When life gets tough, sometimes its hard to pull yourself out of the doldrums. Convincing your spirit to believe in happiness again can feel like coaxing a cat into the bathtub. Well, most cats, but not these ones.
It’s been a year now since I lost my father. In that time, I learned that feeling good is a choice and takes effort.
A couple of my life mentors had two quick tips that changed everything for me. One, have as much fun as possible by scheduling things for yourself to look forward to. Two, do things that are delicious for the body: spend time in nature, exercise, eat healthy, connect with the earth by gardening or doing yoga.
At my most ugly moments, here are some simple things that helped me. Thanks to all the friends and family who either showed me how to restore happiness or laughed and cried along with me.
How to Create Happy Moments
1. Pretend You’re a Karaoke Star
Put on the most cranked song you love, close your eyes, and imagine yourself on stage rockin’ it. Picture the audience going crazy cheering for you; imagine singing the song better than the actual person singing it. During an instrumental break, envision yourself dancing like crazy when suddenly the crowd begins to jump pointing their fingers at you and calling out your name.
Yep, seriously. Nothing gets your heart pumping harder than jumping. The best feeling: jumping either on a trampoline or in the ocean waves. Think about it … can you bounce on a trampoline without smiling? If you’re angry, try Plyometrics: a form of jump exercise.
3. Squeeze a racket ball
With a racket ball in hand, concentrate on that thing that is bothering you for ten seconds and focus your efforts on squeezing the racket ball so hard that it pops (fyi it probably wont). Take a deep breath in, then as you breath out release the ball and let it drop to the floor. Continue breathing. Repeat.
4. Draw lines
Sometimes the mind gets filled with thoughts and worry junk. Forget those people that just say, “Don’t worry!” Instead try distracting the mind with something unimportant yet focused that calls your attention to the present moment. Grab a piece of paper, then stare into one palm focusing on the lines and with the other hand, draw the lines without looking away. Preset a timer so you don’t worry about how long it takes. Seem silly? Of course it is, but sometimes hitting the reset button means giving the brain a break just to get clear.
Also, try lying down, closing your eyes, and envisioning a golden light pencil slowly tracing the outline of your body.
I am not by any means saying alcohol will solve your problems. Any type of substance be it sugar, alcohol, or both either temporarily numbs feelings or raises serotonin. But hey, nothings beats the occasional cocktail, especially if you’ve had a tough day.
End of day, my mom and I used to come home from my dad’s construction site (he passed mid project and we had to help build this colossal structure) and blend new margarita flavors and listen to happy songs like It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere by Jimmy Buffet. No matter how excruciating the pain was during that moment, those times are now some of my favorite memories. Having a good laugh about how miserable you are also helps cure the blues.
Our favorite concoction: Megan and Mary’s very Cheery Cherry Margaritas made with mango puree and cherry juice.
6. Force yourself to laugh
In a room filled with complete strangers, I once mimed opening a laughter box and broke into hysterics when I looked inside of it. If you haven’t heard of Laughter Yoga yet, check it out. The most awkward practice you’ll ever experience, Laughter Yoga utilizes a series of exercises to initiate laughter.
Also, try to laugh without smiling.
7. Force yourself to cry
Bad feelings prevail, and sometimes you just feel yucko. I struggle with convincing myself all the time that I need to be strong and positive. The hard feelings though surface at some point, and it is healthier to acknowledge them by letting them out (imagine a dark storm cloud that refuses to rain. It just builds and builds). So, set aside a time alone to listen to a sad song, watch a tear-jerker movie, look at pictures of the person you lost, or journal. Do whatever you know is going to make you sad, so you can express it knowing that feeling is not a permanent state of being. You will surface again feeling relieved. Give yourself permission to just cry for a while.
8. Walk in the rain without an umbrella
A very cleansing and liberating sensation.
9. Get messy
There’s a certain innocence that pain takes away from you. Suddenly, life feels serious all the damn time. So, give yourself permission to act immature and regain your sense of childlike joy.
Try one of these: India’s Holi Festival, a paint party, puddle jumping, motorbike rides through the mud, a flour fight with someone while baking, etc.
10. Watch commencement speeches and puppy videos
Know already that since no one else on earth knows exactly what you are going through, they probably also wont understand why you spend your free time jumping on trampolines, drinking margaritas, and walking in the rain. If anyone asks why you’re acting erratically, tell them you’re making healing fun and ask them to support you by joining in. Who doesn’t get a drive from jumping in the pool with their clothes on, right?