Most of us are relatively happy. Even if we’re not where we thought we’d be at this moment in time, most of us would say we were happy in life. The sky is blue, birds are chirping, you have a jar of mini chocolate bars sitting on your desk and Spotify on your computer with U2 singing “Beautiful Day” in the background… life is great! You’re just walking along – nay, skipping along – humming your favorite song (that rhymed… keepin’ it!) and soaking up some Vitamin D from that glorious sun shining in the gorgeous spring sky. Life really is great! Until it isn’t.
All of sudden, you’ve fallen into a bottomless pit: pitch black, cold and no way to get out. Everything is not awesome. (What’s up, LEGO Movie – yeah, I saw you! And yes, your theme song is STILL stuck in my head!) Everything sucks and soon enough U2 has been replaced with the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” because life is awful; you feel awful, you look awful, your job is awful and your paycheck or car or social life is awful. You’re a stressed, sleep deprived, anxious, irritable, snarky creature who has seemed to morph overnight into something out of a Sci-Fi novel. You lay in the cold, smelly sludge at the bottom of said pit and wonder how you got there. Fine one minute and then poof! You’ve dropped down the hole and have no way to get out. Life can be tricky that way.
One minute we feel great, the next we’re snowballing out of control. Sometimes it’s a gradual thing; we just don’t notice that sneaky unhappiness chiseling away at our sanity. But other times, it really comes out of the blue, like a kidney stone or the success of Honey Boo Boo. One day life is great and then BAM! You get smacked in the face with a brick. In either circumstance, there are ways we can pull ourselves out of these horrible ruts.
1. Take a Road Trip
You know that old adage “out of sight, out of mind”? Well, it really does work. Not that it will automatically solve your problems, but just getting away (even if only for a couple hours) can refresh your mind, ease stress and make you feel good again. My friends and I will just go for drives around where we live when we don’t have time for a “proper” road trip! It’s still wonderful! Plus, for me, the actual driving part really helps! Put on some good music, put your phone on silent, and just enjoy the freedom the open road brings.
This sort of plays into the previous one, but music for me can really change my mood. I love music – I enjoy a lot of different genres, some of which really aren’t “happy” music. But I know when I’m ready to pull myself out of a rut, I leave certain bands/types of music off my playlist and reach for something happy. U2 (as mentioned above) is a good one, but specifically something soothing – Dashboard Confessional or Jack Johnson or The Eagles. Everyone should have their go-to happy mix, and the effects are almost instantaneous!
***Also, concerts: Live music is an amazing thing to experience. Seeing my favorite bands live is one of my FAVORITE THINGS IN THE WORLD. EVER.
I just saw a really great quote that said “reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” I love that! Reading really is a great escape, and it’s good for your mind, too! I just pick up one of my favorite books when I need a little reprieve. Sometimes (okay, most times!) that’s an Austen, or if I need a little adventure, I pull an Alexandre Dumas off the shelf or if I need a good release of pent up emotion, I go for a Sparks. (Because no one can make you cry like Nicholas Sparks!) Just stay away from anything Cormac McCarthy… it will only make your sadness worse!
4. Set Goals
I think setting goals makes us feel happy because it helps us to feel in control of our lives. Control is a psychologically empowering emotion, and when we feel like we’ve lost it, we’ll most likely feel stress, anxiety and sadness. So set some goals, even if they are small and short term. When we meet our goals or progress towards them, we feel good about ourselves and build our self-confidence, which makes us HAPPY.
5. Meditate (Or take, as I like to call it, “alone time”)
Meditation is psychologically proven to lower stress and produce feel good hormones in your body. We should be taking time out of our days (if not, our week) to sit quietly, to just think about our life, where we want to go and what we want to do. Now’s a great time to incorporate #4, as well! But really, meditation is a great way to clear your mind, lower your stress and feel good. It’s like an instant reboot.
Surround yourself with good, positive friends and family. Take time out of your busy schedules to see them, and if you don’t have a lot of time, just grab lunch or give them a call. Our friends/family have the ability to make us extremely happy! Plus, I don’t know about you, but what I do most when I’m with them is laugh, which is an obvious (if not the most effective!) mood booster.
Sleep is vital to our very existence. The deprivation of such has massively negative effects on our physical and mental health. Whatever your sleep number may be (the number of hours that you feel best when you get), make sure you’re getting that most nights of the week. And don’t feel bad about sneaking in a nap on the weekends! Sleeping is our bodies’ natural way of recharging our system. It will keep you healthy, happy, and functioning well! Plus, it boosts your immune system and keeps those flu bugs at bay!
