Tag Archives: Happiness

10 steps to beat the beast

I recently had a relapse with my depression.  It was quite a scare as I hit some lows that I had hoped were history.  I knew what triggered it, but that didn’t help at all.  What did help though was still managing to implement all I have learnt over the last few months.  Not only did I get the ‘positive’ from implementing them, but I got it from knowing that I was fighting back.  I would love to say that after 3 days I had got myself back to the top, but the reality was more like a month.  Even then it was still up and down. 

I’ve been pretty good now for an entire week and thinking that we may have beaten that beast.  To celebrate I thought I would share some of tips.  If you have tried any of these, or have some new ideas, then please share.

1/ ‘It won’t last for ever’ 

As awful as it felt at the time, my logical brain kept telling me that it was a ‘blip’ and would soon be over.  Experience has proved this so it’s the one thing I hang on to.  Some days I would just tell the logical mind to get stuffed, it was talking rubbish, but other days the message did get through and that gave me strength to keep going.

2/ ‘Just do it!!!’ 

I have mentioned this golden rule before, so no matter how low I felt I always tried.  I didn’t want to do anything and all my efforts were focussed on staying in work (I’ve been back for over 4 months now and don’t want to go off again).  As soon as I got home I would want to crash into bed exhausted and weekends were a bit of a bed fest, just to recuperate from the week.  However, each day, I would make myself do something, regardless of how I felt.  So, on my weekends, I would make myself get up and shower, even if that was all I would do.  When I got in from work, I would make myself have a bit of toast or something before heading to bed.

3/ ‘Be social’ 

I am less than social at the best of times, but I know it’s important for me to feel connected to people when low.  This is a really new concept for me and I am only just getting to grips with it.  However, I’ve learnt enough to know I have to try and keep connections.  I have a great friend living round the corner who has a 6month old baby.  If I hadn’t seen anyone for a few days, I would make myself text her for coffee and baby cuddles.  Whilst there, it was a great distraction and I would feel a little better for an hour after getting home.  Seeing the simple thrills experienced by Chloe really touched something in me and helped take me out of myself a little.

4/ ‘Mindfulness’  

For some reason, even though I enjoy mindfulness, I didn’t want to do it this time round.  It sounds ridiculous but I really fought it.  I managed it at the weekends, but during the week I felt too tired to sit and do nothing for 10 minutes???  As I started to get better, I managed to motivate myself to do this more often and little by little I could remember and feel the benefits.  When I couldn’t manage a meditation, I did try to be mindful in other ways, such as in the shower, or in the car, so all was not lost.

5/ ‘Stay hydrated’  

Dehydration makes you lethargic, tired, irritable and lacking in concentration.  Sound familiar?  I am awful at staying hydrated, but really tried to drink as much as possible so that I wasn’t making things worse for myself.

6/ ‘Be happy’  

OK, so this is a bit of a challenge, but if you really focus and think back, I am sure most people can find that one tiny thing that happened during the day that made you smile…or at least think about smiling.  For me, this was most often my cat Dave.  When I am low, he’s gorgeous, loving, affectionate and always by my side.  However, as soon as he gets hungry, it’s all about him again.  I wouldn’t necessarily laugh, or even smile, but a little part of me would feel happy and grateful to have him and his funny little ways.

7/ ‘Move your body!’  

Again, not so easy, but if nothing else I would make myself do a few stretches, particularly at the weekends.  The days I was at work, I used way too much energy as it was, but on a weekend, I just needed to keep the blood circulating.  So, going back to 2, I just did it.  5 minutes of gentle stretching just to get me moving again.  I would feel better afterwards, but wouldn’t be able to resist the pull of my bed.

8/ ‘Moodscope’  

I track my mood every day on moodscope.com.  This is even more important to me when I am low.  I know the score isn’t going to be great, but by going through the words, I can think a bit more about how I feel.  Some days I would manage to feel a little pride, because I had managed to get through the day without giving up.  Other days I would just feel ashamed that I was so useless.  Some days I would be irritable, whilst others I would feel downright hostile.  The day I scored ‘A Little’ for feeling Active was a real breakthrough.  Without doing moodscope, I wouldn’t have these marks of progress.

