About two years ago, I received a note at work regarding a phone call from a parent who called to inform me that her daughter was in the hospital after attempting to take her own life. She was in intensive care, but the prognosis was positive. I didn’t even have time to really digest this news because I only had twenty minutes to mentally and emotionally prepare to share the information with my therapy group (who the student was part of) during that day’s session. It was one of the hardest days I’ve ever had. After the students left for the day, I spent the afternoon staring off into the abyss from behind my desk in my therapy room. I knew I needed to process the situation, but all I could manage in that moment was to self-medicate with Andes mints and listening to Coldplay’s “Fix You” on repeat.
People often ask me how I maintain such an upbeat, positive, and optimistic personality and demeanor despite being in a line of work that takes a gruesome mental and emotional toll on an individual. It’s true. I sit through therapy sessions where people have shared some of the most appalling and heartbreaking experiences they’ve suffered. And it definitely makes me wonder and then worry about all of the horrible things that take place in the world. It’s a rabbit hole that none of us want to find ourselves going down. And when I start to feel it happening to me, I need simple, quick, and easily accessible ways to get to my happy place and steer my thoughts away from every worst-case scenario and terrible thing that happens in the world. It’s not easy. But it’s possible. And since most of us can’t just pick up and run off to a quiet island to get away from our problems, you have to learn how to do it in a way that works for you, within your means, of course.
Personally, I stand by my 5 by 5 list of foolproof ways to get back to my happy place when I’m feeling low. These are the things that – no matter what I’m going through or struggling with – are always able to do the trick!
These are five songs that I can’t possibly frown or cry through – the rhythm gets me every time. I immediately have the urge to get up and dance to them. And even if I’m in my car or sitting at my desk, I’m swaying to the beat.
- I Feel Good by James Brown
- No Scrubs by TLC
- Get Me Bodied by Beyoncé
- Summer Love by Justin Timberlake
- Como la Flor and Bidi Bidi Bom Bom by Selena… errr, actually anything by Selena!
When I need to get to my happy place, I need to watch a movie with a predictable and/or happy ending. It has to be one of my all time favorites to make me laugh or just feel good overall, so I usually choose from the following:
- Remember The Titans
- Crazy Stupid Love
- Mean Girls
- Pitch Perfect
- The Shawshank Redemption (because I’ve watched it dozens of times, so I know the ending, not because it’s funny.)
I definitely like to give my soul some goodness by indulging in one of my favorite snacks or desserts which take me from ho-hum to happy happy happy:
- Flamin’ Hot Lays Potato Chips (not Cheetos) with French onion dip
- Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream
- Girl Scout cookies
Yes, my 5 by 5 includes more than just laying around, watching movies, and eating junk food. It’s important to remove yourself from the environment that is causing these feelings, so I definitely encourage activities that help take your body and mind out of the slump you might be falling into by:
- Going for a walk or run
- Rock climbing
- Going to a bookstore and reading something new
- Shopping (yes, retail therapy is a thing… just don’t max out your credit cards!)
5 Positive Affirmations
And then, when I need a final boost to put my big girl panties on, handle my shit, and get back on track, I remind myself of the following things:
- The comeback is always stronger than the setback. Face it head on.
- You have to grow through what you go through. Growth is often disguised as struggle.
- I may not understand the good in this situation, but I know it’s there and will be revealed to me eventually.
- I have more than what it takes to get through this and I will share that abundance with those who need it.
- You didn’t come this far only to come this far. Remember: you are a strong, independent, capable human – nothing and no one can stop you!
This is, of course, my own personal list. You can definitely customize the categories and make them your own. Tailor this list to your own hobbies, interests, and most importantly, things that truly bring your soul joy and happiness. They’ll always be there for you when you need them most and, at least in my experience, they won’t fail you.
Originally published at missmuslim.nyc