8. Drink lots of water & eat healthy food
It really DOES make a difference. If you don’t believe me, try it out for a week. I dare you! 😉 Scientifically speaking, studies have found that drinking water actually produces the release of the hormone dopamine into your system, actually making you happier. But it also keeps us hydrated, helping our bodies to function properly, promotes healthy and youthful skin and also cleanses our bodies of toxins. Win, win! All of that can also be said for eating healthily, as well.
9. Go to the beach
The beach, like for most Californians, is my happy place. I can’t explain why it makes me feel so good, it just does. From the wind, to the salty air, down to the sand between my toes and the sun warming my skin, it just makes me happy. Take a day trip to the beach every couple months and just relax, grab a book or your iPod and just feel the relaxation seep into your skin and your soul.
10. Be in a good environment
Make sure your environment is a nice, positive space. Whether it’s your room, office space, backyard or car, it should be clean, orderly, and make you feel good. Whatever is “your space” should represent you and give you peace of mind.
11. Do some Yoga! (Or whatever activity you like to do!)
Being active is one of those things that not only makes us physically healthy, but also mentally healthy. The physical part produces hormones (endorphins) which release into your blood stream and make you feel happy. I think this is best summed up by the scene from Legally Blond which EVERYONE remembers, when Reese Witherspoon says “Exercise gives your endorphins. Endorphins makes you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands. They just don’t.”
What I like best about yoga is that it involves a lot of stretching, which eases stress and toxins out of your muscles. I like the strengthening aspect as well, it makes you feel strong and empowers you to be stronger. Plus, if you have old injuries like me, it’s low impact and helps to reduce pain by keeping you limber. It’s also great for relaxation and meditation!
12. Love what you do or change it!
I know this mindset is rather new…some might say that it’s a very “millennial” way of thinking, but the truth of the matter is that we have to love what we do. The world is a different place than it was 50 years ago, and we’re different people too. Having a job that just pays the bills isn’t enough for most people anymore. They want to feel fulfilled and that’s okay! I’m not saying to just abandon your job right away because for most of us, there are mortgages, car payments, student loans, etc. to pay and we need to be responsible. But figure out a plan of action, a way to utilize your talents, schooling, or job experience to do what makes you happy! At the end of the day, it really does matter!
13. Save money
Nothing can make us more sad and miserable than stressing about debt and money. Last year I saved every month and was able to go on a nice family vacation in November and actually have money to spend while I was there and to cover me for my time out of work. It was wonderful! It was the first time when my vacation wasn’t ruined by stressing about having enough money there or when I got back. Plus, I was able to spend a little extra on Christmas and also buy a couple things for me throughout the year! Saving is actually addicting, too! I’m doing well this year and it’s become a healthy habit. I actually like to save money. I like knowing that if something crazy happens, I’m prepared! Or, you know, if your favorite band goes on tour, you can actually buy a ticket without having to ration out Top Ramen for the next month!
14. Love who you are
Of all of these, this might be the most important. I can’t even begin to describe how vital it is to learn to love ourselves, completely. But out of all of these things, this is definitely THE HARDEST ONE. Not loving ourselves impacts not just who we are, but how we interact with other people and ultimately how we’re able to love others as well. It impedes our self confidence and self worth, which is particularly damaging. It might take a long time to accomplish this, but it would be the best thing you ever did for yourself. It’s something I’m working on as well, and it will probably always be a work-in-progress, but that’s okay. It’s not easily accomplished but it’s definitely worth the effort!
15. Treat yourself
Okay, maybe not every day, but once a week is definitely okay! You are awesome and you deserve it. So whatever goody makes you happy, splurge (I’m talkin’ cash or calories here!) on it! OF COURSE my favorite thing in the whole world is chocolate, but I also like all things glittery, pretty, and fragrance-y, so sure, I’ll treat myself to a piece of chocolate cake , or a new nail polish or maybe even a new perfume (okay, like once a year!). But you know what? I am so worth it. And so are you!! 😉
We all deserve to be happy. It seems like most of the time, we put ourselves on the back burner for other people, our jobs or other obligations. But we can only do that for so long before we wind up in that dark pit of unhappiness. Take the time to make yourself happy! Don’t rely on anyone else, you’re the master of your own destiny! AND YOU REALLY DO DESERVE IT!
Ashley Anglesey is just a brown-eyed girl who dreams of conquering the world (and by that, she means graduating from grad school, getting an awesome job and working the rest of her life!) When she’s not daydreaming of fictional characters from the 1800’s, she can be found studying Psychology, obsessing about music, or playing soccer with her nephews. Read more from Ashley on her website and Twitter.
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