9/ ‘Be honest’  

For the first time ever, I was honest with friends and family as to how I was feeling.  Not in any detail, but I didn’t put on the mask.   I didn’t want them to come over or call or do anything.  I just needed them to know I was low.  Having learnt and developed so much I felt it was important to be honest. The only exception to this was work.  Work got the mask of happiness and it always will as long as I can manage it. 

10/ ‘Go easy on yourself’  

Depression is shitty enough on its own without beating up on yourself as well.  The hardest part for me was to stop beating myself up for being useless.  Some days I couldn’t manage anything and I would feel absolutely hopeless.  But, in the same way my logical head could tell me this wouldn’t last, it was also able to tell me go easy on myself.  Remember this is an illness, it’s not you.  If you really can’t get up to do your stretches…then you can’t do them.  Big deal, we’ll try again later or tomorrow.  Or we’ll do half of them, or even just one, or even just walk down the stairs.  

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What have you done today to make you feel Proud?

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When was the last time you stopped and thought, ‘Actually, I’m really proud about that?’

I’m not talking about the big ticket items…running a marathon, saving a life, getting a book published.  I’m talking about the little things that might otherwise pass you by. 

Whenever I hear the song I can’t help but feel uplifted.  If you haven’t heard it then I would recommend you do.  I have to admit that it’s only recently that I have associated the words with my life.  Pride is something I thought related to other people. 

Some people associate pride as being a bit self-indulgent (especially us Brits).  It is often seen as something associated with big achievements and doing something out of the ordinary.  However, a quick review of definitions turned up this: “Pride describes a feeling of happiness that comes from achieving something.”  That’s it.  Feeling happy because of something you have done.  So why are we so reluctant to acknowledge it?

I was talking to my mum the other day, and she told me about a friends daughter.  The daughter had returned home from a job interview and told her mum that she was proud of how well she thought she had done. 

My mum could not comprehend that someone would be proud of something that other people do every other day.  Not only that, but that they would share such news with others.  I asked what the problem was and whilst she didn’t really provide an answer, she remained adamant that it was over the top.  It was a form of bragging or showing off.

The saddest part was when I asked if there was anything she was proud of.  She said no.  She had only done what lots of other people had done.  I asked if she was proud of raising her children.  This at least generated a pause for thought.  And yet the answer remained the same.  I had depression, my brother is divorced and distant with his own children and my sister has her own hang-ups.  She felt she had obviously done something wrong so no, she wasn’t proud.  I find this so sad.  My mum can’t feel proud of bringing up her 3 children on her own, because we haven’t turned out as she would have liked.

My mum has done some great things in her life.  The problem is that she, like many others, identifies achievement in terms of a successful outcome rather than the journey itself.  And perhaps this is the problem.  We need to remember that the journey is more important than the destination.  Whatever the outcome, you have tried, and that is better than doing nothing at all.

If you had asked me 6 months ago what I was proud of, I would have answered exactly the same as my mum.  I had nothing to be proud of.  Forget my career as a children’s nurse.  Forget my voluntary work with families and children affected with divorce/separation.  Forget travelling the world. Forget my award for bravery.  I was proud of nothing.  I was depressed, I was upsetting everyone around me, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t do anything and I was good for nothing.  It is only through my recent experiences with therapy and learning about better managing my depression that I have been able to identify with pride.  And I’m proud to say that I can do it, and I enjoy it 🙂

So how is this relevant to us?  In much the same way that some people keep a Gratitude journal, I review my day in terms of what I am proud of.  Today I have made some phone calls that I have been putting off for ages, I got up early enough to get washing out on the line before work, and I have made a cake to take into work tomorrow.  Other proud moments included the day I got back to work full time.  When I was really low, it was that I’d managed to have a shower.  It’s something that most people do every day without thinking .  For me, at that time, it was a huge achievement and I was proud that I had managed it.

