Trust

Trust is a tricky thing, and it becomes even more complicated for those of us who have been hurt in the past. For those of us who have ever felt used, lied to, or have found that someone we believed in was never who they claimed to be. Trust is a difficult thing to hold on to after life has given us reason after reason to be skeptical of those around us, and even of ourselves.. After all of this, we begin to associate trust with naivety. Some of us decide that to trust is a weakness; that if we put our faith into someone again, we’ll end up looking like a fool.

How can we learn to trust again without feeling so vulnerable or naive?

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, and the episode I came across was a lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson, called “Structuring Your World View”. Before I continue on with this post I want to say that I can not recommend Dr. Peterson’s lectures enough! As a psychologist, he has some amazing insights to share, and this episode in particular gave me the clarity I needed when I found myself in a hazy place. He is one of my inspirations for pursuing a degree in psychology and becoming a therapist.

One phrase that Jordan Peterson said in this lecture stuck with me, and that is “You trust people because you are courageous.”

The reason why I believe this is so crucial to understand is because when I have been brave enough to trust in others and even myself, some amazing things have happened. The decision to trust has undoubtedly led to more opportunities, from forming new and valuable relationships to discovering my own capabilities. Even if it’s intimidating to put yourself in such a vulnerable place, it is absolutely worth it to take the leap.

In contrast, the times where I have been the most unhappy are in no doubt the times where I let a cynical, distrustful mindset take over. That is exactly what has happened to me in the past. I found myself choosing to stay in my inner circle because of the poor experiences I had with letting new people in. Although we begin to see choosing wariness over trust as a defense mechanism, becoming too distrustful of others can lead to a path of loneliness and missed chances. Although I’ve never been on the extreme side of this, I have known people who have let their past hold them back from jumping in to new relationships or experiences. It’s hard to see the people you care about lose faith in others, especially when you know that they how much happier they could be if they would learn to trust others.

That’s not to say that we should put blind faith into anyone and anything, but we can’t keep our walls so high that no one can ever find a way in.

I like to think of it as this way. You may not always know whether or not your decision to trust someone is worth it, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a chance. If every time a new person came into our lives and we shut them out, we might be missing out on a new great friend, a significant other, or someone who simply enhances our life. Likewise, we will never know what kind of impact we could have made on them, either.

No matter how daunting it may feel to put ourselves in a place where we feel uncertain or afraid, it’s essential that we never mistake trust as a weakness. To trust again doesn’t make you weak; for some of us, it’s the bravest choice we can make.

Practicing Mindfulness in Quarantine

It’s safe to say that the pandemic has affected every American in some way at this point. For some Americans this means the worst- coming down with COVID-19, unemployment, severe isolation from family, and much more.

For others, we still are not exactly sure yet. We’re patiently waiting. Anxiety is welling inside of us as we wonder what the full effect will be by the time this is all over, and just how long we will have to wait it out.

I’m lucky to say that I am on the more fortunate side of this. It has been hard temporarily leaving work and losing my sources of income, but at my age I’m still living with my family so this has not hit me as hard as it has for people on their own. I’m grateful to have a support system getting me through this. However, it has still been difficult to be out of work and separated from the people I care about. Like many people, I’ve been experiencing a roller coaster of emotions because of it.

What I and many others are especially concerned of is how this will effect our mental health.

In response to this, I have been focusing more on mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a popular practice discussed by many psychologists and counselors today. To summarize, it encourages people to focus on the present moment, rather than getting caught up in thinking of the past or future. To me this has been a hugely beneficial practice during self isolation, as my anxiety has skyrocketed lately.

(I highly recommend listening to “The Psychology Podcast” with Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman as a simple way to learn more about this and psychology in general. I’ve been tuning in to an episode almost every day while I go on walks. The speakers on this show always have insightful advice on how to exercise mindfulness into your everyday life as well as other healthy ways to cope.)

So, what does it mean to practice mindfulness during quarantine?

First and foremost, I’ve been reminding myself of this: I can’t control or see into the future; but I can do my best to stay healthy, productive, and most importantly sane while I’m stuck at home. During social isolation it is especially important to learn how to manage negative thought patterns.

A huge reason many of us are experiencing increased anxiety right now is because how out of control we feel. Some of us are feeling out of control financially, over our health, over the safety of our loved ones, and our overall well-being during these times. For me, the root of my anxiety is grounded in my financial state and feeling uncertain of how long this will all last. I’ve been overwhelmed with guilt for feeling as though I’m not doing enough. By practicing mindfulness, however, I’ve managed to get some of that sense of control back.

