7 Ways I Changed from Hunting the Good Stuff

I spent some time in the Arizona Army National Guard. They had started a program called Master Resiliency Training (MRT). Arizona had one of the highest suicide rates among soldiers. They sanctioned this program to help soldiers “overcome adversity.” The Psychology Department of the University of Philadelphia created the program. After a few years I had forgotten a lot of the training. One thing stuck with me though I never practiced it. It was called “Hunt the Good Stuff.” A simple exercise of writing down three good things that happened to you that day before bed. And writing why those things were important to you.

I remember a Major telling everyone about when he first heard about this exercise. He thought it was stupid. His instructor told him to try it. What did he have to lose? The training went for three days. He noticed by the second night of “Hunting the Good Stuff” he was sleeping better. This Major also had two young daughters whom he didn’t know how to connect with. One night at dinner, he asked his family to tell each other three good things that happened to them that day. His family started doing this every night. His daughters start talking about their good things before anyone else. He was able to learn about and connect with his children with this exercise.

Over the last couple years, my life has had many ups and downs. After so many things chipping away at my resolve, I grew more depressed and negative. I got so negative that someone close to me told me they didn’t want to be around me anymore. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt I had hit rock bottom. My job offered six free counseling sessions and I took them. I started a “Hunt the Good Stuff” journal. I still have a long way to go but I’m 1000% better than I was. That was five months ago. This one exercise has done more for me than I ever imagined. I wish I had started doing it sooner.

1. When I Look for Good Things, I Find Them

When I first started this exercise, it felt daunting. I wasn’t sure if I could find three things to write in this journal every day. I had to think for a few minutes. The more often I did this, the easier it got. I used to get angry and sad because my mind autopiloted into negative thoughts. When I sat down and thought about the good things, I always found good things. Perspective and attitude do play a role in one’s mindset. Reflecting on something good, no matter how small, every day has helped to change my way of thinking.

2. Others Noticed a Change in Me

It took several weeks before someone said anything. My sister mentioned noticing a huge change in me. A better change. My coworkers noticed too. One of them wanted to take photos for a work Instagram. I joined in and enjoyed being in the photos. I overheard someone say they had never seen me smile so much. Coworkers were happy to see me when I went to work. They were excited to work with me that day. Positive thinking has led me to enjoy the people I work with even if I don’t enjoy the job itself. 

3. I Gained More Self-Confidence

I talked with a coworker about some of the things I had been doing since I felt my life had fallen apart. I mentioned my counseling and “Hunting the Good Stuff.” I thought she would say that she noticed I was happier. But what she said surprised me. She noticed that I was more confident in myself. I never would have guessed that would be a result from positive thinking. It makes sense. Being positive had made me act sillier and have fun without the concern of what others might think. I can’t remember the last time I was like that.

4. My Attitude Changed; I’m More Positive

As expected, positive thinking has led me to see the world in a positive way. I don’t always assume the worst from people. I rationalize things differently. When someone says they forgot about plans we made because they didn’t put it in their calendar, I understand. I’ve done that too. Before I would assume, I wasn’t important to them and that’s why they forgot. Sometimes people get busy and it has nothing to do with me. I don’t make plans as often now, but I don’t get upset if things don’t go to plan.

5. I Changed How I Talk to Myself

One of the things I started along with “Hunting the Good Stuff” was a positive affirmation. The person I was close to who didn’t want me in their life anymore gave this to me. I repeat the phrases, “I like myself. I love myself. I deserve good things.” I once repeated these words over and over for about 20 minutes. This helped but writing three good things every day helped too. My internal monologue has changed. I don’t call myself stupid when I make a mistake. I don’t say negative things to myself as often. It’s still there now and then, but less frequent.

6. I Sleep Better

It doesn’t work every night. Some nights I’m still restless or only sleep a few hours. But overall my sleep has improved. I have dreams more often. Fewer nightmares. I sleep longer and deeper. I don’t always feel energized, but I don’t feel drained upon waking up anymore. I give myself a couple hours in the morning before work. I allow myself time to ease into the day. This has added to my daily productivity and attitude when going to work. Most of the time, I can go to sleep at the time I want to start sleeping.

