Absolute Free Happiness

If you know even a little bit about my journey, you are aware that I openly admit to the fact that I require a little extra to maintain my happiness levels. I guess I’m what people call “high maintenance”, but ya know what? Who cares! I’ve learned that it’s nobody’s business how “high maintenance” you are as long as you don’t expect or require other people to maintain you. I require a lot out of myself. It’s a full-time job to keep myself sane, but if self-care isn’t one of your full-time concerns, then I honestly feel like you’re doing something wrong. I, for one, know that when I let the Care of Gina slip down to priority three or four, I start turning into a monster. A cranky, hangry, insecure validation-seeking gremlin who just loves to wallow in wrinkled unwashed pajamas while watching House Hunters, when she really needs to get her ass to yoga and journal out the Mind Monsters (what’s a “Mind Monster”? Read Beware: Mind Monsters Ahead and let me know if you can relate). After writing August’s Lament, I thought I would share a companion piece describing my game plan for when I’m having one of my uninspired, restless gray days… and again, as some of you may already know, I have spent a lot of those gray days completely on empty not just mentally, spiritually, and creatively– but financially as well. So, ladies and gentlemen, here you have it… my master list of…

Shit To Do When You’re Unhappy… Completely FREE Edition!

  • Reread a chapter of a favorite book, play, or poem. Choose something that’s whimsical and fun (and preferably something you already own, can find for free online, or at your local library). Something that pulls out feelings of youth, vibrance, and empowerment or takes you back to a time in your life where you felt carefree and things were effortless. Save the morbid and intriguingly disturbing for another day when you can handle it. (Sorry, Sylvi, but I don’t recommend The Bell Jar at this time). My personal go-to is Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. Franny’s existential quarter life crisis (and tendency to wallow on the couch alongside a lazy cat…) was something I instantly related to when I first read it, freshly stepping out of undergrad and looking for answers (and a career) with my BFA in Theatre. Zooey sets his sister straight with blunt honesty and words of wisdom that I can’t seem to get enough of. The final chapter is exactly the kick in the pants I need to get the hell off the couch, walk outside, look up at the sky and simply be thankful for this “goddamn beautiful world”.

“God damn it, there are nice things in the world – and I mean nice things. We’re all such morons to get so sidetracked.”
J.D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey

  • Rinse and repeat but with a favorite song. Usually The Shins are what works for me here, but lately a song called “Light at the End of the World” by The Vryll Society (shout out to my dad for the awesome recommendation) hasn’t failed to bring a smile to my face. Click HERE if you want to give it a listen.
  • Call a friend. Better yet— Skype a friend. Familiar faces when facing unfamiliar and uncomfortable emotions make a world of difference. Even if you don’t actually discuss the grayness that’s going on in your mind, just simply chatting about the television shows you’re watching or giving yourself the opportunity to mindfully listen to someone else talk–either way–you can’t go wrong.
  • Take a yoga class in your own home! Yoga with Adriene is an excellent resource to take a yoga class via YouTube in the comforts of your own sacred space. No need to worry about ridiculous class fees, the pressure of keeping up with the Lululemon fashion show at the bougie, trendy studios, and best of all– Adriene’s videos are so freaking accessible, it’s crazy. She uses easy to understand terms (No Fear Sanskrit, if you will), the classes range anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes so you can pick the perfect fit for your schedule, and they are designed to work for super specific needs like “Yoga for Creativity”, “Yoga for Stress Management”, and “Yoga for Teachers”, just to name a few. Click THIS link to take a beginner class and get started!
  • Get. Out. Of. The. House. Go the hell outside!! Take a walk down the block and back or go on a nature trail or literally just BE outside for 15 minutes and turn around and go right back inside if you want. I always want to resist this piece of advice, but I have never once left the house and come home feeling worse. If I have time, my favorite Nashville spot to reconnect with nature is Radnor Lake. Google it. You’d be surprised how many walking trails are nearby, even in urban areas. If you stumble across a place you’ve never been to or heard of– even better. Go.
  • Go for a long drive and for once, don’t worry about using your GPS for directions until you’re ready to turn head home. If the weather permits, roll the windows down and let the wind get in your face. Now would also be a good time to blast that favorite song or album you identified earlier. If I’m being real honest, anytime I have any length of time in the car alone, it really gets me pumped to put on Legally Blonde the Musical. It is essential to my process to listen from start to finish and belt out all of Elle’s solos without judgment towards my imperfect pitch or not-blonde-by-any-stretch-of-the-imagination Italian locks. Image result for be like elle woods after warner
  • Volunteer for something interesting and ACTUALLY TALK TO PEOPLE (Stubborn homebody that I am, I will come up with any excuse in the book to avoid this one…). But if you decide there is life outside of your apatment, you’ll be releasing all those fun chemicals in the brain that reward you when you do something productive and serve others. Helping someone in need and putting your own able mind and body to use is the best distraction from you own problems of the moment. So, what do you like to do? Do you enjoy animals? Volunteer at a local humane society or your city’s zoo. Have a passion for women’s rights? Have a heart for children? A love for education? A green thumb? There are shelters, organizations and plenty of after-school programs that are always looking for assistance. Identify your niche then begin your Google search and start making phone calls. It’s easier to get involved than you think.
  • Go on a social media hiatus. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as it sounds– just take a day off if you’d like or delete an app or two. Whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, we’re in a constant state of comparison when we scroll through Facebook and Instagram. It feels petty to admit, but the truth is that I could be having an awesome day, but sometimes that kick ass mood is fragile enough that it can ricochet to vulgar jealousy and crippling insecurity just by discovering a post revealing that someone I kinda-sorta knew from college booked a role at a regional theatre or got engaged or just looks so damn happy in her perfectly furnished one bedroom apartment in the Gulch. For crying out loud! It’s so dumb, right? Who cares? But we do. When it starts to matter too much, it’s always okay to silence those comparison demons and say, “Not today, Instagram”. Press hold and delete. You can always download it again later when you’re in a better mental space.
  • Make lists— a list of goals, a list of things that make you happy, a list of recipes you want to try, questions you’ve always wanted to know the answer to, restaurants you’ve always wanted to try… a list of books you want to read or movies you want to watch, places you want to visit. It doesn’t matter, making a list just makes you feel productive and putting something on paper makes it seem more important, more like it might actually come true. Make that list and dammit– post it somewhere you can see it every day until you’ve checked everything off that list.
  • Allow yourself to tumble head first down that YouTube Rabbit Hole and indulge in a couple (hundred) cute animal videos. Seriously. Every time a cat falls into a tub or a dog befriends a duckling, your happiness increases by, like, 25%. I mean, what can be better than a spontaneous Goose Parade?
  • Look yourself in the mirror and say 3 compliments OUT LOUD. You will feel weird. You will do it anyway because you need them.
  • Give out 3 compliments today. One to a stranger, one to someone you’re close to, and one to someone who usually causes you a bit of annoyance.
  • Write a letter. When was the last time you wrote a letter and mailed it in the actual snail mail? And if you enjoyed it, write another! (This is free if you already have stamps, envelopes, etc…)
  • If you’re already subscribed to Netflix/Hulu/HBO/[insert streaming service of your choice], play roulette with a television series or movie. Just blindly pick something and watch for 15 minutes, if uninterested, pick something else. The same can be done with the DVDs that are collecting dust on your shelves. Close your eyes and randomly pick something. This eliminates the anxiety inducing selection debacle and gets you into your comfortable cinematic escape faster. (Note: You can feel free to reject any movie/tv series that may trigger emotions and/or memories that you need to avoid while in your gray mood)
  • Have you ever watched The Great British Baking Show on PBS? Well if not, it’s just an absolute delight. 10/10 guaranteed to make you feel warm and fuzzy, become your new binge watching obsession, and inspire you to attempt to make bread (or at least go buy some from a local bakery when you get another paycheck).
  • Write. A blog, an article, a journal entry, a poem, a play, whatever. Get it out of your head and onto paper. Be like Elsa and let. It. Go.

This concludes my list of Shit To Do When You’re Unhappy… Completely FREE Edition! However, I’m always adding to it as I discover new things that give me that extra boost. My challenge to you– maybe try out a few of these ideas, but more importantly– create your own list and run with it. Understand that item number 4 on your list, for example, might really work once and never again, or not as sharply as it did the first time and that’s okay. It’s completely normal, in fact. We are a deliciously, marvelously and frustratingly ever-evolving species and for those of us who are sensitive souls out there, we are also highly susceptible to our changing environments. With that in mind, there can never be a truely predictable outcome. You won’t get it right every time, but you can try your best. What more can we do other than try our best? And for me, establishing a game plan–even if it doesn’t always work– is me trying my best.

Feel free to comment below or message me directly with YOUR ideas for your Happy List! I’d love to hear from you.

Photo taken at Radnor Lake on a “gray” day in November 2017

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