This has been a big year for me. When 2018 began, I decided that I really needed to figure out what was bothering me and find more ways to make myself happy. This blog represents the start of my journey...
Flashback to Winter 2017
I felt like I had let my mental health slip for so long and I suddenly felt very lost, as though I didn't belong anywhere in this world. Nothing excited me - even the activities that used to bring me happiness seemed bland and onerous.
I noticed that different aspects of my life were beginning to fall apart at the seams and knew that if I didn’t do something soon, I was going to lose some things that were very important to me.
So I sat myself down and gave serious consideration to what was going on: where these feelings were coming from and what I could do to bring myself back. I'm still not certain what caused me to feel so weighed down for so long but I knew that I had enough of these feeling and that I wanted to change!
I made a plan to start blogging as a way to track my improvements and to (hopefully) help others who are experiencing similar challenges. I certainly don't have all the answers but by building this online community, I hope to shed some light on a dark road that so many of us walk. Together, we can share our stories and strategies that help guide us down a path to increasing happiness.
Who What Zen
Fast forward a few months and here I am, writing my first blog post! This website will reflect my journey to self-discovery and discuss how I'm trying to increase my level of happiness. My goal: to live the best life I can live. I will outline the steps I'm taking to carve out this path and discuss the various aspects of my life that are dragging me down.
It took me some time to wrap my head around how to begin a journey like this. Without direction, I could easily become lost, like a hiker in the woods without a compass. So what I needed was my own compass (so to speak): a guide to bring me closer to where I want to be. I sat down to create a framework that I could trust, especially during tough times, to set me on my way. Future blog posts will elaborate further on this framework and I'll share with you what worked and what didn't. I realize this won't be for everyone but hopefully I can help a few people, in some small way.
7 Ways to Guide My Journey
The most important thing for me was to come up with very tangible ways of improving my overall level of happiness. Here are the 7 areas that I'm focusing on as I begin my journey.
1. Acknowledge that something is wrong.
This may be very difficult for some people because being completely honest about one's unhappiness can open up a can of worms. Admitting that problems exist implies that one or more aspects of one's life must change to feel happier. If thinking about this feels overwhelming, you're not alone! When you are ready to begin your journey, there are many great resources to help you along the way. And remember...you don't have to determine the REASONS for why you're unhappy. Just acknowledging these feelings is a powerful first step.
2. Make a list of activities that make you happy.
The process of writing a "happiness list" helps pull thoughts out of your subconscious and into the open. By creating your list of activities, you will begin to visualize what contributes to your happiness, which opens your mind to opportunities you may otherwise miss. When we leave these thoughts buried in the depths of our subconscious, the opportunities tend to pass us by without notice.
3. Make a small change to your day by adding something from your happiness list.
Whether it's reading a book during your lunch break, going for a walk in the evening or playing guitar on the weekend, incorporating items from your happiness list into your daily routine will build your level of happiness. If you feel that finding time for these activities is next to impossible, you need to be a little more creative. Think about listening to music and singing along in the shower or taking a conference call in the grassy area next to your office building. Remember: small changes are better than no changes and many small changes add up to a significant change overall.
4. Exercise more often.
We all understand the long-term benefits of exercise but what most people forget is the immediate mental boost created by the release of endorphins. In addition, the sense of accomplishment experienced after completing a workout will leave you in a more satisfied state of mind. Again, it's always challenging to squeeze exercise into an already busy schedule, so consider replacing a lower value activity, such as watching TV. Or try throwing on a backpack and riding your bike to the grocery store.
5. Eat healthier.
This is a no-brainer. You are what you eat and if you are eating crap then you are going to feel like crap. There are so many resources for healthy recipes that are quick and easy to prepare. There are even services that will deliver fresh ingredients to your door so that all you have to do is spend 20 minutes preparing them into a healthy meal.
6. Pursue a passion.
It's important to carve out some time that is dedicated solely to yourself. Whether this means joining a book club, going to yoga class or playing in adult sports league, you will be taking time to focus on yourself and, for a couple of hours a week, to live life in the moment. It's amazing how much stress melts away when we silence our anxieties. This is similar to #2 above but, here, the focus is to work towards the dreams you once had as a child. If you wanted to be a dancer growing up, join an adult dance class. If your dream was to become a professional chef, take a cooking class. When we engage in our dreams, we feel a true sense of peace and happiness.
7. Meditate daily.
Meditation increases your vitality, causing you to be less prone to stress and improve your general well-being. For those with less experience in this area, I recommend guided meditation videos found on YouTube. (Stay tuned for a future post.) Simply listening to this at bedtime will quiet the hamster wheel turning in your head and allow you to get a more restful sleep. And as we all know, restful sleep is the foundation for mental health.
So there it is. My hope is that by placing more focusing on these 7 areas, I will see slow but steady improvements to my well-being. I will likely tweak my strategy as I go, based on what works and what doesn't, but the important thing is that I have started my journey! I should be able to look back after a few months, or a year, and see a positive shift in my mood. I want to be a more positive person and have a more optimistic outlook. In turn, this will create a ripple effect across all aspects of my life and into the lives of those around me. My happiness will create happiness for others and so on.
Stay tuned for more updates and stories as I journey down my path to self-discovery. Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Thank you for reading.
Who What Zen