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.

Confronting Your Shadow Self

“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” – Carl Jung

This last month I stumbled upon something new called shadow work. It was something I’ve never heard of before and it intrigued me. Shadow work is when you take a closer look within yourself at the parts of yourself that you hide. The “dark side” of your personality; the negative parts you might be ashamed of, fearful around, or feel guilt around. It’s something we all have inside of ourselves, but it can be hard to acknowledge and address it.

The psychologist Carl Jung was the one who coined the term “personal shadow.” This is the part of the psyche a lot of people tend to neglect and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Even when you pretend it doesn’t exist your personal shadow can operate on it’s own without us being fully aware. It’s when the unconscious mind assumes control while our conscious self goes on autopilot. The longer you repress your shadow the more you start to see those qualities in the others around you.

At the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to work on my self-awareness and to heal myself from within. I spent the last three years focusing on my physical health; I didn’t spend as much time on my mental health and inner work as I should have. Something I’ve learned through my journey is that the mental transformation is just as powerful if not more powerful than a physical transformation.

Shadow work is for everyone, as humans we all have parts of ourselves we like to hide or feel embarrassed to share with others about. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles like the abuse my mom put me through for almost 18 years. All of those painful memories & experiences I had growing up, I pushed so far back in my head wanting to never think about them again.

When I stumbled upon shadow work it made me realize that I need to stop pretending that the memories don’t exist. Yes they are painful and I’m embarrassed about some of them, but they are going to resurface at some point in time so I can fully move on and continue my growth. Diving into the shadow work and committing to the process was a little scary for me. What scared me the most was fully addressing all those memories & allowing myself come to terms with them.

One of the first steps of shadow work is addressing the memories or emotions you’ve hid from for so long. You also must figure out and identify possible triggers that cause certain emotions with those memories. When you’ve identified the memories & triggers you can start to work on moving on from those to create new beliefs that will bring positive light into your life.

For me this is just the beginning of my own shadow work and bringing awareness to those dark parts so I can bring in new light. If this is something that does intrigue you I encourage you to look more into it as well. It’s something that everyone can benefit from and will only bring in more positivity in the long run.

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Why You Should Start Practicing Mood Hygiene

I’ve learned that when I find myself in stressful situations is when my depressive episodes start to surface again. It’s why I’ve added exercise and meditation into my routine because it does help eliminate the stress and lifts that weight off of your shoulders.

We practice personal hygiene, dental hygiene, etc. But have you ever thought to practice mood or mental health hygiene?

The word hygiene was derived from the Greek goddess of health, Hygiea. Hygiene is defined as the science of the establishment and maintenance of health. Mood hygiene is when you practice and build habits that will promote good control of your mood symptoms. For those who have a mental illness this helps take preventive measures to improve the symptoms over time.

Living with mental illness, I never thought to add mood hygiene into my routine. The more I learned about it made me realize how beneficial it can be. Practicing mood hygiene doesn’t have to be just for those who have mental illness; it can be for everyone to practice. There are a few ways to practice mood hygiene and incorporate it into your daily life.

  1. Stress and conflict management

When you find yourself in stressful situations, it can sometimes trigger symptoms of your illness like a depressive episode or anxiety attack. There are several ways that you can take to help and prevent stress in your life such as exercising regularly or meditating.

I’ve learned that when I find myself in stressful situations is when my depressive episodes start to surface again. It’s why I’ve added exercise and meditation into my routine because it does help eliminate the stress and lifts that weight off of your shoulders.

  1. Lifestyle regularity

Having structure in your day-to-day life is extremely important. By establishing and sticking to a schedule will help build that structure in your life. For example, I wake up at the same time everyday and have a morning routine that I stick to everyday. I start my mornings by journaling and listing out a few things that I am grateful for each morning. By practicing that gratitude also helps get me in a positive mindset for the day. I then get my workout in before I start my workday.

By having a schedule you stick to on a regular basis builds the structure in your life that will help you feel in control of your life.

  1. Track your moods

By keeping track of your moods will help you determine if there is a certain pattern or cycle in your moods. I started tracking my moods a couple months ago in my journal and it has helped me become more self-aware. It’s helped me notice a pattern in my moods and it allows me to get my moods more under control. It allows me to prepare for the month so I can be strategic with my commitments and make sure I don’t over extend myself.

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These are just a few ways on how you can practice mood hygiene and start implementing them into your own daily life. Practicing mood hygiene on a regular basis will help immensely in the mental health recovery process. It allows you to have a new sense of control in your life and can be empowering for the individual.

