Gratitude

I read an interesting article the other day: it discussed the habits of happy people versus the habits of unhappy people. One of the big factors in feeling happy in life is a sense of gratitude; the more grateful people were, the happier they tended to be.

Days slip by quickly sometimes and I don’t always remember to be thankful. Also, it’s often easier to focus on what’s going wrong, rather than what’s going right, thanks to the negativity bias of the human brain. How can we make more time to be grateful with such busy lives?

gratitude

Build a Routine

Take a few minutes each day to reflect on the many beautiful things in life. It’s an easy practice you can incorporate into your everyday routine, such as right before bed or right upon waking. It takes only a few minutes and it will refocus your brain to have a more positive outlook.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Write down a few things (or even just one thing) you are grateful for each day. It could be a person who helped you that day, a random act of kindness you witnessed, or a situation that didn’t go wrong. On a day you’re feeling down, reference the journal entries for an instant mood refresh.

Retrain Your Brain

After making gratitude a habit of your everyday life, you can actually retrain your brain to focus on the positives, instead of the negatives, that happen each day. Once you start to make this outlook a habit, your brain will begin to automatically search for what’s going right. All it takes is a few minutes a day!

It’s almost guaranteed that something positive happened to you today. What was it?

How Instagram Helped My Anxiety

I’ve read many articles about social media’s destructive effects on mental wellbeing. Social media does indeed have the capacity to foster negativity, unnecessary comparison, and feelings of inadequacy. But what if we focused on the beautiful things social media does? That’s what I try to do, and it’s changed my life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. I constantly needed something to worry about. I could recognize that most of my worries were irrational “what-if?” scenarios, but that didn’t keep them from playing over and over in my mind.

I couldn’t break the cycle of worry, fear, and sadness; it was taking over my life. And then, I discovered Instagram.

winterI first started on Instagram by following popular accounts that I found beautiful. The colors, the places, the stories; I loved it all. Scrolling through my feed of positive messages took my mind off my worries and gave me a much-needed break from my constant anxiety. I realize this is the double-edged sword of social media: its ability to distract from real life can be destructive, but in my opinion, it can also be a reprieve, a chance for mental clarity, and a launching point to realizing personal goals.

As I started discovering more accounts and more people, I was impressed, impassioned, and comforted by the sheer beauty of the world. Social media is an amazing way to connect with different people, ideas, thoughts, and cultures. I was introduced to farmers, world travelers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, models, moms, interior designers… the list goes on.

My favorite accounts all had two components in common: passion and creativity. Each person was sharing his or her enthusiasm with the rest of the world. The moms share the journeys of their children, the artists are painting and photographing, the activists are working for change, the world travelers are exploring.

The passion of others directly fueled the passion inside me. What was my contribution? What would my space say about me? How could I inspire others and continue this positive trend that had helped me so much? I immediately reflected inward. In the wake of my anxiety, I had lost who I was. I lost what made me feel alive. I forgot I had a creative story to share. I believe that anxiety is energy being allocated to the wrong place. Instead of hiding away in fear and worry, I turned that energy into action.

Social media, I’ve learned, must be utilized only as a celebration of a life well lived. It cannot be enjoyed as life itself, because it isn’t life. Allow social media to inspire, educate, and connect you. Follow only the accounts that speak to you in a positive way. Don’t allow the achievements of others make you question your worth or importance, for you have a story and a passion that only you can share. What will it be?

Refocus After a Bad Day

Unfortunately, not every day can be a great day. Some days just feel “off.” Yesterday was one of those “off” days for me, and I know everyone has them.

beach-sunset
A peaceful beach sunset last year in Delaware.

I chip away at my large goals every day by taking small steps forward. Yesterday’s negativity, though, made me doubt my progress. I was surrounded with thoughts of self-doubt (and I only increased these thoughts by reading negative articles online). Was I doing enough to achieve my goals? Would I ever reach my goals at my current pace? My thoughts were racing; I felt sad and defeated. I struggled with my sense of purpose.

“Bad” days can be important for growth, though, as long as you see them for what they are: a time to refocus and re-energize. When having a bad day, it is often hard to stay positive, but that’s exactly what you need to do. Yesterday, I tried to remember that negative energy can actually be a great springboard onto the things you’re passionate about. It can be a great reminder to keep going, a push against stagnation. After all, if you’re feeling down about something, it’s probably important to you.

negative

Instead of letting the negativity overtake your positive attitude, refocus the energy into action. I realized my bad day was a great wake-up call. I was getting too comfortable and too content with my progress. I had briefly become idle but I didn’t realize it. I needed this reminder that I still have work to do. I needed this bad day to remind me I’m not where I’d like to be yet.

If you find yourself having a bad day, allow the negativity to have its moment, but don’t linger on it. Refocus the problems into tangible goals. Keep moving forward and use the fresh emotion to propel you. Accept the day, create a plan, and start again tomorrow.

Banishing the Winter Blues

We’re nearing the end of January, and I can feel my winter blues setting in. After months of being cooped up inside, I feel like I’m not quite myself. I have less energy than usual and I find myself becoming irritated at small things that usually don’t bother me. I’m a very outdoorsy person and being inside for this many days straight is, unfortunately, taking its toll on my mood.

Today it finally snowed, which was actually a much needed reprieve from the constant drizzly rain we’ve been experiencing here. I was able to take my dog outside and watch as she explored the snowdrifts. I decided I needed to shake things up a little and breathe some fresh air into my routine. Are the winter blues getting you down? Below are my ideas for refreshing a tired winter routine.

snow
My backyard this morning. It might be the most beautiful snow I’ve ever seen!

Find a New Class/Hobby
I recently discovered that a gym near me teaches boxing classes every week. I’ve decided to sign up for some beginner’s classes! I’m looking forward to meeting new people and trying a new fitness routine. I also am very interested in learning Photoshop and I’m looking for a class on that, too.

Increase Your Workout Regimen
Although it may be tempting to skip the gym when you’re feeling lousy and tired, that’s exactly the opposite of what you should do. I’ve increased my workout length a bit to allow more time for cardio. Once I’m there at the gym, I immediately feel better. Exercise has an amazing way of lifting your spirits, and winter is a great time to sign up for a gym membership. And, as the saying goes, “Beach bodies are made in the winter!”

Plan a Trip
Having a trip to look forward to always makes me feel better. I love traveling and exploring new places. I started to plan my getaways for this year, and putting ideas down on paper is a great mood-booster. It may be also helpful to schedule a getaway during the winter as well.

Learn to Love the Snow
This one is pretty closely related to the last point. Ever since I discovered skiing about four years ago, it’s really helped me appreciate and enjoy the winter. My husband and I try to ski a few times each year. Planning a ski or snow tubing trip is a great way to love the outdoors when it gets cold.

Start an Organizing Project
I enjoy organizing, and I’m probably just weird, but I have been itching to organize my pantry for a few weeks now! Is there a home organization project you could get lost in? I find the winter is a great time to organize and clean up the inside of your home. When it’s nice out, you probably won’t want to spend your time indoors!

Do you have any ideas for banishing the winter blues? I’d love to hear them!