WARNING: Reading this will cause you to become a more positive, persevering person! Proceed with caution!
As a species, we are consumed by emotions. We fight with our consciousness on fears and reality. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), continued strain on your body from routine stress can trigger serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, as well as mental disorders like depression or anxiety.
I had the unfortunate (but arguably the most inspiring) experience of fighting through the stress of being jobless and nearly homeless. The stress of this challenging situation triggered a debilitating condition that I would soon find out to be the incurable, progressive disease of the nervous system, Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
“Health problems can occur if the stress response goes on for too long or becomes chronic, such as when the source of stress is constant, or if the response continues after the danger has subsided. With chronic stress, those same life-saving responses in your body can suppress immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems, which may cause them to stop working normally.”
I had conquered personal obstacles in the past, from being bullied throughout grade school to becoming the victim of workplace harassment – which caused immense stress, triggering a domino effect of health issues from Pertussis (aka Whooping Cough) to constant influenza and common colds. I was tired of feeling sad. I was exhausted in the fight for happiness. After the diagnosis with MS, I decided to change it all… determined to find happiness and dig up that bubbly, fun personality I used to carry around like a prize!
If you are searching for that spark of happiness to reignite your passion for life, it’s time to evaluate your stress management techniques and reshape your thinking process… we are capable of so much more than most can even comprehend and we need regular reminders that each beautiful day is a gift and we should enjoy every. single. moment.
When I reflected on my life and how sick I had been getting, I noticed life’s daily stressors weren’t just affecting me, they were impacting my entire family. After my diagnosis, my family adopted a service dog – our German Shepherd, Red. He is extremely intuitive and senses emotions. The moment anyone in the household begins to get anxious or stressed, he will come and lay at your feet. Realizing how sensitive this dog was to stress made me rethink how my stress may be affecting my son whom I wanted to see blossom into a carefree, joyful little dude – not a tense and anxious boy.
I found a lot of relief in meditation (new to meditation? check out the Headspace App for Android and iOS). I started with routine meditation and mindfulness sessions before bed every night and read books beyond books. Here are a few key concepts I took away and practice regularly to continue beaming with joy.
Recognize the Signs: Awareness is the first step in overcoming any problem. Becoming aware of the initial stress triggers will help you acknowledge a stressful situation in which you can reflect and administer stress management techniques to prevail. For example, I realized in a previous job, I was working longer and harder than my team without recognition. I did this for four years and acknowledged the disaster and disappointment along with my desire to be recognized and appreciated. This acknowledgment led me to further my career elsewhere, and I couldn’t be happier.
Regular Exercise: Consider taking a walk over your lunch period – just 30 minutes per day of walking can boost your mood and reduce stress. Fresh air and lots of water can do amazing things for your mood!
Try a Relaxing Activity: Gentle exercises that include steady breathing mixed with stretches can make your body feel rejuvenated and less tense. Learn more at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
Change Your Thinking Patterns: I remember comedian Chris Farley’s brother, Tom Farley, spoke at my high school graduation ceremony about the importance of humor in life. How humor and positivity had the power of changing any challenging or negative situation into a positive and enlightening experience… his speech never rang so clear to me until my recent self-discovery adventure.
One of the books I have read recently that really resonated with my desire to channel challenges into opportunities through the power of positive thinking is, Unfu*k Yourself: Get out of your head and into your life, written by Gary John Bishop, for sale on Amazon.com here. After you read this book, you will be able to see the world from a newfound perspective and life will never be the same.
Another resource I found beneficial, is following uplifting users on social media. Regular reminders of how beautiful life can be can work wonders on your mood and overall thought process. Here are a few tips on altering your thoughts to a positive platform that I pulled from www.success.com, in a post titled 7 Practical Tips to Achieve a Positive Mindset:
Start the Day Positive: beginning the day with positive affirmations will boost your mood and prepare you for a wonderful day ahead. Talk to yourself in the mirror and say, “today is going to be a great day” or listen to positive songs like “Feeling Good” or “The Pursuit of Happiness” to put a pep in your step while you prepare for the day.
Focus on ALL Good Things: everyone enters obstacles throughout the day… everyone. Acknowledging and appreciated all good things throughout the day can soften the blow of potential challenges.
Laugh in Bad Situations: bad situations always make for good stories later. Don’t hesitate to find humor in these situations. “Say you’re laid off; imagine the most absurd way you could spend your last day, or the most ridiculous job you could pursue next—like kangaroo handler or bubblegum sculptor.”
Learn from Failure: this should be a concrete rule in order to gain enlightenment from experiences of all levels. Instead of focusing on how you failed, reflect on what you’re going to do next time to avoid failure.
Eliminate Negative Self-Talk: you are as unique as they come… there is only one of you in this world and you are KILLING it! Great job, you!
^See how easy that was? Instead of beating yourself up with criticism for flaws, coach yourself in a positive light, “I’m so bad at this becomes Once I get more practice, I’ll be way better at this. I shouldn’t have tried becomes That didn’t work out as planned—maybe next time.”
Live in the Moment: this includes letting go of disappointment from the past. Holding onto grudges or negative emotions isn’t doing you a bit of good. Let it go, live in the moment and move forward. “In most situations, you’ll find it’s not as bad as you imagine it to be. Most sources of negativity stem from a memory of a recent event or the exaggerated imagination of a potential future event.”
Surround Yourself with Positive Mentors: “When you surround yourself with positive people, you’ll hear positive outlooks, positive stories and positive affirmations. Their positive words will sink in and affect your own line of thinking, which then affects your words and similarly contributes to the group. Finding positive people to fill up your life can be difficult, but you need to eliminate the negativity in your life before it consumes you.”
I hope that after reading this, you will awaken a spark of life within you so that you can continuously see the good, uplifting, beautiful opportunities your journey has to offer. Follow those silent whispers that encourage you to breathe and evolve. Leverage stress management and positive thinking, paired with humor and your continued thirst for adventure and make the most out of your future!