I Challenged Myself to 30 Days of Yoga–Here’s How I Feel, What Changed, and How You Can Do It Too

Why do a 30-day yoga challenge? And why talk about it on my blog?

Thanks for asking, self. I’ll tell you.

I have a bad history with perfectionism. It kills a lot of things I would, or used to, enjoy. Yoga has been one of its perpetual victims.

I start off by just doing whatever yoga I feel like by watching online yoga videos. Then, I start getting interested in specific poses I want to do or improve, like headstands, Dancers Pose, or Crow Pose. This also leads into me wanting to build practices around these poses. That sounds fine in theory, but it becomes an obsession for me. Must do flexibility this day. Strength this day. Core this day. Shoulders the next day. If I miss any of them or the schedule gets messed up, I beat myself up and worry I’ll “lose my progress”.

I usually set unrealistic expectations, with videos that would add up to an hour and a half on some days because of all the targets I want to hit–cardio, shoulders, and core, for example. With no formal training of my own, I build my practices by just following online instructors on YouTube. I pick out the videos that suit my needs/goals and go from there.

So, basically, I push myself too much, try to do too much, then when I fail, I get mad at myself for failing, and ultimately I quit. I don’t try to re-tool things, start up again, or re-evaluate. I just quit.

Why try to fix things into a reasonable set of goals and an enjoyable practice when you can just quit and hate yourself?

It really goes against what yoga is about in practice–being in the present, finding balance, don’t focus on doing things perfectly. But I’m a perfectionist, and I have this idealistic version of what I want to achieve. It’s not necessarily fair to myself, nor do I realize that it’s unrealistic or unhealthy at the time. I see myself achieving the goal, and I want to shortcut to it by ramming yoga videos down my own throat until I am successful.

Apparently it doesn’t work that way.

I decided this time I wasn’t going to let quitting be my final legacy. I’m tired of those two extremes: do everything perfectly or don’t do it at all.

I challenged myself to do yoga for 30 straight days to see what would happen. Not to get ripped, not to lose weight, not even to achieve one of my goals, like having flexible shoulders or a strong core.

I wanted to see what I could learn about myself. Could I gain any insights in 30 days of doing one thing over and over? Maybe I would see what dedication and commitment could get me. If only I could overcome my paralyzing perfectionism and just do it.

I didn’t have a plan as to what videos I was going to do or what flows or sequences I would be trying. I just wanted to wing it.

So that’s what I did.

As for why share it with the world? 1) I hope to inspire you to do the same! Or something similar. Sticking with something for 30 days is quite a commitment, and 2) It’s a way to keep accountability.

But before we get into the videos and the included yoga spreadsheet, let’s dive into what I learned on and off the mat.

Yoga is full of transitions. So is life.

Transitioning between poses in a yoga sequence often requires balance and grace. You need good use of the core, an understanding of where you’re going in relation to where you started, and strength to get there. I’m not deft enough to create a direct metaphor out of that to relate to life, but it caused me to reflect on my own life transitions.

Sometimes they’re messy and awkward. Luckily, I don’t have to keep repeating them to get good at them, which is how I get better at them in yoga. And I know my way around some big life transitions.

Coming back to civilian life after only 9 months in the Navy, which I joined at the tender age of 19; working retail after a few years in corporate America so that I would have the flexibility to go back to school on-campus; moving to Indiana to support my current boyfriend as he finishes college.

Even with all my own personal transitions aside, we’re all currently in a state of transition: from normalcy, to life in a pandemic, and now, to creating normalcy within the pandemic. As to whether or not we are handling that with grace and balance, or any real guidance, is not a question to be answered on this blog.

It won’t always be this hard

Some of these practices were harder than others. Some movements were far harder than even the teacher probably intended them to be. I challenged myself as much as I could, coming out sweaty and exhausted on the other side, more than once.

I didn’t even choose any high-power, high-intensity workouts. But sometimes it felt like a workout because I would move between poses and find myself winded and struggling. The movements were more of an effort than I thought they would be for my state of fitness at the time. I used this as a learning opportunity, knowing that I would get stronger and better the next time I had to do that pose or transition.

I related this back to my life. Things won’t always be this hard. We will know a life post-pandemic. I will move back to Tennessee, my home. I will have the life I imagined, even though every year for a long time has felt like the smallest of stepping stones. That’s okay. Even a small step is still a step in the right direction.

I stepped outside my comfort zone

I picked a couple videos during the 30 days that I would have maybe shied away from normally, or put off doing until I was in better shape, mentally and physically. Things that maybe seemed outside my sphere of interest, like Kundalini Yoga, or maybe would have been intimidating, like a 45-minute Hatha flow (I didn’t finish it, but that wasn’t the point).

I wanted to challenge myself. Being successful is subjective and not even the point during this 30 days. Trying is half the battle. Trying is the success.

I put this into practice off the mat, too. I inquired about (Covid-safe) volunteer opportunities with the elderly. I took on a 10-day, 2-client dogsitting stretch that I likely never would have taken on in prior years as a dogsitter, due to my mental health and extra need for recharge and decompression. I got myself back into personal budgeting. I visited my family in Tennessee and continued my yoga practice while in an uncontrolled environment. And, perhaps the biggest move of all, I enrolled in a free bookkeeping certificate, courtesy the state of Indiana!

It’s been a time of growth and reflection, and it’s fun to look back and realize these seemingly small decisions to say yes led to something big.

I want to make a difference, have a real purpose

Just something I realized during my practices. This past summer, I started streaming video games on Twitch. It was a casual thing, but I hit Affiliate, which allows me to begin making money from my streams. That encouraged me to keep going, but as I did, I realized it wasn’t as much fun as I wanted it to be. I felt all my time went toward that, including all the networking and social media time I put in off-stream with Twitter and Discord and watching other people’s streams. I felt off-balance and unhappy. So I quit, at least for a little while.

It occurred to me that as fun as streaming can be (and I will probably even return to it in the future), it’s not ultimately what I want to do in life. I don’t want to be a full-time streamer. I don’t want to put in the work and effort other streamers do. I want to have fun and build a small community and have the friends I do have, but I don’t want it to be my grind.

I want to make a difference. I want to have purpose. I want to help people. That’s been a common theme for me. I think a lot of us feel this urge, this pull to be something greater than ourselves. It can be obscured with the need to make money, or sometimes, just the need to survive.

However, I’m conflating “make a difference” with “make a living”. You don’t have to get paid to make a difference. You can make a living, and separately, in another avenue, make a difference. This is what inspired me to apply for volunteer opportunities, and ultimately, realize what was missing in my life.

It occurred to me also I have friends that I don’t often keep in touch with. Family who I hardly speak to. People in my life I can reach out to and be there for. Isn’t that a greater good? Those around me could use a kind word or two. I know I could. That interaction is so valuable.

Balance is important

Balance is a common theme in yoga, and it’s not just so-called balancing poses, like the popular Tree pose, or Warrior III.

We aim to find balance in all of our practice. Strengthen where it’s needed, and soften everything else. I’ve heard a variation of that line a lot in my yoga videos. What can you let go of? Unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders away from your ears, maybe let go of some worry and negative thoughts, if you can.

I did it when I didn’t feel like doing it

It’s amazing what impact this had on me. So many times (as you’ll see in my notes), I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to practice that day. I felt wiped out or just not in the mood. But there were 0 times during this challenge that I regretted doing the yoga that day. It’s encouraging that it’s only my mind I have to overcome. What I can do if I only try!

Committing to something every day

There’s something to be said about building habits. The consistency of doing something every day really made a difference. It was a foregone conclusion–I am exercising today. Not “will I feel like exercising today?” Not “I might exercise later”. It was already on the calendar. It caused me to reflect on other things in relation to consistency.

What in my life would I have succeeded at if I had committed to doing it for 30 days? What would be different for me if I had done it every day? How much of success comes from just doing something over and over? Not giving up?

Increased self-esteem

Probably the most unexpected side effect is my increased self-esteem. A weird feeling for me, as someone with perpetually low self-esteem. I’m making strides by using self-compassion and positive self-talk. But I didn’t expect daily yoga to help like it did.

