How to Be Happy During Unhappy Times
By Judith Alexander

Okay, I admit it - there is a lot to be unhappy about.

Gasoline costs are going crazy!!! I never thought they would this get this high. I remember buying gas and being given reward stamps. Do you remember that? There were Blue Chip Stamps and Green Stamps. Those were the days - right? Weren't we happy all the time because gas prices were so low? We weren't? Oh no, I thought it was the gas prices that were making us miserable.

OK, it must be the price of food - it is ridiculous. I remember growing up with the overstocked pantry, refrigerator stuffed and the full size freezer that held enough food for the entire block. It was the time of the overflowing shopping cart. No one went hungry. We were all happy - right - weren't we delirious with happiness? We weren't? Oh no, I thought it was the cost of food that was making us so unhappy.

OK, I know. It is the terrible downturn in the housing market. People are turning over the keys to their home to the bank. Times are awful!!! I remember in the 1970's when everyone was buying a new home and the market was great - jobs were plentiful - oh, wait - no they weren't. Ahhh, wait, now I remember, our house foreclosed because we didn't have the money to pay the mortgage, we had a new baby and my husband had lost his job. I remember that every other house on the street and in the housing track was on the market. Oh, since we made it through that - this can't be the reason we are all so miserable.

OK - now I have it. It is the elections. No wait - it is the lack of jobs. No wait - it is the war in Iraq. No wait, ahhh, no wait, no wait it must be...

The point of this is to see that history is full of times that are rough - but we make it through. Our ancestors sure as heck made it through or we wouldn't be here. This is just part of life - of living. What is that saying? It is darkest before the dawn. This is not just a saying - it is true.

Life is like a pendulum it swings one way and than the other. It always has to go far in one direction (let's call this the good times) and then it swings way over the other direction (the bad time - which is what I guess we are in now.) The good thing is - if things are really bad now - that means the pendulum only has one other way to swing. That's right - to the good side - and I promise you - it is coming. The sun always rises. There is always darkness as the day ends - as the world closes its eyes on the past - and then the light appears - the sun rises - a new day begins.

So, the question is, how can you make today a better day? How can you make it through the dark times until the light appears?

Following are 12 ways of surviving unhappy times.

12 Steps to Being Happy During Miserable, Horrible, Unhappy Times

1. Take time to be miserable. That's right - if you need the time to be miserable take it. Being unhappy is a natural state. I have yet to find someone who is happy all the time. So, it is OK to be unhappy, miserable, and depressed. Of course, if it lasts for too long, then you may need medical help, but being unhappy - it is just part of life.

2. So, if you are feeling blue, go to your room, lock the door, grab your pillow, and scream inside to the world, "I am miserable!!!" Cry, scream, let it all out and get it all out. It worked great when we were kids - when did we get too big to go to our room and cry? Our room is safe; we aren't hurting ourselves or anyone else. It is the perfect "safe place" to let our emotions hang out all over. When you are done you will feel much better. Trying to constantly "buck up" when you feel like crying can wear you down. Let it out!

3. If you have a trusted friend you can call whom you can vent all your pain to - do it. Just make sure they know in advance that you just want 5, 10, 15 or however many minutes of their time to vent your frustration. Once you get their approval, go for it. Be sure to let them know that you do not want advice, suggestions, interruptions, or help - you just want to vent. This can be a great way to verbalize all your frustrations. Once it is out - you can then talk to your friend about other things - not what you just vented about, that is done and over with - but about the kids, a new plant you just bought - whatever. The venting is done.

4. If you don't have a friend - journal your miserable self out. Write in your journal everything that is wrong in your life. It's OK; your journal can take it. Scribble, write huge, swear, write murderous words - then when you have it all out - you are done.

5. When you don't think you can take it any longer - go away - far, far away. Take a walk, take a hike, go to the ocean. Take time to breath in fresh air. Remember who you are inside. Get back to nature - she is a great reminder of who we really are.

6. Go to the cemetery. That's right - the cemetery is a great place to walk and feel. It is generally pretty quiet there. You can read the love that friends and family put on gravestones and markers. It might be a good time to contemplate what you want said on your tombstone - do you want it to say you were an angry, miserable, self-absorbed person? Probably not!

7. Go to the movies, a play, rent a DVD. These can be funny or sad. Either you can laugh all your cares away or cry out all your frustration and pain. Either works. Emotions out - means less emotions in.

8. Appreciate someone or something. Not fake appreciation - I mean really find someone you find admirable in their behavior or the work they do. Or go to an art store and appreciate the artist for the work he or she created. See beyond yourself and what is happening in your world. No, this doesn't mean that your problems are not worthy - I am just suggesting that you take time away from yourself. We spend so much time thinking about our pain, our life, our problems that we forget to check out the roses growing right outside our window.

