10 Small Things You Can Do To Make Yourself Feel Instantly Happier

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We all have days when we feel down in the dumps, frustrated, or angry. Most of us don’t have the luxury of taking mental health days and calling out of work or canceling all of our plans when we have days like that.

There are small things you can do in the moment to make you feel happier, however. Some of these suggestions might sound silly at first, but I’ve tried all of these and they really do work.

Here are ten small things you can do to become instantly happier.


1. Smile

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Studies have shown that when you smile, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel happier. So, essentially, when you smile, you’re tricking your brain into releasing those chemicals. This is the easiest thing to try when you’re feeling sad or upset.


2. Walk Outside

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Spending 20 minutes walking outside in nature can boost your mood significantly. Obviously, this isn’t convenient for everyone, but if you can, take a walk outside on your lunch break or in the morning. Back when I lived in Asheville, NC, I would spend many of my days off hiking, and my mood was always improved for days afterward.


3. Breathe

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Meditation is incredible and has been shown to be beneficial to our bodies and minds. Some people find meditation a little intimidating but it doesn’t need to be! At its very simplest, all you need to do is spend a few minutes paying attention to your breaths.

You can even do this at your desk. Just close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths, and try to focus on your breathing. There are also several apps you can download to your phone with guided meditations (such as Headspace).


4. Be Mindful of Your Posture

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Most of us don’t think about our posture very often, but bad posture could lead to bad moods. If you need help, Lifehacker has a wonderful guide on how to improve your posture.


5. Practice Gratitude

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When you look back on your day or week, are you more likely to remember the bad things that happened or the good? For a lot of us, we tend to focus more on the negative things around us. Practicing gratitude can help us focus on those good things we experience on a daily basis, even if those things are minuscule. There are so many things you can be grateful for: a friend texting you just to say hi, catching every green light on your way to work, your dog greeting you happily at the door, the temperature being perfect outside, etc. There’s really no end to things that you can be thankful for.


6. Text a Friend

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This is something that I make use of whenever I’m feeling terrible at work. My job is super stressful and involves getting screamed and cussed at over the phone for hours at a time. Whenever I’m starting to focus on the negativity, I text one of my friends just to say hi or to see how they’re doing. Hearing from people you care about can instantly boost your mood.


7. Surround Yourself with Things That Make You Happy

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If you have a desk at work, keep a photo of your loved ones or your pets on it. If you work in customer service, change your phone background to a picture that makes you smile or a motivational quote. Put fresh flowers in your room. Basically, surround yourself with things that make you happy.


8. Laugh

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Much like smiling, laughing can trick your brain into releasing chemicals that make you feel happier. Also, who doesn’t like a good laugh? Ask someone to tell you a joke, watch your favorite ridiculous gif, or recall memories of something hilarious that happened to you once. Force yourself to laugh your ass off.

For me, no matter how bad of a mood I’m in, this clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation always makes me laugh. Make sure you watch it to the end.


9. Use Essential Oils

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I used to work in a spa, and during those years I discovered that there really is something amazing about aromatherapy. Scents such as orange, lavender, and peppermint (among others) can instantly boost your mood. Everybody enjoys different scents, so experiment and find what scent makes you happiest! For me, I enjoy a blend of orange or grapefruit extract with a touch of rosemary.


10. Remember That You Are Amazing

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After going through a rough breakup years ago, this tip really helped me. Anytime I was feeling worthless, I’d find one or two things that I loved about myself. It would instantly make me feel better, and would also serve to boost my confidence! If you’re thinking of saying there’s nothing amazing about yourself… don’t! You are absolutely amazing, and you have countless great qualities you can focus on. Feel good about who you are, and constantly remind yourself of how awesome you are!



What do you do when you’re feeling down? Let me know in the comments!




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Weekend Update – 4 Jan 2020

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The first few days of 2020 have been… interesting. Not quite what I was expecting.

I received a book from a publisher that made me realize that the reason I often feel burned out is due to overstretching what I’m actually capable of, both mentally and physically.

Fuel Your Fire

I received a copy of Fuel Your Fire: 200 Ways to Instantly Beat Burnout and Reignite Your Passion from Adams Media at the very end of 2019. It was the very second book that I read this year.

I’m so glad to have read this book when I did. 

I’ve talked before about burnout. Burnout, in all areas of my life, is something that I deal with pretty much constantly. While reading Fuel Your Fire, I suddenly realized why.

I set my expectations of myself much too high and overstretch myself between large projects that I have no time or energy to complete. 

At the end of December, I announced that I was going to be posting my first BookTube video on the first of January and that didn’t happen. The reason that it didn’t happen was that I made that commitment before knowing how to edit videos. Which, as it turns out, is pretty damn hard for a complete beginner.

I have a tendency to get ahead of myself and commit to way too much at once. I’ll take a look at what I want to accomplish without taking into account the fact that I still have to work a full-time job, spend time with my loved ones, take care of myself, do chores and errands, and, you know, live. 

I love this blog, and yes, I’m still planning on uploading that BookTube video as soon as I figure out how the hell to edit it properly. At the same time, however, I need to be realistic. I can’t commit to posting fifteen articles and reviews a week, three videos a week, maintain social media constantly, and still have time to do everything else that needs to be done in my life.

