Choosing Happy.

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Happiness is a choice. One I have to choose almost daily. Here’s the thing, we get this one crazy beautiful life. I mean…what is this?!? And here I am, often following in the footsteps of so many in our culture. Reacting to change and adversity with anxiety and depression. 

My mind has a general reminder playing on loop of “hey, asshole, you won the karmic lottery and are living in California, in the age of iPhones, with more than enough food, money, friendship and spiritual connection. Just smile and be fucking happy already”. The thing is, it’s just not that easy, is it?

 My general demeanor tends toward glass half full, ooh this is fun, but it still gets stuck in the muck and mire when life throws curveballs. The last 10 months since separating from my husband has been a wild and crazy roller coaster of all the feels. And some of those feels have included debilitating, “I should get some Prozac, but I can’t get out of bed and to a doctor” feelings, and feelings of utter relief. 

I was talking with a friend about depression, they’d been mired in it on and off for the past few months, and we were comparing notes. The general thought I was sharing was the need to feel the feelings. The only way past them is through them. That said:

Feeling = Helpful

Wallowing = Self Defeating

Pity party, table of 1.  I’d pulled up a chair at that table numerous times and it generally resulted in a dark downward spiral. So what has been my go-to to deal with this life and all it’s ups and downs? 

Change Your State

I stole this from Tony Robbins. Before every speaking gig he has, he jumps up and down and shakes it all around. I do this both physically and mentally with music.  A few jumping jacks, dancing, or even just blasting my Happy playlist in the car.  Check it out on Spotify if you like. These are necessarily my favorite songs, but they are ones who’s sound and vibe improves my mood.  What are your songs? Share some in the comments. 

Happy List

These are things that ALWAYS make me feel good. Even if I don’t feel like doing a single one of them when I’m down and depressed. The funny thing is, doing one of these almost always lifts me out of funk damn near immediately.  I keep a list of them in a note on my phone.

  • Ride Pony

  • Read a cheesy novel

  • Dance around my kitchen*

  • Fly or ride in a plane

  • Paint

  • Hang out with you on Instagram

  • Have reiki done

  • Talk with a friend instead of bottling up all the crappy feelings

  • Watch a movie

  • Work in the garden

  • Talk a walk

  • Listen to records

  • Swim

  • Drink coffee outside on the patio

  • Have flowers around

  • Light candles

Create a list of your own, things that always make you smile. Is it playing with your children, snuggling with your pups, losing yourself in a romance novel?  Most of my “happy things” are free, or inexpensive. Double win.

*If moving doesn’t making you feel happy, then I highly suggest dancing around while trying to capture a “dance photo”. The outtakes tho, Iz ded. 😹😹😹

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Just Move

This is the big one. Numerous studies have pointed towards exercise being as effective as anti-depressants in alleviating anxiety and depression. So honestly, it’s no big surprise that a bunch of the things that always improve my move involve movement.  What sort of ways can you be active today? When walking or riding feels too overwhelming to me, I’ll do what the kid in the article linked above does. I’ll often just get dressed in the appropriate clothes. It’s one small hurdle overcome and then I can usually trick myself into moving. “Ok, well just walk around the block” or “Ok, just go to the barn to say hi to Pony”. Another hurdle overcome and almost without notice, I’ve gotten myself moving. Another go to is to just dance around to one song. That one song turns into 2, then 3 and suddenly I’m feeling a bit better.  What movement can you trick yourself into doing?

Sit With It AND Sit Back From It

This is a new one for me. Rather than fighting the shitty feelings, I allow myself to pull up a chair and sit with them. Thanks, Rob Bell, for that idea. Check out his podcast episode “Some Days I Feel Lost”, for his take on it (and in grabbing that link, I noticed he posted a follow-up episode. I’m sure it’s 🤯). My takeaway was that it’s important to just notice what these feelings are trying to tell me. And also, to notice the part of me that’s noticing. The part that is one step back from being down in the depths of that depression. It’s hard in the moment, but Pete Holme’s explains it well. If we can find that little bit of space between “I am depressed” and “There is a feeling of depression” we can cling to that bit of breathing room. “I am depressed” feels hopeless…”there is a depression” feels like something that wasn’t there before, is here now, and could be on it’s way sooner than later. It feels less….all encompassing.

New Things

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If it’s crunch time, and I have to go to work, I’ll spend the drive to work focusing just on driving, the feeling of the steering wheel, the rumble of the engine, the sound of the wind (this is a form of meditation called mindfulness). But once work is done, I’ll force myself to do something new: it can be as simple as taking a different route home, buying a different type of food than what I was going to get at Safeway, watch a new show on Netflix, or listening to new music.

However, if times are “fall on my knees sobbing, catatonic, been this way for a week and the storm has moved in” tough, I’ll rent a kickass new experience (see me flying that plane over there? I was barely functioning that week, but HOLY SHIT that high brought me right back up out of it. As for renting, it’s cheaper than buying a Porsche and the high lasts longer, hedonic adaptation and all. Our minds crave variety and uncertainty, and purposely planning it into a day is sometimes the spark I need to kick a funk.

Speaking of hedonic adaptation, because I rent most of the big things in my life: my home, Pony’s stable, planes, cabins at Tahoe*, etc., I get to happily enjoy things that may have become “so last year” to the people who own them, at a fraction of the cost of buying them.

Happy Things

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One benefit of moving was the opportunity to be super intentional about what I brought into my new space. I decided that if it didn’t “spark joy”, it wasn’t living with me. And we ALL know how much joy Virgin sparks for me. So there’s a definite shrine to all things Virgin, copious amounts of plants, airline plates and silverware, a few antiques, and all the vinyl. What brings you joy? You’re in your space every day. Is it contributing to your happiness? Or detracting. Shameless plug, but I can DEFINITELY help you in that area. Let me know if you’d like to chat about your space and it’s impact on your happiness.

Well, I hope these rambling thoughts helped a bit. Big hugs to you if you’re in the midst of it.

PS Come hang out with me on Instagram. I ❤️ it., and all the encouraging insta-quotes out there are another tool I used to help myself feel better.

*Yes, this is a list of privilege, I know. There will be a blog post on that soon. In the meantime, read We Are Wealthy and Why It Matters.