My theory is that committing to something every day and following through with it gave me that confidence. It feels good to accomplish things; I think everyone can relate to this. I love the satisfaction of completing tasks, and working out certainly gives me that feeling. Exercise is also a natural mood-booster, thanks to the influx of endorphins that are released. I imagine that helped a great deal.

Exercise is a form of self-care, too. One that I’m coming to accept as a way to nourish my body and take care of it, rather than punish it or use it as an act of self-hate. Self-care is a way to boost self-esteem because it shows yourself that you are worth the time and effort. Doing it over and over can prove to yourself that you deserve to feel good and do things that are good for you.

Seeing my growth in 30 days was really inspiring. When you can see changes and improvements with anything you do, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I did that! I’m proud of myself! It’s not about vanity or arrogance. It’s about believing in yourself and being happy when your hard work pays off.

I am not above learning something new–or something old

Just because I have a background in doing yoga, and even earlier this year had a much more committed regular practice, does not mean I am some expert yogi. I am forever a learner and student of this practice. I am humbled in my endeavors, almost every day. I am reminded that I can always make progress and improve. But that it’s not ultimately about that. I’m on the mat to better my mind, body, and soul.

Where else can I remain humble?

Still hanging onto perfectionist tendencies

My last day, I intended to do a sequence for my stiff neck, and also a more energizing practice, like a faster-paced flow. However, I was feeling so wiped out that I did just the shoulder and neck practice. I procrastinated with social media and the online assessments for my bookkeeping certification far longer than I should have. It was well past 8pm. I just decided to quit. It felt anti-climactic, and I immediately was mad at myself.

I beat myself up over that the rest of the night, not realizing that it was this kind of thinking I was trying to leave behind. Then, in an even greater twist of irony, I felt bad for feeling bad. It’s day 30! Shouldn’t I know better than to feel like this?

Well, it looks like I could use some self-compassion. It’s okay that I wasn’t perfect, and it’s okay that I realized I still wasn’t perfect after 30-days of yoga. Imagine that. Doing a 30-day challenge of something didn’t irrevocably cure me of being human.

Yeah, those tendencies are still there. But I finished the challenge. I did it every day. That was the challenge, so I was successful! I need a 30-day challenge of self-compassion next.

How to use the spreadsheet

However you want!

It can be a guideline, it can be your step-by-step instruction manual, or it can be a blank canvas for you to fill with what you wish. If you suffer, like me, from being indecisive over having so many choices, the list might be helpful in getting you started.

I didn’t do these videos with any rhyme or reason in mind. I picked them all on a whim, whatever I was feeling in the moment. Sometimes, it was what my body needed. Other times, it was what my soul needed.

So whether you follow exactly like I did, use the blank template, or something in between, I hope you challenge yourself to 30 days of yoga. See what it can do for you.

30-Day Yoga Challenge Journal Template

(And let me know if this link doesn’t work!)

What can you do with 30 days?

People Tell Me I’m “Too Sensitive”–Turns Out They’re Right (and it’s backed by science)

I’ve been called “extra”, “emotional”, “sensitive” all my life. People tell me I need to let things go or to loosen up. I need to just “not worry so much” or “not let things get to me”. Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that, thanks. I’m 31; I’m pretty sure it’s just my personality.

And turns out, it is! I learned what a Highly Sensitive Person was this year. It’s a real thing.

While not classified as a disorder, this trait is recognized in the scientific community, usually referre to as “sensory processing sensitivity”. It’s certainly not rare though, affecting up to 15-20% of people.

My Experience as a Highly Sensitive Person

I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in 2009, and I consider it to be the explanation for all the things wrong with me. Of course, that’s pretty reductive to say. The disorder itself is just a pathology for my underlying issues. I’ve blamed everything abnormal or non-conforming about me on BPD. Maybe that’s not fair, but I chalk everything up to that. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation to myself. I do x, y, or z? Must a BPD thing. I am not saying that’s right, but it’s what I do when evaluating myself.

I’ve stabilized and improved a lot over the years with my BPD. Thanks to self-compassion work, self-reflection journaling, and of course, good, ole-fashioned DBT work (and some CBT). Another thing that’s not a self-help exercise, per se, is finding passions and creating personal goals.

However, even into my 30s, I realized I was extra sensitive to everything around me. I labeled them as “quirks”, like my Dad would call them. Things I couldn’t explain with Borderline Personality Disorder, despite trying. Here’s some examples:

  • I can’t handle loud, repetitive, or obnoxious noises. Easily my biggest trigger. Someone playing music from their phone speakers, hearing a television from another room that I’m not watching, someone talking while I have headphones on, etc. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. It fills me with rage and anxiety simultaneously.
  • This goes doubly for noises happening at the same time, like multiple conversations happening. I don’t think anyone likes having a lot of competing noises, but I shut down (or lash out) when this happens. I can’t think, much less talk or do any work. This has happened on numerous occasions in work environments because it’s hard to escape, and I struggle to nicely ask people to do something reasonable, like turn down music, or stop talking loudly. This results in me flipping out or sighing passive aggressively and rolling my eyes.
  • I cry easily, for better or for worse. Whether something’s cute and sweet, or sad and tragic, whether it’s a commercial on TV or a cheesy scene in a movie, I’ll probably cry. It’s embarrassing, the type of crap that actually brings tears to my eyes.
  • On a similar note, I “burst with emotion” often. I don’t know how to describe this succinctly. You know what it means to have your heart “swell” in an emotional sense? I get this warm, swelling feeling in my heart when something overwhelmingly beautiful, or sweet, or touching happens. Two best examples of this are a billboard in Nolensville, TN of a Goodwill employee and a magazine aimed at elderly adults. Makes my little heart burst when I see stuff like this. I don’t cry, but I want to. I’m not sure why. They have such sincere, sweet faces. I don’t know; they could be horrible people, but their eyes and disposition in the photo really reaches out to me for some reason.
  • I’m overwhelmed easily, and it goes beyond my ability or inability to handle stress. As a result, I’ve had tons of different jobs and usually didn’t handle my departure in an appropriate manner. This could also be attributed to my BPD, but the fact that things get to me so easily is a broad enough problem that I could explain with either one.
  • I’m easily put off by touch. I’m an affectionate person, but sometimes I don’t even feel comfortable in my own skin. My clothes might suddenly feel itchy or constricting. My boyfriend’s hand on my leg suddenly feels hot and irritating. This is not always the case, but when it does happen, I am never sure what triggers it. Being tired definitely seems to affect this, but outside of that, I don’t know what causes this sudden shift in how I respond to touch or tactile sensations.
  • I’m very particular about my personal space, and I feel cramped and irritated if someone stands too close to me at the grocery store. However, I feel like my personal bubble is a lot larger than average, and it might make me seem like I’m easily agitated or neurotic for needing more space. But it’s just the way I am.
  • Oh, the grocery store. I avoid going out in crowds as much as possible, utilizing delivery and pickup services to minimize my encounters with the “real world”. Honestly, the pandemic has just given me an excuse to do this and be cautious with actual motive, instead of my own personal reasons. In reality, I have massive levels of irritability in crowds, with a thousand things going through my head at once.

    “Am I in their way? Are they in mine?” “Why didn’t they say excuse me?” “Ugh, why is everyone so rude and getting in my way?” “How come I’m the only one being polite?” “Everything is so looooud!” “Everyone’s going in different directions.” “I feel disoriented.” “I’m confused. What am I getting again?” “Oh shit, I nearly ran into someone.” “Someone’s standing too close to me in checkout. ICK.”
  • I’m affected easily by someone else’s mood, energy, tone of voice, regardless of their actual intent. While this can be a positive thing, it often affects me negatively and can lead to a lot of stress and tension, both mentally and physically, as I find myself tensing my muscles, as a result. This is similar to being an empath, which I think crosses paths a lot with being an HSP.
  • My body is sensitive to medications, caffeine and alcohol. I always thought I was just a lightweight, but this is something that a lot of HSPs experience. Our nervous systems respond differently to a lot of these things, being more sensitive to their effects than we otherwise would. This is one reason I stopped smoking pot; regardless of the strand, I seemed to have an adverse reaction, compared to my friends. My solution for this? CBD oil! All the benefits; none of the nasty side effects.

