2018 sucked. I spent the entire year recovering from a series of surgeries- a double mastectomy and multiple breast reconstruction surgeries while going through a divorce and facing financial insecurity. I cried. I complained to my friends. I watched Sex And The City reruns while eating chocolate cake almost every night that my kids were at their father’s house. I wanted to be happy but I had forgotten how to. It had always been so effortless before. After months in this lonely routine, I began to crave the sound of my own laughter. I decided to try something completely new in an attempt to regain my happiness and I quickly became addicted to the feeling of pushing through fears.
First, I did a boudoir photoshoot celebrating my body as a single woman post-mastectomy. Next, I went to Sephora and purchased a dark red lipstick I’d felt timid about wearing. I dyed my hair blonde, which I immediately regretted. I dyed it back to a light brown and chalked it up to a positive experience that made me appreciate my hair more. I started going to the beach every Thursday morning, which forced me to get out of bed on the days my kids weren’t there. I signed up for pole dance fitness classes. I booked a solo trip to New York City. I started writing more of what I was feeling and the more I did, the less it hurt. New experiences led to a journey of self-discovery and self-care, which ultimately helped me differentiate between the happiness I received from expectations met and un-circumstantial joy. We live in an age where it’s so easy to let other people control our lives and to let challenging circumstances steal our joy. Here are some of the ways that I’ve learned to stay positive throughout life’s ups and downs.
When I take physical care of my body, I feel good about myself. Exercising consistently is a game-changer for my mood. I’ve found that I absolutely love weight lifting. I like to incorporate my desire to try new things into my desire to stay fit so I’ve recently been trying new hiking trails, kayaking and stand up paddle. Exercise has been shown to release endorphins that improve your mood so even if you’re not a gym person, try to make time to move your body every single day.
Learning to say “no” more frequently has been absolutely freeing! I used to be the woman that would stress out about a packed schedule because I let everyone else set their agenda for my life. Now, I won’t attend a business meeting if I don’t think it will be truly beneficial for me. I won’t go on a date if I’m not truly interested in the person. I won’t wear an outfit that no longer fits or flatters my body. This allows me to savor more of my time and mental energy for myself and the activities that bring me peace.
READ MORE: 6 Ways to Say Yes to Yourself This New Year
Self-care is a huge topic these days. People hashtag it when they Instagram photos of chocolate cakes and shopping sprees. Just because something feels good does not make it a form of self-care, however. I could self-care myself into hundreds of thousands of dollars of credit card debt if I let myself, but instead, my version of self-care involves the discipline to balance my budget every month. Saying no to myself when it comes to things that won’t benefit me is equally important as saying no to others. Whether it’s making your bed in the morning, cleaning your house, taking your vitamins or paying off debt, having discipline is a way of showing yourself your own value.
Another key for maintaining my positive attitude is being aware that when I’m not feeling positive, it’s a temporary state. I still have moments of sadness. I’m aware that no one is going to be happy all the time and whatever I’m feeling today is not going to last forever. As a side note, if the sadness you do feel is persistent, I recommend seeking professional help. There is no shame in receiving therapy or medication.
Self-care is a continual process. Happiness, healing and peace are not linear. Recognize that you will always have challenges, times of sadness and struggle because it’s part of the human experience, but that these feelings and experiences are temporary. I’m growing to appreciate that the bad days provide a contrast to the good days so that I can experience joy more fully. I’ve found that there is always something that makes me feel good. That something is me.
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