“No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.”
My decaying bedroom floors creaked beneath me as I walked toward my closet looking for a place to hide. Each breath I took clouded the air around me. My feet, heavily layered with socks, were losing their ability to fend off the aggressive numbness.
A home I once thought would be the source of new beginnings and happiness had instead turned into an inescapable hell. I no longer imagined what color I should paint my walls or where to hang pictures. The worn-down, chipping walls mocked me with their ugly, broken foundation.
“I don’t want you in my life.” His matter-of-fact separation echoed in my head.
In the palm of my left hand lay the only thing capable of taking my pain away. I cradled it to my heart the same way a mother cradles her newborn baby. Scalding tears fell violently from my eyes, burning my cheeks as they journeyed toward my lips, forcing themselves back inside of me.
Why am I not good enough?
What have I done to deserve this life?
The hinges on my closet door screamed out in agony as I opened it. Kicking aside a stack of shoes and dirty laundry, I nuzzled my body onto the floor. My hand, carefully wrapped around a shining razor like an oyster around its pearl, shook in anticipation as I lifted my fingers and began to stroke the razor’s blade.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
My heart pumped so rapidly I was certain it would burst through my chest at any minute.
You can do this. You can end all of this right now. No more pain. No more tears. No more suffering.
Placing the razor blade parallel to my wrist, I pushed down until a burst of blood squirted out from underneath my skin. I closed my eyes and laid my head on the pile of dirty clothes beside me. I imagined never waking up and finally being free. I imagined the look on my father’s face when he realized I was dead. It felt like vindication — the ultimate payback — because he would finally know his absence and inability to love is what lead to the demise of his only child.
But then, panic set in, and an internal voice jolted me back into awareness. “What are you doing to yourself? Get up!” it demanded unapologetically.
What am I doing?
Looking down at my blood soaked wrists, I knew I had a choice to make — exit my life angrily and full of resentment, or find a way to repair the gaping holes in my heart and start truly living.
Shivering and numb, I peeled myself off of the floor and went into the bathroom. In an out-of-body trance, I watched my hands symphonically move to turn the sink on and carefully clean my self-inflicted wound. The water, changing from clear to crimson, cut through my skin like the razor blade moments before.
My entire life up until that point felt like it belonged to someone else. Self-abuse and self-hatred became my daily narratives, always looming inside of me like a never-ending darkness. It was as though I was watching a horror movie unfold with me as the star but there was nothing I could do to change the tragic outcome.
But, it wasn’t my life’s circumstances that disempowered me; instead, it was me disempowering myself. And, on that cold winter day more than a decade ago I was given a second chance at life — a chance everyone deserves.
The question is, will you take yours?
Sadness, self-hatred, negativity and toxic behaviors don’t have to rule your life. You’re the creator of your own story, and if you aren’t happy with the current narrative, start changing your life’s plot today.
1. Use Positive Language
Everything carries an energy, language included. If you’re like me, you’ve said and thought a lot of negative, degrading things about yourself and your life. And you know what? That kind of talk gets you nowhere good — in fact, it sinks you into a deeper state of sadness and despair.
But, the good news is you can snap out of this habitual form of self-degradation simply by switching your self-talk from negative to positive.
For example, rather than saying things such as:
“I can’t do this.”
“I’m not good enough.”
“I’m so stupid!”
You can say:
“I can do this if I want to.”
“I’m good enough.”
“I’m smart and can achieve whatever I focus on.”
By substituting negative words for positive words, you’ll feel better about yourself and more hopeful about your life.
2. Set Small Daily Goals
Goal setting is an important part of life because it allows us to focus on what we want, plan our days, use our time wisely, be productive and feel accomplished.
When I started setting goals for myself and seeing them manifest into reality, I felt accomplished, successful and like I was progressing towards something (because I was!)— and that’s a motivating and incredible feeling to capture and maintain.
A great way to snap out of a slump and push yourself forward is by setting three to five small goals each morning. These goals should be manageable, realistic and referenceable (for those of us like myself who are forgetful).
For instance, perhaps you’ve been meaning to send your mom a birthday card, call a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while and apply to graduate school.