Now, don’t take this to mean that this is the end of my blog. What I can commit too is posting a couple of reviews per week as I finish books and a few unique articles every week. Once I teach myself how in the hell to edit a video, I’m pretty sure I can commit to one BookTube video a week. Those goals are realistic.

I’ll have a review of Fuel Your Fire coming soon, but I wanted to take this time to just write about the revelation that this book woke up in me. Our world today is a constant whirlwind of information, to-do lists, and activities, and it’s so easy to forget that you can’t do everything. I’d rather be able to relax and enjoy life rather than constantly stressing about the next thing I need to get done. I doubt I’m the only person going through this.


Do you ever find yourself over-committing or feeling burned out? Let me know what you do to combat those feelings down in the comments. Let’s work through this together.





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November 2019 Wrap-Up

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It’s hard to believe that November has already come and gone. I know that everyone says this, but it really does feel as though 2019 is flying by.

This past month, my reading was pretty disorganized. I struggled with depression and anxiety more than I have been recently, and as a result, I missed a lot of work and found it difficult to do anything more than feel sad most days. Fortunately, I’m feeling better now, partly because I changed to a different schedule at work. I’m also trying to get back into a regular meditation and yoga habit, which will undoubtedly improve things even further.


Reading Wrap-Up

I’ve given up on trying to reach my ridiculous Goodreads reading challenge, which I over-ambitiously set to 225. I’ll be more realistic in 2020. I’m currently at 149 books finished, which is still really awesome! It’s the most I’ve ever read in a single year, and we’ve still got one last month!

In November, I read six novels, one novella, one anthology, and five graphic novels:

Reincarnation Blues and We Have Always Lived in the Castle were definitely my favorite books for the past month. I’ll be posting my December TBR in an upcoming post.


On the Blog

Out of all my blog posts in November, the one I’m proudest of is An Example of What Bipolar Disorder is Like. It’s something that I’ve wanted to write for a while, and I’m glad I was able to share a peek of what my life is like with you guys.



If you’re a blogger or vlogger or content creator, share your favorite posts from November in the comments!




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Do You Have Job-Related Burnout?

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Note: This is a repost of an article from May 2019. I’m sharing it again because this is an important topic and something that I even need to remind myself of time and time again.

Feeling burned out at work is something that many of us will feel at one point or another. Our society forces us to work, mostly in jobs that mean nothing to us, for long hours, low pay, and mediocre benefits. It’s no wonder that people’s mental health can begin to decline in those circumstances.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

For years, burnout has been something that people have been experiencing with little support. Hopefully, that will change, however, as the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis.

In their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the WHO has added this definition of burnout:

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Having burnout become an official international diagnosis doesn’t mean that employers will start offering leave time or mental health days, however, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout yourself, and know how to practice self-care to lessen the effects.


How to Recognize Burnout

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Experiencing job-related burnout can manifest in a variety of symptoms, but here are a few to be on the lookout for:

  • becoming increasingly angry or cynical
  • dreading going in to work so much that it starts to physically make you feel sick
  • substance abuse to help you cope with a hard day, such as drinking too much when you get off work
  • feeling disillusioned or unsatisfied with your job
  • finding it harder and harder to concentrate
  • the thought of work or going into work causing you a great deal of stress or anxiety

Here’s an example of what to look out for from my own personal experience. I use to work in a mountain resort and spa. I worked there for years and enjoyed it, as I worked with amazing people, most of whom I’m still close friends with today. Over time, however, I started to lose interest in everything I was doing while on the clock. I was constantly stressed out, to the point where I would get terrible headaches or stomach-aches just at the thought of going into work. I stepped down from my leadership position to see if that would help, but I still felt the same cynicism and lack of interest. Then I realized, with the help of friends, that I was experiencing burnout.

I quit my job and started doing something new. Even though I wasn’t making as much money, I was a hundred times happier. I’ve started to realize that whenever I start making myself sick with anxiety at the very thought of going into work, or when I reach the point when I cannot say anything nice about my job, I need to be mindful of the symptoms of burnout, and take care of myself. It’s also usually a sign that I need to look for a new job.

The symptoms of burnout are going to be different for everyone. You know yourself better than anyone else, so trust your instincts on this.


How to Combat Burnout Symptoms

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The obvious answer to combatting burnout would be to find a new job. However, not everyone has that ability, especially in cities where the job market is terrible.

Here is some advice to help you manage the stress that burnout causes:

  • Talk to your supervisor or manager about how you’re feeling. They’re not going to fire you if you tell them that you’re unhappy. Hiring and training new employees costs a lot of money. Perhaps there’s a way you can transition to a role that would be more fun for you, or you can take on some added responsibilities that will make you more interested in what you’re doing.
  • Use your resources. Many companies, especially large ones, offer some form of employee counseling or help hotline. Don’t be afraid to utilize these resources! They’re almost always confidential.
  • Find a way to truly relax outside of work. One of the reasons burnout happens is that we feel as though our jobs are taking over our whole lives. It can certainly feel that way. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you’re setting aside time for a relaxing activity or something that makes you feel happy. This could be anything, from meditation to hiking to playing your favorite video game. Prioritize fun and relaxation.

Burnout is a very serious problem in our society, and I’m glad that the World Health Organization sees it that way.

