5 April 2018

A toolkit for happiness

I'm a positive person and I would describe my overall mood on the average day as happy and content. This isn't an easy state to maintain however and something I work at everyday.

I can succumb to negativity, succumb to a bad mood, frustrations and a little too often at the moment some bleaker, sadder thoughts. But how can I minimise these? How can I prevent them in the first place?

I am putting this post together for myself, a little toolkit for me to read when I do feel hopeless and bleak and hopefully I can use it to bring my mood back to 'my normal'.

It should be simple right, to know what makes us happy and what makes us sad? But it often takes a lot of figuring out just exactly how our minds work and what makes us tick.  This is one area that's a big interest to me and something I read a lot about. I believe it is hugely beneficial for your confidence and mental health to know and understand yourself better.

This little list includes some of things I have learnt and the tools I use to keep me sane(ish).

Little friendly disclaimer: I am talking here about low level moods and off days, obviously not medically diagnosed conditions.

1. Go for a walk. Fresh air and light exercise works wonders for me. The rhythm of footsteps, just on and on gives my mind space and time to wander and quieten. With each plod I feel the tensions and frustrations being stamped out of me. I don't consciously attempt to think through things when I'm walking and I don't force any thoughts or reasons but my mind sort of does its own thing and after a couple of miles I always find I feel a lot better.

2. Blame your hormones. How much, as women, do our moods have to do with our hormones?  I don't know the answer. But just simply by getting to know myself a little better I would guess that my hormones play a significant part in my mood and outlook on my life on a daily basis. Have you ever felt so rotten one day, utterly down and bleak and the next day you have just sort of snapped right out of it with little or no effort? This happens to me all the time.  I track my cycle and I find it so interesting.  There are very obvious patterns that I maybe hadn't noticed much before. Not just the usual PMS symptoms but a lot more subtle ones too that crop up every single month. I use an app called Clue, aside from the set fields to pick from logging your moods, sleep, energy patterns etc it allows you to add in user defined fields. It is fascinating that at regular times of the month for example I feel more creative, more confident or indeed more bleak and hopeless. But tracking regularly, getting to know my cycle, helps me appreciate that a lot of the mood may be hormonal. I can focus on new starts and new parts of my cycle and realise that I am most likely going to be feeling better soon.

3. Give yourself a good talking to. I often find the chats I have with myself in my head are the most effective! I have a pretty logical, rational side and an irrational crazy side and often these two clash when I am feeling low. But I am a firm believer in that we can have control over our own moods. It is often a huge combination of things that determine your mood for the day and sometimes it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly what has tipped the fine balance. We all deal with our lots in life and some people may have it 'easier' than others but ultimately it is how we deal with the crap and shitty times and the low moods that we should judge ourselves on. I can very often talk myself out of crap feelings and negativity, I question my take on things and wonder to myself if my expectations of a situation or a person etc were too high.  If I decide I want to be positive and not let things effect me then I can be just that, it just takes a little internal chat and a little effort and push sometimes.

4. What you do everyday matters SO much more than what you do once in a while. I stole this off Gretchen Rubin (love her) I didn't really get it at first but I think about this often now. What things do I do on a daily basis, 'good' things and 'bad' things that are shaping my moods? I put in habits daily, silly little things that matter to nobody but me that nobody but me will notice. Like always washing my face, always making my lunch the night before, exercise, meditation etc. But these things make me feel better and minimise my petty frustrations and perhaps potential 'triggers' for a low mood. Very often the low mood will happen anyway, and no matter how many little habits I attempt to perfect will stop them.  But at the back of my mind I know I always do these things and they do work and they are probably likely minimising the number of low moods or severity of them and it's a comforting thought.

5. Don't give into them. I can find it is rather easy, and let's be honest with ourselves here, to give into your bad mood. To just say oh sod it, and to wallow, to binge on a mountain of chocolate, to have a huge moan, to just let it all come crashing down and feel sorry for yourself. It may sometimes not be an entirely 100% conscious decision. But I know myself, I have felt myself giving in and letting my crazy irrational side take over and my bleak mood get out of hand.  I have felt an internal struggle with feeling overwhelmingly 'ugh' but  also hearing a little teeny rational voice still in there somewhere saying 'it's not all that bad', 'does that really matter?', is that likely to happen?' but sometimes that is just squashed down and ignored, especially when you feel confused and overwhelmed with something.  There are genuinely times when I feel like this and if I give myself a shake, a good talking to, I know I can just to snap out of it and not give into it. Give yourself some tough love, "are you really going to just bitch and moan in your PJs all day with chocolate smeared all over your face? Will that REALLY make you feel better?" Usually the answer is er... nope!