9. Go to the store and purchase crayons or watercolor paint and paper. Put on some really good music- jazz, blues, classical, rock, new age - something that works your soul, and be a kid. Paint or color a picture. Don't concern yourself if it is beautiful or perfect - close your eyes, feel the music, and let the artist in you have fun. I guarantee that your problems will not feel as big. Just for the night - hang up your artwork to remind you of the beauty that is inside of you. It's OK to be a kid! You can take it down before your mom or friends come over for a visit.

10. Eat something good. Chocolate is a great mood elevator especially really good dark chocolate. Of course avoid doing this too much or you won't be able to fit into your favorite chocolate store (mine is Moonstruck Chocolate in Portland Oregon). You can also eat some protein. Protein will often lift your mood and remove the anxiety that comes with being unhappy, miserable, etc. I would avoid plain sugars, corn sweeteners, etc as those really tend to depress our mood. They provide only a very temporary lift.

11. Call a dear friend and take your inner child out to play. I did this once. I was unhappy, crying, really full of my miserable self. I called my friend Betsy and told her my inner child really needed to go out and have ice cream - real ice cream with whipped cream and a cherry on top. It was 10PM on a weeknight, but Betsy knew I was in need. So, she popped over and we went for ice cream. We not only wanted ice cream we wanted the paper mats they give to kids with crayons. We played all the games on them, got the mouse to cheese, and colored totally out of the lines. I will never forget that evening and what my friend Betsy gave me. I needed my child right then and it worked. We left the restaurant laughing. Everyone thought we were nuts, but that's OK - there were nuts on our sundae as well.

12. Go get a massage, get a pedicure, get a facial, go swing on a swing at the park, take the pet cat out for a walk (that should be interesting), take a bike ride, write in your gratitude journal, make funny faces in the mirror, sing an opera (with the windows closed please), go to a hill and start singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" (you may be arrested, but you will feel great.

Go to Goodwill and buy a totally bizarre outfit. The thing is, there is a lot you can do besides staying unhappy, miserable, horrible and awful. You can choose to have fun instead.

The main thing is to realize that it is OK to be unhappy. Be OK with being unhappy. It is part of being you - and right now you are unhappy. If someone says to you, "Buck up - don't be unhappy, sad, blue or whatever," it is OK to say - "No, right now I am choosing to be sad, miserable or unhappy." The point is know that it is a choice. That is the key! Once you realize it is a choice you are empowered. If you feel as if the mood has control over you - the situation has control over you - then you have disempowered yourself. Then you must take your power back. Decide to be the one in charge. The situation does not have custody over you - rather you are in control of it. Make it a choice.

What is also important is that you don't want to go around and dribble your miserable self on everyone else - not the store clerk, not the neighbor, not your co-workers, not the kids, and definitely not your spouse or loved ones. Take yourself away from others (unless it is someone whom you ask permission to dribble your bad mood on so they can protect themselves). Bad moods spread. If you drop your bad mood on an unsuspecting someone, they are then infected and will dribble it on someone else, and the virus spreads. Avoid being a virus spreader of unhappiness.

I hope some of these methods work for you. Remember, there is always the option of just going to bed and pulling the covers over your head.

Below are the 12 steps in frameable form.

How To Be Happy During Unhappy Times!

1. Being unhappy is a natural state. So go ahead and be miserable.
2. Cry, scream, let it all out and get it all out.
3. Call a friend and vent it all out.
4. Journal your miserable self out.
5. Go far, far away - go for a hike. Remember who you really are.
6. Take a walk in a cemetery.
7. Go to the movies or rent a movie - comedy or tragedy - either lets the emotions out.
8. Find someone you find admirable in their behavior or the work they do.
9. Purchase crayons or watercolor paint and paper. Put on some really good music- and be a kid. Paint or color a picture.
10. Eat something good for you (avoid plain sugars) and which also makes you feel good.
11. Take your inner child out to play. Best if a friend goes with you.
12. Get a massage, get a pedicure, get a facial, go swing on a swing at the park, take the pet cat out for a walk (that should be interesting), take a bike ride, write in your gratitude journal, make funny faces in the mirror, sing an opera (with the windows closed please), go to a hill and start singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" (you may be arrested, but you will feel great. Go to Goodwill and buy a totally bizarre outfit.

Live with joy!!!

Judith Alexander is a prolific writing who enjoys writing articles and books using humor and fun while inspiring and educating. Judith has her Masters Degree in Education, she is a Certified Life Coach with her own business, Wise Heart Coaching which focuses on boomers. Her slogan is "Helping Boomers to Live Healthy Lives Filled with Joy!" Judith is a published author. She is also a crisis counselor, peer counselor, and cognitive rehab therapist. Judith lives with in Portland Oregon where she enjoys each day with enthusiasm. Judith is available for facilitating workshops, speaking, and individual or group coaching.

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