All of this makes me seem fragile, sensitive, high maintenance, or a diva. And maybe I am those things, but my body is literally just more sensitive to stimuli than a “normal” person! So at least I have an understanding of why.

Traits of a Highly Sensitive Person

Being highly sensitive is not a diagnosis. It’s not a psychiatric condition or a personality disorder. It is real, definable, and observed in the psychology world. According to the Dr. Elain Aron, the spearhead behind the HSP movement, here are just some of the traits, as she’s observed:

  • Easily overwhelmed or overstimulated by bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, certain textures.
  • Pressured and overwhelmed by time limits and deadlines.
  • Strong reaction to violence or gore in TV, film, or video games.
  • Need privacy and alone time to recharge after hard days (this could also be true of introverts, but there is often overlap).
  • Avoiding upsetting or overwhelming things, going as far as to re-arrange or re-prioritize things in your life.
  • Noticing subtleties in things like food, drink, smells, etc.
  • Often seen or perceived by others as sensitive or shy.

You can take her self-test to see if you meet the criteria for a Highly Sensitive Person.

“But Isn’t Everyone Like This to a Degree? “Or, “Doesn’t This Apply to ADHD/Autism/Empaths/Introverts?”

Now I’m no expert on this topic. I’m reading the research and writing of others who have done the actual work and understand this stuff way better. I do know sensory processing sensitivity will overlap with other traits and descriptions, particularly of introverts, empaths, and people with ADHD, anxiety, or autism. That doesn’t mean you can’t be both or that you ARE both. It’s up to you to come to that conclusion, if you’re an HSP.

I’m not going to be diving into the differences between all these things because it’s just not my place to do that. The HSP website has an FAQ that addresses this a little bit, if you’re curious. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make this discernment.

How I Cope with the Negatives of Being an HSP

I think being highly sensitive comes with a number of positives, like being incredibly empathetic and being able to read people easily. However, a lot of being highly sensitive is negative, and I spend a lot of my time recovering from, coping with, or responding to irritating, overwhelming stimuli.

Here, I want to discuss ways to cope with being overwhelmed, specifically the way I cope. If you’re curious, you can browse the HSP subreddit, find another forum, or another person’s blog to get more personal experience. I am just one voice here.

First of all, we’re not talking about how to stop being highly sensitive. It’s just a personality trait, like being gregarious, or assertive, or stubborn. I can’t be “fixed” because I’m not broken. Others might see me as too much to handle or too dramatic, but that’s okay. I am just being myself.

So, with that out of the way, how do I cope with being over-stimulated and always annoyed?

That’s a great question! One I’ve been constantly trying to answer myself.

  • My number one method is distraction, distraction, distraction. Headphones are my favorite defense. Of course, if you were paying attention in the section about how I’m affected, as an HSP, you will have already noticed that people talking while I’m listening to music is incredibly distracting and annoying. However, for most other noises and things, it’s a very good block.
    I also rely heavily on YouTube videos, podcasts, and Twitch!
  • In a similar vein, wearing earplugs at night. Loud neighbors, snoring boyfriend, rambunctious cat? Earplugs help. They do a pretty good job of blocking most noises, though they’re not 100% soundproof. Also, you have to wear them right! Which I definitely wasn’t the first time I tried them.
  • Knowing when to walk away is huge. Sometimes you might sit and stew, thinking you just need to tough it out and be more tolerant. No. Screw that. Walk away. Who cares if you’re being sensitive? That’s literally what this whole post is about! You are sensitive. Just walk away and save your mental health.
  • Recovery afterward is sometimes the only thing you can do. If I’ve had a stressful, draining day, I make it an absolute top priority to recharge. Forget your responsibilities. They can wait another night. Or at least an hour, if you absolutely have something due that night. But pretty much everything can wait if you’re feeling mentally drained. I know what recharges me. Quiet time, laying down, turning off my brain while I watch something. Sometimes it’s me working on something, sometimes it’s reading a book, sometimes it’s a nice hot, bath, sometimes it’s doing some self-compassion work. It just depends on what I feel like I need. Find out what you need to recover.

This is my personal experience being a newly-found HSP. I hope you find it helpful! If you’re an HSP, share your experience with me. If you aren’t, what do you think about it? How does it differ from your mentality and experience?

The Heaviness of Impermanence

We are not permanent;
We’re Temporary, Temporary
Same old story

-Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”

I made a major life change in August of 2019. I moved to Indiana, from my home state of Tennessee, to support my boyfriend, as he finished his engineering degree at Purdue University.

The original plan was for him to graduate in December 2020 and for us to move back to Tennessee ASAP. Both of our families are there. I have a son who decided not to move with me to Indiana. Everything I know is there, plus better job prospects for both of our careers. But, the best laid plans, of mice and men, often go awry.

We didn’t do any of this the right way, so we decided to do it the wrong way. Eventually, things came together. We found a place, at the last minute, in July (because July is such a good time to look for housing in a college town). We switched on our utilities and internet, registered our vehicles with the state (I personally had to go to the BMV at least 4 times), and updated our mailing addresses on everything we could think of. It was chaotic and messy, and this barely brushes the surface of it. Let’s just say, I’m dreading my next move.

As I settled into our new life in Indiana, I got used to having Meijer and Menards, hard liquor in CVS, and lots of factories and farms. It was different, but not unfamiliar. Some backroads made me feel like I was still in Tennessee, even though I was 6 hours away from home. I remember my dad saying that 6 hours wasn’t so bad. I agreed with him until I actually moved. It’s felt light years away on most days.

But as our boxes unpacked and things found their place long enough for dust to settle, I started to feel like maybe I was already home. We went through a lot of trouble for it to be a temporary residence.

It’s so easy to make plans before they actually happen, isn’t it?

I wanted it to be cut and dried–move to Indiana, Colby gets his degree, then we move back. But knowing there was a deadline from the beginning certainly took me out of the moment. I didn’t want to get comfortable or commit to anything long-term, like friendships, volunteer programs, or career goals.

Following a temp project and a month of crippling unemployment, I got a full-time job in November 2019. I really liked being in an office environment and not in a customer-facing position. My coworkers and boss were cool, and it was overall low stress. It was quite the reprieve after years in retail hell.

Unfortunately, I knew from the beginning that my time there had an expiration date. I even had an approximate date in mind. When my coworkers questioned me about it, I tried to stay vague, saying “we’ll see what happens”, and being non-committal. But it tugged at my heart. I wanted to stay; I like feeling like I belong.

I don’t want to get comfortable though because I know I’ve got to pick back up and do all of this again in the next year or so.

Welcome to my state of impermanence.

But I told myself I could still visit Indianapolis (45 minutes away) and Chicago (2 hours away). I could still do things and make my mark on the state, while it made its mark on me. I didn’t have to let the temporary weigh me down.

And then March 2020 happened.

When everything first locked down in March, I was panicked, like a lot of other people. To what extent would this virus ravage the entire planet? Would this be plague-like levels of decimation around the world? Would people close to me get sick and die? Would I get sick and die?

As Covid-19 progressed and things got worse, we realized the end might not be in sight. That coming out of lockdown and reopening wouldn’t leave the coronavirus behind. Our new normal–masks in public, reduced shopping hours, increased safety precautions, half-capacity restaurants–might be happening for a long time. That is, if the government doesn’t force us back into lockdown because of the alarming rate of new cases.

I’ll just be blunt: it’s freaking scary to live during a pandemic. We are indefinitely in the throes of chaos, waiting, having no idea what will happen or when. It’s scary. The unknown is always scary. As humans, we just don’t like it. It’s unsettling to not be able to know the future, much less control it. We might have some educated predictions or vague ideas, but nothing is certain right now.

