I should start with a disclaimer. I am by no means an endlessly sunny, positive person with beams of joy shining out of my face. In fact, people who know me in real life may look at the title of this post and laugh – why is that old cynic being so hippy all of a sudden? Similarly, it’s desperately unrealistic to aim to feel happy all the time – happiness is just one emotion in the human spectrum, all of which we are destined to experience. However, I truly believe that practicing positivity as regularly as realistically possible can have a big impact on how happy you feel on a day to day basis.
It’s not possible to be positive all the time. Life often throws terrible things into our paths that have a big impact on how we feel and we often can’t to anything to alter that. And when we do feel sad or angry it’s a good idea to let ourselves feel those things fully so as not to stifle our emotions. Having said that, there are certain techniques and actions that we do control which can be really helpful.
As discussed in my post from a couple of weeks ago, when you are struggling with postnatal depression, or any other kind of depression or anxiety problem, following simple steps to being more positive can aid recovery and help you to move forward. With this in mind, I’ve listed below five actions that I take to make me feel happier and more optimistic in life, and, in turn, keep myself mentally and emotionally healthy.
I’ve written about this a lot in the past. Before I had my son and experience PND and anxiety I very much lived for the future. I was both a planner and a worrier. And although looking to the future and being responsible is important, if we focus too much on next month or next year, or indeed dwell too much on what has already happened in the past, we risk missing out on the simple pleasure we can get from today.
When you are suffering from intense anxiety thinking ahead even to the next day can be frightening and overwhelming. To combat this, I practiced living in small chunks of time instead – if I can just get through the next five minutes/next hour/next day/next week etc. When I was very ill this was a great tool to help me manage all my worries and fears, as well as talk myself down from a panic attack.
Although now I’m well I don’t need to do this as much, and I’m thankfully able to make plans for the future again, I took away from this the importance to enjoying small moments of contentment when they do come. I now make sure I pause at least once or twice a day during a happy, calm or content moment to really absorb those feelings. I often also write down each evening three positive things that happened that day, no matter how tiny they are. This helps to remind us that there can be small positive moments even in days we consider difficult or challenging overall.
Take responsibility for your choices
I often hear people complaining about something that’s recently happened or about the direction their life has taken, and I can’t pretend I don’t do this too. There are certain events in life which are totally outside of our control – mainly death and illness – but the vast majority of situations we find ourselves in either happened because of something we did or can be changed by something we now choose to do. By taking responsibility for our own actions (or inaction) and the impact they have on our level of happiness can help us to feel more in control and content.
Cut out negative influences
This one seems simple enough but it can be really hard to move away from an individual who isn’t good for you. I’m not just referring to people who are overtly bad for you – encouraging you to partake in reckless behaviour etc – but, in fact, anyone who is having a more subtle effect on your mood. Perhaps you have a really old friend who you feel you should be loyal to because of your history but who, in actual fact, is selfish, draining or generally negative? Do they cause unnecessary drama in your life? Has your friendship become one-sided; are they taking more than they are giving? Perhaps you have a family member even who is overly critical or controlling. Cutting out these people from your life can be really tricky in some cases but when it’s done the result is very freeing. Or if it is someone you can’t ‘cut out’ (an in law for example!), maybe try to build up your defenses with that person so that their negativity can’t penetrate you so easily.
Find Time For Your Passions
By this I mean hobbies, interests, self-care and ‘me time.’ Maybe you’re creative, sporty or musical? Maybe you love a particular series of books or follow a particular band. Whatever you’re passionate about, whatever makes you feel good, do it as much as time will allow. Make the time if necessary.
Do Good Things For Others
I’m not talking about running for election or becoming Mother Teresa but if you can find the energy to make a small gesture to improve someone else’s day then you will likely find this makes you feel happy too. I began this blog both to record my own PND recovery but also to try to help others like me to feel less alone. Whenever I get a message from someone who is suffering but is even slightly comforted by something they’ve read here I’m touched for them but it also gives me a lovely boost too.
I’m a work in progress when it comes to positivity and I feel I always will be but that’s okay – just making tiny changes can be enough. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut lately, I really hope you find these ideas a little useful.