While I was in my last year of my degree, I experienced the lowest emotional lows I had ever experienced in my life. I could cite a lot of reasons, but honestly, I think a lot of it was the pressure of the program, and the way I coped with it.
NOTE: I’m not blaming the program — CreComm was one of the most mind-expanding and rewarding experiences that I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.
My mindset was shitty and I knew it. I was so deep in my own misery and unhappiness and didn’t have a clue what to do about it, and on top of it I was slogging my way through deadlines, stress-eating (and stress-gaining weight as a result), sleeping 4-5 hours a night and drinking on the weekend to push all the feelings down. I wanted out so badly but I felt STUCK. I was ready to pretty much do anything to get un-stuck.
When I finished the program, I decided to get happy no matter what it took. I felt like I had nothing to lose at that point — I could remain stuck in the same shitty problems and loop of thinking, or I could try to get myself out of it. I started reading research, articles, books and watched TEDx talks all on the topic of happiness.
There were quite a few tools and techniques I tested out that summer, but a lot of the research touched on the idea of breaking routine and trying new things to build confidence, shift your perspective and grow your feelings of abundance about life.
I made a huge list of things I wanted to do/try/see/read/experience and I was hell bent on finishing it by the end of the summer — and I did! For the most part.
Of all the things I tried that summer to make me happy, trying new things was one of the most rewarding things I did hands down. I’m not talking about taking a different route to work or trying a different brand of conditioner — in order to have the desired effect, you need to be prepared for discomfort and a whole lotta personal growth.
Here’s a quick sample of some things I pushed myself to do:
- Go on a solo trip
- Be a tourist in my own city (I highly recommend the walking tour of St. B)
- Go to the Planetarium
- Go kayaking/canoeing
- Host a party
- See a new gallery in Winnipeg
- Reorganize my surroundings
- Go to a comedy show
- Go to a networking event
- Sign up for a new workout class
…and the list goes on and on.
If you’re thinking “well this is very nice it worked for you but my situation is completely different,” I have some stuff for you to check out if you want.
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology by Shawn Anchor – He talks about spending money on experiences as a “happiness boosters.”
You are a Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life by Jen Sincero – Just read the whole book. You’ll thank me later.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – The whole book is about her journey in doing things differently (great first person perspective read).
Article by Huffington Post titled “A Look at the Incredible Benefits of Trying New Things”
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – He talks about comfort challenges – same principle, different application.
The Tedx talk titled How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over by Mel Robbins – I don’t agree with some of the things she talks about, but my favourite saying came from this: “participate in your own life.”
Recently, I had a conversation with my friend Sam Squire (she’s got really good energy – which is key) and she was telling me about how motivated she was feeling after a vacation. It’s not like I was feeling really low (like when I was in school) but I also could feel I wasn’t vibrating at that frequency that she was on, and I knew I wanted to be.
Following that conversation, I took a good hard look at what I’d been putting off and what I wanted to do, and dove in. There’s nothing that makes you feel lit up like a Christmas tree like a fun new challenge.
Since then I’ve…
- Booked a trip to Ottawa
- Started a book club
- Started listening to podcasts
- Reached out and made plans with friends I haven’t seen in a while
- Tried daily meditating (I suck, but I can only get better!!)
Stop hitting the snooze button on the shit you want to do. Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter/Instagram what you’ve always wanted to try — maybe this will be just the kick in the ass you need to get to it.
Disclaimer: I recognize this approach will not work for everyone. If you are feeling depressed and you are not in a place where it feels possible help yourself, or you are feeling very hopeless, reaching out and getting help is the best thing you can do. Here’s a link to Winnipeg’s Mental Health Resource Guide. It might help you, or someone you love, get started.
I understand that mental illness is absolutely real and no amount of books, healthy eating, exercise or mantras can alter brain chemistry. Please don’t hesitate to seek help, make your needs known and do what you need to do to feel your best.