For the past few months I have been carrying a very heavy weight around with me that has been dimming my usual happy spirit. A close family member of mine struggles with bipolar depression and this illness has become my main worry, the theme of my prayers and essentially my enemy. My goal in life is to help this person triumph over this illness and achieve happiness, but in trying to help so hard I have put a lot of strain on my own happiness in the process. Sometimes I even feel guilty for how happy I feel because they cannot feel the same way. This issue has been effecting my family for a long time and I have learned over the years that this is not something that can easily be fixed, which is heartbreaking as I am a fixer and want to make everything a fairytale. Accepting that everything can’t be perfect is like accepting defeat at this point, which breaks my heart, but I always hold out hope and have faith that this person can come back from depression and be better than ever before.
I truly believe that by leading a healthy lifestyle you can gain control of your happiness. I don’t just mean working out and eating clean to be healthy, I mean keeping a healthy mind and spirit as well which requires activley practicing mental exercises. I am not saying that being healthy will cure depression, but I am saying it can make it less painful to live with. In my effort to help this person on their path to happiness and wellness I realized that I need to be more mindful of my own state of mind as well, so I have launched The Happiness Project as a personal project for myself to ensure I am not drowned out at sea carrying this weight. If you are also carrying a weight through life I hope you too can benefit from this personal project and/or share it with someone you know who is struggling with their happiness. Read more on The Happiness Project after the jump…
The Happiness Project
Gratefulness Exercises. Every night write down a few things you are grateful for to put your life in perspective and remind yourself of all the wonderful things you have to be happy about. This is something I do frequently and it is a easy trick to get your mind in a happier mentality quickly. We all get so caught up in the day to day that it is useful to stop and really appreciate all that you have.
Work It Out. Clear your mind, forget your worries and release endorphins to raise your happiness levels. I always feel better after a workout, even if it’s just a walk. Encourage a friend or family member to join you if you know that they might be struggling with their happiness so you can both laugh together and spend time on something other than your worries.
Your Inner Circle. Nothing brings you down more than toxic friendships and people who don’t have your best interest at heart. Don’t even get me started on mean people, they are the worst. Make sure to surround yourself with positive and uplifting people who want to build you up, not break you down. Follow inspirational people on Instagram and Pinterest who post positive messages, and delete those people who might make you feel bad about yourself in anyway.
Unplug. Take time away from computers and phones to reconnect with nature and the people around you. My boyfriend and I have a night a week where we have no TV on and can’t look at our phones, we just make dinner and lounge around together getting back to what’s really important. Too many of us get so involved in social media (myself included) that the life we start living for is someone else’s. Remember that the lives people portray on social media is just the highlight reel, they struggle with real issues too. Remind yourself to unplug from all of this and focus on what makes you truly happy – your dreams, your goals in life – not someone else’s.
Practice forgiveness. It’s the most difficult exercise for the heart and mind, but the most rewarding. Free yourself by forgiving others and I promise your happiness levels will increase. This doesn’t mean you are going to move on from something traumatic and suddenly have amnesia, but silently forgiving someone just to yourself and trying to move forward will bring happiness to your life. Even just forgiving that jerk who cuts you off in traffic and moving on will make you feel better than thinking about it all morning and letting it effect your day.
Set goals. Whether it is a vacation you want to take, a new job you want to land or a summer body you are working towards, spend your energy thinking about how you are going to accomplish it and happiness (and results) will come. Spend your time and energy creating a vision board, start a trip savings jar or have people read your resume – take the steps to really turn your goal into a reality and you’ll forget the little things that were making you unhappy as you stay focused on your bigger goal in life. I sound really New Age-y now but I believe if you put the energy out there it will come back to you!
Pay It Forward. Nothing makes you feel better than doing something nice for someone else, whether it is paying for someone’s Starbucks or letting them in at a light. Sometimes I make a point to say one positive message a day to a stranger, even just complimenting someone’s outfit or hair. It is these little things that bring you happiness and make other people happy too. Be a light to someone else and shine through their darkness.