How I Practice Self-Care: Choosing Happiness

The practice of self-care is incredibly important to maintain a healthy and positive mindset. One topic that I would have found incredibly helpful during my practice of self-care is to focus on the concept of “choosing happiness”.

More broadly and, in my opinion, less eloquently, the concept of choosing happiness is simply the choice to remain positive. I find the concept of happiness is often skewed by society. Society tends to view happiness as s state of being that is attained when everything in life is going perfectly: you’ve achieved all of your goals, you’ve travelled the world, you’ve married the love of your life, and you have all of the money in the world. But, why must we wait until that point or to decide that they can finally describe themselves as “happy”? The truth of the matter is that we do not. But, for some reason, there is a hesitation to share with others that you are genuinely happy if your life is anything less than perfect. The fact is that life will never be problem-free. It’s just absurd to be waiting for the magical moment when all your troubles will suddenly slip away. I think society is so stuck on the fact that we can never be happy because that day will never come. But, why have we forced ourselves to believe that these two concepts cannot exist separately—that happiness cannot exist if there are problems in one’s life. Instead, we can choose to see these concepts as mutually exclusive instead. Unfortunately, that is way easier said than done.

So, how can you choose to be happy? I’ve asked myself this often. Mostly because I tend to be a pessimist and focus on all of the problems that I’ve got going. To be quite honest, it can be pretty difficult for me to choose happiness, especially in moments where I am the most upset, hurt, angry, or anxious. Here are the steps that I take to choose happiness: when I’m feeling very overwhelmed by any type of negative emotion or find myself ranting about the same topic, I stop and take a few deep breaths. Usually, it begins with me saying, “Everything is going to be fine”. Next, I try to accept these negative emotions or feelings as they are. I tell myself that the situation I am facing is allowed to make me upset, that it’s okay to be upset, and that my feelings are completely valid. Then, I will focus on what is going well in my life…I begin to choose happiness. Typically, I will repeat aloud or write down all of the positive things in my life: I am healthy, I am surrounded by family and friends who love and support me, I get to live in country where I am allowed to think, feel, dress, and act the way I want to, etc. Essentially, I begin counting my blessings. Once I have listed the many reasons why I am blessed or grateful (or happy!), I tell myself that I am happy. Despite the negative situation(s), there are many reasons why I will choose to be happy rather than upset. There are many reasons why, before I go to bed, I don’t have to cry or be anxious, but rather be grateful for all that I have.

Now, as I said earlier, this is definitely easier said that done. It is a work in progress, but you can always give yourself little reminders of choosing happiness. Write it in your agenda or set a reminder on your phone. Do things that make you happy like writing in a journal, spending time with friends, going for a hike/run, or watching the sunset. There are little things in life that pass us by so quickly that I have found make me incredibly happy. This form of self-care definitely isn’t easy and it takes practice, but it is so important. If we don’t take the time to choose happiness, our entire life will pass by and we will have spent the entirety of it waiting for happiness to suddenly slap us in the face. It doesn’t work that way. Although you will have to work for your happiness every single day, the pay-off will definitely be worth it.

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5 Tips to Avoid Feeling Lonely Over the Summer Holidays

While the summer should be a time of fun and relaxation, spending it alone can be rather difficult. Before you begin to worry too much, check out the following 5 tips to avoid feeling lonely over the summer:

 

  1. Reach out to others

 

Call a friend, or even a co-worker to spend the day shopping, going to an amusement park, or going to the beach. It may be particularly helpful to connect with friends and family who are also feeling lonely over the summer; having another person who truly understands your feelings can help you feel less alone in this situation. One cool idea is to seek out community events, allowing the opportunity to create new connections and broaden your friendships.

 

  1. Volunteer

 

Spend a day or even a couple of hours volunteering. Whether it is at a soup kitchen, organizing toys, or at a local place of worship, the act of helping others will leave you feeling fulfilled and happy. Volunteering will allow you to meet new people, and spread kindness and happiness. You will likely end up being exceptionally appreciative how fortunate you truly are.

 

  1. Be grateful

 

Maintain a gratitude journal. This can be as simple as writing a list of things that you are thankful. Focusing on the positives will decrease your ability to focus on the negatives. Plus, having a written record of all the things you value in your life is something you can read over anytime you are feeling down or lonely.

 

  1. Take a break from social media

 

Social media, especially during the summer, can cause a significant amount of unnecessary stress. We often feel pressured to have as amazing of a summer as all your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These comparisons lead us into a downward spiral of negative feelings. If you find yourself becoming upset, limit or stop using social media during the summer. Besides, you’ll probably enjoy yourself much more if your phone isn’t glued to your hand!

