I am back and I apologize for my brief hiatus. I set out with the intention of posting weekly, more specifically every Wednesday, but sometimes life gets in the way. It's been a pretty busy month for me both in my professional and personal lives. I hope that summer will bring new focus and a little more free time to put into my writing.
I have been in the process of moving for the past month. We were able to find an incredible home in a seriously beautiful area. Tons of running trails, within walking distance of the farmer's market and the river, this place is awesome. The only problem was that this required us to move out of the city, gasp! This was a little difficult for me to do. When I moved to Richmond I saw myself living in the city and doing what city people do. I wanted to walk everywhere and sit in little coffee shops or work on my balcony overlooking a busy street below.
My city dream did not pan out well with actual city life. It is expensive and trying to get a sizable yard for my energetic puppy was near impossible. With the proximity to neighbors, you have to deal with all kinds of unexpected disturbances. From parties raging on to 6am on week days to my upstairs neighbor's untrained and very unruly dog, things were not peaceful… ever. Now, for a country girl that is accustom to quiet and privacy, it was a major adjustment. I realized that I was far more attached to my initial ideal city life than the realities of the situation.
I took a deep breath and signed a lease for a house just across the bridge and two miles from our current spot, but in whole different world. Although it was a big move, it was a significant change. It signified growing up in a way. We no longer live in an apartment and actually have to mow our own lawn. We have to pay our own water bill. Shit got real.
It can often be scary to let go of our old patterns, habits, and ideas even when they no serve us. Things that feel familiar bring comfort, no matter their true influence on our minds and spirits. This is why some may complain about not being able to find the right person, hating their job, or feeling depressed all the time, but never actually make any moves to change the situation. We are getting some type of reward from the situation, whether it be sympathy and attention or never actually having to put ourselves out there. It is important to recognize when we are allowing comfort and our beliefs to overtake our desire for change.
Moving into my new home has allowed me to begin to live a more authentic life. By authentic I mean living the way I have always wanted to live and knew was aligned with who I am as a person, but seemed a little too out of reach. For a long time I promised myself that one day I would eat better. One day I would making being active a part of my daily routine. One day I would find a way to spend more time outside. Now I’m actually doing those things and it feels great. On top of just feeling better in a physical sense, I no longer have that uncomfortable feeling in my stomach that something is not quite right.
I used my move to a better area to catapult me into the changes I wanted to make. Breaking habits is difficult and being in a new situation, such as a move, new relationship, or job can certainly make that change easier. Because I’m no longer in the same area or house, familiar things that would trigger old bad habits are no longer present. This is one situation that aided the formation my new habits, but it must begin by identifying our true goals and the reasons we are struggling to make those changes.
First of all we must identify which habit we would like to change. Would you like to lose weight, be in a great relationship, or overcome your depression? Get really clear on which habit you want to change and it’s best to just chose one in the beginning. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself and set yourself up to fail. So start with one.
As an example I’ll use one of mine, I wanted to be more active and fit. I have been slowly changing my dietary habits since January. I have cut out fast food and made the switch over to a vegetarian diet. This helped a lot with my health and how I felt about my body, but something was missing. I still had little energy and knew it was time to get a little more active.
Since high school I have gone through little spurts of being active. Playing a sport for two years, but not doing much during the off season. Going to the gym regularly for a month or two then quitting when I caught a cold or my schedule got a little busier. It was something I could convince myself to do for a brief period, but it was always short-lived and it seemed more and more difficult to start again after each break.
When trying to make changes, both our end goals and what has kept us from that goal are equally important to identify. I had to identify what I was getting out of not being active. After all, if there was nothing but misery to being inactive, I wouldn’t find it so hard to start a fitness routine or to stick to it. These are often referred to as “false beliefs” or “limiting beliefs” in the self-help world.
Limiting beliefs are the beliefs that exist in your subconscious keeping you stuck and from reaching your conscious goals. These are often untrue, but are your mind’s way of keeping you safe and away from change, which is always scary. Think of your subconscious as a child in a way. It’s your job to hear it out, reassure it that things are going to be okay, and hold its hand through the change. If not, that child will refuse to budge and probably throw a tantrum in the meantime.
