Sonja Lyubomirsky is a psychology professor at the University of California, as well as a research psychologist. In her studies, she has discovered 12 things that happy people have in common.
I am happy. Even when I'm feeling crappy, I am a happy person. People are forever asking me how I reached this place. It wasn't because I prayed enough, or took a magic pill, or held my mouth just right while dancing on one foot, or was just born happy (um ... NO ... you can ask my mom about that first year). Yet, I have discovered that self disciplines, even the ones which result in fun, have radically changed my life. These are things I learned through my own therapy and medicinal treatment for depression and anxiety. If you realize the concepts in this series are simply not enough, seek help. Insist on it. Find your own personal level of healing, which is different for everyone. Sometimes I speak "happy" with an accent, because I still dance with depression and anxiety - and that is okay.
I thought I'd focus my Mondays on each of the 12 common factors. It makes sense, because Mondays can totally slurp on the happiness meter.
Today is the last post in my Happy People Series. Holy crap!
We are ending with something we all know is true, yet we loathe this truth: if you don't take care of yourself, you will be sicker and more miserable than you have to be. This is true, even when our "best" does not look like someone else's "best."
I was once sicker and more miserable than I had to be (had to say it again for all the grammar whores - I try to make their eyebrows twitch at least twice a week). I have watched my life and my body literally change as I became mindful of me. I have watched my children's lives and bodies literally change as I became mindful of them.
I once weighed 200 lbs. It was not baby weight, although I did try to blame it on the not-quite six pound infant that exited my body.
I was depressed. I was so clinically depressed. I don't know that it ever leaves you. Perhaps I'm a recovering depressed person? I have a handle on it. I still feel it and recognize it. Taking care of my body has had a profound effect, not on making it all go away, but on taking back the power and control it had over me.
I actually started to run. I had no desire to run. I hit a 5K. Then I hit a 10K. Then my husband started to run, and this summer we ran his first four miles together. Then I stopped. I drizzled a little run here and there. Just recently I knocked out my first 5K again, since mid-July. I got back in there. I became mindful of me again.
I have radically changed the way I eat. It has been slow and steady. When I know better, I do better. Slowly. I still eat everything in moderation. Yet, I also know that many of us use "eat in moderation" as an excuse for tipping the pendulum in the wrong direction and hanging out there until our habits change yet again. I fight that natural desire. This one is still really hard for me. I love food. I like food to be my medicine, but sometimes I just want it to be my drug to suppress my big feelings.
I protect my sleep. It is my friend. It is more important than a clean house or a full schedule. Sleep heals our bodies and minds. Literally. We process the good and the bad while we sleep. EMDR is not only a highly praised and amazingly effective therapy, but it is thought to mimic our REM sleep cycle. Those Zzzz's can be a very effective and free RX.
Let's not forget that just five years ago I didn't even know what "vegan" meant. I had no idea the power of a plant-based diet. I still had white flour and sugar in my cabinet. Ten years ago I had heard the term "steamed vegetables," but had no idea how one might go about, ya' know, steaming them. I was convinced I was never meant to run anywhere ... ever! I was just learning the power of sleep, but still had more anxiety over my house being messy than feeling like crap. I was finally allowing a professional to help me.
It has been bit by bit.
Slow and moderately steady.
And I find I'm not the same person I was. It was a part of finding my happy.