Please get help if you’re feeling the symptoms of burnout. You don’t have to feel miserable. None of us deserve that.



Do you have any advice on dealing with the symptoms of burnout? Let us know in the comments.




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An Example of What Bipolar Disorder is Like

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At least as far back as high school, I’ve dealt with severe depression, anxiety, and mood changes, but it wasn’t until this past year that I was finally diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The diagnosis didn’t lead to a cure for the disorder since there isn’t one, but it’s allowed me to notice the symptoms and triggers for the manic or depressive episodes that define the disease. Seeking professional help for it has also led to being on medication that I, in all honesty, should have been on decades ago.

Unfortunately, we’re still getting the medications worked out. The types of drugs and the amount vary for everyone, and we haven’t quite found the right mix for me yet, despite going as far as doing genetic testing to try to figure out the best combinations. The medication has certainly helped to a certain degree, but I’m still having manic and depressive episodes that are severe enough to interrupt my normal day-to-day activities.

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This past week has been a rough one, and also a perfect example of what my bipolar disorder is like. Therefore, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write about what I experience every time I go through a manic and depressive episode.

Everything started out fine this past week, and I even managed to complete nearly a full week at work (which has been rare for me lately). Then the hypomania kicked in.

Hypomania is different from mania, although it can also lead to full-blown mania. Bipolar mania tends to get out of control, sometimes even requiring hospitalizations. Mania lasts for a week or more, can lead to terrible decisions (think out-of-control spending, increased drinking and drug use, and making poor sexual choices) and is something that, thankfully, I’ve only experienced twice in my life.

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Lasting for just a few days however, hypomania actually feels great much of the time. During the hypomanic days that I experienced this past week, I was incredibly productive, highly motivated, excited about everything, talkative (which is strange for me, because I’m usually really quiet), and didn’t sleep as much. I experience hypomania frequently, and it always leads to a period of depression.

It’s a strange feeling to be hypomanic. One the one hand, it’s wonderful, because I no longer feel depressed, I have less anxiety, and I can get so much done. On the other hand, however, I know that it can lead to an actual manic episode. I have trouble knowing when I’m hypomanic, which is why I’m thankful for my boyfriend, who has taken the time to get familiar with the disorder so that he can help recognize the symptoms even when I can’t.

So, for two to three days, I felt great. And then yesterday happened.

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Yesterday I woke up feeling shattered. I didn’t want to get out of bed, my anxiety was about as high as it could get, and I felt worthless. I had to call out of work which was necessary but made me feel guilty and even more upset.

My entire day yesterday consisted of beating myself up mentally, binge-eating, trying to escape into Fallout 4, and napping. So much napping.

My boyfriend did what he could to try to cheer me up and to make sure I was eating and drinking water, lighting stress-relieving candles around me and putting my cat on my lap when I was feeling particularly bad (quick tip – purring cats make you feel better). Despite all this, I just felt like absolute trash all day.

Depression isn’t something that you can smile your way out of or ignore the pain of. There’s nothing worse that you can say to someone suffering from depression than “snap out of it” or “It’s not that bad – deal with it.” It’s a mental illness that can lead to physical pain and make normal life impossible to carry on with.

Being bipolar is difficult. There are any number of things that can trigger either a manic or depressive episode. The worst thing I’ve been dealing with lately is that it appears that my job is a trigger for depression, which is terrible since it’s the best-paying job I’ve ever had, and I desperately need the medical and mental health benefits that I receive from it.

While these manic and depressive episodes are different in everyone, and can even vary for me, this was a great example of what living with bipolar disorder feels like. As I learn more about coping with this disorder, I’ll share what I learn with you guys. As of today, I’m still struggling with the depressive part, but I know it won’t be too long before I’m on another upswing.

Bipolar disorder is one hell of a mentally exhausting disease.


Are there any questions you would like to see answered about living with bipolar disorder? Leave them in the comments for me and I’ll answer as many as I can!




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A Brief Guide to Mindfulness Meditation

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Meditation is a relatively easy and completely free activity that has an incredible effect on your moods, anxiety, and stress levels. I discovered this about a decade ago, during a challenging summer when I was really depressed and randomly picked up a few books on Buddhism and meditation to read.

A few years later, I found this wonderful meditation group on my university campus that I went to once a week. I had never received guided meditation before, and being in a relaxed atmosphere gave me a lot of positive space to grow my meditation practice.

Over the years since then, I kept up my meditation practice, until I moved to another state three years ago. Prior to that move, my practice had definitely been faltering. I had swung into another deep depression, and whenever I’m feeling that way I have trouble motivating myself to do even small tasks.

Meditation has been on my mind a lot recently because my mental health these past two or three months has been terrible. Even with anti-depressants and bipolar medication that is helping more than anything else I’ve taken, the stress of my job combined with general life stuff has had me feeling unmotivated and deeply unhappy.

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Which is why I’ve started meditating again. I wish I had never stopped, but it’s interesting to see how different my mind is during periods when I’ve meditated than when I haven’t. During long periods when I forgo meditation, I find that it takes less provocation to set off a panic attack or wild mood swings. However, when I meditate regularly, even when it’s just fifteen minutes a day, it’s obvious that I’m handling stress better, have more patience, and find myself having fewer high-anxiety days.

