My Journey to Happiness (and simple ways to turn a bad day around)
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As a teenager, I frequently struggled with depression. I would get into these funks and nothing sounded fun, I just wanted to hole up inside my room and avoid everyone and everything as much as possible.
I remember my mom threatening to take me to the doctor for my depression if I didn’t start acting better. (I’m sure she wasn’t actually “threatening” me, she was simply concerned about me, but at the time it felt very threatening! Nobody wants to admit that they’re having mental issues.)
As I grew older, my depressive nature faded a bit, but was still there in the background. I started working and attending college and got on a better schedule, and those things helped me immensely, but there was always something that felt lacking.
I felt like if I could just find a man, get married, and have babies I would finally be completely happy. But I was also convinced that no one would ever want to marry me! I’m not very pretty, not very skinny, and not very smart. I had terribly low self-esteem (something I still struggle with, although I’m getting better!) and didn’t feel worthy of anyone.
To add to the mix, I’m also an introvert and quite shy. I would clam up and become very awkward around people other than my family. Making friends never came easily and meeting boys was impossible, it seemed. But I longed to connect with someone in a way that was more comfortable for me, so I turned to online dating. (Plus, I figured if it turned out to be as crazy as it sounded, no one would ever know!)
I joined a free Christian dating site, and long story short, I met my now-husband, Craig. We had a bit of a whirlwind relationship and got married about 5 months after meeting in person for the first time.
I had all sorts of dreams and expectations for what married bliss would be like. I was wrapping my happiness around our marriage so that if things were going wonderfully, I would be happy, but otherwise, all bets were off. But we were young and in love and we seemed to have the same values and goals, so what could possibly go wrong, I thought.
When we started having arguments (which was on our honeymoon), I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t not handle the stresses or situations well. I turned to my family to complain about my husband instead of dealing with the issues with my husband – you know, the person I was having conflict with!
I don’t want to delve deeply into my marriage, since it’s really no one’s business but mine and Craig’s, but suffice it to say, as the years passed we learned to communicate with each other. Looking back, we knew so little about each other when we got married and had so much to learn!
Despite our marriage steadily improving, I still consistently struggled with my emotional health. I would get depressed and mopey, sometimes for weeks at a time, and nothing Craig tried would help me.
I had to come to the realization that this was a problem that no one could fix except me. I had to be the one to decide to change. It was not my husband’s responsibility to always do and say the right thing to avoid a meltdown from me.
It made me realize just how selfish I had been acting in my marriage. This was a difficult thing to walk through – I didn’t want to be a terrible wife and had never thought of myself as a selfish person. I knew I had to change.
When I feel down, it feels impossible to overcome it. But I’m going to drop a truth bomb here…
Feelings are a choice.
I can choose to be happy, or stay in a funk. When I’m having a bad day, or in a mood, or it’s the wrong time of the month, or whatever the reason, I can be the one to turn it all around. There’s something empowering about that.
Obviously, it’s not easy. If it was easy, no one would ever be in a bad mood! But sometimes, taking a small, simple step can completely turn your whole day around from depressive to content.
There are some things I’ve tried in the past that I’ve found to be immensely helpful when I’m struggling emotionally. If you find yourself having a bad day, give some of these a try. They are simple things but you might be surprised at how much they help!
Take a Relaxing Bath
or shower, if baths aren’t your thing. I honestly don’t really know why this helps me. Maybe it’s the alone time? But even though this isn’t usually an instant fix for my sour mood, it does seem to help me relax and get to a place, emotionally, where I can handle things in a more reasonable mood.
Listen to Some Upbeat Music
The key word here is upbeat. DO NOT listen to the depressing music you are naturally drawn to when you are depressed! I did this for years and I honestly think it’s one of the reasons I stayed depressed for so long.
The same goes for books, movies, etc. Stay away from depressing storylines or even main characters who are more serious and brooding. When you are fighting for happiness, filling your mind with negative, depressing stories is not helpful! Force yourself to listen to a peppy song that you love, or watch or read an uplifting story.
Now when I feel down, I have a playlist compiled of upbeat and uplifting songs that I can’t help but smile through. One of my favorite albums for uplifting me when I’m depressed is this one by Selah. The songs always hit me in the right spots.
or your favorite treat. Don’t gorge yourself by binge-eating a carton of ice cream or anything crazy, but as a woman, I can say that a little chocolate can really improve my mood when I’m down!
Put on Real Clothes
Okay, maybe I’m the only one who struggles with this, but I love sweat pants, yoga pants, pajama pants… anything comfortable and stretchy. Real pants, however… not so much love for them. But when I actually put forth the effort to look nice, it instantly uplifts me a bit. Dressing up pretty is a confidence booster and puts a little pep in my step.
As a stay-at-home mom, it’s easy for me to come up with excuses to stay in sweats all day – I’m just cleaning and taking care of the kids all day, what’s the point in looking nice?! – but it really does make a difference in how I feel about myself, and therefore affects my emotional health.
Write Down Your Thoughts
This is something that was major in helping me realize my failures in my marriage. When it’s all written down, I can more easily see the truth of the situation, rather than being overwhelmed by my feelings.
I’ve had so many instances where I was writing down an argument Craig and I had, with the purpose of complaining about him (privately, not to share with anyone!), only to realize that I was being completely unreasonable!
Count Your Blessings
I don’t know if you know, but it’s really hard to be depressed when you think about all the ways you’ve been blessed. I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, food to eat, and a wonderful family to love.
Emotional struggles are hard, but sometimes the simple act of writing down a few blessings in my life can completely brighten my day.
A goal of mine is to start using a gratitude journal every day, something simple like this one. I haven’t settled on one yet (and maybe I’ll make my own!), but I know just how important it is to keep a grateful spirit during a depression spell and think building this habit would be immensely helpful to me.
Get Some Exercise
Probably my least favorite thing on my list, but I have to say, it really does help! Not only do the release of endorphins give a little happiness boost, but the fact that I actually exercised makes me feel amazing about myself! Another goal of mine is to start exercising at least 3 times a week (and I mean actual exercise, not like “oh, I did some housework, that counts as a workout” exercise, haha.)
Get Out of the House
Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I just need a change of scenery. I’m home with the kids almost all the time, and I can start going stir-crazy after a while. Going on a date with Craig, doing some shopping, or even just piling into the van and going for a drive can do amazing things for my emotions.
I do have to be careful with this though. It’s way easier for me to spend money when I’m feeling upset or in a funk. Normally I really try to stick to the budget, so although going on a spending binge feels fun at the time, later on I feel a lot of regret about my poor decisions.
Ask for Hugs
Hugs seem to always make me feel better. And if my husband is the “reason” I’m unhappy, all the more reason to hug him! We both feel instantly connected and closer to each other when we do simple, romantic acts like hugging or holding hands.
If Craig is gone, James is a great hugger as well, and he’s always willing to give out hugs! I really think it’s impossible to stay mad at anyone or anything when your toddler is snuggled up on your lap hugging you.
I know none of these things seem earth-shattering. They’re not anything crazy, I realize, but they do work, at least in my own experience! I’m not perfect now, I certainly have my fair share of bad days, but I am so thankful that they are becoming fewer and fewer as I learn to overcome my emotional struggles.
Do you struggle with your emotions? What are some things that have helped you?