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How to Keep Your Mental Boat Afloat

How to Keep Your Mental Boat Afloat

    In March 2011 I had my first anxiety attack. It was gross. It was scary. It was completely unpleasant.

    But the worst part? My doctor decided that I needed medication in order to function. Highly addictive medication, that is.

    I used the happy pills for about a week before throwing them out the proverbial window and taking the following risks:

    1. I got a new doctor (duh!)
    2. I quit my stressful, micromanaged job (sweet relief!)
    3. I decided to move to Paris (Oui, oui)

    At my first appointment with my newfangled holistic doctor (we’ll call him Dr.Happy), he handed me some pearls of wisdom on which I have entirely based my well-being (and this blog post). This is what he said:

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    “The healthiest people do two things differently. First, they know when something is off. And second, they know what to do in order to fix it.”

    Dr. Happy knew what he was talking about. With those words, he changed the entire direction of my life. I can now say that I’ve learned how to recognize when my mental boat is a-rockin’, and I’ve spent the last 15 months collecting the tools needed to find my equilibrium after a storm. Now, I’m here to share my pearls of wisdom with you.

    STEP ONE:  How to Tell if Your Mental Boat is Rockin’

    So how can you tell that your life is out of whack? Simple. Ask yourself the following question:

    Is this how I want to feel?

    If the answer isn’t, “Hell yeah! I love feeling like this!”, then you’re in good company. Please continue to step two.

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    STEP TWO: How to Get Back to a Blissful Mental State

    My doctor recommended “taking time for yourself”.

    “Take time for myself?” I thought, “What kind of woo woo crap is that?”

    As it turns out, taking time for yourself can come in the following forms:

    1. Practicing self-compassion
    2. Partaking in stress + anxiety reducing activities
    3. Finding flow
    4. Investing regularly in small pleasures

    Practicing self-compassion is a fancy way of saying “be nice to yourself”. Let yourself indulge in some reality TV, a bowl of ice cream, or skip your work-out without letting the devil on your shoulder tell you how lazy and pathetic you are.

    This doesn’t mean that you should do these things all the time. Of course not. However, when your self-control muscle is tired, give it a break!

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    Partaking in stress + anxiety reducing activities comes in a variety of forms. My favorites are meditation, jogging, and taking a nice hot shower. You can also spend 10 minutes writing, sign up for a class, or watch the clouds pass in the summer sky (I spent hours doing this during my June 2011 Facebook hiatus).

    Finding flow is one of my favorite concepts. When you are in a state of flow (or in the zone) time passes quickly. When you’re in flow, you’re working with your greatest strengths.

    The formula for flow is simple: find something that you like to do and that also challenges you. Don’t make it too challenging, or you’ll create anxiety. Likewise, an activity that you enjoy but that is too easy will make you bored.

    For more on flow, check out Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TEDx talk (he discovered it, after all).

    Investing regularly in small pleasures involves just that: spending small amounts of money (under $10) on things that make you happy.

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    I regularly visit the local coffee shop for an iced tea, buy greeting cards to send to friends, grab a drink on a restaurant terrace, and buy books for my Kindle.

    STEP THREE: Your Next Step

    Now that you’ve got some fancy and fun ways to keep a cool head, grab a piece of paper and jot down 20 more ways that you could prepare yourself for a mental shit show. This list will become your tool box. Practice one of these activities tonight… and another one tomorrow morning! Remember: preventative care is better than a band-aid after battle!

    (Photo credit: Flying Life Preserver via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on February 13, 2019

    10 Things Happy People Do Differently

    10 Things Happy People Do Differently

    Think being happy is something that happens as a result of luck, circumstance, having money, etc.? Think again.

    Happiness is a mindset. And if you’re looking to improve your ability to find happiness, then check out these 10 things happy people do differently.

    Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. -Dalai Lama

    1. Happy people find balance in their lives.

    Folks who are happy have this in common: they’re content with what they have, and don’t waste a whole lot of time worrying and stressing over things they don’t. Unhappy people do the opposite: they spend too much time thinking about what they don’t have. Happy people lead balanced lives. This means they make time for all the things that are important to them, whether it’s family, friends, career, health, religion, etc.

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    2. Happy people abide by the golden rule.

    You know that saying you heard when you were a kid, “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” Well, happy people truly embody this principle. They treat others with respect. They’re sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people. They’re compassionate. And they get treated this way (most of the time) in return.

    3. Happy people don’t sweat the small stuff.

    One of the biggest things happy people do differently compared to unhappy people is they let stuff go. Bad things happen to good people sometimes. Happy people realize this, are able to take things in stride, and move on. Unhappy people tend to dwell on minor inconveniences and issues, which can perpetuate feelings of sadness, guilt, resentment, greed, and anger.

    4. Happy people take responsibility for their actions.

    Happy people aren’t perfect, and they’re well aware of that. When they screw up, they admit it. They recognize their faults and work to improve on them. Unhappy people tend to blame others and always find an excuse why things aren’t going their way. Happy people, on the other hand, live by the mantra:

    “There are two types of people in the world: those that do and those that make excuses why they don’t.”

    5. Happy people surround themselves with other happy people.

    happiness surrounding

      One defining characteristic of happy people is they tend to hang out with other happy people. Misery loves company, and unhappy people gravitate toward others who share their negative sentiments. If you’re struggling with a bout of sadness, depression, worry, or anger, spend more time with your happiest friends or family members. Chances are, you’ll find that their positive attitude rubs off on you.

      6. Happy people are honest with themselves and others.

      People who are happy often exhibit the virtues of honesty and trustworthiness. They would rather give you candid feedback, even when the truth hurts, and they expect the same in return. Happy people respect people who give them an honest opinion.

      7. Happy people show signs of happiness.

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      smile

        This one may sound obvious but it’s a key differentiator between happy and unhappy people. Think about your happiest friends. Chances are, the mental image you form is of them smiling, laughing, and appearing genuinely happy. On the flip side, those who aren’t happy tend to look the part. Their posture may be slouched and you may perceive a lack of confidence.

        8. Happy people are passionate.

        Another thing happy people have in common is their ability to find their passions in life and pursue those passions to the fullest. Happy people have found what they’re looking for, and they spend their time doing what they love.

        9. Happy people see challenges as opportunities.

        Folks who are happy accept challenges and use them as opportunities to learn and grow. They turn negatives into positives and make the best out of seemingly bad situations. They don’t dwell on things that are out of their control; rather, they seek solutions and creative ways of overcoming obstacles.

        10. Happy people live in the present.

        While unhappy people tend to dwell on the past and worry about the future, happy people live in the moment. They are grateful for “the now” and focus their efforts on living life to the fullest in the present. Their philosophy is:

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        There’s a reason it’s called “the present.” Because life is a gift.

        So if you’d like to bring a little more happiness into your life, think about the 10 principles above and how you can use them to make yourself better.

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