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  • Writer's pictureSarah M.

How I Cultivate Happiness with Anxiety Struggles

Depression and anxiety can feel overwhelming; it can have a tight grip on your whole life. And maybe you know why or maybe you aren't sure what caused it. All you know is that you are drowning in this feeling of fogginess and you hate it. You hate it and it hurts. I know it hurts.

I know it hurts because I am you.

And because I am you, I have some techniques to help control and reduce your pain. Even if it is just a sliver of hope.

I understand it frustrates you when people (even myself) say "just be happy" or "pull ourselves together" but it really isn't always that simple.

In the thick of it you lose interest in the simplest joys. You have no desire to do the things you normally love. You get irritated when others are creating joy. Nothing excites you. Actually everything annoys you.

Many people, have a mental list of things they think they need in order to be truly happy?

When they are accepted into school, they get that certain job or title, as soon as they find love, their dream home, success, wealth, fame, power or that bikini body.

Unfortunately getting all of this will only increase those uncomfortable feelings. Not that educating yourself or find love aren't wonderful happy feelings but that's just distracting yourself from what's inside.

While depression and anxiety are becoming less taboo subjects, they are now being tossed around with little thought into the deep pain and heartache that they produce in each soul they consume.

Overcoming depression and anxiety does not happen overnight. Every person struggles with it differently and will use varying techniques to get out of the slum.

I want to help you because I am you. I know what helped/helps me and I want you to feel joy too; because I know it's possible.

Aside from doctor prescribed treatments that might be necessary, the following suggestions might help you get to a place where you can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Remember to just take it a day at a time; actually in a lot of cases it's a minute at a time. Don't focus on the future. Don't focus on tomorrow, or what just happened. Just focus on today; focus on this very moment.

Try to listen to your heart beat, close your eyes and feel it pounding in your chest, now just breathe. That's it, that's all you have to do. You're not solving anything or fixing "the problem", you are just here, alive.

For me the best way to cultivate happiness as an anxious person is the preventive work I put in to reduce and eliminate anxiety all together. Because in a lot of cases, prevention is better than any cure.

Tip 1: Train your brain to be more positive

Our brains are wired to notice and remember the things that are wrong. It’s a survival mechanism that helped keep our cave-dwelling ancestors safe in a world where there were many physical threats. But in today’s comparatively safe world, this biological predisposition to focus on the negative contributes to stress and unhappiness.

While we can’t change our nature, we can train our brains to be more positive. This doesn’t mean putting on a smiley face and whistling a happy tune no matter what’s going on. You don’t have to ignore reality or pretend things are wonderful even when they’re not. But just as dwelling on negative things fuels unhappiness (and plays a big role in depression and anxiety), choosing to notice, appreciate, and anticipate goodness is a powerful happiness booster.

For example: In those (maybe rare) moments that you are actually feeling not so shitty stop and soak it in, collect that feeling from that moment and add it to your soul bank.

Being positive doesn't mean that you are happy happy joy joy all the time, or trying to ignore and suppress negative feelings, it simply means that in between the struggles you are allowed to feel good.

Training Trick - Express gratitude

Teaching yourself to become more grateful can make a huge difference in your overall happiness. Research shows that gratitude helps you experience more positive emotions, decrease depression, feel better about yourself, improve your relationships, and strengthen your immune system.

If you suffer from anxiety or any form of depression I know in the midst of it, this feels like nonsense and a load of bull crap.

That's why I use this is a preventive mechanism. Even if you have to schedule it into your calendar to force yourself to find things to be grateful for, this technic really truly works on cultivating more joy into your natural being.

Tip 2: Focus on helping others

I understand that you can't pour from an empty cup, but there is something truly fulfilling in helping others and feeling like your actions are making a difference for the better in the world. That’s why people who assist those in need and give back to others and their communities tend to be happier. In addition, they also tend to have higher self-esteem and general psychological well-being.

For example: Maybe there's a lonely senior in your neighborhood who hasn't talked to anyone in weeks, you could stop and chat with them even while passing in the yard. Or maybe someone needs help with packing their groceries or holding the door so they can bring their bike in. Helping someone else doesn't always mean that you need to go above and beyond to do something for others.

Tip 3: Take better care of your health

Before you read what I have suggested, think about what this means to you. What small or big thing could you change for better health?

Exercise or any type of movement and sleep are particularly important when it comes to happiness. Make both of them a priority in your everyday life.

Movement and consistent sleep patterns aren't just good for the body. They also have a powerful effect on your mental well-being. People who exercise regularly and sleep well are happier across the board. Plus, they’re also less stressed, angry, anxious, and depressed.

Diving into these three simple yet effective tips has been so good for my soul. I still live with anxiety and every once in a while I feel it slowly creeping up. I know it might never go away completely but coming back to these tricks will help me every time.

Depression and anxiety are selfish. They crave attention and want you to focus on them at all times. They don't want you to feel hope or excitement.

Depression and anxiety don't get fixed overnight. It's a step-by-step process that requires effort and desire on your part.

I know it feels devastating and uncomfortable when people say to "suck it up" so I'm not going to say that to you. I know it's never that simple. I know it's hard, because your inner demons yell at you, wear you down to the point that you have no energy to even try to get better.

But it's important to remember that your freedom to choose is very real, very possible and very powerful.

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