There are so many different ways to meditate, and how you meditate really comes down to what you get the most benefit from. I tend to focus mainly on mindfulness meditation, where I simply follow my breath. I’ve also used walking as a form of meditation, although that’s no longer possible where I live. Some people prefer guided meditation or meditating on an idea or feeling. There’s religious-based meditation and even people who use music or sports (such as running) to give them feelings similar to meditation.

Essentially, there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. 

Today, I want to give you guys a quick lesson on how I meditate. It’s very simple, although it isn’t always easy. The instructions below will lay out the basics for you, and I’ve provided some additional tips and advice afterward.


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A Simple Mindfulness Meditation Guide
For Beginners

First, start by finding a comfortable, quiet place to sit. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy, I usually meditate on my couch or floor. You can do it outside if you want, or in your bed. Just make yourself comfortable.

Set a timer for however long you want to meditate. I usually aim for 10-15 minutes per session, but you can do as little as five minutes or as much as an hour (or more). When you’re first starting out, I recommend keeping it to just 5-10 minutes, and then gradually increasing the time as you get more comfortable.

Now, you’re ready to start meditating! Close your eyes and begin to move your focus to your breath. Some people find this easier to do while silently saying corresponding words to yourself, such as “breathe in/breathe out” or counting your breaths until you get to ten and then starting over. Personally, I either focus on the rise and fall of my chest as I breathe or use the “breathe in/breathe out” method.

Any time a stray thought comes forward, just gently acknowledge it and go back to your breath. Try not to get frustrated when this happens – it’s inevitable. Even people who have been meditating for years have trouble keeping their thoughts entirely at bay.

When your timer goes off, slowly bring yourself out of your practice. I usually take a moment or two to appreciate how relaxed my body feels while slowly opening my eyes. Take as long as you can before getting up and carrying on with your day. Trust me, once you feel how relaxed your body is even after a short meditation session, you’ll want to!


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Things to Remember

  • There’s no need to get into a full-lotus position or sit in front of an altar of crystals or statues. For this kind of meditation, the only important thing is that you’re in a sitting position that you can comfortably maintain for the duration of your practice.
  • It’s okay if you can’t turn off your thoughts! Meditation isn’t easy and it takes years of practice to be able to empty your mind of all thoughts. I’ve been meditating for years and I still find random thoughts popping up every time I sit. When this happens, just acknowledge the thought and go back to your breath.
  • If it’s hard for you to focus on your breath, try guided meditations. There are tons of free resources! My favorite app is Headspace. You can also just search guided meditation on YouTube or find CDs at your local library. I’ve seen guided meditations for five minutes all the way up to a couple of hours. Find what works best for you.
  • While you can meditate anywhere, some people prefer to set up a little meditation area and find that it helps them maintain the habit. If you have space and think this will help, go for it! It’s easy to set up a nice meditation area. Grab some cushions, candles, plants, or whatever else reminds you of relaxation.
  • Most cities have meditation groups available, so if you’d like to find a meditation group or class, do a Google search of your area or check Meetup.com.
  • If you have pets, prepare to have them invade your personal space. Over the years, I’ve lived with cats and dogs and it never fails that once I sit down to meditate, they become fascinated and walk over to plop down into my lap or start sniffing at me. Just like those stray thoughts, try to ignore it!

As I said before, meditation is really important to me. If you give this lesson a shot, let me know if it worked for you! This is a topic that I love, so if you want to see more meditation lessons, just let me know!


Do you have a regular meditation practice? Tell me about it in the comments!




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Everything You Need to Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Now that it’s officially autumn, it’s getting close to the time of year when many people, approximately 10 million of them, are going to start feeling more depressed.

Seasonal affective disorder, commonly known as SAD, is a form of depression that affects people based on seasons. The majority of people with SAD become depressed in autumn and winter, with the symptoms lessening or disappearing in spring or summer. The symptoms start out mildly at the beginning of the season and then gets worse as the season progresses.

While SAD can affect anyone, there are certain people who are more prone to it. Women are four times more likely than men to be diagnosed with it, and people with a family history of SAD or other forms of depression are more prone. Also, the farther you live from the equator, the more common SAD becomes.


Symptoms

Many of the symptoms of SAD are the same as for people suffering from year-round depression, such as: overwhelming feelings of sadness, low energy, feeling hopeless, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in things you previously loved, changes in appetite, problems sleeping, or thoughts of death or suicide.

However, there are symptoms specific to SAD, and if you suffer from it in autumn/winter or spring/summer. Here are those symptoms, from the Mayo Clinic:

Fall and winter SAD

Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may include:

Oversleeping
Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
Weight gain
Tiredness or low energy
Social withdrawal

Spring and summer SAD

Symptoms specific to summer-onset seasonal affective disorder, sometimes called summer depression, may include

Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Poor appetite
Weight loss
Agitation, anxiety, or violent behavior
Restlessness


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Causes of SAD

While, like depression, the root cause of what causes SAD and why only certain people suffer from it is unknown, there are a number of factors that can contribute. The most prevalent are the changes to your serotonin and melatonin levels.

Serotonin and melatonin are both important chemicals produced naturally in your body.