That uncertainty is a burden to carry around all the time. Whether we are thinking about it or not, it’s always there, silently dictating our actions and feelings behind the scenes. I’ve felt low energy and low mood on days with absolutely no reason to feel like that. Listlessness and boredom seemingly out of thin air. Randomly feeling hopeless about my own goals; a sense of nihilism in pursuing anything I love. Of course, I’m prone to depression, so it’s easy to blame that, but I don’t have a lot of the other hallmarks of the disorder right now. I think I’ve overall been a good place mentally, it’s just this weight that seems to press down on me.

And it’s not just me. The pandemic is wreaking havoc on our mental health. It’s not good to carry around so much uncertainty and fear. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, and these are just early numbers. We feel helpless. We feel hopeless. We feel scared. None of us have a clue what to do. We’re just doing our best. I, for one, am big on distractions, staying connected via online and phone to people I care about, and just trying to take care of myself.

I was already living in the temporary because of my Indiana/Tennessee situation, but the pandemic just kicked it into a new gear. I am living my life in the ephemeral; it’s not just a passing state anymore. Isn’t that ironic? Temporary is supposed to mean for a short while, not permanent. But it feels like it’ll be the default, forever.

It won’t, of course. We won’t live exactly like this forever. Things will stabilize one day. Even if the virus sticks around, we will develop a vaccine. Maybe not soon, but one day. We will re-adapt to life after the pandemic. Maybe it won’t be the pre-pandemic life we knew, but we will adapt. Humans are good like that. We will find “normal” again, whatever that will mean when we get to it. I will also move back to Tennessee, settle down in a nice house, find a good job, and live in a state of permanence one day.

But right now, hanging out in the temporary feels icky. 

I’m doing my best to focus on short-term goals and give myself moments of joy. I’m focusing on the “here and now”, even if the here and now isn’t a great place to be.

Honestly, there’s not much else I can do besides that.

I can only control my actions and behaviors. I can’t control the pandemic. I can’t make time move faster. I can’t predict my own future outside of Covid, much less factoring that in. So I am doing things in my own little world, staying connected to those outside of it, and staying the hell away from people.

I hope you’re doing the same, in your state of impermanence.

(Also, please wear your mask in public, or at the VERY LEAST, stay the hell away from people when you go out.)

The Truth about Recovering from a Mental Illness

I have been on a low-carb diet for 6 months. I exercise fairly regularly. I take supplements and nootropics. I do my best to prioritize self-care and mental health work (like workbooks and DBT exercises). I journal. I practice gratitude. I meditate (sometimes). I do all of these things in an effort to heal myself and to improve myself.

So why am I still unhappy? Why do I still feel lost and directionless? Why do I get random bouts of depression? Or irritability? Or just weird episodes of not being able to focus, not knowing what I want, and hating everything around me, including myself?

Some might say, “That’s life! Everyone has ups and downs!” And to that person I say, I’ve lived with these symptoms for as long as I can remember. It goes beyond normal ups and downs. The depth and scope of these episodes and emotions is far beyond what “normal” people experience. There are a lot of us out here struggling with intrusive/obsessive thoughts, suicidal thoughts or suicide ideation, depression for no reason, irritability for no reason, high anxiety, high impulsivity and self-destructive streaks, etc.

I thought I was getting better. Some days it seems that way. I’m in a better place. I’m “dealing”. Even happy, dare I say. Everything seems so crystal clear. I feel what I believe is normal for me. Balanced. Every day life is easier. Things don’t bother me as much. I feel more than just functional; I feel good.

Then, at the drop of a dime, I’m down. Moody. Antagonistic. Irritable. Sad. Lonely. Bitter. Easily triggered. Jealous all the time. Paranoid. I oscillate back and forth between these states for no reason, seemingly, with varying degrees of intensity and frequency. Of course, there are other symptoms to my mental illness that aren’t shaded as negatively, but can still be harmful to myself, others, and my self-image: impulsivity, poor decision-making, poor priorities, finally thinking I’ve hit on the one idea or career path that will fulfill me/bring me success, starting up a bunch of projects or pursuing interests that I later drop.

I thought eating healthy, exercising, getting proper sleep, consuming supplements, and keeping up all my self-help work would be my panacea. The missing puzzle piece. Finally. At 31, I found the key to fixing myself. Or, if I didn’t fix myself 100%, I’d at least fix the damaged parts and learn to be balanced and happy.

So why hasn’t it fixed me?

Why am I still broken?

Why am I not happy?

It’s because recovery isn’t linear. I’m not going to pretend I just figured that out though. I learned that years ago. Some days, I will feel down. Some days, I’ll want to burn it all to the ground. Some days, I’m over the moon. Other days, I’m somewhere in between. Even if I weren’t mentally ill, I’d experience a version of this. It’s just amplified times 100 when you have a mental illness.

The other thing I’m really having to come to terms with is that I’ll probably never be healed. Searching for one big band-aid to put over all my wounds is futile. I will never find it because it doesn’t exist. Maybe I won’t always describe myself as broken, but I don’t know that you can fully heal every aspect of a mental illness. There are certain parts of it ingrained in you for life, right? Sure, maybe I won’t meet the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder some day, but the lingering imprints of fearing abandonment or feeling jealous because I fear I’m not good enough might always be just under the surface.

Realistically, it’s more likely that I could fully deal with all my trauma and process it. I’ll learn to love and forgive myself. I’ll be able to regulate my emotions properly. I could develop a decent sense of self-esteem. I’ll feel balanced and normal, and bad days will just be blips. Nothing catastrophic. I may not fully recover in the traditional sense, but I could be better.

What does that look like? Someone who is happy and never deals with any problems or negative experiences?

No. I’ll still be the same person. Probably with the same challenges. Prone to jealousy. Caring to a fault, but easily irritated. Loving, but with an eagle-eye for critique. Obsessive and anxious, but passionate and conscientious. Sensitive and easily offended, but quick to forgive and loves making connections.

Therapy and self-help techniques aren’t going to fix that about me. They are going to give me the tools to cope with my emotions and intense situations that crop up. It won’t eliminate the moods and emotions that cause me to be sad, impulsive, annoyed, or jealous, or whatever, but I can find better ways to process those situations and react appropriately. Even when I’m not feeling normal and balanced. I could prevent falling down these black holes, potentially.

Maybe that’s a better goal than healing myself and becoming mental illness-free.

If I look at the timeline, I’m already making progress toward that goal. Progress toward not falling down the black hole–at least, as much or as hard. I can see the growth. I may not be where I want to be, but I’ve come so far from where I started. It’s called self-improvement; not self-perfection.

I’m learning to set boundaries and treat myself with respect. Not at the level I want to be, but I’ve come so far. Old me was self-destructive just for the hell of it. Old me didn’t listen to my gut and let people blatantly disrespect my boundaries. I did a lot of things that now make my skin crawl. I know better now. I respect myself enough to listen to my gut. And that’s progress.

I’m learning to forgive friends for slights they didn’t know they committed. To either communicate or try to give the benefit of the doubt. I wrote off so many people, for little to no evidence, without any empathy, critical thinking, or direct communication with them. I made assumptions, I got hurt, and I rejected them before they could reject me. The hurt might be real, but the event might not be. So I’m being slower to judgment, quicker to empathy, and letting more small things go.

I can have a conversation without it being a confrontation. I can be assertive without being aggressive. My needs are important. Their needs are important. Together, we can solve an issue. Old me would run. Old me would start a fight. Old me would avoid until I imploded.

I can face awkward and uncomfortable situations. Old me would have no-call, no-showed to a job that was giving me hell. Me of today called and had a conversation. Me of today pushes myself through bad days and hard days and no energy days because I know feelings are temporary and tomorrow will be different.

I’m learning that not everything is the end of the world, and if it is, then I’m going to live through it.

I lived through my fiance dumping me, when he was my whole world, when I thought I couldn’t breathe without him, much less love without him. I did though. I breathed without him. I loved without him. Several times.

I lived through depression. I lived through some of my worst days to pull myself out of an unhealthy living situation. Lesson learned.

I lived through admitting some of my worst mistakes and coming clean that I was wrong.

