November 4, 2020

12 Ways to Cultivate Happiness when the Darkness Creeps In.

Francesca Zama/Pexels

I don’t know about you, but my mind can be a dark scary place sometimes.

I am also definitely one to roll my eyes when I see someone wearing a shirt that says, “Choose Happy, Choose Joy, or Be Kind.”

I do not live in a Polly Anna world of rainbows and puppies, and I struggle much of the time to hold a positive mindset.

We, as a culture, are always looking outside of ourselves for happiness, but what if we could cultivate a sense of happiness inside, one that is not contingent on our outer circumstances? What if we could feel a sense of joy in all circumstances?

I used to have a strong desire to get out of my skin and run from whatever uncomfortable feeling I was experiencing, but through time and dedication to these principles, I’ve been able to usually (not always) find a sense of peace within.

Here are some simple (yet not so simple) techniques that have worked for me to create a sense of happiness and belonging in my body:

1. Breathe. Try to set a timer for three minutes and see what comes up for you. Sit in the discomfort—tears, anger, frustration, bitterness—feel it all. You can journal your experience or talk to someone afterward.

2. Try affirmations. Find an affirmation or mantra that you can repeat. Lately mine is, “I am calm” or “I am safe.”

I’ve used, “I can be calm, cool, and collected in any given circumstance” in the past, and it really works, especially in a busy airport!

3. Let others in. “We are only as sick as our secrets” is a popular AA term. Usually our hidden, shame-filled secrets are just bogeymen needing to be released. Tell someone and let the power of those demons out of your closet.

4. Find fellowship through a self-help or 12-step group. There is a 12-step group for just about anything. If you are needing assistance with: gambling, sex addiction, alcohol, drugs, debting, eating, codependency, love addiction, and more.  For me, meeting with a money accountability person has been monumental this year.

5. Find a group. A meditation group, Bible study, drumming circle, yoga class, exercise group, book club, hiking club, knitting—whatever floats your boat. We cannot do life alone. What are some of your interests that have been discarded until a later date? Are there any you can get started on now?

6. Start. Sometimes, the hardest part can be making a decision to make a change for the better. It feels daunting and heavy. It feels scary to think about putting something that brings us comfort to the back burner. Trust the process.

Think about looking back on yourself in five years. Do you want to be in the same place on the couch with that pint of ice cream, or can you picture yourself reaching for a better, more energetic you? This can start today; it doesn’t have to be tomorrow.

Putting it off usually cycles into more of the same. Establishing healthy habits has to start to begin and putting it off to another day doesn’t bring the desired outcome to your future self.

It’s hard to look ahead and plan for the future, but building new habits takes self-discipline up front. Then when the habit takes form, it is just a normal and natural part of your existence; it takes no second thought for the most part.

7. Take a break from what is holding you back. Toxic relationships, friends, family, social media. Perspective is hard to obtain when you are in it. Taking time away gives a whole new angle and insight.

8. Do something for yourself. It is easy to feel bitter, enraged, or at the bottom of the totem pole (so to speak) when others are bleeding you dry. When is the last time you put yourself first, set some boundaries around needy people (even if they are your own children or spouse), and try putting your needs at the forefront?

If your budget allows, go get a pedicure or a nice meal alone. If that is not in the cards, try a nice nature walk or make yourself a nice meal at home. Is there something you need at home to make your life easier, say a blender or food processor? Is there a kitchen tool that would help you to create healthy meals?

9. Unfollow people who don’t fill your cup. After a 40-day social media fast last year, I came back with fresh eyes. I realized there were people who ruffled my feathers but I kept them around just in case. No longer the case. There are a few people I snooze for 30 days, but when they come back and I find I’m still annoyed, then they are off of my feed.

I really only see a handful of people I like to follow and close friends on my actual feed. Most people are unfollowed, and if I’m thinking about them, I can snoop their page or send them an actual text.

10. Get your yoga mat out and stretch. Lay and relax. Try to feel what your body is craving. Roll around. Try Happy Baby pose. Roll back and forth and side to side. Enjoy the movement in your body. Breathe. Smile. Warm up your cold, black heart (I kid.)

11. Find something to look forward to. A lot of times when I’m feeling depressed or overwhelming sadness,  I feel like I’m down because I have nothing to look forward to (especially during this time of COVID-19).

I have a friend who enjoys thrift shopping and even giving herself some money to spend at the dollar store. Our outings don’t have to be fancy or expensive, but the intention is putting yourself and your needs out in the open. Too often, our needs are buried down under feelings of inferiority or unworthiness.

You are deserving, you do have worth, and it’s okay to treat yourself. It’s amazing when you can become your own best friend and become less needy of others and outside circumstances to align to find happiness.

We have to learn to rely on ourselves to find our own happiness. Happiness cannot be purchased in material possessions, so that is not my intention with ideas about buying things—but the act of taking yourself on a date can be a huge expression to your inner self. You can meet those longing needs and you can nurture your own self. No more waiting.

Go run yourself a nice warm bubble bath and soak for a while, counting your blessings or contemplating on what you would like to change this year in a healthy way. Get excited. This life is yours and yours alone.

12. Give up something that’s not serving you. I gave up on alcohol and drug addiction (22 years ago.) I have given up smoking, caffeine, and sugar, along with most processed foods. I don’t drink soda or use artificial sweeteners (besides occasional Stevia), and I am a plant-based vegan, having eliminated all animal products from my diet for the past three years.

I’ve had a compulsive spending habit and other unproductive character traits needing therapy and counseling many times in my life, but here I am. I just keep going. I am not doing it perfectly and still struggle, but want to continue sharing my struggles and pitfalls as well as victories and new ideas about intentional living and being more conscious of our little habits and things that may be holding us back that we are unwilling to look at.

Is there something that you could give up for 30 days to see how life becomes without that vice? I encourage you to try and set that one thing aside with support and see how the ripple effect of that one change will flow out to the people that surround you and into your own daily life.

I was someone that was medicated most of my life for some type of anxiety or depression and tried to look internally for what was ailing me—but the pain was sometimes too great and too scary. I get it.

We must seek help, even if we think we can do it all on our own. Build a community. I get that finding like-minded people can be difficult too. I lived in one state for 40 years before moving to a new place and it can be hard to make your way.

I will be the first to admit it is not easy, but there is also something pretty special about being new in a new place and being able to start fresh. I encourage you to “grow where you are planted” so to speak and live intentionally in the place where you are currently residing. If there are bad memories on every corner bringing you down, see what your options are for relocating. There is something magical when you begin working on yourself and you see what paths open up to you.

I hope, most of all, this doesn’t sound preachy. I am just a girl trying to be in touch with her heart in this crazy world and need all the help I can get. I find sharing here makes me feel less alone. I would love to build a community of people who are all “walking their talk” and making internal changes to create the happiness we crave.



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