I took the time to sit down and identify the beliefs I was holding. What was I getting out of being lazy? Well, for one, I had much more free time. Time that I always felt guilty about wasting online or by watching Netflix, so it was never really enjoyed. This time would be much better used doing something that would benefit myself. By going on long walks with my dog and boyfriend each day I would be getting extra time with them too, which would be a far better use of my time, I reassured myself.
Next, I didn’t have to deal with the disappointment if my body didn’t look quite like I wanted when not being active. I wasn’t trying to get in shape, so I could blame my laziness when I looked in the mirror and disliked my untoned arms and legs. When you’re active you take on more responsibility for changes you want in your body. If you’re working out hard but not seeing much of a difference, it’s a lot harder to accept than if you’re sitting on the couch every day after work.
This was the harder belief to confront. I had to reassure myself that being active wasn’t all about my body, but also my mental health as well. I had to remind myself that little changes from working out were better than none or gaining weight when being lazy. I had to comfort the child in me that feels reluctant to take any risks and promise that this would turn out great for me.
This situation was specific to me, but it can be applied to any goal you want to meet but can’t seem to really acheive. Want to be in a serious relationship with someone great but can’t seem to make any relationship last longer than your toothbrush? Could it be that you’re afraid to give up your freedom? Do you enjoy getting to whine about how awful men/women are and blame them for your singlehood? Are you afraid of really committing to someone and the compromising that comes with it? You could be subconsciously choosing partners that are incompatible or unavailable in order to protect yourself from your fears. Take the time to figure it out and be honest with yourself.
This exercise is one of the best things we can do for ourselves when wanting to live an authentic and happy life. We have to learn to both listen and comfort that scared inner child, because if we don’t, we will always be holding ourselves back whether consciously or not. It takes work, but getting to know ourself inside and out is incredibly rewarding and will improve our life drastically. It must be a daily practice, but it is one of the most important things we can do for a better life. Take the time to give yourself some love and affection today, every day, you deserve it.
“To conquer oneself is a greater victory than to conquer thousands in a battle.” – The Dalai Lama
I was asked recently what I thought about positivity. At first I was a little confused. No one had asked me something like this before, it was kind of an odd question. When I asked her to explain the question again, she merely repeated, “What do you think about positivity?” I responded by saying I thought positivity is great and is the ultimate goal, but it’s more important to not get so caught up in trying to be positive that we don’t allow ourselves to experience and feel other emotions. This eventually just leads to anxiety and unhappiness.
We see it all the time, articles on the “key to happiness” or advertisements telling us what we should buy in order to be happy. Don’t get me wrong, happiness is a wonderful thing to strive towards, but I think people get happiness all wrong. It is not possible to be happy all the time. I don’t care how wonderful every aspect of your life is, you will not always be happy. The pictures and statuses you see on social media are a lie!
Our culture has this happiness obsession, but takes no time to find real, sustainable happiness. We get so fixated on what we need to make us happy. A bigger house, a better job, a relationship, then when we get it we still don’t feel happy. We begin to feel even worse because our perceived savior didn’t come through. I have the guy, the job, the house, why do I still feel like crap?
When we put base our happiness on something external, we will desire to be in control of that thing. When our new lover is supposed to make us happy, we will naturally want to control them. When our new job is supposed to bring us happiness, we will want to control all aspects of our experience at our new job. Now, can we realistically control our new partner or job? Absolutely not. Eventually something is going to happen that you dislike and you’re going to feel let down. On top of the disappointment, we probably will feel hopeless and out of control of our life. We wonder why we cannot find happiness and beat ourselves up for not making better decisions on where we should place our happiness. When we’re trapped in this cycle, we constantly are seeking favorable outcomes and feeling down and out about life when things don’t go our way. This is not the way to happiness.