Serotonin, also called 5-hydroxytryptamine, is found in your brain, bowels, and blood platelets. Your body’s levels of serotonin can increase due to exercise and diet, along with light levels. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression, as the chemical is responsible for regulating mood, sleep, memory, and more.

You know that feeling after working out when you feel amazing and invincible? That’s serotonin. A deficiency in serotonin has a number of symptoms, such as

  • bad moods
  • poor memory
  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • cravings for sweet or starchy foods

Melatonin is a hormone produced by your pineal gland that aids in sleeping well and regularly. According to the National Sleep Foundation,

“During the day the pineal is inactive. When the sun goes down and darkness occurs, the pineal is ‘turned on’ by the SCN [suprachiasmatic nucleaus, an area of the brain] and begins to actively produced melatonin, which is released into the blood.”

Bright lights (such as those fluorescent lights you work under) and blue light (from your phone or computer screens) both suppress the production of melatonin. There are a number of ways that you can increase your melatonin levels at night.

The most obvious way is to turn off your technology an hour before going to bed. Blue light is super harmful to your ability to sleep, and we all spend too much time on our phones anyway. Turn them off and read a book before bed. There are also special glasses that you can buy that block out harmful lights.

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Stop doing this!

The most popular way to increase melatonin levels, however, is to take it as a supplement. Melatonin supplements can be purchased over-the-counter and from online retailers such as Amazon and Wal-Mart. It’s generally considered safe, although there can be side-effects. While it can really help some people sleep better, it’s a bad choice for others.

To give you an example, I’ll share the effects that melatonin supplements have on both myself and my boyfriend.

I take melatonin a couple of times per week, on those days when I can’t fall asleep by other means. I’ll take two gummies about an hour before sleep, and by the time that hour is up, I’m falling into a blissful slumber.

When my boyfriend takes melatonin, however, it does help him fall asleep, but when he wakes up the next morning, his entire day is ruined by a “melatonin hangover.” He’s groggy for the entire day and has trouble focusing. We’ve even tried cutting his dose in half, and it still has the same effects.

If you have trouble sleeping and want to give melatonin a try, by all means go for it. Just remember that it isn’t for everyone. Some common side-effects of taking supplemental melatonin include drowsiness, headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Also, it’s not safe to take melatonin if you have an autoimmune disease or are taking oral contraceptives (it reduces their effectiveness).

 


Natural Ways to Relieve SAD

While it typically isn’t possible to get over SAD on your own, there are a number of activities and habits you can take up in the autumn and winter to reduce the severity of your symptoms.

  1. Exercise regularly. Exercise causes your brain to release important chemicals (such as serotonin) that promote your mood. Plus, exercise has so many other great benefits, like increased brainpower, weight loss, higher energy levels, and reduced risks of chronic diseases.
  2. LightOne of the treatments for SAD is the use of light to improve your mood. While going outside and getting natural sunlight is the best choice, that’s a lot harder to do in the winter. Fortunately, there are countless lamps made specifically to mimic natural light. Sitting near one of these lamps will improve your mood during those darker times. Very Well Mind has put together a wonderful list of some of your best options.
  3. Diet. Studies have shown that foods high in a chemical call tryptophans can lead to improved mood. Here’s a list of foods high in tryptophans that you might want to add to your diet when you normally experience SAD. As you can see, there are a lot of different options, so everyone should be able to incorporate at least a few of these into their diet.
    • Bananas
    • Eggs
    • Salmon
    • Poultry (chicken, turkey, and goose)
    • Seeds & nuts
    • Soy products
    • Spinach
    • Milk and cheese
  4. Aromatherapy. Essential oils are great for relieving stress. This is one option that I can personally vouch for. I used to work in the spa industry, and I learned to use various essential oils to produce the desired effects that I wanted. One of my favorite, not related to SAD but still useful, is the energizing effects of grapefruit and rosemary essential oils blended together into a diffuser. Here’s a list of four essential oils that might help relieve symptoms of SAD.
  5. Routine. Sticking to a regular schedule, even when you don’t feel like it, has the benefit of teaching your body when it’s time to sleep or eat. SAD can lead to insomnia and weight gain, and having specific times when you do these things can lessen the effects.
  6. Journaling. I’ve written on this blog before about journaling and the effect it can have on your life and mood. In my own experience with depression, journaling can provide a necessary outlet to get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper, where you can better analyze your thoughts and deal with them. I like to journal in the evening before I go to bed, as a sort of “brain dump” to help me sleep well, instead of worrying about everything that happened that day.

Seeking Professional Help

Sometimes, home remedies aren’t going to be enough, and that’s okay. You need to take your mental health just as seriously as your physical health.

If you start to have feelings associated with depression or SAD, please seek out your doctor or a psychologist. They’ll start off by doing a few tests to make sure something else isn’t going on, such as an underlying health problem. Once that’s ruled out, your doctor will do a psychological evaluation to determine if you have SAD.

Once you’re diagnosed, your doctor will recommend treatments or medications for you. For treatment options, they might recommend light therapy (phototherapy) or traditional talk therapy (psychotherapy). When it comes to medication, there are a number of options, including bupropion (which I take myself and has improved my energy levels) and SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, aka anti-depressants).