One of the ways I have been maintaining this feeling of control is by focusing on my physical health through exercise and pushing myself every day. Exercise has always been one of the ways I manage stress. Exercise helps people get through stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) in many ways, from producing mood-boosting endorphins and helping with sleep. Knowing that I have complete control over my health during these times motivates me to get up and out of bed, and has given me something to aim at. Even if you aren’t feeling up to working out, I highly recommend walking or spending some time outdoors. Going on even a light walk has proven to be good for the mind, too.

Another way I have been trying to maintain this sense of control is by keeping a loose routine. Being at home has definitely given me more room to do what I want, when I feel like it, but in excess this is not a good thing. It can lead to unhealthy habits and sleep patterns that will only make matters worse. I have not been keeping a rigorous schedule, but have been holding myself accountable to keep some of the structure I had while going to school and work. For me this means making time for school work, my health, talking with friends, and creating time for the things I enjoy each day.

Overall, through mindfulness I have been able to keep a positive outlook on all of this. Each day I remind myself to simply live in the moment and focus on what I can do under isolation, instead of all of the things I can not. Rather than dwelling on all of the negative effects that this pandemic has had or might have in the near future, I’m focusing on what I can do each day. Instead of letting the time slip away I’m trying my best to use this time to improve myself and hopefully learn something new each day.

For me, this means getting back into art. I’ve been trying my hand at painting and sketching again- something that I never really had time to in between work and school. I’ve also been discovering new music and movies to keep me entertained during my down time.

I’ve noticed that the more I practice mindfulness and keeping a balanced perspective, the more I have been able to subside all of the negative emotions and anxiety. And I hope anyone reading knows that they can do the same; it is never out of your control.

It’s crucial to remember that in times like these, it is more important than ever to check in on ourselves and others around us, and to keep our heads up. No one is alone in this; we are all experiencing this new world together and are here to support one another.

Photo by Arthur Brognoli on Pexels.com

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I hope everyone is doing well by staying healthy and safe (indoors). Thank you for reading and please share your thoughts below, we are in this together.

Can You Always Be Positive?

True happiness isn’t forever, it might not even be for a while. It is found in the moments we least expect it, and sometimes hidden in the times we need it most. Happiness is fleeting.

When I say that happiness doesn’t last forever, I don’t mean that in a such a cynical way. I say that happiness is fleeting because the truth is, life happens and we don’t ever get to choose when. Mistakes are made, things are lost, and bonds are broken. And with these losses, there goes our expectation of infinite happiness right down the gutter.

Many of us feel unsatisfied with our current state of life because our ideas of happiness don’t coincide with reality. Our ideas of what real success and happiness look like are corrupted by social media and the fabrications we’re exposed to every day. We are lead to believe that happiness is perfection, and we convince ourselves that once we are finally happy that it will last forever.

This faulty perception of happiness only gets worse when we begin browsing through social media. I consistently come across a sea of lifestyle posts and ‘hacks’ on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram that I can’t take seriously. These influencers tell us that if we drink more water and get some sunlight each day, then we’ll grow into the person we want to be as if we are mere plants rather than complex, unique human beings. If it were as easy as drinking water and getting sunlight, then we would achieve perfect physical and mental health. For someone who has dealt with anxiety that interferes with everyday life, I understand that there’s a lot more to overcoming the downs of life than that and I’m sure almost everyone can agree.

The thing is, of course platforms like Instagram are going to be filled with picture perfect profiles. We all want the world to see the best version of our lives- even when it isn’t truthful. I can relate with the desire to create a positive image, and I do believe that platforms such as Instagram can be beneficial in that sense. When people land on my profile I want them to see the best version of myself.

The issue I have with this is the negative effect it has on all of us to be mislead by these perfect profiles, particularly the younger generations who are so invested in social media. When we scroll through all of these images, we’re seeing people living in a dream like state. These perfectly crafted profiles make us feel as though we’re missing out on the joy that all of these people we follow are experiencing, or seem to be experiencing.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people comparing themselves to popular influencers that promote this image, or commenting along the lines of “I wish I was you!”

So there we go again, reaching for something out there, for that pure joy we see on social media.

But it’s not real.

We can convince ourselves that we can control our lives the way that we control our social media profiles, picking and choosing which moments we want to live out.  

But again, that’s not possible. If that was the case, then we’d all be manic.

In real life we live out the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the sunshine and the rain. We don’t get to slap a sunset filter over it and say that we had a perfect day. Sometimes things just don’t go the way we want it to, and that’s okay. That’s life. And the sooner we begin embracing the unexpected rather than running away from it, the closer we are to real happiness.

I came across this quote while watching Euphoria the other day that perfectly sums up my point.

“I had a therapist once who said that these states will wax and wane.

Which gave my mother relief, because it meant that in the bad times, there would be good times.

But it also gave her anxiety because it meant that in the good times, there would be bad times.”

