Three weeks ago, I embarked on the first stage of my journey to take back my life. I was trapped in a negative, depressive spiral and couldn’t seem to find my way out of it. I felt that I was not in charge of my own happiness or emotions as I was simply reacting to my environment and the different situations I was confronted with. I have not had it easy over the past year, and have been faced with many difficult situations. However, I know that there will always be adversity in life and I don’t want to let external forces determine my level of enjoyment. I know that those who overcome adversity with an optimistic outlook excel, not only more than those with a pessimistic approach but also more than those who have been faced with very little adversity altogether.
Starting this blog was an important step for me as it forced me to really look at my life and my behaviours. I was able to gain perspective by analyzing how I react to situations. I methodically catalogued the various methods and tips that I had found when researching happiness. I created two lists of methods I could use to either 1) Stay cool and prevent myself from falling into a state of depression, and 2) Turn my mood around when I already felt down (See full list here).
On February 1st, lists in hand, I started the month with great expectations and high motivation. I planned to choose to be happy and to intentionally do rather than simply react. On paper, the plan seemed fool-proof. It consisted of all the positive elements of a productive and positive lifestyle that I had read about. Three weeks later, I can now officially say that this was a complete and utter failure. I bombed. It’s not that I didn’t follow my own program well; it’s that I didn’t follow my own program at all. It had taken me months to compose my thoughts and compile all of the information that I had found through reading and researching. However, when the time came to put my plans into action I simply reverted back to my old habits.
My plan was extremely structured. I wanted to wake up at a consistent time every morning (I was aiming for 8:00, but intended to push this to an earlier time over the course of the month), drink a glass of water, brush my teeth, sit on my yoga mat and either 1) do yoga, 2) meditate, 3) practice mindfulness or 4) practice being grateful. I then planned to use visualization and positive affirmations to improve my self-esteem and make a clear decision to have a happy day. Nevertheless, instead of following even one aspect of my plan, I slept through my alarm, eventually dragged myself to the sofa, and pacified myself for hours with mindless television and food. I didn’t necessarily feel depressed. I just felt down, numb, and disappointed. I doubted myself. I pitied myself for my situation and for the aspects of it that are out of my control. I let the overwhelming nature of both everyday life as well as the aspects of my new plan completely knock me out.
Reading my plan now I can clearly see that I was out of my mind. How is one person supposed to suddenly change her life in such a drastic way? My body is used to sleeping until mid-morning but I wanted to shock it into waking up two hours earlier, try multiple activities that were out of my comfort zone, and ponder important life philosophies, all before breakfast?! I set my expectations at an unattainable level and thereby set myself up for failure. It’s no wonder that I reverted back to my old habits right away.
During my research and while writing my first blog posts, I became well aware that if one wishes to change her life, she must actually change her behaviours. However, somewhere along the way I ended up making the same mistake I often make; I created a plan for myself that should be step 15, but expected myself to accomplish everything all in one day. As soon as I failed aspect one of my plan, getting out of bed with my alarm, I gave up on everything else. Why is it that I always have such high expectations from myself and why can’t I just appreciate it when I make small changes?
In a funny way, the fact that my initial plan failed so spectacularly is the greatest success I have achieved so far. At least I learned that this approach was not the right one for me. In addition, I learned how hard it is to break habits, not only the habits such as waking up at 10:00 and heading straight for the sofa, but also the habit of making an extremely structured plan for my day, only to fail before I even begin. It looks like I will need to find a different approach. I guess that’s all part of the journey!