Part of the secret of finding happiness is learning to go with the flow of life. If you’re upset or you’ve had a bad day, allow yourself to feel this. Take a minute to scream into your pillow or go on a run to clear your mind, but do not allow yourself to be consuming by negative emotions. Be in the moment and feel it in its entirety, then let negative emotions go. It’s a fine line, knowing when to feel and when to release, but it gets easier as time goes on.
In my life, I have often found that I treat others a lot better than I do myself at times. I comfort my friends whenever they need a shoulder to lean on and forgive quickly after disagreements, but don’t think to extend the same kindness to myself. Treat yourself as a friend if that makes it easier, it does for me anyway. Think about how you would treat your best friend if they came to you with an issue. Give yourself time to vent or cry, comfort yourself, but then tell yourself when it’s time to move on and dust yourself off again.
It is important to not allow the concepts of happiness that have been programed into our heads since birth destroy our real happiness. When we consider our happiest moments, when you were the highest on life, not on drugs (… sorry, I couldn’t resist). How did you feel in the moment and what was it that made you happy? More often than not, we were totally and completely in the moment. We weren’t worried about how happy we were or how long this would last. We were just in the moment, sharing a laugh with a loved one or playing with a pet. Or maybe we were watching the sunset alone. The situation doesn't matter, but I can almost guarantee that happiness was not felt by buying a bunch of stuff or by being in a relationship with someone that is in control of our happiness.
It’s the moments that we can stand back in awe of how awesome life can be. It’s those moments that we get emotional just thinking about how lucky we are to live these lives. Haven’t felt that before? Or maybe you want to get more of it? I did too, so I decided to get serious about getting happier.
After learning to accept that sometimes we are going to feel bad and knowing when to allow ourselves to sulk, there is a second step. Psst… lean in, here’s the big secret. You cannot be happy with life if you aren’t happy with yourself. We can distract ourselves with any number of things, but you cannot be happy with life if you don't like the person you are inside. Be real with yourself. Behind closed doors, when you look in the mirror at the end of the day, do you like the person you see staring back at you? No? Well, it’s fixable, but it takes work. We’ve got to do the inner work, and I mean work. Work your shit out and continue to work it out each day. It is a journey, not a destination.
When you make the decision that you want to feel happier and I mean swear on a holy book or your favorite pet’s grave that you want to be happier, the real work can begin. I started with a journal. I’ve been writing in it for two years now and it has saved my life. This is one of my favorite ways to track my patterns and emotions. Write both when you’re happy and sad. Write what happened and how you feel, then go back and study the triggers of your unhappiness.
A big source of my unhappiness was my insecurities. I had insecurities about my intelligence, my body, my personality, pretty much every aspect of myself. In truth, I didn’t like myself and I felt an impulse to hide from other people in order to feel safe. This lead to more unhappiness because... Um... Where are my friends? Oh, that’s right, I blew them off 10 times in a row in order to lay in bed and watch Netflix because I was feeling insecure about my body or my ability socialize with others that night. Well, I had to address this and learn to get over it if I wanted to be happy and although I've made awesome progress, my journey is not over. Work on yourself every day.
Write in a journal and track your feelings or emotions. Call yourself out when you’re making your happiness contingent on a specific outcome. Call yourself out when you’re letting your silly insecurities hold you back from living an awesome life. Do something cool for yourself like making a vision board and get moving towards those big goals of yours… today, not tomorrow. Don’t allow yourself to settle into what’s comfortable and forget that you’re still a work in progress. Learn and work. Happiness is a choice and will naturally result from showing love and kindness to ourselves (and others, but this comes naturally when you're happy) every day. Show some tough love when you need it too!
One that note, I leave you with this:
“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.”
― Gautama Buddha
I love you all and hope this weekend is full of happy and soul lifting moments for you! Do me a huge favor, if you have time, and answer the poll on my home page. It's anonymous and the information will be used to help me get to know my readers and what you would like for me to write about in an upcoming blog.
Thank you for stopping by, see you next week!