I would really love you to take a moment now to think about the question: What have you done today to make you feel proud? Don’t worry if you can’t think of anything. Let me know and I will try and help you figure it out 🙂

Choose Your Attitude

Have you ever woken up and just hated the thought of the day ahead.  Maybe you have a long day at work, a hundred and one errands to run, a hospital appointment.  Whatever it is, it’s just going to be awful.  You know it.

But does it have to be this way?  You might not be able to change what happens, but you can definitely change the way you approach it.

A few years ago, at work, I was introduced to the ‘FISH Philosophy’*.  It had a significant impact on me and my approach to daily life.  I’m not perfect, I can’t do it everyday, but I do it when I can.  The Fish Philosophy was born from observations at a fish market in Seattle in the late 1990’s.  Working in a fish market has to be high on the list of worst jobs.  It’s dirty and smelly.  Your hands are frozen from packed ice.  You have to get up at stupid o’clock everyday.  You are on your feet for hours.  And you don’t get paid very much as a result.  However, if you visit the Seattle fishmarkets, you would find this hard to believe.  It is high energy, everyone is smiling or laughing, games are being played with customers….it feels more of a playground than a workplace.

Much research was carried out in the market place to discover what the secret was and they came up with the following:

Be There

Be there, is pretty much about mindfulness, before we had heard about mindfulness.  It’s about being in the moment and observing your surroundings and the things and people around you.  It always makes me laugh in the office when I pass someone in the corridor.  They’ll say ‘Hi, you alright?’.  By the time I answer they are already round the corner and out of hearing range!!  If you’re going to be there, Be There.

Play

At the fish markets, fish weren’t passed to people, they were thrown…and you had to catch them.  This obviously didn’t take the form random attacks, it was all part of the experience.  There was a small podium that customers could stand on to catch the biggest fish.  What can you do to implement play into your day?  It could be a random game of eye spy with the children in the car (or even your partner or friend).  How about picking a word of the day, and try to get people you interact with to say it? When I was a childrens nurse, working nights, I would leave some empty syringes lying around (without needles) for the children to fine.  They knew if they found one they could fill it with water and squirt me.  One of the parents once told me that they always knew when I was working as they could hear the laughter coming from the ward.  I nearly cried.   Be creative and have some fun J

Make their day

I was in a shop today and one of the assistants stopped me to say how lovely my dress looked.  I am still smiling about it now.  It made me feel so special and I was so appreciative that not only did she like my dress, but she had made the effort to tell me.  Such a small gesture, with such a huge impact.  Why don’t we do more of this?  A little tip: If you implement ‘Be there’, are you are more likely notice something to ‘Make their day’.  Let a car out of a side road and smile.  Pay special attention to the cashier.  The best thing is, that by making their day, you will also make your own.

Choose your attitude

We don’t always have control over the things we have to do, and most of our lives involve things that we dread or just bore us.  Choosing your attitude is a bit like acceptance.  You can’t change what you’re doing, but you can choose your attitude whilst you’re doing it.  Choose to do it with style and panache and a smile on your face.  Whatever it is, is going to happen.  You can either choose to be miserable whilst you’re doing it, or choose to be happy, or confident, or engaged, or anything else you want to be.

So, that’s the FISH Philosophy for you.

What can you take from this?

* http://www.charthouse.com/content.aspx?name=home2

International Happiness Day

Today is International Happiness Day.  In honour of this, I have kept a list of things that have made me happy today.

1/ A long hot shower

2/ My first coffee

3/ An iced fruit bun

4/ A skinny vanilla Latte

5/ Dave the cat (lots of examples, but I won’t bore you).  The photo shows him scratching on the window to be let in…despite having a cat flap!!

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Let me in now

6/ Working from home

7/ My friend dropping me round some homemade food for dinner because she knew I was busy

8/ Sunshine

9/ Wearing my favourite perfume

10/ Walking to town in the sunshine

11/ Treating myself to a favourite face cream and getting a free gift

12/ Someone complimenting me on my outfit

13/ A colleague telling me how much he enjoyed working with me, and how motivating I was to the team

14/ Taking my pills

15/ Arrival of a new book to help me with essay writing

16/ Remembering all these happy moments and writing them down

How about you?  What has made you happy on International Happiness Day?

