If you talked to the right person, they may say that I am a notorious cynic, others may just say pessimist. I like the term realist. (There’s not really a wrong answer here.)
I also have a bit of an issue with depression, and anxiety, and a few other things that make it a little bit harder for me to see the good in things than the average person. I let that dictate not just my moods but my entire outlook on life and myself for a long time. I felt trapped, unworthy, and uninteresting. I figured that I was living the life I deserved, because I didn’t believe that I deserved much at all.
When I look back at myself six months ago, it’s not difficult to see why I felt that way, but now being back in a similar place in life— outwardly— I’m amazed by how far away I am from that state of mind.
What changed? How did I manage to go from being a life-long, self-declared realist ( ie: pessimist) to at least making my best effort to embrace each day? Of course it took a lot of effort, but there are some methods, tools, and people that have propelled me into changing my lifestyle and outlook on life. Here are a few of them:
Invest In Yourself
This was the biggest one for me. Between planning obsessively for the future, trying to make it from paycheck to paycheck, and rocketing between being way too busy to vastly not busy enough, I realized that I was not investing any time, money, or energy in things that I really wanted for me. When I say “invest”, I mean that I needed to make more of an effort to put myself forward. Yes, it’s important to work, show up for your friends, and buy your toilet paper, but it can be a little too easy to fall into the hole of doing that, and just that.
For me, investing in myself meant asking myself what I actually want in life and how I plan to get it. It meant having to turn down some invitations to social events (introvert here— I need massive quantities of recharge time), not grasping onto my job (which I did love by the way) for the sake of a sense of security, and making a very active effort to make time for myself (in my case, alone time to create and think in peace and silence). Of course I should mention that it also took a four month trip abroad for me to allow myself the mental space to accept a few things— you’re capable, you’re worthy, and look at you, you’re actually sort of interesting!
Spend (Quiet) Time Alone
Okay, so I may be biased here and this also sort of rides off of commandment one up there, but seriously, I think some time spent alone is one of the most healing, productive things that a human being can do. Just sitting with your thoughts can be a wonderful thing, or if you’re like me, it can go very wrong and send you into overthinking, “the world is crumbling around me and nothing means anything anyway” territory. This is where I find things like reading, studying, and especially meditation so wonderfully useful.
I love reading in my silent moments because I feel that I am always growing from it. Especially as someone interested in writing, I find even my deep dives into fictional worlds a useful and enlightening experience as it inspires my own work. No matter who you are or what your interests may be, there is a book out there for you. Or if you are a very hands on person, crafting, gardening, or building something can be therapeutic, especially because at the end of the day you will have a visual representation of the time that you spent with yourself.
Find Your Spirituality
Let me preface this with the fact that I am very actively non-religious. I simply cannot find it within myself to believe in anything enough to adhere to a set of rules or laws that dictate my beliefs. That being said, I do think that it’s super important to get in touch with yourself. Not so much who you are to the world, but who you really are, to you. There’s no science exact enough to truly pinpoint that effervescent element that is you. Personality, temperament, nature vs nurture— these things play significant roles, but cannot explain away some of the finer-tuned pieces of who we really are and what makes us that way. That is why I think it is important to try to get in touch with whatever that really is. I consider this a form of spirituality. To me, spirituality essentially means a search for something bigger than ourselves and/or something within ourselves. I do not think this is mandatory to produce a more positive outlook on life, but I do think that it really helps, and it did help me.
As far as spiritual practices, meditation is suggested by everyone as a useful tool for centering yourself and creating peace, and that’s because it’s true! I think what may turn many people away from meditation is the idea that they need to completely empty their mind. As a very introspective person with about 73 mental tabs open at a time, at all hours of every day, I understand why this would seem daunting, and it is the exact reason why I did not try meditation sooner. But the truth is, unless you are trying to reach Nirvana or are pursuing a very narrow or intentional spiritual path, meditation doesn’t have to be so serious. For example, I meditate for about five to ten minutes a day, wherever I am, whenever I can find that moment of peace and silence. (In my household five minutes is seriously pushing it sometimes.) When I meditate I know I cannot completely silence the “monkey brain”, it is simply outside of my nature, and spirituality should be the very essence of your nature. That is why I focus on certain images, particularly the elements. As I feel very in touch with the cardinal elements— wind, water, fire, and earth— I focus on images from my own mental archives. Of course you need to be careful not to let this become a rumination session, so maybe stay clear of memories and people or situations and focus on things “outside” of your own day to day life.
Make a List of Easy to Accomplish Goals, Daily
I am a sucker for list making. I have lists of lists to make, it’s practically an illness. That aside, I do believe that setting easy goals for yourself daily really does help build a sense of accomplishment. And the feeling of manually crossing them off a list creates a little bump in those feel good hormones (unless I’m just super weird, in which case ignore this). This also helps for when you begin to feel like you are not moving forward in life. You can look back at your lists and have visual proof that you are making progress, even if you can’t see the effects of it in your day to day life (yet!)
Try to Find One Good Thing in Each Day
This one used to be very, very hard for me. I simply could not see anything positive in my daily life. I hated everything around me, found everything ugly, and saw no good reason to get out of bed. Of course, some of this was depression, but some of it was just a result of a narrow life view. The cure for me was finding myself somewhere where everything really was beautiful and inspiring (looking at you Italy), but also seeing my wonder through the eyes of dear friends who could share in the small, beautiful moments. So even if you can’t take a trip out of your hometown, maybe go somewhere you haven’t before, or spend time with someone who sees things differently from you. It may help to crack that third eye open just a little bit and let some extra light in.
Surround Yourself with Inspiring People
As an introvert, this was very difficult for me as well, but I am happy to say that I have a few wonderful friends who constantly inspire and uplift me in ways I often feel I don’t even deserve (yeah, I’m still working on that one). Being around— even if it’s only digitally— people who share your interests, passions, and a drive for self improvement and learning is some of the best soul medicine that I can imagine. I am so thankful for those people in my life. If making friends isn’t really an option, there are loads of people online who make it their living to inspire and uplift others. It may sound silly, but even a few minutes of listening to a motivational speaker each day can completely change your point of view. Between the depths of YouTube, podcasts, and self help/motivational books and their audiobook counterparts, you are sure to find some words to brighten your day.
I hope that you find some of these insights useful.
I am so new to living in a positive state of mind that I almost feel silly writing this, but if it can give someone the motivation that they need to open up to a more positive lifestyle, then I am beyond pleased! If you have any other ideas for how to create a positive life feel free to comment them below!