7. I Enjoy Things Again

I used to have a general crabby disposition. Even when I used to enjoy something, I didn’t show much enthusiasm. I find myself feeling good after doing things. I go to movies alone and reflect on having a good time with myself. If I go to a party, I socialize for a bit and enjoy some food. I walk in with no expectations and walk out having had a great time. I get more reading and writing done because I enjoy doing it more. 

I’m surprised how much this one activity helped change my perspective on life. I still have hard days where I have to force myself to find good things. The last few weeks I’ve moved from at least three good things every day to four good things every day. More and more days are having five to seven good things. As of writing this, I’ve been practicing this exercise for over 150 days. That’s five months. I may never get back the people I lost when I was negative and depressed. But I will do everything I can to not make the same mistakes twice.

The good stuff is always out there. You just have to look for it. Happy hunting!

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

Sorry Not Sorry.

 

I’m sorry. It is something I have found myself repeating often. I am sorry when someone has a bad day, when I mess up, when someone else messes up, when the weather isn’t what someone wants, when a television show is upsetting. I am sorry for things completely out of my control. What is so awful is that I mean it every time. I feel sorry from the depth of my soul. I realize that this stems from growing up in a house where guilt was the motivator for everything. I had a mother who could and does hold grudges that will most likely last until long after the world has imploded.

Someone recently said they were sorry that they don’t post as often as they should. I felt that. I feel badly when I let commitments fall to the side while I am picking up the pieces of my life. I feel worse when I am busy just being happy. I want to say something that has been on my mind the past few days.

I am not going to be sorry anymore. Would you get mad at me if I told you that I am making positive life changes that kept me from following through on my posts? Probably not because you are all beautiful people who cheer me on regardless of my manic rollercoaster tendencies. So you shouldn’t be sorry either. Honestly, I worry when people stop posting, but then I think that maybe they are on a long awaited vacation recovering from a spell and I feel better.

I hope that you aren’t sorry too. I hope that you are living your life guilt free and knowing that you have a cheerleader here. I hope you use all your best days to do what makes you happy. I personally really find writing cathartic and find myself wanting to do so on my best days. I want to share my best days with those that comforted me on my worst.

Anyone who knows me in real life will tell you that I am a professional student. I love school. I have been going to school since I was 5 and I really haven’t stopped aside from a few years of breaks here and there to utilize the skills I acquired. People seem to think that I am really smart, but the truth is education is something nobody can take from me. Nobody can claim it as their own and nobody can say that I didn’t work for it. The proof is in the paper my friends! Writing is that for me.

So don’t apologize for your happiness, don’t let anyone take away that victory lap, and don’t feel bad for just doing what you want. If mental illness has taught me anything, it is that I must savor these good days. I have to use them for the things that make me happy, that push me towards more good days.

It is a good thing that we have built a little community here. If you need to take some time to live outside of it, we will be here to fill in.

I Gave the Demon a Name

Recently, one of my closest friends told me I had many friends. I half-jokingly said she was the only one I liked, and the rest were crap. Her reply to that was unexpected. She told me I needed a daily mantra. Before going to bed, she said I should look in the mirror and say, “I like myself. I love myself. I deserve good things.” I promised her I would try. She told me to say it three times. She then assured my that Bloody Mary won’t get me. I said I’d summon Bloody Mary and we’d both say the mantra.

I tried this mantra that night. I looked in the mirror. It was uncomfortable. I normally have no issues looking at myself. This time I did. I couldn’t bring myself to say the words out loud, but I said them in my mind. By the third time, I fought back tears. Why was saying those three sentences so difficult? I told my friend I did what she said, and it was more difficult than expected. She said I had to do it every day and she cried the first time. I told her I cried.

This was the first time a friend or family member told me to change how I speak to myself. You hear doctors or celebrities say these things all the time. This was a shocking realization. I discovered I didn’t like myself. Despite all the work I did for many years building my confidence and moving to a place where I thought I liked myself. I still don’t. I used to hate myself. I have improved. I have made progress, but I have a long way to go yet. I thought more about how I speak to myself and about myself.

If someone else said negative words to me, it might hurt but I’d eventually ignore them. Or I’d tell myself they’re having a bad day and lashed out. When I say negative things to myself, I accept it as truth. How do I move away from such ideas? I decided to put a name to those negative thoughts. If I name it and treat it like another person, I think I can stop listening to those words. If I separate it from myself, I’ll no longer treat it as truth. So, I gave my inner demon a name. I’m not sharing that name. That’s my personal demon and no one else’s.

