With the mental health crisis we are facing today and the constant reports of suicide occurring not just in the United States but the world as a whole, it begs the question, where has all the happiness gone?
It seems happiness has been harder and harder to find and more and more people are being pushed into a position of despair that runs so deep they eventually rationalize that committing suicide is their only option left.
This article is about finding your happiness, even when life throws a curve ball at you that makes it hard to do so.
Despite the fact we have no control over every event that we are faced with we do have the power to decide how we are going to react and handle the emotions that come with the event.
If you have been blind sided by the death of a loved one, loss of employment or any other form of tragedy, it is important to take steps to start helping your mind heal from the damage that has been done from experiencing this event.
Below are 20 different strategies you can use that will help you heal so that you can eventually return back to happiness.
Ask The Right Questions
One of the biggest ways we push ourselves into a downward spiral of emotions eventually leading to depression is by negative self talk.
The inner dialogue that occurs in our minds can have a devastating effect on our emotions and even our physical health if left unchecked.
One of the most important parts about your inner dialogue is the questions that you ask internally which will prompt an answer from somewhere in your mind.
It is important to remember that you receive what you give in terms of internal questioning and if you are constantly asking negative questions then you are prompting your mind to respond with negative answers that will cause you to only feel worse about the situation.
Some examples of negative questions would be:
1. Why am I always failing?
2. Why does this always happen to me?
3. What did I do to deserve this?
4. What is the point of going on any further?
5. Who would love someone like me?
I am certain that you have found yourself asking these type of questions at least once in your life, especially during a low point where you are not feeling the greatest about life in general.
The problem with asking these type of questions is that it starts a vicious cycle that causes you to focus on the negative or even gives your mind the fuel to start imagining and exaggerating certain aspects about yourself and your life in order to provide the narrative that goes along with the questions you are asking.
Next time you are at a low point, try and write down some positive based questions that will allow you to come up with positive solutions. This is a powerful technique that can turn your mind into your ally rather than your worst enemy.
Some example of positive based questions would be:
1. How Can I Learn & Grow From This?
2. What Can I Do To Improve My Life?
3. What Do I Have To Look Forward To?
4. Who Can I Talk To That Would Make Me Happier?
5. What Can I Do To Help Myself Relax Today?
Feeling Means Your Healing
You should never be afraid to feel because feeling is one of the main ways your mind learns to heal. While emotions, especially negative ones, can be overwhelming at times, it is important to develop a healthy way to process them so that you can move on.
Failure to allow your emotions to surface and be expressed properly can lead to stress which can result in anxiety, depression and psychosomatic symptoms such as illness.
The trick is to figure out the best way to allow your emotions to be expressed by providing them a constructive outlet.
There is a plethora of ways to allow your emotions to be expressed, here are a couple that may help you:
1. Journal it: Writing your thoughts down in a daily log can be a great way to allow emotions to be expressed without it effecting your daily routine.
2. Art: Regardless the type of art (Paining, Drawing, Music etc) any type of artistic expression can be a great way to allow your emotions to be expressed
3. Exercise: Sometimes the best way to give your emotions a release is to physically exert your body to the point of exhaustion. Doing this can clear your mind and help your process the thoughts that are behind the emotion allowing you to handle them accordingly
The bottom line is emotions are all a part of the healing process and you must let them be expressed. Suppressing your emotions will do nothing for you and can actually have a negative effect on your health in the long run.
Turn Off The TV
Television has been notorious for its ablity to allow you to "tune out" the world, but make no mistake, it is not doing you any favors when it comes to your happiness. Television constantly bombards you with commercials that try and sell you on a version of reality that just isn't true.
The same goes for the television shows that are being put on the air. Your brain doesn't differentiate what is real and what is not as such when you watch fake people from "reality" shows living a life that is beyond the reach of 99% of the world it naturally is going to make you feel depressed about where you are in life.
The truth of the matter is that television has done very little to help us as a whole and frankly has done a lot of harm to people in terms of their mental well being.
Unfortunately, because the industry is so entrenched in society there is very little chance it is going to go away although the world would frankly be better off without the scripted reality shows, cartoons, and commercials that do nothing to help us connect with ourselves and one another.
If you are having trouble with dealing with your emotions, do your mind a favor and disconnect from the tv for at least a week. The break is going to have a drastically positive effect not just on your productivity levels but your mind state too.
If you have a family it is also imperative that you limit the screen time your children are exposed to, while it may be an easy way to get an hour or two of peace and quiet, research has shown that excessive screen time can easily lead kids toward depression, anxiety and trouble concentrating in school.
Do Volunteer Work
Helping others is an excellent way to not only give back to your community but help yourself feel better as well.