How an Emotional Support Animal Helped With my Healing

I got my cat Calypso five years ago when I had moved back home from University. That period of my life was when I was struggling badly with my mental health. I had withdrawn from University because I had been sexually assaulted and my mental health was on the decline.

 

Moving back home, I felt alone and was battling negative thoughts on a daily basis. I had a friend suggest to me that I look into getting an emotional support animal to keep me company and help with my healing. I did research on emotional support animals and found that some of the benefits were that it lowered stress & anxiety levels, reduced feelings of loneliness, and offered companionship. I was living with my grandparents at the time so it took some convincing for them to let me bring a cat into the home since they had a dog. When I shared with them the benefits of having an emotional support animal they quickly got on board with the idea.

 

I’ll always remember the day when I brought Calypso home. My best friend and I were out shopping for the day and figured we would stop by the pet store to look at the animals. I saw Calypso there and it was love at first sight. She was the cat I wanted to bring into my life.

 

The pet store was partnered with the local humane society so we gave the lady a call to meet us at the store so I could interact with Calypso. Like any cat meeting a new person she was a little skittish and apprehensive, but quickly took to me. The lady told me that another family had looked into adopting her, but she didn’t think they were a good fit. She saw the connection between Calypso and me and could tell it was going to be a good fit.

 

The first day I brought her home she immediately took to me. I’ve had cats before and sometimes they’ll spend a couple days in hiding getting used to their new surroundings, but that wasn’t the case with Calypso. She spent about maybe an hour in hiding and was already comfortable in her new surroundings.

 

Adopting Calypso to be my emotional support animal was the best decision I made. Even though she’s a cat she’s become my best friend and part of the family. During my healing with mental health she was there for me every step of the way. I had days where it was a struggle for me to get out of bed and find any motivation to do anything and she was always there to give me that extra push. She helped me keep a routine since I would have to feed her twice a day and it forced me to get out of bed every day.

 

They say animals can always pick up on people’s emotions and I believe that is true. I had days when I would spend hours crying and she would sit with me until I was feeling better. Whenever I was having a bad day, she would be glued to my side. She would follow me around the house like a little puppy dog and would let me pet her as much as I wanted. She would give me that extra motivation and push I needed to get through the day to get daily tasks done. She helped me feel not so alone and gave me that love I deeply craved and needed at that time.

 

I am forever grateful for having Calypso in my life. Even though she is a cat, she played a big part in my healing journey. She was there for me every step of the way and gave me that extra love and support I needed.

 

If you have considered adopting a pet for an emotional support animal, I highly encourage it. Having my cat a part of my life helped with my healing process and kept me motivated each and everyday.

What’s Meant to Be

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Sunday I jetted from teaching a Wreath Making event to an early dinner with my spouse (The class was a success).  I have never been to the eatery before alone, so I used my handy dandy GPS app.  As I drove on the part of the freeway that I rarely ever frequent it hit me that my relationship with driving has been all over the map.  I have had major problems, where I would suffer from panic attacks while driving to work, and then back when I lived on the east coast, I was a speed racer.

I thought about my relocation from the east coast to the southwest.  In 2009 I was given the opportunity to relocate and follow my boss to Arizona.  I had been his assistant since 2004, and he was and still is like a father to me.  I loved my job and making a move across the country was a no-brainer, plus my gut told me to do it, and my gut is never wrong.  With my divorce finalized in April, I was more than ready to start my new adventure when June finally came around.

The end of June 2009, I drove from Maryland to Pennsylvania in the pouring rain with my companion, Charlee Mae (my one-year-old orange tabby).  The following day we left Pennsylvania with my mom in tow and started our trek.  I was the primary driver, per my choice, for the trip and it was the start to the adventure of my life.

What is very interesting is that I had no driving anxiety at this point in my life.  I actually loved to drive.  It was something that was carefree and enjoyable.  I was thinking of this on Sunday.  Had I had an issue with driving back in 2009, would I have ever made the trip across the country?  Would my fear and anxiety been too much and kept me in the state of Maryland?

Then on this, I thought a little bit deeper.  Had I known that I was Bipolar back in 2009, would I have been brave enough to leave all that I know to take on this grand adventure?  I have shared my frustration with my mother about not being diagnosed as a teen.  I spent a year in and out of inpatient treatment for an eating disorder during my sophomore year of high school.  But alas, the diagnosis and then proper treatment came a mere 2.5 years ago.  I kept asking why.

