My happiness project.

I wake up every day feeling as though my struggles define me. I feel the weight of them in the first few moments that I wake up, and honestly, I feel them in the few moments before I fall asleep too. It’s a terrible and terrifying experience. I hate feeling like my life is out of control and out of my control. It’s kind of really the worst.

However, today, when I woke up, I just breathed, and I decided that I hate feeling this way. My life feels out of control because, as my counselor puts it, I take too much responsibility for other people’s actions. I also have a tendency to over worry about the things that I cannot control. Yes, I do both of these things. I will admit it. It’s kind of scary admitting these things, but there they are. I’ll admit that I’ve been sucking a bit at life recently.

I hate feeling this way, and I want to start taking my counselor’s words seriously. I do take too much responsibility for other people’s actions, and I do worry too much about the things that I cannot control. So, I decided that I would start pushing myself to work on the things that I can control. I can only change myself, and I can really only be responsible for myself after all.

So, I went for a run down by the lake this morning. Now, I’m not one to really exercise, even though I feel great after I’ve done so, but I really kind of hate it in the moment. In my head I’m like “this hurts. gah, this hurts. why am I doing this again? This is stupid.” But they say that exercise releases endorphins which in turns helps a person be happier, so hey, why not? Why not push myself to try exercising more? Plus, running by the lake helps me be surrounded by something that does make me happy, nature. I feel like I’m bigger than myself when I’m surrounded by nature. That may sound weird to some people, but that’s definitely how I feel.

The topic of happiness brings me to something else that I’m willing to admit, my current reading material. I started reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (she even has an entire website/blog dedicated to her project and her experiences here if you’re interested in learning more about it.), a memoir about a woman who sought for a year to improve her quality of life and find, well, happiness, of course. It sounds kind of cheesy, and I’m not one to usually indulge in self-help books. However, I can willingly admit that I’m desperate to find happiness again. Plus, it’s a pretty enlightening book that is laced with humor. Her words have even reflected some of the things that I’m learning in counseling, such as the fact that the only thing and person I can change is my life and myself. As much as we like to try to change other people, at the end of the day, we can really only change ourselves, and trying to change other people will only leave us discontent and dissatisfied and probably angrier human beings. Focusing on this truth will ultimately help to make me feel like I have taken control of my life again, as it relinquishes all control over other people and their decisions, even when and if I’ve been hurt by others. I cannot control other people’s choices, only my own. So, I choose to seek out help in all the ways that I can, and yes that includes reading a cheesy self-help book and going to counseling.

She also mentions in her book that one of the keys to happiness is admitting that sometimes you need help. So, yeah, right now, I need help. I need help in learning how to help myself. Don’t get me wrong, it is terrifying at times, but I feel better today than I’ve felt in quite some time. Though I still have bad days, when I look at where I was mentally and emotionally a month ago, I can already see that I’ve taken steps forward. I’ve also taken a few steps back, unfortunately, but that’s part of the process and what really counts is that I have made progress, albeit small. Progress is still progress after all, right? Taking pride in the small victories is important because they are still victories. Plus, if I can’t appreciate the little ones, how will I ever get to and appreciate the big victories?

Something else that’s really wonderful about this book as well is the fact that she has a guide for her readers to start their own happiness projects. She gives a series of questions for you to answer for yourself before you begin your happiness journey. I must admit that I’m still stuck on question 1, because I realized that I stopped thinking about myself for a long time. This question, or rather a couple of interlinked questions: What makes you feel good? What activities do you find fun, satisfying, or energizing?, made me realize that I have lost sight of this for quite some time. What does make me feel good? What do I find fun, satisfying, or energizing? To be honest, I opened my writing journal to start answering the question, and I sat there for a good half an hour or so struggling to come up with the answer. What does make me feel good? Really, Lindsey, what makes you feel good? Not really having an answer to this question, or rather, feeling lost in the answer to the question is pushing me to figure it out. So, this is my goal for the next week, figuring out the answer to these two questions.

I sat down to answer this question a couple of days ago, and since then, I’ve at least come up with a handful answers, such as:

reading

writing

cuddling with my cat

a freshly brewed cup of joe

scarves

yoga/the feeling after exercising

taking pictures

flowers/plants

cats

a nice glass of red wine

laughing

getting a good night’s sleep

trains

flying

a clean house

traveling

doing well in school

teaching language

Reflecting on these simple answers helps me to feel like I can at least do the little things. So in looking at this list, what can I change in my life to make me more happy? Well, for starters, I can start by trying to keep my tiny studio apartment clean. The busyness of the school year wrapped up with my anxiety and depression meant that my apartment met a level of disgusting that I don’t care to admit on way more than one occasion. However, now that I’m done with school, not being as busy means that my lack of a clean house is now just a result of laziness (kind of hard to admit). The upside to living alone means that the mess only bothers me, however, the downside means that I’m the sole one responsible for all of the mess, which sucks. But, I do find that I am in a better mood when my laundry is done, my dishes are done, and my trash doesn’t smell. So, that’s something simple to start with. (I also feel pretty brave for admitting all of that on the internet.)

Also, I had neglected this blog for so long mostly because of how busy with school and work I was over the school year, but coming back to it has made me realize how much I miss writing. I started this blog to write about my travels, and even though my past few blogs have not been about my travels, one could say that the spiritual and emotional journey that I’m embarking on right now is a sort of travel, which is why I choose to write about it. Plus, writing about these sort of things has always allowed me to process them better. So, write I do, and if there are people out there who give a shit, then that’s amazing, and I thank those people that do. However, if people don’t give a shit, I have to remember that at the end of the day, writing isn’t for other people anyways. Writing is for me, and though I value all of my followers highly, I could have no followers and would still keep writing. My writing is for me. That’s what’s most important.

I do enjoy the feeling I get after I’ve exercised, and I do, most of the time, enjoy doing yoga. So, as much as it sucks, I’m planning on pushing myself to exercise more. I find that the most difficult part about exercising for me is just getting up to do it. Even though I kind of hate running, I find that once I’m doing it, I’m determined to get in a decent work out. I also find that using the couch to 5K app is extremely helpful, because it has structure that can easily be followed. I’ve also found some good upbeat jams to help with distracting myself from the pain and the bore of running. I’m also trying to do yoga more, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, because hey, 15 minutes is better than nothing. Exercise sucks, but the results are worth it.

Lastly, though I don’t really have the funds to travel right now, I realized that if I look hard enough, I’m sure there are fun things to do in Milwaukee for free. So, as part of my happiness project, I’m going to find free things to do in Milwaukee for the summer to get myself out of my tiny studio apartment, because something else I’ve realized is that even when I’m just walking to the grocery store that being outside of my apartment helps me to feel like I’m connected to the world and not trapped by my struggles. Also, it will help me in answering when people ask me what there is to do in Milwaukee as a visiter, because honestly, most of these past ten months has been me spending 99% of my time at school, at work, and at home. So, no, I don’t really know Milwaukee at that well at all. But, I plan to. Who says you can’t have adventure in the city where you live? That’s a bit of bullshit.

So, basically all this to say that I’m not going to let my struggles or my loneliness define me anymore, and yes, I will definitely have really bad days. That’s bound to happen, but I know that I’ve already made progress in one month. Who knows where I’ll be in two months at this rate? I know that I’m definitely looking forward to finding out.

 

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