In fact, a study done by Harvard Health showed that those who volunteered their time on a weekly basis experienced what has been coined as the "happy effect" and can give you the same feeling of happiness as if you had received a life changing salary increase.
Volunteering helps you bring happiness into your life for quite a few reasons, first and foremost it allows you to appreciate how fortunate you are by forcing you to face the reality that everyone in the world is suffering in some way or another and in comparison to others, your life is not that bad.
Secondly volunteering allows you to connect with others that share the common goal of helping others, which is a positive experience and allows you to feel less alone.
Last but not least, when you volunteer you are practicing empathy and empathy naturally makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you.
The fact is, volunteering is one of the greatest activities you can take part in because it not only helps the world but helps you as well, if you are in a dark place and need help getting back to a positive mindset we highly encourage you give volunteering a try.
Take Time To Meditate On The Future You Want
We get so wrapped up in the present situation that sometimes we lose ourselves and forget to focus on what we want our next chapter to look like.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed about life it is always a good idea to set some time aside and focus on what you want the future to look like.
By doing this you are giving yourself the ability to step away from the present and step into a future that you can look forward to which is going to help you handle the current situation that you may be facing.
In order to get the full effect of this strategy it is important that you are very detailed when you are imagining your ideal future.
Imagine what you are going to be wearing, the sounds that you will hear, how you will be standing, pretty much every minute detail that you can conjure up concerning your ideal future.
By doing this, it has been proven that you can change the chemistry of your brain allowing you to overcome the negative thought that may plague you in the present.
Keep Your Perspective
When you are feeling down it can sometimes be hard to keep from viewing the situation from a birds eye view. It is important to always remember that no matter how down and out you may be in the present this situation is temporary and only represents a fraction of your entire life.
Everyone is going to experience ebb and flows when it comes to life and if you can keep the understanding that this is simply a moment that will pass than you are going to have a much easier time moving forward towards bigger and better things.
A great way to maintain perspective is to focus on what you are grateful for on a daily basis, even going so far as to keep a daily journal of what you are grateful for.
Not only will daily gratitude help you keep perspective, but you will also have a powerful tool to turn to when you feel overwhelmed by negativity and need a boost of positivity in order to get you through the day.
Practice Healthy Eating Habits
The saying "You are what you eat" is more true than most people realize. There has been a lot of research done concerning the effect your diet has on your mental health and it is very true that failure to eat healthy can lead to depression and anxiety if left unchecked for to long.
When you are plagued with negative thoughts it is important to try and stay away from junk food that contain simple sugars such as sodas, candy, fruit juice and syrups.
Eating an abundance of these foods, while momentarily satisfying, can lead to a fluctuation in your sugar levels which can be devastating to your mental health.
You are also going to want to steer clear of alcohol because this is a natural depressant that is sure to leaving you feeling terrible after the affects have worn off.
The foods you are going to want to include in your diet are s such:
Protein: By adding protein to your diet will help your body slow down the consumption of carbohydrates into your blood stream and help your body produce more dopamine and nor-epinephrine which can help elevate your mood naturally.
Vitamins: Vitamin D has been shown to help elevate mood and increase over all mental health. The best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight, but if this is not possible, than a multivitamin that includes Vitamin D should suffice. Another vitamin that helps to elevate mood is B12. Vitamin B 12 is found in Salmon, Lean Beef and Cottage Cheese and should be a large part of your diet no matter what.
Fiber: Foods that have complex carbohydrates which contain soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and increase your serotonin levels which is the "feel good" chemical. Foods that can give you a good dose of fiber are oats, beans, peas and avocados.
Learn To Let Go And Let Live
One of the most important skills that you can learn to practice is the ability to let things go.
Accepting that not everything is under your control and that sometimes bad things happen because of no fault of your own is one of the best ways to learn how to heal and move on.
Allowing negative thoughts to fester is not only counter productive, but you are likely to over exaggerate the issue the longer that you let your mind focus on the situation.
Our brains naturally distort and expand events that occur which is why when an accident or crime occurs, first hand witness is one of the most unreliable source of information.
Take the time to process the event that is causing you to distress and then take a deep breath and make a conscious decision to let it go. Doing this will allow you to move forward and focus on more productive thoughts that are going to bring you closer to your goals.
Understanding Your Emotional Triggers
We all have certain triggers that can affect our moods and actions and it is important that we remain aware of these in order to understand how we can prevent them from taking over our lives.
If you are ignorant of what triggers you emotionally, you are likely going to feel like life is out of your control which is going to have a negative effect on your overall mental health.
The first step to learning your emotional triggers is to slow down and recognize when your emotions are triggered and what were the events that preceded your emotions.
The next step is to analyze those events and ask yourself what exactly happened that caused you to have the emotion. Once you identify the what and the why, it is time to take action to take control of the situation.