Sunday I was given my answer.  Had I known that I was Bipolar, I don’t think I would have ever left.  Too many unknowns.  When I left Maryland, I was worried about finding a good auto mechanic and dry cleaners.  I can’t imagine leaving a pyramid of care that consists of psychiatrists and psychologists, going to the desert and finding new doctors from scratch.  Plus, I moved out west alone.  I had no partner, no spouse, just my cat, and my boss and his wife.  It was a great support network, but perhaps not robust enough to manage a Bipolar diagnosis and all that comes with it.

Much of my time now is spent keeping an eye on my mood and all that comes along with that:

  • Am I up or am I down?
  • Am I having too much caffeine?
  • Have I eaten enough food?
  • Did I eat too much sugar?
  • Am I taking my meds?
  • Do I have enough money in my account to buy my prescriptions?
  • When is my therapy appointment?
  • When do I see my psychiatrist?
  • Again, do I have money to pay the hefty fee for my out of network doctors?

This would have been just too much to handle on top of the life I was living at that time.  I was pursuing a career, traveling, working long hours, and in school getting my degree.  There was not room to manage a chronic mental illness all alone.

I am convinced that had I been diagnosed when I was younger that I would not have made a move.  And had I not made a move, I would have never met my partner.  And he is just that, my partner and my friend.  I left our dinner yesterday afternoon to head to another event, and I cried in the car.  We had a busy weekend, and we each were going in our own separate ways, passing each other literally in the hallway, and I simply missed him.  Having dinner with him at the eatery, listening to live Celtic music, was just so perfect and it was hard to cut it short and go on to my other commitment for the day.

I am a firm believer that things happen when they are supposed to happen.  That we are given what we can handle when we can handle it.  I can see how I needed to be in an established, secure and committed relationship before having my mental breakdown.  I needed to make it to Arizona to be with the family that was waiting for me, before I was given the accurate diagnosis of Bipolar One, along with some other mental illnesses.  Much could have been avoided had I been properly medicated over the last 17 years.  But if I had to go through all I did, to have the family that I have today, it was all worth it, and I am incredibly grateful.

May your day be blessed,

Bella

http://www.bellasbabbles.com

Photo Credit:

Josh Bean

Allow Yourself to Feel, Even if it’s Not Happy

Feelings are like waves. You cannot stop them from coming, but you can decide which ones to surf. – Author Unknown

When setting out on a path to find your “you” or searching for a more positive, happy life, we can sometimes get caught up in the “rules”. To be happy, you must always be cheery, you should always look at things with a positive spin, you should always take the high road, you should, you should, you should… Well, that’s all fine and dandy, and while striving to accomplish just that is admirable, it’s not at all realistic. If we, as living, breathing humans could maintain “happy” all the time, we would not be human. However, how we handle the emotions we are feeling can determine how clear the path to a more positive way of life will be.

This was a difficult lesson for me, because when I have attempted the positive path in the past and sought to inspire it, I felt that if I didn’t follow the “rules” I was fraudulently living and blogging about something I had no business writing about. How can I inspire happiness if I was feeling something other than elated or peppy? This idea I had in my mind derailed me often. I would be disappointed in myself, and that disappointment spiraled into insecurity, which spiraled into thinking I was ridiculous to believe I was the person that could talk about living happy. What I didn’t realize was that I was just in a moment, and if I wouldn’t have fought my emotions, I acknowledged my feelings and allowed myself to feel what I felt just at that moment, happiness could and would have followed.

Happiness does not mean we have to be upbeat and peppy all the time. Maintaining “Suzy Sunshine” at all times is a fantasy and can even have the reverse effects of what we seek.  If that is what anyone is expecting, they are unfortunately setting themselves up to fail. Happy means that when we do feel sad, lonely, angry, or frustrated we acknowledge it and allow ourselves to feel it. Cry, go for a walk, vent to a friend, let out the emotions that are bottled up, and then come to terms with those emotions, and find our way back to our best path more clearly. Burying the negative feelings does not mean they go away, it just means they fester until one day it all boils over, and for me, it meant quit what I knew in my heart I was meant to do. 

My advice to you, is when you feel like happy just isn’t happening that day, acknowledge it, feel it, allow the emotions to flow through you, and release them in a healthy meaningful way, then breathe. This too shall pass, and happiness is still an option, just give yourself that moment. When you are genuinely honest with how you are feeling, the process of healing and moving into a new frame of mind becomes so much more feasible. Remember to breathe, rely on your tribe, be honest with yourself, and soon it’s no longer just a path, but happiness becomes your way of life.

I write these words because I feel it’s so very important to acknowledge the truth of the moment and the honesty of how you are feeling. Be true to you and the path is so much more clear.

Much Love,

Lisa J