I, on occasion, have been known to think that I know what is best for everyone. What follows is a list of things that I have recommended or wanted to recommend that people do in order to be happy. I am a generally happy person and tend to want to spread that around, whether others like it or not.
So I am aware of the thousands upon thousands of blogs and websites and magazines and books and podcasts dedicated to the joys of running. And yet, people still don’t believe me when I say that running fixes everything. I guess maybe they don’t read/listen to those thousands of running dedicated media. It’s true though. I took up running about 6 or 7 years ago, starting out very slow with low mileage. Since then, I have run two half marathons and one full. And there has never ever been a time when I regretted a run. There have been runs that weren’t what I expected or hoped they would be, but I have always felt better afterwards. My friends and family have seen the (sometimes dramatic) improvement in my mood after a run. And still, there are those who are all like, “Nah, I think sitting on the couch watching TV will be better for my mental health.” They are wrong. Dancing also falls into this category. Dancing and running have never failed to make my life better.
I am also aware that running is not a possibility for all due to physical constraints. To those of you who are not able to run (not wanting to is not the same thing), I am a firm believer that going outside and moving, or sitting by an open window, is a decent alternative.
Books are amazing. Not all books. Some books really had no business being written. Some books have turned out to be a waste of my time. But books, in general, are fantastic. Reading is calming, a safe and healthy means of escape, and can actually make you smarter. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life. I highly recommend it. I have also become an avid listener of audiobooks lately. Thanks, hour long commute. The best thing I have found to feed my reading habit has been Overdrive. This amazing app lets you borrow ebooks and audiobooks from the library and download it right to your phone! It has saved me piles of money and allowed me to make better use of my commute. Most recently, it nearly caused me to drive off the road from laughing so hard at “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson.
Spending time with kids
Kids are hilarious. I don’t have my own, which may be why I think so. But working with or volunteering with or even just hanging out with kids tends to make you check your problems at the door. Kids do not care that your check engine light is back on for the third time this month, or that your work deadlines are insane, or that your mother in law is driving you bonkers. (That last one I made up. Love you Kathy and Debbie! Yes, I have two mothers-in-law. It’s a stepmom situation, not a married to each other scenario.) Kids demand and require all of your attention in the time that you are with them. Their joys and concerns are the biggest thing in the world to them, and need to be the biggest thing in the world to you too at that moment. I have taught pre-school and had to say things like “Stop punching the duck,” “We do not make our friends into horses,” and “Nope, that is definitely not food.” Little ones are a fun escape if you don’t have any of your own. I can’t speak to what it’s like to have kids of your own. I’m now a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run and work with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. I don’t have to say quite as many ridiculous things, but their joy and learning is still a bright spot in my life. Spending time with them makes my day better.
Spending time with dogs
Similar to kids, dogs are hilarious. And I still get to say “Nope, that is definitely not food” pretty frequently. Plus, snuggles. So many snuggles. And they depend on you, so it kind of forces you to get yourself together. I’m just going to leave this picture of a dog here to prove my point on why they are fantastic. Feel free to hear the “Jaws” theme song in your head.
Making things is amazing! You start with stuff that isn’t anything, and you turn it into something! Gives one a feeling of accomplishment. And if it’s total crap you can start over or throw it out. No pressure, just something to do that has no connection to whatever else might be stressing you out. Arm knitting and cross stitching have been my latest endeavors.
If you have the means, travel the world. If you don’t, this site has some interesting ideas on how to travel for cheap. (Disclaimer- I am not on board with their hitchhiking recommendation.) Travelling is incredible. Seeing things you’d never have seen otherwise, experiencing other cultures, meeting new people – there really isn’t anything else like it. I believe some of this experience can be found in your hometown. I love Facebook’s Events feature. It is so easy to find things going on near you any day of the week. A lot of it is free, too. Art, music, dancing, sporting events, comedians, activism, charitable events, it’s all there. And if you live in the Twin Cities and can’t afford a study abroad program for you or your child, check out City Stay. This unique non-profit brings study abroad to the local community level by arranging stays in the homes of families from other cultures.
I’m putting these two together because they are similar in my mind. For the love of God, if you are having trouble, talk to someone! Here is a list of 81(!) mental health resources that are low or no cost. Finding a professional to talk to is the best thing you can do if you are struggling. But it’s important to have an everyday outlet too. If you have a close friend you can talk to, that’s awesome. That can be such a help. I find that writing helps me. I try to journal most nights before bed. This gets all my thoughts out and allows my brain to slow down enough to go to sleep. This does not solve all my issues or get all my crazy out, but it helps me to be calm enough to see the good around me.
I will continue to recommend these and other happiness inducing activities to my friends and family to the point of annoyance. I’d love to hear what others do to keep calm and find joy in the midst of life’s craziness. Leave a comment or contact me!