Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Some Easy Remedies

We put a lot of work into being who we are. Sometimes it seems that we put too much work, or that we put that work into something other than being who we are. We’re often either building a better me, or building a better mask so it looks like a better me and, at the end of the day, we’re tired, frustrated, grumpy, and not actually much better, it turns out. Oh yeah, and broke. Quite a few of those self-improvement techniques are expensive, so now we’re stressed out about money on top of it all. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Many of the best self-help practices are easy, convenient, and cheap. Free, even. Before you rage quit or empty the bank account, try a few of these.

Smile. I cannot stress enough how much of a miracle worker a simple smile can be. It costs nothing, requires no preparation, and isn’t any more difficult than most of those other facial expressions you’re carrying around. It’s not a cure-all, certainly, but it can’t hurt and you can easily put it away again if it gets in the way. Even better, smiles are contagious. Walk around smiling at people some day, see how many smiles you get back. Some of them may be confused smiles, but they’ll still be smiles. Smiling feels good, and most people are just looking for an excuse.

It’s also a great psychological tool. Much of our attitude is self-inflicted. If you tell yourself you are sad, you’re more likely to be sad. If you tell yourself you are happy, you’re more likely to be happy. It’s not a one-for-one proposition, but it’s always a good idea to move the odds in your favor when possible. Give yourself a smile, and your emotions may just go looking for a reason to keep it.

Sing a song. William James, 19th Century philosopher and psychologist sometimes referred to as the Father of American Psychology, said, “I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.” Again with the self-inflicted attitude. The mind wants to be up. It wants to be moving forward and being positive. Give it the option, and your mind will usually at least try to latch onto something good. Music has long been understood to have a deep psychological connection to human emotion. Use that connection and sing yourself to a better state of being.

This even works if you can’t sing, or can’t sing at the moment. Whistle, snap, sing in your head. The specific action doesn’t matter as much as the idea behind the action. Make music the way you can make it, at the volume (or absence of volume) that is appropriate for the moment, and you’ll probably see a difference. If you can sing out loud, it can be cathartic. If you can sing out loud in a group, even better. Group activities that promote positive attitude tend to have an amplifying effect as the people in the group trade encouragement back and forth.

Which leads us to spending time with people who make you happy. Hang out with friends, visit family, go to a game or a concert. Participate in group activities that will lead to you feeling good about you, and try to steer clear of group activities that only make you feel worse. As I said before, when you put a group of people together, they often set up an echo effect where happy people make each other more happy, angry people make each other more angry, and so on and so forth.

This one can be more difficult. Maybe friends and family are too far away. Maybe they’re the ones who are giving you a headache. Maybe you can’t afford those concert tickets, or it’s not the right season for your preferred group activity. Mix and match how you can, but the options aren’t always going to be perfect. If the friends you want to be with aren’t available, maybe you can make some new friends through an activity you enjoy. If the activity you prefer isn’t available, maybe you can find a new hobby through the friends you love. Maybe you take a good option because you don’t have a great one at the moment. Maybe you can’t use this option right now, but you can plan for it next week, or next month. Keep an open mind and be ready for possibilities you hadn’t considered. You never know. Just pay attention and be ready to adjust as needed.

It is also a good idea to spend some time with people who just understand. They may not always be the people who make you happy, or activities that are the most fun, but sometimes you do have to take a down moment now in order to have more or better up moments later. If you are truly struggling, support groups can help.

You have to be careful of the echo effect but, if properly guided or structured, even groups of depressed people can lead to happy outcomes. Other people working through something similar to your struggle might know a trick you haven’t learned, or you might be able to teach something new to someone in need. Trading help can be almost as encouraging as trading smiles and, though the progress might be slower, the ultimate outcome can be even better if multiple people achieve together.

In the end, though, the person you need to be the most comfortable with is you. Grab a book or a puzzle, maybe sit down with your favorite TV show, and just enjoy your own company for a bit. Take a break. Unless you’re in the middle of a life or death situation, there are few issues that cannot allow for some time to disconnect. Even many time-sensitive issues can accommodate at least a little down time. It might be just five minutes but, if it allows you to catch your breath and come back ready to go, it will have been worth it.

All things in moderation though. If you never get up off the couch, it’s going to be difficult to get anything else accomplished in life. The proper balance between going out and staying in can be difficult to find and is different for everyone, but finding your balance can make a world of difference in your outlook. Also, once you are truly comfortable with you, you will often find that you are more comfortable in other situations at well. You can be your biggest roadblock and the best bridge all in one. It’s largely up to you.

You don’t have to make a major production out of taking care of yourself, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Some of the best options cost nothing and are easy to do. The important thing is that you do take care of yourself. In the fast paced and often costly lives we find ourselves living these days, having more low-cost, low-hassle options can only be a good thing. Try these, and think about others that might work for you. Building a better you can be the best way to contribute to building a better world, and maybe all you need to get started is a smile.

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