I’ve lived through a lot of pain and heartbreak, but I’ve lived to see my successes and triumphs. I have lots of good days. I’m proud of things I’ve done. I’ve come so far. My checkered past is a mosaic of who I am, and there are some great spots in there that I cherish.

I’m not going to be normal or well-adjusted. I’ll be patched up, stitched together, not quite broken anymore, but maybe never fully healed. The scars will always be there. Problems will still rise.

But so will I.

I Tried Breaking My Phone Addiction for 10 Days

I started an initiative for myself–an unplug initiative, if you will–to use social media and my smartphone less. The reasons were numerous and the effects were concerning: shorter attention span, need for instant gratification, using my phone to distract myself from my real feelings, spending far too much time scrolling endlessly, sad or pissed off at the end of the day anyway.

I’m going to share what I’ve learned, what else I feel I can change, and what has already changed for the better. I’ll also be taking a look at the goals I set for myself at the end of that first post about breaking my phone addiction. Did I achieve them in week 1? Let’s first talk about my general thoughts, feelings, and takeaways of week 1.

Week 1 Reactions to Breaking My Phone Addiction

  • Irritability, at first. Lots of irritability. Think: road rage, without being on the road.
  • Picking up my phone, frequently. With no goal. Scrolling through the home menus, searching for nothing.
  • Watching too much YouTube. Seriously. It’s a slippery slope and it’s hard to stop once you’ve started slipping.
  • Loneliness. I felt lonely, at first, from not chatting with Twitter friends every day or supporting people on my favorite self-improvement subreddits, or leaving comments for my Facebook friends. It made me crave human interaction, so I reached out more to friends I hadn’t spoken to in awhile.
  • I need to learn to have fun again, without my phone. So I picked up collaging again, with just materials I already had on hand. I also dug out some old coloring books and realized I’m unironically into word searches. Admittedly, I still spent more time watching YouTube, but it was cool to rediscover these interests and hobbies I still have. I’ve also been doing WAY more creative writing, something I had not thought I would pick back up.
  • Seriously. Have I mentioned YouTube? That’s clearly still a problem. Yikes.
  • I crave drama. Scandals. Something entertaining that engages the “grab some popcorn” section of my brain. Previously I’ve gotten that from Grey’s Anatomy, before season 9 got all weird. I also seem to fulfill this through some of the more “drama”-centered subs on Reddit, like r/relationships or r/trashy. I now entirely rely on YouTube for that with critiques and analysis of pop culture things.
  • I’m reading Medium more, which is cool, but I find myself scrolling it to look for “juicy” stories about divorces and couples drama a lot. Again, I must be craving drama. I do read a variety of things, but I’d say a good chunk of my reading there is based on someone’s life lessons from a sticky situation.
  • It’s okay to want to waste time, do a mindless activity, or just not be productive. The goal of breaking phone addiction wasn’t to just be more productive. It was to be happier, to feel more in control. I just wanted my phone activities, YouTube and Medium included, to be more in-check and controlled. It’s also been a push-and-pull struggle of realizing when I need downtime, and when I’ve gone too far and need to gently nudge myself into something else.
  • The FOMO of not being on Twitter especially is real. I feel like I’m invisible anytime that I try to post or interact lately because of Twitter’s visibility algorithm. It seems to reward you the more you post, the more you comment, the more you’re on. I want to use it to engage with others and keep putting my blog out there, but if I’m not on enough, it seems I fade into the background. I don’t want to use it just for the fear that I’ll no longer be seen, but they’ve got me in a bind. My goal was to use Twitter mindfully, but I’ve only even been on to scroll/engage a couple of times and I found myself getting restless very quickly.
  • My desire to have fun vs my desire to do something that makes me feel accomplished is way harder to manage than I thought it would be. Coupled with my need for competence, things get tricky, and I still don’t think I have a balance figured out.

My Goals for Breaking Phone Addiction – Revisited

1. Find enjoyable ways to decompress when I get home from work that don’t include watching YouTube videos, or scrolling social media endlessly.

Well, I inconveniently got sick during this, so it made it really hard to do anything on some days, besides watch TV or YouTube. But aside from that, I still wanted to approach decompressing in a new way. By the way, I define decompressing as something that helps me relax and unwind after work before getting into my goals for the evening.

I did eliminate mindless scrolling, but an increase in YouTube time doesn’t feel like the response I was looking for. Even when I only watch a couple of videos, I still can’t help but wonder if there’s a better habit I could have instead. My rediscovered and established hobbies, like collage art, coloring, word searches, creative writing and yoga, feel like “work” to me. I like doing them all and feel accomplished after doing them, but my brain still categorizes them as being far more effort than what I need at that time. Therefore, I need to come up with something that’s not YouTube that helps me relax before I get into any heavy mental lifting.

This is a topic I still want to explore.

2. Delete social media apps, including Reddit.

I did delete all social media apps! Success! This doesn’t mean I deleted the accounts or want to stay off them forever. I wanted to use them with intention. If that’s considered the only goal here, then it was a total success, A+. Considering that I wanted to use social media with intention, like interacting with my friends/followers and posting engaging content that’s related to my blog, though, I have failed. I haven’t gotten on for days at a time, and when I do, I haven’t stayed long or done much.

The thing about getting off social media is that once you get over not checking it all the time, you realize you don’t miss it. Getting on feels like a rushed check-in, some chore I’m marking off the list. And I am not at all trying to sound edgy or cool by saying that–I still love the friends I’ve made and the ones I know in real life. I want to interact with them and enjoy that aspect of social media, plus post relevant content. It’s just that the other crap feels even more insufferable the more time I’m away.

If I’m going to use it, I need to be habitual about my use, making sure I have time limits in mind, and content to post for my blog, too. I had the idea of using HootSuite to batch post a bunch of stuff at once so I don’t have to continually pick up my phone when I have a thought. But I did that exactly once and just haven’t had the desire to go back.

3. Resist picking up my phone and using it as a distraction, from waiting or from feelings.

I was semi-successful with this one. Let me explain.

Overall, I’ve been able to avoid mindless pickups to check Reddit or Twitter, well, because I don’t have the apps. But I don’t check the mobile versions either. However, many times, I will watch YouTube. It’s led to a LOT of YouTube. One day my screen time was 7 hours because I watched so much. Since I haven’t been feeling well, and as a result, am more tired, I allow myself more leeway. If I’m bored at work, it’s also a go-to because I can easily watch videos while working at my desk. It’s a slippery slope. While it doesn’t make me feel the same way mindless social media scrolling does, it’s not exactly helping my phone addiction. It’s making it worse. The content is engaging and mentally stimulating in ways that social media isn’t, but it’s often satisfying boredom and my need for drama–which only nurtures the parts of me that I don’t want to grow.

I’ve journaled less and less, but written more poetry. So as far as being in touch with feelings, I’d say I’m in the vicinity. I’ve had several moments where I was feeling bored or ashamed or something that makes me want to reach out to my phone, and I mindfully decided to explore that feeling instead. Waiting around at work, another trigger, has also been a window for me to explore my impatience and desire to fill that moment. On one hand, I have been able to recognize when feelings come up that I want to push down, but on the other, I don’t know if that’s really leading to anything except awareness. I suppose that’s something, at least.

Related: How to Exercise When You Have a Mental Illness

4. Develop a better time limit for fun stuff and understand why I put off harder stuff.

I’ve learned a lot about Self-Determination Theory, and it’s really helped me get in touch with what I really need to be motivated, namely my desire for competence. This even explains why I so often would blow off personal goals in favor of video games. Not only are they fun, but they’re rewarding; they make me feel like I’m really doing something. The illusion of accomplishment.

My goal when I found out about SDT was to do more things that make me feel competent, so I could get that need out of the way, and then move onto the hard stuff. Except, my brain interprets everything except YouTube, apparently, as work. But, it’s not that I consider collage art, for instance, to be work, it’s just that it’s MORE work than playing video games or watching YouTube compared to the output or reward that I’d receive. I still enjoy collage art, or anything else that I see as “hard” but still rewarding. The results I get make me feel accomplished and good about my abilities or skills, but collage art is very tedious and requires more patience and work before getting to that point.