You have three options when it comes to handling your emotional triggers:
1. Change the situation so that the emotional trigger does not occur
2. Change your behavior/thinking to mitigate the emotional response
3. Avoid the situation all together
It is important to not be to hard on yourself when working on handling your emotional triggers. Understand that everyone has these triggers and having to deal with them does not make you any less of a person.
In fact, by recognizing and dealing with them you are on your way to becoming a stronger person which is what life is all about.
Being Aware Of Reactions
Just as it is important to make sure you are aware of what triggers an emotional response you should also be aware of how you are reacting to situations that trigger an emotional response.
As we have stated before, you do not have the ability to control every happenstance that occurs in your life but you do have the power to take charge in how you react to each situation.
Learning to control how you react begins with practicing self awareness and understanding how certain situations trigger a response which is explained in the previous section.
Once you have identified what your triggers are, you then need to take note of what your typical reaction to the trigger might be.
Once you have this down decide whether your reaction is positive or negative, if you determine that the reaction is not one you desire it is time to take steps to change it.
To do this you should follow these steps:
1. Stop and take a deep breath
2. Consciously take account as to how you feel and how you want to react
3. Decide the action you should take in response to this trigger
4. Take action
Your response to certain triggers are a habit that has been formed over time from repetition so don't be surprised when it takes a few attempts in order to get this done.
When ever you fail to react the way you want to, don't beat yourself up, simply respect the fact that change takes time and practice and each time you make an attempt you are heading in the right direction.
With patience and consistency you will inevitably develop the new habit.
Change The Way You Dress
Sometimes a new outfit can make you feel like a brand new person, and if you are stuck in a rut this may be exactly what you need. Research has shown that improving the way you dress can have a positive effect on your mental health.
Her here are some of the ways clothes can help you handle life more effectively:
1. A Tie Can Make You Feel More Powerful: Research has shown that when wearing a tie men were able to perform tasks much more effectively and felt more in control of the situation than their piers who did not wear one.
2. Dressing Up Can Improve Your Ability To Think: One Study showed that people who dressed in business attire were able to think faster on their feet and had an easier time coming up with creative ideas.
3. Wearing Red Can Help You Exercise: One study done in 2004 showed that a majority of athletes who won competitions were wearing red. When they studied this, they found that athletes who wore red were able to lift heavier weights and had a better heart rate while performing exercise. Quite a drastic change just by changing the color of your clothes.
4. Wearing Smart Clothing Can Make You Smarter: One study put subjects in clothes that professionals typically such as lab coats and uniforms and they found that found that the persons ability to solve complex problems were much higher than those who dressed in street clothes
These are just a few of the examples of how clothing can positively effect your life.
Irrespective of the psychological benefits, you should treat yourself to a new outfit every so often just so that you can feel your best.
Everyone feels better when they are in new clothes, and you deserve to feel great!
Follow A Daily Routine
Almost every successful person has a ritual that they follow on a daily basis that helps them stay positive and tackle the day that is to come.
Most of the time they perform these rituals in the morning before the day starts so that they can get the day started on a positive note however, anytime that is easiest for you is when you should plan you routine.
Research has shown time and time again that having a routine, especially in the morning, can help with depression and anxiety.
Here are some ideas that you can incorporate into your morning routine:
1, Yoga: Doing simple Yoga stretches in the morning, can help improve mood, tone your body and reduce your need for caffeine.
2, Eating A Balanced Meal: By ensuring your body is getting the right amount of fuel first thing in the morning you are going to give your body and mind the ability to handle whatever life decides to throw at you that day. Eight hours is a long time to go without food, and when you eat a breakfast with a high amount of protein and complex carbohydrates you are less likely to experience depression and anxiety.
3. Start With What Your'e Grateful For: Waking up in the morning and writing down what you have to be grateful for is a great way to get your day started on a positive note. Research has shown that this will increase your happiness and overall sense of well being. Also, if you make it a routine to list what you have to be grateful for you will be able to refer back to these when events during the day trigger a negative response.
4. Avoiding Technology: Technology has helped our lives in numerous ways, unfortunately it is also the cause of a lot of stress and anxiety. For the first couple of hours it is a good habit to stay away from the phone and computer. Research has shown that excessive use of smart devices especially first thing in the morning has led to difficulty in being able to focus and increased chances of suffering from depression and anxiety.
Smile More Often
Smiling more often has been shown to increase your ability to handle stress and increase over all well being even if you are in a situation that would typically make you feel stressed and anxiety.
Smiling can also help you look more attractive, intelligent and likable which is helpful in any social interaction. Learning to smile even when you don't feel like it has physiological benefits as well.
Some examples are:
1. Stronger Immune Function: A study done by the mayo clinic found that laughter (which is accompanied with a smile) has been shown to release signaling molecules in the brain that help fight disease and reduce stress.
