A few months ago, I conducted a survey to learn more about what you want to hear from me. I was surprised that many of you asked me about how I remain positive, optimistic, and happy. At that time, I don’t think I was necessarily feeling smiley,
But after I thought about it, I have a lot of practice getting myself out of funks—I believe we have to make an effort to be happy or content every day. Otherwise, we’d all be so happy all the time, right?
So today, I want to share a few ideas for how you can feel happier, less anxious, or more at peace as soon as possible. It might take hours or all day but these are things that personally help me.
1. Keep a Mental Health Journal
When I’m anxious, I tend to have a lot of
When it comes to things of the heart, I keep a mental health journal to track things I’ve learned or discovered about myself. I track my menstruation cycle, mood swings, things that are upsetting/triggers, mantras, advice from my therapist, and potential solutions.
If you find yourself carrying a heavy mental load, you can relieve it through writing. This is likely second nature to all you writers out there. Writing things down will help you be more self-aware. When you have another wave of unpleasant emotion, you can go back to what you wrote and find a measure of comfort. You may even find patterns
Consider using your mental health journal like you’re a scientist studying yourself. Write down hypotheses and test them over a few months.
If you’re curious about keeping a mental health journal, I plan on writing another post that goes into much more detail.
2. Practice Gratitude
If you have done a lot of self-help research as I have, the gratitude thing is a reoccurring theme. I rolled my eyes for years over this. Mainly because I’m generally a grateful person and I didn’t think that writing this down would help me. (This was before I started the mental health journal.) I thought that if I thought about what I was grateful for that would be enough.
Well, shoot. It turns out, we have more work to do.
Again, like a scientist or researcher, just test this one out. Write down 3–5 things you’re grateful for. Rachel Hollis’s method is to write down little things that happened within 24 hours instead of “I’m grateful for God” or “I’m grateful for my dog.” Get specific; you’re grateful that your God answered a specific prayer or you’re grateful that your dog knew you were upset and came over to comfort you.
Practicing gratitude can be hard, especially if you have big real-life obstacles in your way. Like, it’s hard to be grateful when your job is draining or the news really really sucks. There’s a bit of class and privilege that comes into play. But this isn’t “be grateful and be quiet” but “be grateful to feel peace/contentment/hope.”
Besides keeping a daily list of things I’m grateful for, I show my gratitude by handing out online shoutouts like candy, over-complimenting Travis (I tell him that I love him on an hourly basis), or I pour love into my friends. When you “over-do” your gratitude, you can’t help but feel happier.
3. Keep a Happiness Nook/Basket
You can find a lot of details about this tip in the Little Book of Hygge. The idea here is to be prepared for when you need a dose of happiness. I’d recommend doing this tip as soon as possible, rather than wait until you’re feeling low.
Start gathering things that will guarantee make you happier. This could be comfy clothes, a playlist of mood-boosting songs, a favorite movie, or a good book. If your ideas are too abstract to put in a box or basket, then keep a jar with activities written down on slips of paper. That way, you can go to your jar, pick an activity (e.g. go outside, call Mom, ask for a hug), and immediately switch gears. Something you could add to your jar is a prompt to use a meditation app. There are plenty of apps that you can use (I like Mind Ease) to soothe you immediately if you’re feeling anxious and need to calm down.
When you’re unhappy, you might feel like an infant—you’re upset and crying because you don’t know what you need or want. Sometimes it helps me to know that there are things or people around me who can help me feel happier again.
4. Reach Out for Professional Help
This one is hard because it takes money and effort to get professional help. You have to find people you can afford, go meet them, and hope that they’re the right fit for you. I know how hard this is because two years ago, seeing a therapist was scary. It was like admitting that I was a problem that needed to be solved. It felt like I was a monster. I wasn’t necessarily happy to admit to myself that I didn’t know how to professionally handle my problems alone.
I have since noticed a lot of growth since I’ve seen a therapist. It feels less like I’m pushing a panic button but rather I’m getting a check-up. I do feel happier—after years of hard work and self-awareness.
Here’s one way of looking at therapy: our ancestors sacrificed a lot for us to get here. People have put in the work to better understand mental health and how it ties into our physical health. Many people went undiagnosed or felt alone as they suffered from what we can now identify as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.
Because of the sacrifices of others, we can now benefit from medication and therapy that is meant to help us overcome our problems with less struggle. Think about how amazing that is and how much we have to gain from all this progress. You can use anything from an app, mantra, to medication to better understand how your brain works and how to keep it healthy.
I knew I needed therapy the moment I admitted to a friend that if she had the same symptoms as I did, I’d lovingly support her decision to see a therapist. I knew then and there that I found my solution and bravely took huge steps towards getting to the root of my unhappiness.
You might not like therapy; in that case, I’m not saying that therapy will solve EVERYTHING. There are other professionals you can seek to better understand your circumstances. For example, you could see a psychiatrist and get medication. You’ll know you’re seeing a responsible person if they listen to your needs and match you with a solution that makes you comfortable. For example, if you are unsure about daily/regular medication, they can get you something that you take only when you need it. It’s like getting cold medication for when you have a stuffy nose.
I Know You Can Feel Better Soon
I can’t think of a worse feeling than hopelessness. It’s that feeling of “there’s nothing more I can do; I’ve tried everything.” That’s a story that your brain is telling you. The truth is there’s always something you can do. You always have options, and they don’t have to be “suck it up.”
I hope you know that if you’re feeling terrible, you can always reach out. You can email me, message me online, etc. Just like Samwise said to Frodo, I can carry you while you carry your burdens. If you need to practice letting people in and help you, I’m here.
If you’d like to feel happier by getting a dose of monthly happiness and motivation, I send out a newsletter that strives to do just that. Subscribe through the pop up on the website, this image below, the prompt to your right, or go here.