So, we’re still at square one here. I’ve gleaned some insight, but I’m still trying to figure out how to make my brain do the thing. I want to get my dopamine fix from delayed gratification, too, not just instant, drive-by fixes. Admittedly, sometimes I just have to brute force it–use the 2-minute rule of procrastination to just sit down and start something that I want to get done, because I know I’ll like the outcome in the long-run.

My pursuit of fun, lack of structure, and just hedonism, I guess, is still a mystery, and still hardly in check. Stay tuned.

5. No watching YouTube while I eat

Absolutely failed this, and I honestly haven’t even tried very hard. I really struggle with this one, and I’m not sure why. I enjoy it so much. There must be some sort of emotional connection, so much so, that it’s upsetting for me not to do it. I may need to actually research this. I’ve been brushing it off as a legitimate problem, but being reminded that this was a goal can set me back on course.

Summary

Phone addiction has made me less happy, less fulfilled, and given me the attention span of a rat, and while social media was a big factor to that, removing it wasn’t a cure all.

While I cherish my hobbies and interests, including ones I’ve rediscovered, I still have issues getting on YouTube, and relying on that for entertainment.

I’m finding I still don’t fully understand myself, and I’m struggling to strike a balance between decompressing, having fun, getting personal goals accomplished, and making sure I feel like I’m hitting all three components of Self-Determination Theory somewhere in there.

This isn’t an exact science, and I’m nowhere near done in my discovery. I hope I can strike a good balance that leaves me healthy, happy, and still getting the online interaction I crave.

Have you ever tried to stop using your phone or social media? What was it like? Did you fail or succeed?

Breaking Phone Addiction: My Plan to Stop Mindless Scrolling

I have an existential crisis probably once a year, at least. Sometimes, it’s not that dramatic, and I’ll just find myself directionless and in a rut.

Such a thing has happened to me lately. I haven’t the benefit of hindsight yet to dub this as just a rut or an existential crisis, but I decided to analyze what factors contributed to it.

Upon reflection, here is what I learned:

  • I don’t feel like I have one, true purpose.
  • The things I do find purpose in, like writing, or other things that I’m passionate about, have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another.
  • Despite all my healthy changes, I still come home from work feeling tired, un-energized, and unable to motivate myself for awhile, as I sit on the couch and scroll Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and eventually YouTube videos. I often say to myself, “How has so much time passed? What have I been doing?” It never feels that long when you’re doing it.
  • While I still accomplish some of the learning goals I have with Coursera and exercise 4-5 days a week, I default to playing video games, or something else I consider to be fun. This results in me pushing off other goals that would require more work because I see them as “hard”. I’d rather do the fun thing. By that point I’ve expended my energy for hard things and just want the sweet dopamine release that comes with instant gratification.
  • A lot of time is wasted on my phone. In general, I feel I am too reliant on my phone and use it for the wrong reasons most of the time.

I think this is all tied together somehow. Each point feeds into the next. I believe my phone addiction is the root of it all. Here’s why my phone addiction is hurting me and how I’m relating it to everything listed above:

False Sense of Not Wasting Any Time

I reflexively pick up my phone constantly throughout the day, when I have a spare second, especially when I’m waiting on something else, like things at my job, video game loading screens, something cooking, etc. I do data processing for a mail company, and there are several applications and processes that have to “run their course”. While I’m waiting, I often grab for my phone. This is the insidious and seemingly innocuous part of phone addiction. It feels innocent because how can I be wasting any time on my phone if I’m just doing it to pass time while I wait for something else? However, this adds up to what feels like a hundred times a day of picking up my phone and many hours of screen time (my average screen time has been as high as 5 hours per day, which is surprisingly above average).

Constantly picking up my phone like this, even when I consider it to be “multitasking”, is a ridiculously false way of thinking. Most importantly, this isn’t a productive or worthwhile practice, since I am just doing it to kill time. Secondly and thirdly, it divides my attention, creating an overall shorter attention span, and deepens my phone addiction by causing a Pavlovian response between waiting and picking up my phone. Often, it makes those initial work tasks take longer because I get sucked into the vortex of endless scrolling on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit.

I Pick Up My Phone As a Way to Avoid My Feelings

Similar to the Pavlovian response above where waiting causes me to pick up my phone, I also have this desire to pick up my phone in response to many negative feelings, like guilt and shame. I notice that when I thought or memory comes up that makes me feel bad, I instantly have the urge to pick up my phone. The idea is to probably distract myself from that thought, or to confront it by sharing it on Twitter. But this has evolved into a way to avoid how I feel, instead of facing it with the proper coping tools. It’s amazing how many times I noticed, after becoming conscious of this habit, that I would have a thought or feeling and instinctively grab my phone.

Phone Addiction Has Tried to Serve (Poorly) As a Decompression Tool

My phone use goes up dramatically because I use my phone to decompress at the end of the workday. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. I don’t feel more relaxed, I don’t feel better or happier. In fact, I feel worse. Social media tends to cultivate strong feelings of inadequacy, anger, and annoyance in me. Comparing myself to others, disagreeing with strong opinions and hot takes, letting myself get upset by things that are shared or said. It’s all trivial in the grand scheme of things–to be upset by social media, yet I am, and I struggle to oppose this inclination. There are good things about social media, too, like connecting with friends, sharing your lives with people you care about, having a sense of community, learning cool things, and laughing at funny things. However, I find the pros to significantly pale in comparison to the cons. I take away far more toxicity and internalized negativity than anything else, usually.

Social Media for All the Wrong Reasons

I originally started getting on Twitter more to nurture my brand for this blog. I wanted to post more about mental health, self-improvement, and productivity. Before this, I very sparingly got on Twitter. I’d go a year or two at a time with no interaction there. But I wanted to connect with other like-minded bloggers, so I developed a friend group there. I set up a Facebook page for my blog for the same reason. Even if I wasn’t sharing my own content, I could share things relevant to those topics and engage with the community. Instead, I usually have nothing to post on Facebook, and I mostly rant on Twitter or treat it like a diary. It’s morphed into this outlet for my own personal feelings, instead of an outlet for all things mental health and self-improvement.


I don’t want to break my phone addiction so that I can be more productive or stop procrastinating. I certainly could be more productive, especially when it comes to those passions I’m pursuing, things that do require more effort, especially when I have no motivation. But my goal is to be happier. To free up my mental bandwidth. To stop dividing my attention. To do things with intention and purpose. To find relaxing and enjoyable ways to decompress.

The Plan for Breaking Phone Addiction

Here is what I plan to do to break the phone addiction:

  • Find enjoyable ways to decompress when I get home from work that don’t include watching YouTube videos, or scrolling social media endlessly. YouTube is a gray area because I can learn interesting things there, and I like critique and analysis channels, but I’m going to have to be cautious with this. Perhaps put time limits and restrictions around it so I don’t fall down the rabbit hole.
  • Delete social media apps, including Reddit. Note: this doesn’t mean deleting my accounts or totally abstaining from social media forever. It’s to curb the unnecessary amount of time I spend on these app, which has been the source of my phone addiction.
  • If I am to get on Twitter, Facebook, or Reddit, I will do it intentionally and with purpose, on my laptop. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these platforms and all have their benefits, but I want to develop a more meaningful way to interact with them. Doing so on my laptop, with the express purpose of connecting with others, sharing something worthwhile, or looking for information, will hopefully accomplish that. Some scrolling and seeing what’s new may be permitted, even necessary, especially as part of the “connecting with others” factor that I enjoy, but there will be a time limit on this. I’m still undecided exactly how to execute this. Twitter and Facebook will also be used to post more content in-line with my blog.
  • Resist picking up my phone and using it as a distraction, from waiting or from feelings. Just going to try to feel my feelings and cope with whatever comes up.
  • While not directly related to phone addiction, I want to use this extra time I will hopefully have to cultivate a better working culture around the goals and passions I have that are harder. Things that I often lack motivation for or lose my drive for. I want to find out why I feel this way, and if I need to move on, or keep trying. If I want to keep trying, what’s holding me back, and can I create a better atmosphere and routine in order to work? I do believe getting phone addiction under control can contribute to this, as I should have more time, and won’t have such a negative mindset going into it.
  • Along with this, I want to develop a better time limit for fun stuff and understand myself better. Why do I always default to doing this fun stuff, even when I know there’s benefit to doing my Coursera work or writing? I don’t want to always shrug off those goals and plop down to play video games for the rest of the day. I always feel guilty, but can’t bring myself to do anything that requires more effort. Am I just shorted out on willpower already (although there’s no current scientific evidence for this)? Am I demotivated about my other tasks for some reason? Am I so dopamine hungry from the constant phone use that I have forgotten the benefits of delayed gratification? Have I screwed myself over and shortened my own attention span? I hope to find out the answers to these questions.
  • No watching YouTube while I eat. What starts as an enjoyable combination, leads to more videos, which leads to more wasting time. Mindful eating is a whole other topic, and it’s always made me upset to think about practicing this (that is, eating without watching or reading something, or otherwise being entertained and stimulated while you eat). But it would behoove me to find a better way to enjoy things and reward myself, rather than a tasty meal while watching something entertaining.