I would like to reiterate here that there is nothing wrong with taking anti-depressants or going to therapy. It drives me crazy that there is still a stigma in some communities over seeking help for mental health. If you are feeling depressed, please seek help.


In the end, seasonal affective disorder is a real and very serious disease. If you find that yourself or loved ones are exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, please consider getting help.


Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder or know someone that does? Feel free to leave any insights or advice in the comments!




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Why You Should Declutter Your Digital Life

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In today’s society, it feels like we’re expected to be on top of everything – from the best new bands to current events to all the new book releases coming out. There’s so much going on around us, however, that it’s easy to get lost in all of the digital noise.

The first time I heard the term “Fear of Missing Out” (or, FOMO), I realized that many of my habits were built around the fact that I wanted to feel well-educated on such a wide variety of topics that my online life was cluttered with hundreds of constant updates. There was no way I could ever possibly keep any of it straight!

One of the best things I’ve done for myself in years is to completely declutter my digital life. This is a tip that many bloggers might benefit from, along with anyone else that relies on digital content or social media for their careers.


What Should You Declutter?

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The first thing I focused on in my digital declutter was my Feedly account. If you don’t use Feedly, it’s an RSS reader that helps you keep track of blogs and websites.

At one point, I was following nearly a thousand blogs and websites. No, I’m not kidding. It was a hot mess. Due to FOMO, I was subscribed to blogs that I was only mildly interested in. Hell, most of the blogs I had subscribed to I never actually read at all!

Instead of logging on and learning all kinds of new and exciting things, my mind was getting bogged down by the sheer quantity of what was before me.

Our brains aren’t able to process non-stop, excessive information. It’s much better to focus on just the things we really love, rather than trying to spread our minds too thin.

I cut the number of blogs and websites I followed down to 100, and in the future, I plan to limit that even further to 75, possibly even 50. Ever since I unsubscribed to those hundreds of websites I barely looked at, my time spent on Feedly has become far more productive.

There are all kinds of online accounts you can declutter:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube
  • Email newsletters
  • Instagram

Those are just a few examples. If your mind is overworked by social media, do not be afraid of the unsubscribe button!


The benefits of doing a digital purge of things and sources you no longer need are plenty: less stress when you’re logged in, more free time to focus on things you enjoy doing, and more brain space to just focus on the things your truly interested in!


Have you digitally decluttered your life? How did you feel before and after? Let’s start a discussion in the comments!!




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May 2019 Wrap-Up

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The month of May went by extraordinarily fast! I can’t believe it’s already June. I didn’t read as much as I would have liked this month, as you can see below.

Out of the books I read, the worst was definitely Stephen King’s Elevation. I was so disappointed with that book, and it’s the worst Stephen King book I’ve ever read. Meanwhile, the best book I read this month was without a doubt Hanna Jameson’s The Last. Post-apocalyptic mystery isn’t a genre I knew I needed, but it’s a wonderful thing.

For my May 2019 Plans & TBR post, here’s how things went down. Out of 10 books, I read 4 of them. The books I finished in May but will be reviewing in June include Pride and Prejudice and Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman.  40% isn’t great, but I’m not surprised. I rarely stick with my TBR.

What was the best and worst book you read in May? Let me know in the comments!


Books I Reviewed


Articles and Editorials




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10 Small Things You Can Do To Make Yourself Feel Instantly Happier

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We all have days when we feel down in the dumps, or frustrated, or angry. Most of us don’t have the luxury of taking mental health days and calling out of work or canceling all of our plans when we have days like that.

There are small things you can do in the moment to make you feel happier. Some of these suggestions might sound silly at first, but I’ve tried all of these out and they really do work.

Here are ten small things you can do to become instantly happier.


1. Smile

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Studies have shown that when you smile, your brain releases chemicals that make you feel happier. So, essentially, when you smile, you’re tricking your brain into releasing those chemicals. This is the easiest thing to try when you’re feeling sad or upset.


2. Walk Outside

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Spending 20 minutes walking outside in nature can boost your mood significantly. Obviously, this isn’t convenient for everyone, but if you can, take a walk outside on your lunch break or in the morning. Back when I lived in Asheville, NC, I would spend many of my days off hiking, and my mood was always better for days afterward.


3. Breathe

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Meditation is incredible and has been shown so many times to be beneficial to our bodies and minds. Some people find meditation a little intimidating but it doesn’t need to be! At its very simplest, all you need to do is spend a few minutes paying attention to your breaths.

You can even do this at your desk. Just close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths, and try to focus on your breathing. There are also several apps you can download to your phone with guided meditations (such as Headspace).


4. Be Mindful of Your Posture

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Most of us don’t think about our posture very often, but bad posture could lead to bad moods. If you need help, Lifehacker has a wonderful guide on how to improve your posture.


5. Practice Gratitude

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When you look back on your day or week, are you more likely to remember the bad things that happened or the good? For a lot of us, we tend to focus more on the negative things around us. Practicing gratitude can help us focus on those good things we experience on a daily basis, even if those things are minuscule. There are so many things you can be grateful for: a friend texting you just to say hi, catching every green light on your way to work, your dog greeting you happily at the door, the temperature being perfect outside, etc.. There’s really no end to things that you can be thankful for.