Your daily goals might look something like this:
1. Buy a birthday card for mom on the way to work and send it after work
2. Call Mel on the way home
3. Research three schools of interest during lunch break
None of these goals are overwhelming, nor are they unachievable. They can easily be accomplished within a day, and will leave you feeling productive and accomplished.
What’s more, daily goals will enable you to analyze your day-to-day activities and stay on track and organized. Ultimately meaning you’ll be more productive with your time, and more likely to successfully complete your long-term goals as well.
3. Say Thank You for Three Things
I know it can be hard to find things to be grateful for when you’re feeling down, but this simple act will immediately raise your vibration and shift your mood.
Because we’re all energetic beings, and everything in our world carries a vibration. Quantum physics tells us “like attracts like” so when you focus on the good things you already have in your life, you’ll start to attract more of those good things.
Gratitude proved to be (and continues to be) paramount in helping me shift from a sad and desperate state, to a happy and joyful one, and I know it will do the same for you.
If you don’t know where to begin, start simple. For example:
1. Thank you for my family. I’m grateful I have people in my life who love and support me.
2. Thank you for my job. I’m grateful I have money to pay my bills.
3. Thank you for my breakfast. I’m grateful I have this food to nourish my body.
There’s no wrong or right way to do this exercise, as long as you’re doing it that’s all that matters. Maybe you want to write your three things down, or maybe you want to say your three things aloud when you’re in the shower and no one can hear you. Maybe you want to go super granular and say thanks for the tea you’re drinking, or super broad and say thanks for another year of life. Whatever the case may be, just do what makes you comfortable.
Above all, be sincere about what you’re thankful for in your life — the whole purpose of this is to allow the flow of positivity and gratitude to reemerge in your life.
4. Spend Time on Yourself
In today’s world, it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities, work, household chores, mundane tasks etc. and it’s easy to put our own needs, desires and dreams on the back burner.
But, the reality is when we don’t carve out time to map out our goals, dream up new ideas and work on bettering and loving ourselves then we’re the ones who suffer because we end up feeling lost, depressed and detached.
Reading inspirational and empowering books (like these ones), meditating and working on loving myself helped me realize that I AM the priority of my life. Me. And I matter. My happiness matters. How I spend my time matters.
Now, I’m not suggesting you neglect your responsibilities — I know you have bills to pay and things to do. But, what I am strongly advising is that you make yourself a priority too. Everyday set aside at least 30 minutes to do something for you.
Meditate. Take a walk in the park. Begin reading that book you’ve been meaning to start. Exercise. Write. Paint. Set a new goal. Learn Russian. Take a dance class.
The possibilities are boundless, and so is the happiness you will feel when you make yourself a priority.
5. Remain Present
For many of us, we live our lives in two non-existent worlds: the past and the future.
We all know there’s nothing we can do to change the past, and the future hasn’t yet arrived.
So, while it’s important to be grateful for and learn from our past, we shouldn’t be actively living in it. And the same goes for the future. Now, that doesn’t mean we should stop visualizing where we want to be in 5, 10 or 15 years from now, nor does it mean we should stop setting long-term goals. Both of these are great exercises that help us stay focused, on track and inspired.
However, if we disregard the current moment, the here and now, then we’re also disregarding our time and our lives. This moment, this one, right here, right now is the ONLY moment we can influence, change and take action on because this moment is the only moment that matters or exists.
In life, nothing is guaranteed except for change. And, if we aren’t open to embracing and adapting to change then life will be tough. But, if we can ride the waves of life and enjoy the journey by enjoying the present moment then we can find true happiness.
6. Listen to Uplifting Music
Music is a natural antidepressant that has the ability to change your mood and make you feel euphoric.
According to a Stanford University study, “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.”
Meaning listening to feel-good, uplifting music is an organic, free and easily accessible antidote to those days when you’re feeling down, stressed or anxious.
If you don’t know where to begin, these songs are a great starting point. I’ve personally leaned on all of them MANY times to help inspire me, and make me feel better!
So grab a pair of headphones, sit back, relax and listen to feel-good music that’s sure to nourish your mind and soul.
7. Pay it Forward
“To have all, give all to all.”
–A Course in Miracles
We’re all connected. We all live on the same planet, breathe the same air and have the same basic needs.