The pursuit of happiness

I have been doing a lot of reading recently.  I love reading and have so many old favourites that I go back to time and again.  This week I have picked up a long lost favourite: The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.  The book explains the Philosophy of Taosism through the childlike world of Winnie the Pooh.  For any lovers of Pooh Bear, I would absolutely recommend it.  A beautiful, insightful and loveable read.  I’ll try not to provide too many spoilers.

 ‘The Bisy Backson’ is the chapter I reached today and has struck a real chord with, particularly when combined with a post by the wonderful Dysthmia Bree ‘Why does everyone have to be happy all the time’. 

Both readings talk about the pursuit of happiness.  DB beautifully illustrates this pursuit and how it seems a never ending path.  Just when we think we have found it, whatever ‘it’ is, it slips from our fingers again.  ‘It’ is always just within our sight, but always around the corner.  We don’t give up though, we always keep trying.

I remember wanting my first car.  I absolutely knew that once I had it all my problems would be solved.  I would have freedom.  I could go where I wanted when I wanted.  I would be happy.  My mum did the proper thing and explained that it would be a drain on my finances and a responsibility and I would have to look after it and so on…but that was a parents job, to take away the enjoyment part of it!!  That first day I got the car did indeed live up to expectations.  I was so excited and drove round to see all my friends and show them how happy I was with my new car.  The next day, I was still happy….but I had to fill it with petrol and spend more money and whilst I was still definitely happy, some of the sparkle had started to slip.  Several more tanks of petrol, ‘dry’ nights out and a wash or two later and the car was just one more possession that was now diverting happiness away.  If I am truly honest, my happiest period was in the few days running up to the purchase.

What has Winnie the Pooh got to do with all this?

“ “What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?” asks Christopher Robin

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best –“ and then he had to stop and think.  Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. “

And this is the crux of the matter.  It seems that mostly, we are so desperately in pursuit of things that will make us happy; we fail to appreciate what we already have.   And I don’t just mean possessions, I mean everything: friends, family, health, work, hobbies, environment, nature, weather.  The list goes on.  We are such ‘Bisy Backsons’, we don’t stop to see it.  We are running from one thing to the next without appreciating the experience.

Benjamin Hoff explains this so much better than I could: “What could we call that moment before we begin to eat the honey? Some would call it anticipation, but we think it’s more than that.  We would call it awareness.  It’s when we become happy and realise it.  If only for an instant.  By enjoying the Process, we can stretch that awareness out so that it’s no longer only a moment, but covers the whole thing”

So over to you.  What was going to make you happy?  What have you learnt about being happy or holding onto happiness?

Introvert and Proud

This is a self-indulgent post, and for once I will not be apologising.

As some of you know, I am a bit (for bit, read a lot) of an introvert.  I have only recently started to really understand and appreciate what this means.  As a result I am learning to embrace my introversion and enjoy it rather than fight it.

I had always thought there was something wrong with me, as I would avoid going out and meeting with friends.  The thought of these events would leave me feeling cold and sick.  I would constantly make excuses for not being able to attend certain events and would cancel at the last minute if I hadn’t been able to decline.  I’m sure some of my friends knew I was lying but if they did, they never said anything.  If I did go out, I had sets of rules to ensure I could escape if I needed to, or I would just drink so much I didn’t care. 

My home was my sanctuary and I just wanted to stay there.  Other than work, I generally did stay at home.  The problem was that when I was on my own I felt guilty, sad and lonely, wishing I was normal like other people.   I was in a real catch 22.  Couldn’t go out and enjoy myself, and couldn’t stay at home and be happy.  No wonder I was depressed.   

Obviously, everyone was full of great advice for me.  You need to get out more.  You’re isolating yourself, that’s why you’re down.  Get out more.  Everybody feels awkward going out, you just need to get on with it.  At the end of the working week though, I was shattered.  I would get home and go to bed early on a Friday, spend Saturday comatose on the sofa, and then Sunday cleaning the house and doing some food shopping (maybe).

Move forward a few months/years (possibly over a decade), and you will find me at home and happy.  I have finally realised, thanks to many bloggers on WordPress, that, a) I am an introvert, and b) there is nothing wrong with it.