6. Text a Friend

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This is something that I make use of whenever I’m feeling terrible at work. My job is super stressful and involves getting screamed and cussed at over the phone for hours at a time. Whenever I’m starting to focus on the negativity, I text one of my friends just to say hi or to see how they’re doing. Hearing from people you care about can instantly boost your mood.


7. Surround Yourself with Things That Make You Happy

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If you have a desk at work, keep a photo of your loved ones or your pets on it. If you work in customer service, change your phone background to a picture that makes you smile or a motivational quote. Put fresh flowers in your room. Basically, surround yourself with things that make you happy.


8. Laugh

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Much like smiling, laughing can trick your brain into releasing chemicals that make you feel happier. Also, who doesn’t like a good laugh? Ask someone to tell you a joke, watch your favorite ridiculous gif, or recall memories of something hilarious that happened to your once. Force yourself to laugh your ass off.

For me, no matter how bad of a mood I’m in, this clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation always makes me laugh. Make sure you watch it to the end.

 


9. Use Essential Oils

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I used to work in a spa, and during those years I discovered that there really is something amazing about aromatherapy. Scents such as orange, lavender, and peppermint (among others) can instantly boost your mood. Everybody enjoys different scents, so experiment and find what scent makes you happiest! For me, I enjoy a blend of orange or grapefruit extract with a touch of rosemary.


10. Remember That You Are Amazing

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After going through a rough breakup years ago, this tip really helped me. Anytime I was feeling worthless, I’d find one or two things that I loved about myself. It would instantly make me feel better, and would also serve to boost my confidence! If you’re thinking of saying there’s nothing amazing about yourself… don’t! You are absolutely amazing, and you have countless great qualities you can focus on. Feel good about who you are, and constantly remind yourself of how awesome you are!



What do you do when you’re feeling down? Let me know in the comments!




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Do You Have Job-Related Burnout?

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Feeling burned out at work is something that many of us will feel at one point or another. Our society forces us to work, mostly in jobs that mean nothing to us, for long hours, low pay, and mediocre benefits. It’s no wonder that people’s mental health can begin to decline in those circumstances.

According to the Mayo Clinic, burnout is defined as “a state of physical or emotional exhaustion that also involves a sense of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.”

For years, burnout has been something that people have been experiencing with little support. Hopefully, that will change, however, as the World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis.

In their International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the WHO has added this definition of burnout:

Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions: 1) feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; 2) increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and 3) reduced professional efficacy. Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.

Having burnout become an official international diagnosis doesn’t mean that employers will start offering leave time or mental health days, however, so it’s important to recognize the symptoms of burnout yourself, and know how to practice self-care to lessen the effects.


How to Recognize Burnout

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Experiencing job-related burnout can manifest in a variety of symptoms, but here are a few to be on the lookout for:

  • becoming increasingly angry or cynical
  • dreading going in to work so much that it starts to physically make you feel sick
  • substance abuse to help you cope with a hard day, such as drinking too much when you get off work
  • feeling disillusioned or unsatisfied with your job
  • finding it harder and harder to concentrate
  • the thought of work or going into work causing you a great deal of stress or anxiety

Here’s an example of what to look out for from my own personal experience. I use to work in a mountain resort and spa. I worked there for years and enjoyed it, as I worked with amazing people, most of whom I’m still close friends with today. Over time, however, I started to lose interest in everything I was doing while on the clock. I was constantly stressed out, to the point where I would get terrible headaches or stomach-aches just at the thought of going into work. I stepped down from my leadership position to see if that would help, but I still felt the same cynicism and lack of interest. Then I realized, with the help of friends, that I was experiencing burnout.

I quit my job and started doing something new. Even though I wasn’t making as much money, I was a hundred times happier. I’ve started to realize that whenever I start making myself sick with anxiety at the very thought of going into work, or when I reach the point when I cannot say anything nice about my job, I need to be mindful of the symptoms of burnout, and take care of myself. It’s also usually a sign that I need to look for a new job.

The symptoms of burnout are going to be different for everyone. You know yourself better than anyone else, so trust your instincts on this.


How to Combat Burnout Symptoms

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The obvious answer to combatting burnout would be to find a new job. However, not everyone has that ability, especially in cities where the job market is terrible.

Here is some advice to help you manage the stress that burnout causes:

  • Talk to your supervisor or manager about how you’re feeling. They’re not going to fire you if you tell them that you’re unhappy. Hiring and training new employees costs a lot of money. Perhaps there’s a way you can transition to a role that would be more fun for you, or you can take on some added responsibilities that will make you more interested in what you’re doing.
  • Use your resources. Many companies, especially large ones, offer some form of employee counseling or help hotline. Don’t be afraid to utilize these resources! They’re almost always confidential.
  • Find a way to truly relax outside of work. One of the reasons burnout happens is that we feel as though our jobs are taking over our whole lives. It can certainly feel that way. To prevent this from happening, make sure that you’re setting aside time for a relaxing activity or something that makes you feel happy. This could be anything, from meditation to hiking to playing your favorite video game. Prioritize fun and relaxation.

Burnout is a very serious problem in our society, and I’m glad that the World Health Organization sees it that way.

Please get help if you’re feeling the symptoms of burnout. You don’t have to feel miserable. None of us deserve that.