This is the start of a new journey. I hope to find out the answers to my questions, develop a healthier relationship with social media, and break my phone addiction! In doing so, I hope the byproduct is healthier decompressing tools, better attention span, a reignited spark for all my passions and goals, and more well-rounded afternoon and evening routine.

The Nutrition and Supplement Plan that Improved My Mental Health (Including No More Brain Fog)

My struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder and anxiety have felt lifelong at this point. The past decade of my life has felt like twice that because of how the symptoms have affected me. I’ve searched for any way to help mitigate these effects–DBT self-taught exercises, therapy (in person and online), journaling, self-esteem, self-compassion, trauma healing, and finally, physical health changes. I consider all of this to be a holistic approach to mental health, and one method is not necessarily better or more helpful than another; it’s a joint effort, and they all contribute to my mental health in different ways.

However, I want to talk about my diet and supplements and how they’ve affected my body and mind. My struggle with brain fog, lack of energy, joint pain, and low mood plus mood swings was such a way of life, I was convinced that there was no cure. I thought it was just part of being mentally ill and I either hadn’t worked hard enough to overcome it, or it just wasn’t going to happen.

I had heard time and time again about the mental health benefits of getting enough sleep, about eating a healthier diet, and about exercising

I decided to get serious at the end of 2019 with my diet and physical health. Here is an in-depth look at my journey with diet and supplements, what helped, and how it affected my mental health. This is just my experience; I’m not advocating that everyone has to do this to see results for their mental health. Rather, I encourage you to research these things yourself and do what’s best for you.

Low-Carb Diet for More Energy, Less Brain Fog, and Fewer Mood Swings

When I came to terms with the effects of sugar and how it was wreaking havoc on my body and brain, I was devastated about having to start a low-carb diet. I have PCOS and as a result, am insulin-resistant. I was convinced it would be the hardest thing I would do–giving up carbs. I mourned the loss of macaroni and cheese, pizza, Cheerios, and bread. My life revolved around carbs, but they were my enemy.

In December of 2019, I decided to get serious. I spent an entire weekend researching recipes and culling together a list of things I wanted from the store. It took a lot of research, trial and error, and many weeks to figure it all out completely. I won’t downplay the difficulty. It didn’t all happen at once, but after a few weeks, I settled into a routine. Now I eat an average of 50g of carbs per day, with some days as high as 80g. I’m in the habit of cooking a big casserole, or more recently, a frittata, to parcel out for the week so I don’t have to do some crazy cooking every day. Meal prep and meal planning were intimidating at first, but they have become a godsend. Preparation is truly your greatest weapon against fear.

It was hell adjusting to the carb cravings, without giving in, and I found it hard to stay balanced in my diet. However, the benefits of the low-carb diet were obvious pretty early, and they only got better. No more brain fog. Actual energy to speak of, mental and physical. It seemed like a miracle. No aching joints. No random mood swings (I mean, I’m prone to those anyway, but they weren’t so severe or frequent). I felt in control of my mind and body again after several weeks.

I can still confidently say that the low-carb diet life has significantly improved my mental health, as well as my energy levels, my mental clarity, and my overall physical well-being. These physical side effects also worked to improve my mental health, since I was able to pursue hobbies and work out much easier. With brain fog gone and energy to spare, I felt I could do anything.

Also, I don’t have to give up the good carbs forever. If I never indulged in pizza again, I would not want to live in that world. I just have to prepare myself for the consequences. Carbs make me feel like crap. I don’t want to feel like crap. So I limit them in my diet (getting them mostly from vegetables and high-fat dairy) and enjoy the occasional cheat day.

Here’s a sample of what a typical day looks like for me, though I do vary it up sometimes and switch out the meals when I get bored:

  • Meal replacement shake
  • Greek yogurt with 5% fat
  • String cheese
  • “Seed” bar snack (with pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds) // or a low-carb trail mix
  • Casserole (with chicken, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, and cheese) – Sometimes I eat red beans with cauliflower rice instead.
  • Mini bell peppers with spinach and artichoke dip
  • Scrambled eggs with breakfast sausage or a vegetable frittata
  • A spoonful of peanut butter or almond butter

This doesn’t may not seem like a lot for one day, but it’s perfectly satiating. It took some time for my insulin levels to even out, and for my body to stop always craving/demanding carbs (which I confused for genuine hunger at first). I don’t starve myself or let myself go hungry, which is what I thought in the beginning that people did. No, there’s just an adjustment period to life without so many carbs! Your body needs to learn to run off fat, primarily.

Starting Berberine also did wonders for my blood sugar and helping me lose weight.

Related post: I Went to Planet Fitness for the First Time and Didn’t Die

Whole Food Multivitamin (with Ashwagandha) for Diet Supplementation and Stress Management

A multivitamin is just good sense, regardless of what your goals or other treatments are. I chose one with Ashwagandha because this Indian root is a natural stress-reducer and can improve depression and anxiety symptoms. I sometimes take Ashwagandha on its own, but it often gives me a headache and this overwhelming sense of focus that can make me feel tense, ironically. Having it in a daily vitamin doesn’t give me this effect though; it’s such a helpful addition to my treatment plan and has been vital in improving mental health for me.

Besides just the Ashwagandha, I chose this multivitamin because it has a little bit of everything that I was looking for, and it’s made with whole foods, so I feel confident in the type of nutrition I’m getting to help supplement my diet. By the way, this is not a plug for the brand, nor am I getting paid in any way, not even as an Amazon affiliate. It’s just how I selected my multivitamin. I have tried other brands, too, that meet a similar criteria. This is my favorite though because of the stress blend.

Whole Food Meal Replacement Shake to Supplement My Diet

Looking for an alternative to my breakfast cereal, I decided to swap in a meal replacement shake. This one, like my multivitamin, is made from whole foods. It’s also Amazon’s top seller in the category and one of the best deals on the market for the quality and type of ingredients versus serving size. I find it takes the edge off my hunger in the morning while providing necessary vitamins, minerals, and fiber. I typically drink it at 7am and don’t eat again until 10am.

In case you’re wondering, I researched vitamin doses, toxicity levels, and upper limits. I learned that vitamin overdose is pretty hard to do. The levels of the fat-soluble vitamins, like A, D, E, and K, are not nearly high enough, between this and my multivitamin, to cause concern of toxicity or overdose. The rest of the vitamins and minerals are mostly water-soluble and will filter out through the urine if there is excess.

Berberine for Blood Sugar Management

This came to my attention because I have PCOS and struggle with insulin-resistance. I have read that Berberine is an effective blood sugar-manager, like Metformin, which is often prescribed to women with PCOS and people with Diabetes, alike. It is not a weight loss supplement, but managing insulin has been a key step to help me lose weight and to help even out my blood sugar.

I thought low-carb alone would help because I am not obese, but as I struggled to lose weight, I thought I’d better try Berberine. I’m glad I did. This hasn’t been part of the mental health aspect directly, but I wanted to include it because it’s been just as much apart of my holistic approach as anything.