And on a psychological level, we all want to feel wanted and needed. Paying it forward and doing random acts of kindness such as holding open a door, writing someone a nice note or offering assistance to someone in need allows us to serve others while also serving ourselves.
When we do things for other people without expectations, we’re serving humanity, contributing to the betterment of society and ultimately raising our happiness and the happiness of the person on the receiving end.
And at the end of it all, when we take that last breath (expected or not) none of the material items will matter. None of the money will matter. Only your personal growth, and how you’ve helped people will matter. This is your legacy. This is what will live on forever and ever.
8. Nourish Your Body
What we put into our bodies has a massive impact on how we feel — both internally and externally.
When I was depressed, sad or feeling down, I would binge on sweets like chocolate. This behavior never elevated my mood. It never made me feel better. But, I did get a lot of stomach aches and cramps which really weren’t helpful when I already wasn’t feeling well!
Certain foods elevate our moods and energy levels while others diminish them. If you’re feeling down, here are some food and beverage items you should avoid:
- Caffeinated beverages — caffeine lowers your serotonin levels which is crucial to balancing your mood, regulating anxiety and reducing your risk of depression.
- Alcoholic beverages — alcohol is a depressant meaning if you’re feeling sad, alcohol is likely to make you feel worse.
- Nutrient-deficient, overly processed food and drinks — think fast food, unnatural sweets such as candy and cookies, soda, fried food, frozen entrees, energy drinks etc. Consuming these items may lead to an initial energy boost, but it’s always followed by an energy crash. What’s more, these items offer no nutritional benefits and are harmful to long-term health.
If avoiding the above seems hard, don’t panic! There are plenty healthy alternatives that will actually help you increase your energy levels, stamina and mood. Here are some nutrient-rich food and beverages that are good for your mind and body:
- Walnuts, almonds and cashews — these super nuts are packed with protein that your body will convert to energy naturally and other nutrients such as omega-3 fat which is linked to better cognition and memory.
- Berries — these super fruits are delightful to consume, and full of brain-enriching antioxidants. What’s more, berries are easy for your body to digest meaning you will feel good while you eat them AND after.
- Leafy Greens — leafy greens are high in fiber, contain folic acid, vitamin C, potassium and a plethora of other body-enriching nutrients. They’ll help your body maintain its energy levels while keeping your mind and body healthy.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, check out this list of superfoods sure to give you a physical and mental boost.
9. Do Something Physically Active
Sometimes sadness makes us feel isolated and alone, and because of that we often withdrawal from the outside world. This detachment oftentimes causes us to become inactive. After all, who has the energy to get up and be active when they’re feeling down?
I know, I know — it’s hard.
When I was going through the dark period of my life described above, I didn’t want to do anything but lay in bed and cry. I wasn’t motivated to get up and move — and that was part of my problem! Not pushing myself to do anything made me feel so much worse about my life and perceived problems.
When you’re sad, it takes a lot of energy just to get motivated TO get up (not to mention do something once you’re up). But, it’s crucial for your mental health and overall well-being.
Physical activity increases your blood flow (and this increased circulation is what pumps more energy through your body!), helps you lose weight, boosts your energy, helps you manage stress and tension and puts you in a better state of mind. It also reduces your risk for certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
So, when you’re feeling down, go for a walk, do a cardio workout at home, go on a bike ride, put music on and dance around your room or go play a sport you enjoy.
Sadness is a necessary part of life because without it we would never understand how truly profound happiness is, and at one point or another we all experience it (sometimes more often than we’d like).
Sometimes a relationship we cherished ends, or a loved one transcends this physical experience, or unexpected circumstances take us by surprise and leave us heartbroken. These circumstances make us feel sad and upset, and that’s okay for a while. Expressing our emotions is a necessary and healthy way for us to recoup. But, when we don’t allow sadness to run its course, and we hold it hostage inside of ourselves for too long we begin to poison the happiness within us.
And while we can’t control the world outside of us, we can control how we react to the world, and how we treat ourselves.
So I leave you with this — whenever you have the choice, always choose to uplift yourself because you are an incredible, unique, spiritual being who can be and deserves to be happy and healthy.