 

  1. Treat yourself

 

Treating yourself to something nice can help you feel better and enjoy your alone time. Take a bubble bath, sit outside with a good book, or splurge on that item you’ve been eyeing for the past few months. One fun way to treat yourself is to learn something new; putting your energy into a new hobby will be healthy and fun!

 

My First Experience with Therapy

Going to therapy for the first time was undoubtedly the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. I had barely slept and no appetite the day before my first appointment. Even the reassurance from my closest friend, who waited in the waiting room the entire time, was not enough to calm my nerves. I thought that making the appointment was difficult, but it was nothing compared to actually having to sit down and recount all of my “problems” to a complete and utter stranger. Nevertheless, I knew that going to therapy was an integral part of finally obtaining a healthy state of mind. So, in September 2016, I walked the 800 metres to the Student Wellness Centre at my university and waited for my name to be called out by a counselor. While it’s only been a short 4 months since I began therapy, it has been extremely comforting and useful.

 

Originally, I began seeing a counselor to begin healing from an abusive relationship that I was unable to heal from on my own. Through my bi-weekly sessions with my counselor, I have been able to make incredible progress in healing and moving forward from my past. She has been a voice of comfort, reason, and encouragement through difficult moments and empowering milestones for me. Although it did take some time for me to begin truly trusting my counselor, I have now realized that she will never judge me and is only there to support me.

 

As I found my counselor’s support in one important aspect of my life helpful, I decided to share with her some of my other mental health concerns. Opening up to her about these issues was difficult; I feared that she might turn me to someone else who would focus on these issues more. Instead, she was very happy that I had shared my concerns with her and has begun supporting me in another aspect of my mental health. Through my sessions with her and with the tools she has given me, I have been able to significantly improve my mental wellbeing. I have gained a better, more holistic understanding of my strengths and weaknesses, enabling me to thrive in areas of my life that I did not think were possible.

 

I’ve been seeing a counselor (on and off) for approximately two years now. The amount of growth that I have seen in myself is quite amazing. Although some days are more difficult than others, I have learned skills that I can apply in moments when I am feeling particularly low or anxious. I have learned healthy ways to get through the difficult days—something that I could have never done on my own.

 

Although I still have much to learn and areas of improvement, I would have never made it this far if I had not sought out the help of a professional. Going to therapy for the first time was undoubtedly the most difficult thing I have ever had to do in my entire life. But, seeking support through therapy is undoubtedly the most rewarding and empowering thing I have ever done in my entire life. You have the power to change your feelings, thoughts, and behaviours more than you know. Some of us need a bit more help in seeing that, and you know what I’ve realized? That’s completely okay.

Being an Introvert 101

What do you think of when you hear the word “introvert”? Is it the stereotypical image of a shy person who stays locked in their room with a book under their nose to avoid interacting with the world around them? Sure, an introvert might look like that, but that definitely isn’t what being introverted means. While it is accurate that introverts tend not to be extremely outgoing and enjoy spending time alone, that is not the crux of introversion. Instead, introverts draw their energy from themselves, whereas extroverts draw their energy from others. Here are some other characteristics of an introvert:

  • Introverted individuals enjoy spending time alone.
  • Introverted individuals do their best thinking when they are alone.
  • Introverted individuals typically avoid sharing their opinion, especially in a group setting, unless asked by others.
  • Introverted individuals tend to avoid initiating small talk with others.
  • Introverted individuals prefer wearing headphones in public settings to avoid interacting with strangers.

If any or all of that description sounds like you, maybe you—like me—identify as an introvert.

 

Why are introverts so often stereotyped in a negative light, as individuals who hate to interact with others, or even hate people in general? When I have identified myself as an introvert to others, I have sometimes been made to feel as though it is a part of me that I should be ashamed of. Individuals who are more extroverted will try to push me to “step out of my comfort zone” or “break out of my shell” as if being an introvert means that I shelter myself from having fun or spending time with others. For myself, at least, that is definitely not the case. In addition, introverts are often regarded aloof or thinking that they are superior to others, which is not necessarily true. In times where I feel that I am being judged for being an introvert, I remind myself that those who truly deserve to be in my life will get to know me without judgment.

 

Throughout the years, I have learned to love and accept myself as a person who is introverted. Being an introvert given me many qualities that I am proud of. For one, I am someone who genuinely enjoys spending time alone, reflecting on my own thoughts. I can sit for hours on my own and be completely entertained by the thoughts in my head, which I think, is pretty awesome. The opinions that I have are rarely based on others, but rather on the time that I have spent reflecting on my own beliefs and values. My friends and family have accepted me as someone who does not always feel like talking, and I can often just be “stuck in my head”. Being an introvert does not have to be something that I am ashamed of, but rather something that I can accept about myself wholeheartedly.

 

For more information, check out: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201403/nine-signs-you-re-really-introvert