What #100happydays Taught Me About Self-Care

I started a little bit late (it was supposed to be the last 100 days of the year) and I missed a day here and there, but I stuck with the #100happydays photo challenge on Instagram. Which is a pretty big feat for me, and believe it or not, my mood did convince me a few times to just scrap the whole thing. All that is involved is taking one picture every day of some small moment of joy, but on some days even that was too much pressure for me.

I have about two weeks left and then I’ve reached 100, but I will probably just keep going. With or without the hashtag. It has taught me a lot of things, and helped me with my mental illnesses.

It has helped me reach full gratitude. And to understand that gratitude can come from a variety of small nooks and crannies in our lives. It is heavily suggested in therapy for depression to keep a gratitude journal, in which you list a handful of things you’re grateful for. Which always made me feel so pressured in that moment to come up with 5 really amazing, huge, fantastic things I was grateful for. And then when I couldn’t come up with 5, I felt like a failure. Which is not exactly the result you’re going for with this exercise.

I learned that gratitude can be a cloud shaped like a bunny. Catching a glimpse of the jaguar at the zoo. Seeing your infant enjoying a toy from a dear friend. Appreciating a rain shower. Literally stopping and smelling the flowers. It’s all these things combined that make for a happy and joyful life. It can’t be all new house, birth of my baby, huge bonus all the time, and that’s ok.

I also learned a very big lesson in mindfulness. I was always trying so hard to force mindfulness on myself, when my inclination is to ruminate on the past or panic about the future. So, when I’d catch myself in those moments, I’d feel shame. Again, not what you’re going for here.

I learned how to take a moment and focus on what’s right there in front of me, even if only for the moment that I snap the picture. And, more importantly, I learned that that counts. Mindfulness is a practice, and there’s no minimum for daily mindfulness. You can get it in there in bits and bops and that’s totally fine. As long as you’re noticing it and realizing it, and focusing on how happy it has made you, you’re doing it right.

And I have learned the power that lies within accomplishing something, finishing a task. It’s not as if I have never finished anything, I’ve seen quite a number of things through to the end, and kept up good habits. But, it can be difficult to remember in a low moment how good it feels to finish something, even if it felt difficult and overwhelming in the process. This is an important thing for anyone with depression to remember. That there is a great benefit to doing things just for the sake of doing them. Things you once enjoyed, but your depression has robbed you of. And also important for anyone with anxiety. It might not happen perfectly, or even be a success at the end, but you must let go of that anxiety and take the outcome for what it is.

It seemed like a simple social media game when I first hopped on board, but I have been amazed at the transformation on my mental health from this simple task of finding and documenting happy moments in my days. It holds me accountable to my social media followers, which is key for me in helping me do things, and do them well. If I am doing something only for myself, that is where I fall short and give up (self-worth not being my strong suit).

Reconsider what a small thing like this could do for your happiness. I took it on because of the advice for anxious introverts to “always say yes.” That is, say yes to invitations, new experiences, simple challenges like #100happydays. Giving up is always an option, so you have an out. But you more than likely will find most experiences to be enriching and enjoyable.

Enjoy below some of my more random moments in this photo challenge. And begin one of your own. Who cares if it’s the middle of January?

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Thankful 2012

What I am thankful for this year:

1. Our health. I mean, fall/winter with little kids around, especially little kids who go to preschool, can be pretty wretched. But, look at us, almost December and no major illnesses to report! Of course, the second I publish that sentence, we’ll all fall ill with the plague.

2. Baby Ferris. Of course. My little guy. My second baby that I’d wanted for so long. He’s here! And he’s amazing. And so are Bowie and Brien, don’t get me wrong! But, this guy.

3. Not being pregnant. I mean, I’m glad I was pregnant (see #2) but holy hell am I glad to not be anymore. It was a long one.

4. My incredible weight loss. I feel so great, you guys. I feel healthy, vibrant, happy and confident. 

5. Hulu. How on earth did our mothers ever watch a damn thing on TV with no Hulu and no DVRs? I mean, there were VCRs, but it was such a pain to set, I think it was reserved for those very special programs. Sounds shallow, but I’m indebted to Hulu for the rest of my life. How else would the mom of small kids be able to watch a sitcom in 2 minute chunks of time scattered over 3 days?

6. Caffeine. For propping me up for the past 8 weeks. God bless ya.

7. Living in an area that’s not overly natural disaster-prone. No tornadoes, no hurricanes, no super storms, no snow storms. Yes, we could have a major earthquake any second, and maybe a tsunami, but it’s not like there’s an “earthquake season” we have to endure year after year. I don’t know how people do it.

8. The Honest Co. Their amazing diaper delivery service has made it so we always have great diapers at our fingertips. I haven’t even thought about it once. One less thing for this frazzled mind to remember. (By the way, if you decide to check them out and sign up, use this link and I get a little bonus! K, thanks.)

Most of all, I’m happy to be in such a better place than I was last year. I’m so grateful for everyone and everything that led to this. This happiness, this serenity, this peace.

I wish all my family and friends and loved ones everywhere in the world the best of Thanksgivings this year.

Group Therapy: The Self-Deprecation

The first few weeks of 2012 have not been kind to some of my friends, family and acquaintances. But, they’ve been going swimmingly for me, and my little corner of the universe.

Which has really taught me a lesson about myself lately: I find it hard to be happy when others are not.

There’s a Woody Allen joke, “I can’t enjoy anything unless everybody is. If one guy is starving someplace, that puts a crimp in my evening.” And, I think that’s what I’m trying to say. I can’t be happy if everyone’s not happy.

Which is just ridiculous because, take a look around. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever live to see a day when everyone is happy.

So, I’m trying to by happy for myself, even if I can’t be happy for everyone in my life. I can still be there to support them, I can still be there to love them. It’s not as if I’m showing up on their doorstep saying, “My life is so much better than yours right now!”

I’m sure there were times in those people’s lives when they were happy, and I wasn’t. In fact, I can think of several examples to that effect. But, I never resented anyone for it. I told myself, “It’s not their fault that I’m not happy.”

So, then why would I also say to myself, “Why should I be happy when they are not?” Doesn’t make any sense.

I’m not huge on resolutions, I find them hard to make and harder to keep. But, I suppose this can be mine for 2012: Don’t be afraid to give myself credit and allow myself to be happy.