thinking that can happen when you don’t have much to focus on. I don’t like going there, but when I am not busy it’s almost a force of habit to have negative thoughts.

So, where does this leave us? Should I stay busy forever? That could be a possibility. Keep my days full with activities and things to do, and then I never have to confront my anxiety and depression again. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But I don’t think it’s possible for me. As an introvert by nature, I need time to recharge after doing things with people, so I can’t feasibly be as active as I would want to be – it’s simply not possible.

I wrote about this a few months ago about having alone time, and why I was afraid of that. I’m less afraid now, but there’s something that’s still stopping me from being alone, something that I’ve been conditioned to think after years of being crippled by depression. When I am alone, I am unable to do things. I don’t go out alone, I don’t go on walks alone, I don’t just hang out alone.

For the longest time, when I was not busy that meant I was depressed, and so I could not do anything by myself. While that can still be the case, it is not the norm for me as it once was. It sounds weird for me to say, but sometimes I don’t have anything to do and I’m not thinking about how much I hate myself. And that is when I truly do not know what to do.

So what do I do now? How do you pass the time when you don’t have anything to do. I want to hear from you!

Just Do It

I’m really happy that I’m writing these words. Sometimes when I get too busy with life, certain things fall by the way side. Sometimes it’s my hobbies, or maybe my friends. Once in a while this blog can take a hit because all of the things I’ve got going on. And this week would have been an easy week to do so. I’ve been traveling for work so it’s understandable if I maybe didn’t put out a blog post this week.

_The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing._ (1)

But for some reason, that wasn’t good enough for me. I realized how much joy has been brought to me by working on this blog, and even though I don’t know what it’s going to be or where it’s going to go, it makes me excited to share my words, and my experience, with you – all of you.

So I knew I needed to write a post this week. Even though I’m working 14-hour days this week and am exhausted at the end of the day, I knew that writing this post would make me feel good, so I did. Maybe I don’t have more to say this week than that, but I feel like I needed to say it anyway.

It’s important to do what makes you happy even when you don’t necessarily feel like it. If you can power through and make it to the other side, it will be worth it. I’m not promising that you’ll always power through, but I will tell you that when you can, when you’re able, it’s beautiful and wonderful and one of the things that makes life great. And writing that down, to me, was worth sharing.

The 5 Second Rule

I spend a lot of time listening to different motivational videos and speeches, often when they’re compiled together in an inspirational YouTube video that makes me want to tackle a bear. It was in one of these videos that I heard about something called the “5 Second Rule” (and no, I’m not talking about food that falls on the floor).

As it turns out, the 5 Second Rule comes from someone named Mel Robbins. You can find the entire post here, but what it boils down to is this, according to Mel:

“If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.”

That sentence resonated with me for a few reasons when I realized how much that could impact my life – and my mental health.

Like most people, it’s hard for me to get out of bed in the morning. There are many reasons for this. We’re tired, we’re comfortable, we just want to stay in bed all day. More often than not, my reason is a bit darker, which leads to me not wanting to get out of bed and exist that day. Some days it takes every bit of strength I have to get out of bed and get dressed be ready for the day. So these five seconds that Mel is talking about, these five seconds that can make or break me getting out of bed, are HUGE. Monumentally huge.

These five seconds she’s talking about? They could change my day. And if I change my day? One day at a time, I could change the way I do things. The way I think. The way I live. Yes, this is quite a leap and a bound I’m taking, but it is possible. And that type of hope, that hope of what is possible, is what drives me to be the best I can be – even when I think that the best I can be isn’t all that great.

So I’m going to try this 5 Second Challenge for the few weeks. Apparently, it helps if you count down backwards from five, kind of like you’re on a rocket ship set for outer space. I think I’m going to try that. I have a feeling that to make this work, you have to treat every day with equal importance – that it’s going to be the best day you’ve ever had. I hope that at the very least it will challenge me. To be my best and to strive for being my best self. And even if this doesn’t work out, to be resilient in the process.

Things Get Better…Right?

Whether I’m in a funk or not, I ask this question fairly often: are things ever going to get better? Whether it’s something good or bad, I tend to ask this question after big events or moments in my life. To me, things can always be better because – whether or not good things happen to me – I’m usually too sad, tired or anxious to see the good things happening around me, so by that logic they can always be improved.

It took me a long time, but I finally stopped asking that question when it occurred to me that it didn’t matter how things were, or how life was going. What mattered was how I felt about those things, and how I felt about life. And there’s where I realized there was a problem. I wasn’t asking are things ever going to get better; I was asking, am ever going to get better? And that’s the real question that scared me.

One of the first times I was in a psychiatrist’s office they told me I might not ever get better. That it was a possibility that I would have to live with this for a long time. That some people deal with their depression better than others. Granted, this was because I pressed them on these subjects and wanted their opinion, but the reality of the situation was heavy. I might not ever be 100 percent healthy again.

Don't Ask.png

Five years after that conversation, I’m still not sure. But I am able to discern the stark difference between my mental health and the external things in my life. I’m able to stop asking if things are ever going to get better because I recognize that I have some power over those things – maybe not the power to overcome them all the time, but the power to fight back.

No, you can’t win every battle with mental illnesses that you have. But you can live to fight another day, and sometimes that’s as good as winning; on occasion it’s even better than winning. Because you know things will get better, because they can start and end with you. And let me tell you something friends, that’s a feeling unlike any other.

