Most people who know me well will know I’ve had the odd flat day recently. And the last six months have been a bit unsettled to say the least. I have had uncertainty in quite a few areas of life, including being unsure about my future in my current career and having my landlord suddenly inform me I’ll need to find a new place. Uncertainty is one of the more difficult things in life to deal with, and it’s one of those places where we tend to build those stories you’ve possibly noticed I go on about. And no matter how much we try, most people are at least a little uncomfortable or nervous about change of any kind.
I think this is because we’re not comfortable with how the future might look. This discomfort comes from our natural disposition towards imagining worst case scenarios. It’s not negativity, but rather feeling unable to predict how life will be when certain aspects change. A change or loss of job, a broken relationship, moving house or even finding a new doctor or hairdresser can be challenging for most people. I have come to believe that how well we deal with these changes and challenges comes down to the positive habits we have built into our lives. So this post is about the things that I do to try to make sure that I can move through difficulties without plunging into the depths of despair. Call it my Happiness Toolkit, if you like…
I’ve mentioned this one before. I try to write in my (grey!) journal regularly. Getting things down on paper often helps to arrange thoughts and feelings in a more logical way than when they’re all swimming around in your head. I often write even when there’s nothing in particular to write about. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with affirming to yourself that everything is ok.
Pulling on the sneakers and just hitting the pavement is my therapy. I’ve
said on an Instagram post before that if something is troubling me, I like to walk until my mind goes quiet. It seems like an odd thing, but I’ll be walking along and suddenly I’ll notice that I’m thinking about my walking pace or technique or something like that. That’s how I know it’s working! There have been many links made between regular exercise and good mental health, so clearly I’m not the only one it works for. I used to be a regular at the gym, but I found it hard to keep it up, because I had to actually get to the gym. You don’t need a membership to go walking. You start as soon as you get out the front door!
Aside from journaling, I write a bit of other stuff too. Obviously this blog, and a bit of poetry as well. I’ve found that having a creative outlet is absolutely central to keeping positive and purposeful. You might say that this blog isn’t particularly creative, as it focuses on actual events and facts, but I would disagree with you there. For me the creativity is in using language. I’m a linguist by training and instinct, so working with language always has that creative edge for me. For you it might not be writing. Anything in which you can immerse yourself and achieve a level of flow will do. It could be painting, cooking or even a bit of mindful colouring.
Meditation seems like a no brainer to me now. Two years ago I would have told you it’s a bunch of hippie rubbish… but that was before I’d tried it. It really is an amazing tool that just gives your mind a chance to rest. I do breathing meditations with an amazing app called ‘Calm’ and find that the 10-15 minute sessions on offer are perfect for my needs. If I was to give you any tips around meditation – and I’m no expert – I’d say that the most important thing is not to judge the quality of each meditation you do. Whether you find your mind constantly drifting off or you manage to get through with a clear head, doing a session is better than not doing one at all!
Recently I’ve taken to heading to bed earlier if I’m feeling a bit flat. There’s something about that feeling of warmth when you get under the covers and rest your head on the pillow. I’ve always read before I go to sleep and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. After a stressful day, it’s so great to wander into another world in a book. And the beauty of books is that there’s really something for everyone out there! I know not everybody is a reader, but I’m just convinced that’s because you haven’t found the book yet that will suck you in completely!
I probably use this much less than I did a year ago, but I think the benefits of talking things through with trusted friends or family are clear. What I have noticed recently is that while I still do it, what I need out of such discussions has changed. There was a time when I used chats with friends to try to elicit advice, whereas now I find that I just want some encouragement and support. And probably, as with my journaling, to get my thoughts out and organised! But whatever it is you need from discussion about your problems, having a few trusted friends who are there for you is invaluable.
So these are some of my ideas about how to look after yourself in this busy, modern world. You probably can’t imagine inserting so many different things into your life, but if you just have one or two up your sleeve, then you’re in a better position to weather life’s storms. If you’ve made it this far, I would love to hear your thoughts… What do you do? Do you use any of these? Do you have any other weapons in your protective armoury? Please leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!