I mentioned a few days ago when I decided to reignite this blog that I had spent a lot of time in the last year making myself happy. It might sound odd to you, which is fine, because it sounds a little odd to me too. It’s not that I spent every day of my life miserable prior to this last year but I certainly did not do myself any favours when it came to my own happiness.
I have learned a lot about myself. I have progressed, I have had triumphs and failures. I have attempted to figure out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to improving my overall health and mindset. I would like to share what I have learned with you. Please keep in mind that I am by no means a health professional, mental or physical, and these are simply things that I have found effective to my emotional state.
1. I chose myself.
For a very long time, I chose the happiness of others over my own even if it came at great expense to my mental health. I would actually get incredibly anxious and worried if I felt that someone was upset with me. I would do anything possible to make sure I fixed the situation, go out of my way to prove I was worthy of them, even if they were never mad at me in the first place. I allowed myself to stay involved with people that were detrimental to my health, who used me and manipulated me for their benefit. It wasn’t until recently that I began to realize how much this was harming me but also the relationships and friendships I was involved in.
You see, when you are in a completely one-sided situation, the relationship just isn’t healthy. No one is being honest. You’re not showing your true self and they’re not being quite kosher about the whole thing. It wears you down. So you have to make a choice: you or them. If you find yourself having to choose, choose yourself. Every time.
2. I changed my thought process.
I stopped drinking awhile back because I didn’t like what alcohol did to me. I didn’t enjoy the feeling of being under the influence at any level, I became quite emotional, I felt the physical effects quite strongly, and it just generally began to suck. Around this time I also started to change my eating habits, recognizing what was good and bad for me and making a stronger effort to enjoy a cleaner, healthier diet.
The problem I had with this was that I kept focusing on the “can’t” of the situation. I would see a great craft beer and think, “It’s too bad I can’t have that.” I would see a sugary, fattening pastry treat and think, “I can’t have that, I’m not one of those people who can just eat whatever they want.” These aren’t untrue statements, but it’s the negativity of them that made it difficult. What I realized a couple of months ago that while it was true that alcohol and high-sugar, high-fat, processed foods might be delicious, it was almost never worth it for what came after I consumed them. So I stopped focusing on the “can’t” and starting focusing on my health.
It was a simple alteration of thought where I went from “I can’t” to “If I have that, I will feel really crappy later and I choose my health over that instant satisfaction.” It might sound incredibly lame and a little preachy, but it has truly worked for me.
3. I found what moves me.
I mean this physically, mentally, and emotionally. You might not want to hear it but I promise you with everything I believe in that exercise has done more for me mentally than any other thing that I have tried. Of course it helps to look in the mirror and see a smaller, fitter version of myself – higher self-esteem goes a long way – but it’s so much more than that. I think clearer, I have guaranteed time to myself every day as I move and sweat, and I’m discovering a strength in myself I never knew I had. Not long ago I ran five miles for the first time in my life and the high I got from that was unlike any other. Remember in school when you would get a good grade or a gold star or any other sort of recognition of hard work? It’s like that, but you’ve given it to yourself, and that is actually way better.
It’s also important to figure out what you need to enrich your emotional and mental well-being. It could be a book, a movie, a song, a piece of art, it could be whatever you need. Let yourself feel what it makes you feel. Laugh, cry, scream, whatever you need to do and then try to figure out why it makes you feel that way. I have emotions flowing through me constantly and when I try to think about why I’m feeling a certain emotion, I have a greater understanding of myself and my triggers. The other night at a Butch Walker concert in Toronto, he opened the show with “Afraid of Ghosts” off his album of the same name. He got to one of the last verses and when he sang, “Love yourself for once, my dear” I very nearly cried. The rest of the song felt like it was being sung directly to me, because it was everything I’ve been trying to teach myself for the last year. And I felt renewed and it was a moment where I realized how far I’ve come, and how happy I am. I will listen to that song often, I’m sure, just as I read a single chapter from Caitlin Moran’s book How to Build a Girl over and over again, because it’s as if she wrote it about me. These things make me feel less alone, more at ease, and more in control. Find what does that for you and keep them.
These are only three very small steps but they have become important in my life. I try to take time to reflect on where I was and where I’m going. When I get stressed out about something, instead of crying or screaming or telling myself how horrible I am, I do some yoga or write in my journal or actually, you know, talk to someone. It’s important to find people who you know mean it when they say they care and that you can be yourself with.
Overall just remember that we tend to forgive others much faster than we forgive ourselves. Life can be really hard and we sometimes react to things horribly. Every day is a new day to learn and move forward, and there is a whole world waiting to welcome you.