I’m Alive (This is What is Looks Like)

Given my personality and life experiences, one of the most important things in my life is the need to feel truly alive. Depression can sometimes take me out of my own body and make me feel like I’m not a real human being. It can make me desperately crave those moments, those experiences that make me feel truly alive, more than most (at least that’s what I tell myself). I’ve spent my whole life chasing these moments, trying my best to recognize them and appreciate them when they occur. So that means on top of envisioning a future where I am not depressed, I see a future where I feel alive. That’s a problem for me.

Does that mean I feel truly alive when my brain isn’t racked with depression and anxiety? In a way, yes. At least in my experience it’s been that way. I know this because I’ve done some things and seen some places that are absolutely memorable, but if I am lost in a cloud of depression, the experience means less to me.

According to Psych Central this could be what is known as “existential depression” and honestly, that sounds about right. I do know that I’m at an age and a point in my life where existential crises happen nearly every day and – mentally ill or not – I know plenty of people my age are going through the same thing. How do we get out of this corner in which we’ve trapped ourselves? Sometimes it seems that there’s no way out. And oftentimes, that’s true. There isn’t one magical, cure-all that is going to change our life and make us ecstatic with the first few years of the real world. It’s taking the little things in your life and tying them all together that make up the fabric of your life, and it’s important now more than ever.

Luckily for me, I know what makes me feel alive. I know what makes me feel more human than anything else, and I am working toward that goal. However, it also took me 20 years of living my life before I experienced this freedom. My point? It takes time. And in my willingness to chase it again, I know what I am after. And while it doesn’t make me necessarily feel alive, it helps me deal with my mental health issues, which for me is saying a lot.

Note: I stole the title of this post from a song I like. Give it a listen to brighten your day!

Enjoying the Good

When I am feeling particularly depressed, sometimes I’ll think about the future. Nothing specific really, just general futuristic vibes as I try to envision myself being happy. I try to use it to cheer me up, to think to myself that somehow, some way, I can be happy one day. But it always revolves around me being somewhere or doing something. Oh if I lived there I’d definitely be happy I’d think. If I had that job there’s no way I wouldn’t be happy all the time. It’s a dangerous game that I play to try and cheer myself up, but the flawed logic has started to take a toll on me.

The truth is, I don’t know if I’d be happy then. I’ve done that many times in my life. I think that if I do a certain thing or am in a certain place, then that will lead to my happiness. And when I get to that place, as if on cue, I am met with a familiar pestilent feeling: I’m not happy. Not even close. And then I get depressed.

This cycle has continued and on in every stage of my life. Graduating high school, going to college, graduating from college, getting a job, even starting this blog. This will bring me happiness I think to myself. And when it doesn’t, honest to God I still get a little surprised.

Wait, you must be thinking. Maybe inner happiness is what you’re after. And yes, that is true. I have read hundreds of passages and quotes that justify that thought. I know that happiness can come from inside me and the little things I do. That’s when I realized that sometimes, it’s not really happiness I’m searching for; I just want to feel good about things. I want to feel good about graduating from college. I want to feel good about securing a full-time job. When I look to the future I’m not worried about not being happy; I’m worried that I won’t feel good.

The inability to enjoy things (which is called anhedonia) can be a symptom of depression, so I’m not shocked that I don’t feel good most of the time. But I also want to change that.

I want to know what makes people feel good about life. Not what brings you eternal happiness or joy, but things or moments that you can look back on and say hey, that was nice. I think part of what depression does is make your view cloudy, making it hard to see the good in your life. So I’m going to begin to look for the good, and I’d like you to help! Comment below with some things that make you feel good. I’m hoping to take this week to try and come up with a few of my own, and hopefully together we can create a list of what makes life good and beautiful. I hope you can help!

 

Lost In My Mind

Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind…

Those are lyrics from a song by The Head and The Heart, and they’ve been stuck in my head all week because (if you can guess) I tend to get lost in my mind well…a lot. I used to think that it was a bad thing to get lost inside your head, but now I don’t see it that way.

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There’s a phrase people use often when they get engrossed in their thoughts, that you’re “living inside your head.” For some people this can happen every so often when they’re nervous or anxious about life events. For me, it happens all the time – I feel like some days I take up a permanent residence inside my head, which isn’t usually a fun place to be.

I used be to afraid of living inside my own head. If you had the choice between being somewhere that brought out the best in you and somewhere that brought out the worst, you’d pick the first one, right? For a long time, it seemed that I only picked the latter – with disastrous results.

It was only recently that I got more comfortable with my thoughts – at least, some of the time. Once I began to realize that I had power over them, rather than my thoughts wielding power over me, my attitude changed. I’m not saying that I’m not afraid of my thoughts now, but I’ve taken a step in the right direction and am hoping that one day, I won’t be afraid to get lost in my head.

On this journey I’ve learned that every win, regardless of magnitude, is important. If this is the first step to being completely comfortable with my thoughts, that would be wonderful. If it’s not? That’s okay too. I spent way too much time trying to change the way I am instead of accepting certain things about me, and getting lost in my thoughts is one of those things. I think about all the negative aspects of living inside my head and forget about all the self-awareness and thoughtfulness that I’ve gained as a result.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all the time spent lost in my thoughts and though it isn’t easy, I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t know if I like the way I am, but I’m getting to be okay with it. And for me, that’s saying a lot.