Although simple, this episode does an excellent job of explaining how clinical depression works for most individuals. Not only does this episode accurately portray how it feels to live with depression and anxiety, but it holds true to the nature of life for all of us.

It can be somewhat frightening to realize that we don’t always know when the next low point will be for us. But if everything always went the way we want it too, we simply wouldn’t be alive. Think of it as the ups and downs on a heart monitor. If you see a straight line, there’s no pulse. If you see it consistently going up, well, that’s not exactly healthy either.

So at this point you might be asking yourself, what’s the point? 

Why am I writing this? As I began to write this post I didn’t know exactly what direction I was headed, I just wanted to remain honest above anything else. Even though I try to keep my writing on the positive side, it’s not always so easy. If I only covered the positive topics then I would be missing out on exploring so many other subjects surrounding mental health that other people can relate to.

So back to the question I set out to answer, it’s a little complicated. While I don’t believe there is a way to always be positive, I do feel that it’s important to always hold on to the hope that things will get better.

If I could give anyone advice on how to be a more positive person, it’s to accept that you don’t always know what tomorrow will bring, but hold on to the hope that the hard times will pass and you will find yourself living out those happy moments again. Don’t let that fill you with fear, let it fill you with excitement.

Instead of viewing happiness as perfection, instead of trying to keep it forever, view it as moments. It’s true that happiness is fleeting; like every other emotion it comes and goes. Happiness is found in moments that turn into memories we can cherish.

So stop chasing perfection and start chasing those moments. It’s that rush you feel when you catch the perfect wave, or that moment when you break through the surface of the water after taking a daring leap. It’s the sense of pride you have when you can finally feel your diploma in your hands and the warmth that radiates from those who supported you along the way. It’s in those moments when you find yourself laughing until your chest aches, or that joy you feel when you reconnect with a friend for the first time in what felt like forever.

Even on your absolute worst days, happiness is there, in that smile that illuminates someone’s face when you do something kind. Happiness is everywhere, even in the bad, if you would just open your mind to it. 

It’s like catching a firefly in your hands, even in the darkest nights. There will be times where the nights feel dark and you think the light has ran out, but it is still there, waiting to land on the palms of your hands again. And those moments, like fireflies, will come back to you when you least expect it.

Roundabouts.

I wanted to take the time today to reflect on the past month. Additionally, I want to explain exactly why I have held back from publishing any blog posts the last month.

This post may seem a little scattered, mainly because I wasn’t certain on how to approach this as I began writing. I just felt that it was important for me to keep The Journey as up to date as possible. So please bear with me as I try to piece all of these thoughts together.

If you take anything from this post today, let it be that stress can be turned into a positive experience. Let stress be that force that pushes you to do your best work, rather than something that holds you back.

If I could describe what this last month has been like for me in one sentence, I would say that I’ve been stuck in a never ending roundabout. Fortunately, even the most hectic roundabouts have an end, and that brings me to where I am now.

Thankfully in the last few days I have managed to find some sanity and, finally, have a pretty solid schedule again. Meaning I will have set times to write again- something that I have been missing from my life.

The reason why I had to hold back from publishing any work is for two major reasons. First and foremost, huge changes that took place in my life. For those of you who don’t know i began blogging in high school and I just graduated, so I’m currently planning for college which had to be my main focus. During this time, I had to figure out how to balance two jobs while trying to finish up my last few weeks of school before the summer began.

Second, is that I have been working on polishing up the first few parts of Don’t Speak. Since this new series is so important to me, I want to take time time to ensure that everything is thorough and complete before I share it on my blog. My long term goal is to turn it into either a podcast or a complete book, so I’ve been pouring so much energy into it.

So given these factors I decided to hold off on posting anything, knowing that I wasn’t in the right place mentally to publish work I was proud of. I began feeling really conflicted. I was a little disappointed in myself for not having created any content for my blog.

However, this past month has motivated me to keep writing, and has left me with some ideas I’m very passionate about, and many rough drafts for me to elaborate on. For a moment during this time the stress almost got to me. In the end, it ended up being the force that kept me on my feet through all the chaos. I believe a lot of bloggers can relate to this. Many of us feel this pressure to keep creating, even if we’re at a place in life where it’s difficult to.

I think it’s important that more bloggers take the time to do this no matter what situation you’re in. Even if you’re not in a place where you can share your work, never hesitate to jot down some ideas or a stream of consciousness. This is an amazing way to keep in touch with your voice as a writer and have some rough drafts prepared for when you are ready to write that next story or blog post.

If you feel like you’re in the same situation as I was in- don’t worry, that roundabout will come to an end! Don’t forget to take some time to relax and gather your thoughts once you do.

Feel free to share any comments below if you’ve come through any similar experiences. How do you currently feel about activity on your blog?

xx

Thank for for reading as always!