Do you have any advice on dealing with the symptoms of burnout? Let us know in the comments.




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Is Your Anxiety Harming Your Relationships?

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I read this amazing article on the blog Wit & Delight today, written by Jackie Saffert. It made me reflect on my past relationships and how I reacted to the failure of those relationships.

Jackie Saffert writes about her own relationships and personal issues with anxiety,

It wasn’t until a week later that I understood the actual truth of it all: it’s not that I was too much. It’s that we weren’t right. I realized that when it’s right, me occasionally displaying anxiety won’t make the man I’m with shut down, roll over on his side, face the wall instead of me. When it’s right, if I’m feeling anxious, he’ll ask, “Are you okay?” He’ll hold me. We’ll work through it together, instead of shutting down apart.

and,

I adjusted myself to fit their lives—their schedules, their emotions, their timelines for what they could offer and when. I watered down anything about me I deemed might be too much for them. And if it all went wrong? I instinctively determined it was because of something I had done.

These aspects of her relationships can apply to many of my own early relationships, particularly in terms of “watering myself down” for my significant others. I was constantly terrified that my anxiety and depression were causing literally all of the problems in my romantic relationships. There was one relationship in particular where I felt that it was my anxiety and depression issues that caused it to fail. I blamed myself and beat myself up about it. It took me a long time after that relationship to understand that it wasn’t just me that caused it to end. 

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Jackie’s article brings up a really great point, however, that if the relationship was truly meant to be, anxiety or any other type of mental illness wouldn’t be enough to cause relationship issues. 

My current relationship is a case in point. My boyfriend has been incredibly supportive of my mental health struggles, and not once has it caused any problems between us, even when I was too depressed to go into work for several days. This is due to the fact that we’re right for one another, and something like anxiety isn’t going to end our relationship.

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My boyfriend has been nothing but supportive of my struggles, even going to doctors appointments with me, helping me keep track of how various medications are working, and holding me when I just need to relax in his arms.

What she says about adjusting herself to fit the lives of her romantic interests is something else that I want to talk about. I’ve done this so much, and looking back, I wish I hadn’t. You should never have to hide any part of who you are in order to keep a relationship happy. If you find yourself doing that, you might want to take a step back and consider if your relationship could be better.

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Embrace who you are and what you want to do. Never “water yourself down” to make a significant other happy. If you two were meant to be happy together, you won’t need to.



What do you think? Let me know in the comments!




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Sugar-Free January – Week Two

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At the beginning of the month, I announced that I would be going sugar-free for the month of January in an attempt to detox a bit from all the sugar I’d starting eating. Last week, I shared my thoughts at the end of the first week, which can basically be summed up with: I noticed nothing different about myself, and I spent my nights dreaming about sweets.

Week two has been much easier. I haven’t been craving sweets as much, although walking into a grocery store is still a challenge. An interesting thing that’s happening is that I haven’t been nearly as hungry as I usually am. I’ve always been a snacker or grazer, eating small bits between meals. I also tend to eat when I’m bored, which I know isn’t healthy. This week, however, I’ve noticed that I’m no longer craving snacks between meals, and when I do eat I get full much faster.

Another change I’ve noticed is that my skin has started to clear up and is less oily. I had a feeling this would be one of the results of cutting out sugar, but I’m still very pleasantly pleased by it. When I was vegan and watching what I ate, I rarely ate sugar and white flour, and other mass-produced foods and my skin absolutely glowed during that period of my life. There was even one time that I was at a bar with one of my friends and a strange woman walked up to me to ask me what kind of skin care products I used to get my complexion. I’m not sure she believed me when I replied with “just some drugstore cleanser.”

Overall, at the end of the second week, I’m beginning to notice some positive changes, albeit slowly. I’m looking forward to seeing what week three brings.

Sugar-Free January – Week One

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Last week, I shared that I was participating in Sugar-Free January and that I would be posting weekly updates about my progress.

To sum the first week up, I’m craving all the sugar.

I had expected to have sugar cravings the first few days, but I wasn’t expecting to literally be dreaming about sugar. The third night of this challenge, I had a dream that I was sitting on my couch with a huge popcorn bowl, except it was filled with an assortment of candy. The entire dream was just me eating candy because my brain clearly hates me.

It’s also been challenging because, despite the holidays being over, I still find myself surrounded by decadent treats everywhere I am. While it’s been challenging to say no to everything, I’ve stuck with it.

The worst temptation I’ve had occurred during a trip to the grocery store. The particular store I was at had their sparkling waters directly across from their cookie selection, and while I was picking up some La Croix (which, by the way, is great for satisfying a sweet tooth without eating sugar!), I noticed that there was now a carrot cake Oreo flavor. Carrot cake is one of my favorite things in the world, and I bought it. While I’m not planning on trying them until next month, walking by them day after day has been challenging.

One of the positive things about this challenge is that I’m rediscovering my love of fruit. I’ve never been a fruit lover, but without being able to grab ice cream or a cookie when I’m craving something sweet, I’ve been gravitating towards fruit, especially bananas.

I haven’t noticed any changes in my skin, weight, or general feelings of wellness. Aside from the intense cravings I’ve had every day, I don’t feel different at all. However, even though I don’t feel different, I know that it’s having a positive effect on my overall health.