6. Surround yourself with happy people. I know a bit harsh, but maybe best in the couple of days you feel rubbish to not see those people that are on the negative side of the spectrum, you know, those people who frustrate you and bring you down. I can be very overly sensitive and I can easily take on other people's moods. I can be completely fine, happy, normal etc and then I might be chatting to a friend or colleague who is upset about something, who is facing some difficulty, who is overly stressed or angry and after a while I take on these feelings myself. Negativity breeds but on the flip side positivity breeds too. Some people are able to rise above things, but things get to me, they bog me down, I overly worry and get paranoid easily. To safeguard my own mental health I do occasionally have to make a point of steering clear of certain situations and people.

7. Surround yourself in happy and inspiring things. I make a point of not reading or watching things about depression or anxiety. I don't like books where the main character has dark issues or mental health problems. I avoid the news as it is always just doom and gloom and horrible things. Surrounding myself with people going through bleak times or having dark feelings can give me justification for my own. So I may be feeling a little on the low side, and listen to a podcast when somebody is describing their depression journey, or watch a TV show when the characters are doom and gloom, I somehow let this give me permission for my own feelings. I take on their feelings, I start questioning myself, and justifying my own bleak moods. "Oh, maybe that's how I feel", or "should I feel that way too?" So instead I surround myself with inspiring people and positive stories. I look for articles about coming out the other side, or overcoming certain things, stories which have a positive outcome, not just simply describing dark moods or bleak times.  So with people I follow on social media, in the movies and books I choose, I seek out content that will be uplifting, inspiring and motivating.

8. Don't read the comments! Do you ever take a peek at the comments on controversial articles, or make a point of reading long threads on social media when people are spouting off about things? Be honest here, do you follow people on social media that you despise, people who anger and frustrate you, just because you have to see what they are moaning about now? Admit it, we all do it! It's super tempting to see what people say. It's that car crash mentality, as much as it is gruesome to see you cannot take your eyes away. Well take your eyes away! I've often found myself reading endless tweets from disgruntled bloggers who are all discussing the latest 'dramas'. I click on comments sections of news articles on topics like veganism or climate change and I am filled with rage and despair for humanity each and every time. I have even in the past found myself commenting back, getting into arguments or offering my opinion. I imagine conversations and arguments with these people in my head over and over and over... Why? Like WHY??? It does no good. It always leaves me empty, wound up, frustrated and ultimately sad. I avoid anything like this now. I have deleted all the people on twitter that perpetuate the drama and negativity, I just don't want to know. I never click on comments sections, I just don't want to be involved. I am not interested in small minded opinion and people who argue for argument sake. Just don't read them and you can float around in your happy little drama free blissful bubble!

9. Escape. I pick the movies, tv shows and books that I know will immerse me and I try my best to escape my feelings. Yes, I fully admit I do a lot of burying my head in the sand, and blocking these feelings out, but this works for me sometimes. It's a little survival mechanism that kicked in over the years.  As a huge worrier over everything, I seem to have learnt to just not think about some stuff, just block them completely. This is where movies and books come in really useful. If I can just clear my head and immerse myself in some amazing film then I have beat those moods for that space of time. Read a book for a couple of hours and my mind is 100% taken up with just that book, no room for other thoughts.  Repeated over and over again I find that low moods can go away or change. It's not always easy to be creative or sociable when you feel low, but I like to crochet something simple and repetitive as that acts as escapism for me. I also like visiting family or playing with my nephews. Little kids don't question you or ask you how you are feeling, you can just focus on them, run around like a lunatic and forget yourself for a while. Sometimes when you find yourself again the sad mood has shifted.

10. Sleep. An absolute fail safe. My one talent in life is sleeping! I can sleep anywhere, anytime. I am one of those annoying people that is literally asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow every single time without fail. I'm a heavy sleeper and don't usually wake up in the night either, except when Meg mog decides she needs attention or food.  Sleep is restorative obviously and I always always wake up, whether that's from a half hour nap or in the morning, with a different mindset and with a different perspective. If I feel crap, feel overwhelmed, angry etc I just go to sleep. Simple.

Well that's my little list of remedies to keep myself from disappearing too far down the black holes. But what are yours? Do comment below and let me know.


  1. Ahh Jo, this post!! I completely agree, it can be so easy to disappear into a ball of frustration and self-loathing so easily when you're feeling blue and doing some of the things on this list is often enough to just pull me straight out of it. People often laugh at the light and 'fluffy' books I read outside work but I have the attitude that my day to day working life is stressful enough that I don't want to add to that with my reading material - something I can dive into, lose myself in and know there's going to be a happy ending is just what I need to feel better. Yoga helps too but that's something I've let slide again recently - time to break out that mat!
    I'm also bookmarking this post for reference on blue days :)

    C xx

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