22: How to Start Being Happier (when you’ve been stuck in your unhealthy cycles for too long) – I Get To
If you’ve been around here for a hot minute, you’ve heard me talk a lot about the “old me.” She was not happy. The old me was always falling for cognitive distortions and believing the worst about myself. I put up a lot of walls around me and didn’t let a lot of people in or show them the real me at all – so when someone tells me they enjoy my company, they actually like me, it always blows me away – sometimes it still takes me off guard.
I used to be a bit of a jerk – like, I was the kind of person who liked to whisper comments to my sister about other people, tearing them down, making fun of them. I now know that I was projecting my own insecurities onto others. I was miserable, and I was making myself miserable. It took a lot of discipline to break free from the patterns that kept me there. I had to break free from the cognitive distortions, the negative thinking, and the habits that weren’t helpful. That freedom has changed my life.
My past self was a jerk, pessimistic, miserable. My current self is none of those things. My current self is open minded and loving. I understand that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. I only ever seem to forget to give myself grace, and even then, it’s something I work through, it’s not somewhere I stay.
I do still tend to revert to that old shy self when I meet someone new – or simply am face to face with someone I’m not fully comfortable with. I go back to that quiet version of me that closes off and seems cold to others. I’m not trying to be that way, it’s simply the pattern I’m in a habit of.
3 Steps to break the patterns of depression.
These are the three pillars that pulled me out of a decade of depression. Using these 3 keys every day keeps me from backsliding into misery. These need to be a priority for the rest of your life. The secrets to happy living? Intentionality, Affirmation, Gratitude.
It’s easy to get lost when you don’t set intentions. What is your real goal in life? Is it to have a clean house or to have a relationship with your kids? Which is the actual priority, if someone was watching your everyday behavior, what would they say is your top priority? Are you living in alignment with what you really want in life?
If you’re currently stressing over keeping the house clean but in the process you’re severing your relationship with your kids, your husband, or risking your own sanity – it’s time to take a step back, realign with your purpose, your mission, your intention for life. How you spend your days should reflect your personal philosophy.
“How you spend your days is of course, how you spend your life” – Annie Dillard (a la Allie Casazza).
A life without intention is like drifting in the sea without a destination. You might be moving great distances, you might be paddling for hours on end, exhausting yourself, but if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.
Setting the intent for your life, and each day, is like charting a course. Everyday the time will pass and you’ll keep putting in the effort, whether it gets you anywhere or not. Everyday is an opportunity to move closer to your destination, your goals, your mission.
It’s too easy to fall victim to your to-do list. Is that what you want to be remembered for? Is your to-do list your legacy? Is your to-do list what your loved ones will mention at your funeral? Probably not…
As you’re looking to your goals, always take the time to be grateful and content where you already are. She who is trusted with little, will be trusted with much. If you’re not happy where you are now, you won’t be happy at the next level either. This creates a cycle of greed, constantly needing more and more, never satisfied. Be happy where you are and see where it takes you.
You have to learn to be grateful for what you’ve got now, or you won’t be given more. I’m not gonna tell you to simply list 3 things every morning to become grateful – I’m sure you’ve heard it before, and that’s not what worked for me anyway. I had to find a way to intertwine gratitude into my everyday life, and I had to start with the areas that were hurting me the most.
Take something that stresses you out – could be your home, your spouse, your kids, your pets, your job, your car – whatever feels heavy right now. Write down 20+ good things about this that you can be grateful for. You can do this with your mental illness, your brain type, your personality traits – find the good for each of these things.
Here’s a quick story about overcoming mom guilt with gratitude. Oftentimes we start to feel guilty as moms because we’ve noticed feelings of resentment towards our kids. I know I’ve been there. The thing is, we can’t just decide to stop feeling guilty about resenting their behaviors, we can’t just decide to be okay with their behaviors either. We have to work to grant them grace in knowing they are doing the best they can right now, be patient as they learn new things about life, and be grateful in the moments you used to feel burdened or angry.
Here’s where you get to choose. You get to choose how you’re going to feel about your life. Kids are chaotic, and that’s beautiful. Kids are so authentically themselves, until the world tells them to be different. It’s not your responsibility to change your kids, it’s your responsibility to change your reaction to them and change their environment to support them best. You can blame your kids for being kids, or you can do something about your attitude.
I started stepping outside when my kids would get incredibly high energy (that’s when I tend to feel stressed out most), and just taking the time to reflect on all my favorite things about them, all the ways I love them, all the parts of them I’m grateful for.
A strong willed kid feels annoying to a mom, because they are being strong willed against you. But what do strong willed adults do? They don’t give up easily, they achieve their dreams, they are wildly successful, they change the world. Yeah, it’s annoying to you right now, but it might just be the characteristic about them that changes things on a huge scale.
I did this so much for a few weeks that I rewired my brain pattern and was able to choose a new response to the stressful chaotic moments. I saw this happen when my 2 year old threw the glass coffee carafe on the ground. It shattered. Instead of feeling absolute rage (like an older version of me would have) I was overcome by love for this child. I was so grateful that he hadn’t been hurt.
My old pattern would have been to get angry, yell, clean up the mess, THEN intentionally be grateful that he hadn’t been hurt. This rewiring set a new pattern: to be grateful first, then clean the mess, then be surprised at my own personal growth that anger was never part of the equation, then excited to begin shopping for a new coffee maker.
Tomorrow’s worries can wait for tomorrow. You can trust that everything works out for good. When you allow stress in your life, you deny those truths.
Pay attention to what you’re struggling with the most as far as negative beliefs or limiting beliefs. I’ve always struggled with the concept of my enoughness. I never felt good enough or smart enough or qualified enough, you name it. It’s been the core to every limiting belief I’ve held.
Get to the center of your limiting belief. Journal on it. Where is this coming from? Is this true at all? Am I basing my life on fictional characters, magazine articles from 2005, a comment I overheard?
Just because you’ve believed it all your life, doesn’t mean you have to keep thinking it. Pay attention to what you’re thinking. Process through this stuff or you’ll say in all your old patterns that aren’t working for you anymore. Deconstruct your habits and thoughts if you want to change your mind, your life, to seek growth.
Take that negative thought you’re having and create an affirmation/verse/mantra to combat and replace that thought. Find a statement that affirms what is true about you. It could be an “I am” statement, it could be a bible verse, a song lyric, it could simply be to question “who says?” Whatever is enough to pull you out of that pattern of thinking, is enough.