I will no longer say, “I’m being negative.” It’s the demon feeding me negativity. Some days are still difficult. Sometimes you get trapped in a negative loop and can’t get out. You eventually do. Calling it something else makes it easier to fight. Easier for me anyway. This may not work for everyone. This can work with writing letters to yourself only now you can use a different name. I don’t hate myself. I hate you the demon inside me and I want you out. I want you gone! So, I gave the demon a name. Because you have to know the demon’s name before you can fight them.

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How Depression Feels

After the successful results of our last how-to article, “Depression for Dummies,” I felt a continuation of similar advice might be helpful. I may have decided this after yet another conversation with my loving, wonderful, clueless husband.

Thing is, non-crazies do not understand how we think. They are not living inside us, feeling the things we feel or thinking what we think or assuming what we assume after someone says something. They are inside them, usually feeling pretty darn good.

Lucky.

So, drag that fortunate spouse, significant other, friend, boss, or coworker over here. I’m going to teach them what it feels like to be depressed.

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First, class, you need to get really uncomfortable. Don’t shower and don’t brush your teeth for five days. At least. On top of that, I’m going to need you to roll around in some mud and let it harden in uncomfortable places. Finally, put on some clothes that do not fit right and make you think you look like a muddy, fat elephant who hasn’t visited the watering hole in five days.

Did you do all that? Good! Now onto Step Two:

During or after your five days dirtying the outside, I want you to work on the inside. Eat foods that are bad for you like candy, soda pop, Taco Bell, and Lima beans. I don’t want to go too far, so I’m not going to encourage anything harder. Simply eating poorly ought to do it.

Are you with me so far? Excellent.

Next, you need to contract some kind of virus. No one wants you actually dying, so aim for a bad cough or for that cold that’s going around.

Feeling bad yet? You only think you are.

Lastly, I want you to sit in front of a mirror and tell yourself that you are ugly. You eat like a pig. You are sick. On top of all that, you are worthless and no one likes you.

Are you feeling something now? Something sad? Congratulations! -because you have touched the surface of the ongoing mindset that is Depression. Whenever you want to say something ‘helpful’ in the future like, “This will pass,” “You have great potential; why don’t you use it?,” or “Why would you feel depressed?,” remember what all of this felt like. Maybe you’ll say a more encouraging, empathetic phrase, instead.

Maybe you’ll just listen, and give the depressed person some chocolate.

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Now, I’m not heartless enough to leave anyone down as far as we went, so you can’t leave until we reverse everything we did today. In fact, all of you people hiding in your closets and corners feeling depressed: come over here and do it, too.

First, I want you to get up, take off the uncomfortable clothes that make you feel fat and ugly, and go take the most awesome and refreshing shower you’ve ever experienced. Feel the warm water stimulate your happy nerves as you watch muddy elephant runoff slide down the drain.

Feeling somewhat better? Keep going.

Next, I want you to make the healthiest food that you enjoy and eat it. I’d go for an excellent, nutritious sandwich or shake. Whatever you choose ought to have whole foods, a few food groups, and definitely vegetables.
Brush your teeth afterwards and revel in the minty fresh taste of your smiling mouth.

You’re still with me, right? It gets better:

Go visit a doctor or take some over-the-counter medications to help with your cold symptoms. I really am sorry I recommended that you contract one; they’re the worst. Rest and breathing exercises help as well.

Did you do all of the steps so far? We’re nearly finished!

Get back over to your mirror and sit down. With a nice amount of natural light around, I want you to apologize for saying nasty things. I want you to say the following, instead: “I am good enough; I am smart enough; and doggone it, people like me for me.” Pull up some good Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs on your phone and run through a few.

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I’d say you should feel right as rain about now, but I’m more honest than that. If you followed all of the recommended steps then I am certain you feel a lot better, but I am also certain that you remember how you felt when you were depressed.

That’s because, during Depression, we tell ourselves some pretty damaging things; things that don’t wash down a drain or disappear when we turn on the light.

But they do diminish. Some days, they almost disappear. With the support of our (now) less-clueless friends and significant others, you will get better. And that’s worth fighting for.

 

Photo Credits:
Miguel Henriques
Jordane Mathieu