Changing The Way You Define Happiness

What does it mean for you to be happy?

For many of us, happiness is something we chase every day of our lives. Our own definitions of happiness are described by a list of achievements and assets we desire to call our own, and even after we reach these goals, the list seems to reach beyond infinity.

It means having the ideal body, obtained by endless hours of pushing ourselves to the limit in the gym, followed by scrutinizing our bodies in the mirror until we find something new to ‘fix’.

It means creating the perfect facade in our online profiles to convince our family and friends that we are living our absolute best lives. Sometimes we do this by posting pictures from last years spring break with the biggest smiles on our faces, or by flaunting how insanely in love we are with our significant other.

It means landing our dream jobs, often because they have higher salaries, and the feeling we get when we can finally say “Look, I made it!”.

We tell ourselves that it will not hurt to chase these goals and successes, certain that once we reach the next step we will finally be happy and content with ourselves. Just one more pound, just one more time, just one more day spent doing something we don’t want to do in hopes of creating a better future. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with pursuing any of these goals- in fact, a great sense of pride can be accomplished in working towards a better version of ourselves. This drive to better ourselves is what we need to keep ourselves moving.

The problem is that in constantly finding things to change about ourselves, our definition of happiness becomes perfection. By thinking that what we have in the moment is never enough, we are condition ourselves to think that we can never be happy in the present moment.

This is when it becomes necessary to draw the line between maintaining a healthy amount of motivation and chasing an unrealistic state of perfection. Because obsession with the distant future plants a seed in our mind that is difficult to uproot. It leaves us in a constant state of unease, trapped by the belief that we can never be happy by simply loving ourselves and our lives for the way we are now.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and assessing our current situation to realize what is worth pursuing, and why exactly we want to pursue these goals. Are we seeking change because of an intrinsic motives, or extrinsic motives? In other words, is it because it will bring us joy- or because we are seeking validation from others? Once we identify the true reasons we want to change, we can determine whether or not it will provide us with long lasting happiness.

The best way to find happiness is to stop associating it with perfection, and start associating it with peace of mind. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that it is okay for each of us to move at our own pace and choose the paths in life that we wish to take. Is is not until we learn to accept ourselves and our current condition, flaws and all, that we can finally be happy.

Good Things Takes Time

A reminder for anyone going through the process of recovery.

“People are always telling me that things will get better soon,” He said. “But I’m tired of waiting for change.”

That day, my friend confided in me that he had not been happy for a long time. He was growing impatient in watching others living their lives and making progress while he remained stuck in the same, endless cycle of self-doubt. Because no matter how hard he tried, he said, things just weren’t getting better. He thought that after he finally got past the hardship he had faced that it would be over. Yet the process of recovering itself proved to be much more difficult.

I know that feeling. Finally reaching a finish line, making it to the top of the mountain, only to find that there is still another mile left in the race. While I wish I had a simple answer for my friend that day, there is no simple solution. The advice I wish I could have given that day is something that you must take with a grain of salt. But the truth is, for anyone on the journey to recovery, it that you aren’t going to heal in a day.

Because healing isn’t always waking up and feeling the sun on your skin. It isn’t always a quick or simple process like we want it to be.

Sometimes healing is putting down the phone for the last time and accepting that you shouldn’t let that person back in, no matter how much the memories are pulling you back. Sometimes healing is pushing yourself to open the curtains and face the world despite the people who tell you that you aren’t good enough. Sometimes it is that aching feeling in our chest, the waves of uncertainty when we take a leap of faith.

Rather than feeling intimidated by this, you need to think of healing as growing pains. To truly adapt and learn from your past, you will need to make changes and learn. We must to let ourselves grow out of the pain from the past and close old wounds if we ever want to move on. Healing, similar to fighting, takes strength. It means having to push through that last mile no matter how much you want to turn back. As soon as you finally cross that line and reach the top, you will realize that it was worth it all along.

It might not happen in a week, or even a few months, and maybe you won’t be able to see how much you have truly grown because you are too busy working on yourself. Just don’t discredit yourself for not being able to see this in the mirror right away. Because good things take time, and can show up where we least expect it to.

If I could go back to that conversation I had that day, there is one last piece of advice I would give. Because of of all of the things I am uncertain of, there is one thing that always holds true when it comes to healing.

I can promise you that one day, you will find yourself smiling once again because you’re finally living without the weight of the past holding you down. Because all of those promises you made to yourself will become a garden, a symbol of the growth you have made during the process of moving on. You will no longer feel the need to bury the past away, because it is there in that garden, a reflection of the strength you had in you all along.

And although it takes work, there is no better feeling than taking the challenges life as handed you and turning it into something beautiful.

xx