No wonder I was so tired come Friday.  I had spent the week surrounded by people with no time to fully recharge.   During the week my battery would be drained to empty, and it would take until Sunday afternoon to charge it up.  Add the guilt I constantly felt for not going out and cancelling on friends and it was amazing I could do anything.

Last Sunday, I had a wonderful day.  Other than a friend popping by for a quick coffee, I spent the entire day alone.  Not lonely.   I practiced mindfulness, I read, I caught up on studying, I did some housework, I walked to town and sat in Pret a Manger with a skinny latte and my kindle.  Seeing groups of people out and gossiping didn’t bother me.  It’s just not my thing.  It was so liberating to be myself and do things that I wanted to do and enjoyed.

I have now started to plan my life to fit my introvert preference.  I work from home 3 days a week and have found it’s the perfect balance for me.  I often have to take calls early morning or late in the evening to incorporate different time zones.  Working at home, I simply take a longer lunch and walk to town for fresh air and a coffee.   I always keep a day free at the weekend that is just for me.  If I choose to go and see someone, that’s fine, but it’s my day with no obligations.  During the week I will only ‘book out’ 2 evenings so that I can spend the other evening recharging.  If someone asks me if I’m free, I will happily say no.  They don’t need to know that I have a date with my own company.

The best thing is that I am no longer plagued by guilt.  I value this time and make the most of it.  This is me, taking care of me.  And it’s about time I did 🙂

Procrastination be gone!!

How many jobs have you got at home (or at work) that have been on your To Do list for longer than you can remember?  Generally big jobs. Every time you think of tackling it you are overwhelmed by the enormity.  Maybe it’s clearing out the garage or a spare room, clearing out kitchen cupboards, decorating.  Those huge jobs that will actually make a big difference to you.  Even smaller jobs such as ironing, vacuuming, or washing up can overwhelm when you are feeling low.

I don’t have any magic answers, but I do have a method that I find helps me.  It’s about allocating short periods of time to complete the task and being clear about what you are going to achieve.  You need an alarm that you can set for 15-20mins, such as a kitchen timer, or your mobile (cell) phone.

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I work in 20minute blocks.  It’s long enough to show results but short enough not to overwhelm.  If you aren’t quite up to 20mins, shorten it to something more acceptable for you.  Even 5 minutes makes a difference.

The rules are that you must stop doing whatever it is when the alarm goes off.  You then  stop for the day or take a break.  I set an alarm for the break as well.  If you finish the task before the alarm goes off, congratulate yourself and take a break.  You will be amazed at how much you can achieve in such a short space of time.

For the first 20mins, I take the big task and break it down into much smaller chunks.  E.g., I want to clear the spare room.  Clear a chest of drawers or even one drawer at a time, clear the wardrobe, clear the floor space, fill a bag of rubbish or fill a bag for charity.  The aim is to make the individual tasks less monumental and more achievable.   Try putting them in some sort of order as well.  E.g., clearing the floor space first will make the other jobs much easier. When the alarm goes off…stop writing your list. 

The next time you feel the energy, pick a task, set the alarm and get to it.  When the alarm goes off…stop.

What you will find (hopefully) is that having started you will gain enthusiasm for seeing it through.  Forcing yourself to stop without finishing, can be frustrating and motivate you to go back and finish.

A little note…always go back to the unfinished task and keep going until you have finished it.  Break it down even further if that is going to help.  I told my mum about this way of working but she kept starting different tasks and ended up with lots of unfinished jobs!!

I use this approach at work as well, particularly when I am feeling low and my concentration is kaput.  I go through my projects each morning and make a list of the individual tasks that are required to complete the whole.  I set my alarm for 30mins, and plough on through.  After that, I make sure I stand up and wander round, grab a coffee or anything that takes me away from my desk.  I am always amazed at how much I get done.

I would love to hear from anyone who tries this?  Did it work for you?  How much did you achieve?

P.S

Is it ironic that it has taken me two weeks to write this post?  Each time I thought about it I would find something else to do thinking I didn’t have time to do it justice.  Time to follow my own set of rules me thinks.