2. Pain Relief: Laughing and smiling has been shown in research done by the mayo clinic to release natural pain killers in the brain giving you the ability to increase your pain threshold. So if you have suffered from an injury that is causing you pain, do yourself a favor and watch a comedy show or a funny movie, it may work just as good as pain killers!
3. Less Stress: Smiling has been shown to help your mind handle stressful situations more effectively and lower your heart rate as well. When you are stressed your heart rate tends to elevate and if your heart rate is elevated on a constant basis to this can have damaging effects on the heart.
Talking To A Positive Influence
We are social creatures that benefit from our interactions with others. When you have suffered from an event that has effected your mental health it is important not to recluse yourself from society.
Do yourself a favor and reach out to a good friend or loved one and have a conversation with them, the simple act of communicating has been shown to elevate mood and can help you process events that have occurred.
Recent studies have shown even talking to strangers can make you a happier person and the effects are reciprocal.
If you are hesitant to speak to strangers we highly suggest you take steps to gaining this skill, it not only will benefit your mental health but help you with other aspects of your life as well.
Decide To Cut Negativity Out Of Your Life
In our life we are bound to pick up some negative people and situations that we learn to accept do to the fact they become regular occurrences. It is important to take stock of the daily occurrences in your life and if you recognize one that consistently causes you unhappiness than it is time to make a change.
The same goes for people as well, if someone in your life has been consistently causing you grief then if possible, it is time to disconnect. If it is a situation where you have to interact with them such as a boss/subordinate situation then you may need to research ways to limit their ability to influence the way you feel.
Just because you have to interact with someone does not mean that you need to allow them to affect the way you feel. You have the power to decide how you are going to react to any situation and that includes how people treat you.
Go Easy On Yourself And Others
Being hard on yourself is no way to help you recover from a tragedy, and can be damaging to yourself overall. The same can be said for how you deal with others. The fact of the matter is that we are all human and as such, we are all fallible beings and that is OK!
Making mistakes and learning from them is a part of life and is the only way to improve. If you aren't making mistakes you aren't taking risks, and if you aren't taking risks than you are not going to develop your full potential.
Understanding and respecting the fact that other people are fallible beings can make it much easier for you to deal with those who you may let you down.
It is always disappointing when people fail to live up to your expectations but remembering that this is just a part of being human can ease the pain and help you deal with these situations in a productive manner.
Do Things That Are Meaningful To You
Taking the time to do things that make you feel at peace is important to give your mind and body a way to reset, especially if you have just experienced some form of tragedy.
Whether it be painting, taking a walk or playing video games, you need to allow yourself to break away from the daily stresses of life and give your mind a chance to process the events that have occurred.
After doing this you will find handling whatever you are going through much easier because you have given your mind a chance to obtain perspective of the situation.
Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Living your life to the fullest requires that you step outside of your comfort zone and experiencing new things, even if it means taking a risk.
When you experience a tragic event, stepping outside of your comfort zone can help you shift your thoughts to a more positive place and if you succeed in your endeavor the confidence you gain will help you push past whatever has happened in the past.
Doing the same routine day and day out may feel safe, but it can quickly become monotonous which can lead you to feel like you aren't going anywhere in life.
It doesn't have to be something huge like moving to a new country (although it could be) but it should be just enough to make you feel a bit nervous or apprehensive, this is a sign that your comfort zone is being stretched which is a good thing.
Get Out In Nature
Being out in nature has been shown to help with anxiety, depression and even improves memory.
There is no exact answer as to why nature helps improve our mindset but a study done in 2015 took a look at the minds of people who regularly spent time in nature and found that their pre-frontal cortex had lower activity than those who didn't.
This is significant because when you are experiencing negative thoughts or going through a depressive episode it is typically a result of strong activity in this area of the brain.
Something as simple as taking a hike outdoors can have a powerful effect on your mood and help you to get back to a more positive state mind which can be the first step in helping you heal from a tragic experience.
Identify And Live By Your Core Values
Finding your core values is an important part of living a fulfilling life and can help you overcome the negative emotions that come with a tragic event.
To find your core values you need to ask yourself what truly makes you happy and compile them into a list. Once you do this, you are going to want to align your activities to coincide with that list.
The more your actions are in alignment with your core values, the better you are going to feel. People who take the time to recognize what their core values are known to be happier and more fulfilled with life.
They are also able to bounce back much quicker than most when experiencing disappointment or a tragic experience.
The Next Step:
Now that you know the ways to improve your level of happiness even after experiencing a tragic event, check out our article about ways you can do the same for your children. As parents nothing is more important then the safety of your young ones and in this article we will provide you strategies to prevent them from having to suffer from mental disorders such as depression and anxiety as they grow older.