The everyday inundation of negative news stories, tragedies, and negative social media posts is too much for any normal level headed person to deal with and come out on the other side smiling and thinking positive thoughts, unless you are working at it — really working at it. No matter your media outlet, you find some form of tragedy. That doom and gloom finds its way into your personal life, and it takes over.
Or, maybe you just had a baby and Postpartum Depression has hit you hard. You feel exhausted, confused, you cry your entire drive to work.
Maybe neither one of these things are you. Maybe you are just in a rut. It is hard to get out of bed. You feel worthless, hopeless, and tired.
These negative thoughts have a way of grabbing on and taking hold. They control and consume you. If you are like me, one negative experience can send me spiraling for, sometimes, days. I fixate. My brain can’t shut it down. Why? Misery loves company. Your brain becomes accustomed to these thoughts and attracts them. It focuses on them. The negative thoughts become a habit.
Negative thoughts throw you into a mindset of survival instinct where fear thrives. It limits your ability to focus and see options. This world can make you crazy. It can be dark and twisted. But, it doesn’t have to be.
Good news. You can reverse this pattern of thinking and work your ass off going forward, effectively rewiring your brain.
Choose happy. But, I know it is harder than just being happy. It takes practice. It takes mindful control of your thoughts and purposeful movements. Popular researcher on happiness, Barbara Fredrickson, has conducted exciting research on the topic. Her breakthrough research has concluded that there are several practices you can engage in to increase your level of happiness. A few: meditation, write, and play. She argues that positive thoughts allow you to see more options in your life. You experience a sense of possibility.
What is happiness?
Psychology Today defines happiness as “a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life — that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.” A growing body of research also suggests a greater level of happiness improves your physical health.
Where do I get started, right?
#1 — Be Grateful
An easy way to practice being grateful is to start a journal. Each day take five to ten minutes to write down what you are grateful for. Do it first thing in the morning, before you go to bed, or whatever time of the day you set aside for reflection. This tiny practice will help turn the habit of negative thinking into grateful thinking.
#2 — Meditation
Meditation helps to lower stress levels, connect to your inner dialogue, improve focus, and even lower blood pressure. Our minds perform constantly. Meditation allows us to slow it down and reset, almost like clearing the Cookies from your computer. Apps like Headspace and Calm do a great job of setting you up for a regular meditation practice.
#3 — Write
Like speaking to a therapist, the simple practice of getting your thoughts out into the world helps you identify your triggers, helps you locate the trauma, and helps you form connections between what happened to you and your reactions. Other benefits? It is cheap, accessible, and effective! Don’t enjoy keeping a journal? Then, write a story. You won’t even realize, until you are pages in, the many pieces of you are formed in the characters you create. You never know, it might even set your heart on fire and inspire you to write to help others, pen the next great American novel, or, better yet, just help you through your emotional trauma.
#4 — Seek Adventure
Step out of your box, challenge your body and mind, and connect with nature. Adventure, however you define it, aims to push your limits in a way you haven’t accessed in a while, if ever. You unlock pieces of yourself, oftentimes emotional, that help with coping. Stepping outside your box improves self esteem and builds independence.
#5 — Exercise
I rejoined the gym after my bout with postpartum depression. I was finally sick of tired of myself — not just my body, but with how I was feeling. I just couldn’t completely shake those negative feelings, even though I have made great strides. I rejoined the gym to regain my sanity, confidence, kick-butt attitude, awareness, and optimism that used to come so easily. I may have to work up even earlier each morning, but it is worth it. I may have to shower at the gym, but it’s worth it. I may have forgotten my clothes day one and had to wait for my husband to drop them off, but it was worth it. Actually, I love it. I feel euphoria during, and after, my workouts. I do feel better. I have better mental clarity. I feel more confident. I feel optimistic.
It’s safe to say exercise saved my life.
When you get your body moving you release endorphins — the happy hormone. Endorphins combat stress. Exercise also releases neurotransmitters that quiet anxious brain activity and control impulse.
Exercise is also addictive. So, just get started. You won’t want to stop.
#6 — Social Media/Digital Detox
The goal of media is get your attention. The best way to grab your attention is by using a scare tactic or some other way to strike fear. It is no wonder we all feel horrible after reading the news or headlines on the internet. Don’t get me started on the bullying and trolls on social media. Even if you aren’t involved, you have seen it, and it strikes your heart. Just take a break, and thank me later.
Call To Action
Don’t start working on these activities tomorrow. Start now. Working toward happiness should not wait. It may be tough to get started, but little by little you will start feeling more like your true self, your happier self. You are worth it. You are here for a reason. You are reading this for a reason. There isn’t anything wrong with you. You are experiencing this because you are meant to. It is making you stronger, even when you feel your weakest. You are making it. Now, keep going. Reach your potential, one step at a time.