Turmeric Curcumin for Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, I picked up Turmeric (specifically with Curcumin because it’s the most active compound in Turmeric) because it has been scientifically-proven to have an effect on depression and arthritis, as well as possibly aiding in preventing Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart disease. This combined with a low-carb diet have both been instrumental in helping my joints. I used to feel like I was in pain from doing very little. I often felt like I was just moving in quick sand. I worried about working a physically-demanding job in retail was taking a toll on my body. Now, I’m both able to work out effectively, and just make it through my every day life without feeling the creaks and groans of someone twice my age.

Magnesium to Combat Depression Symptoms

Another one proven to help with depression symptoms, as well as muscle weakness, muscle cramps, and fatigue, magnesium is a helpful mineral, one that most of us don’t get enough of. I started taking it as a supplement, but two weeks in, I noticed that I was incredibly tired every day. Not just regular tired from lack of sleep or a long day, but a deep body and mind exhaustion. I knew something was off. In addition to this, my mood seemed to be rapidly declining and leading me down a dark path. I listened to my gut and looked it up; taking more than 350 mg of a magnesium supplement can cause a mild overdose, with symptoms including lethargy and depression (not to mention a feverish feeling and nausea, which I was also experiencing, but I had chalked up to other explanations).

While getting magnesium from diet is recommended, only 350mg is recommended in supplement form. I was taking 500mg of magnesium, not to mention getting it from my multivitamin and protein shake. It just goes to show how some supplements can walk the line between help and harm depending on how we use them. It’s much better to try to get magnesium from foods, like leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, dry beans, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. I have to skip the last two (I eat dairy, but I opt for high fat because they are generally lower in sugar), but I think I’m covered now in other areas. If I ever want to go back to the supplement, I believe I’ll cut my tablet in half because the benefits are too good to pass up.

L-Theanine to Manage Anxiety and Stress

An amino acid from green tea, l-theanine has been proven effective for anxiety, general stress, trouble sleeping, and increased focus and attention span. I take 100 to 200mg with my morning coffee because of the synergy between caffeine and l-theanine.

I love it for the increased focus and more relaxed feelings I have during a normal work day. L-theanine has been so critical for my mental health, not only in helping me relax and fend off symptoms of anxiety, but in sharpening my cognitive functions. I don’t take it every day, but it is safe, as studies indicate no long-term side effects for up to 5 months of use.

CBD Oil for Mood

I fell in love with CBD oil over a year ago. It took some research for me to understand what to look for in CBD oil, but it was well worth the effort. Unfortunately, I cannot take it everyday because it’s easy to build up a tolerance. Plus, good CBD oil is expensive, and I don’t want to blow through it super quickly.

The biggest effect I noticed when I first took it (and this was before I even started doing diet and supplemental changes) was that it didn’t make me happier, it just made it easier to get out of a bad mood. My mind felt more pliable and receptive to change. It didn’t make me happy or feel “high”, like its counterpart from marijuana, THC. I found it was simply easier to let things go and change my mood. I still had to put in the work though to get there. I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal evidence that it’s also good for reducing chronic pain/inflammation and helping with sleep. I personally don’t notice these benefits, but I will take it on bad pain days with my advil, just in case it is doing something.

Mostly though, I use it for its mood-boosting attributes.

Mental Health Treatment Is a Holistic Approach

Exercise, getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and continuing my self-treatment plan have all been vital in caring for my physical and mental health. I’m nowhere near fully healed or fully recovered, and maybe I never will be. That’s not my goal. My goal is to feel better for longer amounts of time. To be able to cope with intense, negative emotions. To be able to love myself and see myself as worthy. To increase confidence. To have energy to follow my passions. To be happier where I am, instead of constantly pursuing some goal that makes me think, “okay, now THIS will ultimately make me happy”.

My nutritional plan and supplements have been incredible in changing my life, but I also have learned valuable skills and coping mechanisms through DBT, self-led exercises, journaling, and therapy. It’s a whole puzzle–without one of these pieces, it’s incomplete (also, it’s confusing and frustrating, like a puzzle).

Related post: Exercising When You Have A Mental Illness

If you’re looking for answers to questions you keep having, I encourage you to do research–articles, books, forums, anything can be useful if you have a good source. If you’re able to try different things, even better.

There are still a number of resources I haven’t tried due to cost or inadequate research. Additionally, when introducing supplements or nootropics, you must consider how they might interact or affect one another. For now, what I’m doing is working for me though.

I hope my experience encourages you. Not to do exactly what I’ve done, but to look into options for yourself.

I Went to Planet Fitness for the First Time and Didn’t Die

I’ve never been a gym person. I feel like it’s the equivalent of being on display, like an animal at the zoo. But people pay admission to see the animals at the zoo and marvel at their greatness. I pay money to go feel self-conscious and awkward.

I picked Planet Fitness, not because of their completely irrelevant amenities and disappointingly small class options, but because of the price and accessibility. I liked how they marketed themselves as a judgment-free zone. A place for beginners, even. A place you could just go and workout, without the “gym-timidiation”.

Yeah, it was more like Planet Awkward. I felt super self-conscious. Among all the gods and goddesses, who owned real gym bags, probably, I dared to walk–a mere mortal, in cheap leggings and a T-shirt. I didn’t know the rules of the gym or how to use most of the equipment. The front desk associate signed me up for a class on how to use all of it, but that wouldn’t be for two more days.

I felt like a fraud as soon as I pulled into the parking lot. I have always done at-home workouts. I was sure it would be obvious to everyone around me that I was an awkward, yoga-doing weirdo who didn’t belong. Maybe I should have stayed home, I thought. It was clear that this entire environment wasn’t for someone like me, who lives in her own head too much and cares too much what other people think.

I surveyed the scene. It was pretty busy. Without knowing how to build a workout routine, or even what half the machines did, I figured I could handle the treadmill or one of the bikes, at least. Yeah, those would be easy. First, I had to dump my stuff into a locker. They had a few lockers out on the main floor. That would be perfect, I thought. I quickly put my stuff in there, before freezing dead in my tracks and realizing I was wearing jeans. Shit. I had forgotten my leggings were underneath. I regathered my stuff, trying to be casual about what I felt was an embarrassing mistake, and then found the women’s locker room.

I waited to be laughed out of the gym. When that didn’t happen, I decided to try one of the “laid-back bikes”. I call them that because you’re sitting in a chair-type contraption, rather than upright, like on a real, hard-work kind of bike. My first mistake was not knowing I needed to keep my keycard on me at all times, because you use it to login to the machines. I tried for ages to see if I could find my barcode on my online account, thinking I could copy and paste it for the manual entry. No such option existed, nor could I use my online login details instead. So I had to meekly slip off the bike and walk back to the locker room, feeling like the whole world was watching me mess this up. The bikes are in the front row, by the way, so that feeling was magnified.

After what felt like an eternity of figuring out the locker situation and retrieving the keycard to login, I was finally settled on the laid-back bike, ready to do some cardio. I thought they’d be the most chill cardio equipment because you’re practically reclined. Only a few minutes in, my legs were burning though, and I wondered how lame I would be if I got off right then. I didn’t though. I kept at it. Partly motivated by the people around me, that I was absolutely SURE were timing me to see how long I stayed, I kept pushing, even though I had to ramp down the difficulty.

(Also, side note: this was originally written on 2/4/2020–my legs were RIDICULOUSLY sore the next day. I’m talking, like, I couldn’t walk around in the morning. I needed to stretch and take ibuprofen before being able to stand for any period of time without wanting to cry. So, laid-back bike it is NOT.)

This was to say nothing of how awkward it was to hold my phone since there was only one cupholder (used for my water bottle and keys), and I had no pockets. There was no convenient stand or tray on the dashboard, either. It seemed so logical to have one. I ended up holding my phone forever, before eventually just throwing it on the floor, annoyed at my lack of pockets.

To distract myself, I looked ahead at the weight equipment, trying not to stare. All the gorgeous, fit-looking people, who had clearly been born in the weight room, were killing it with their reps and circuits and bunjooles. That last one is a real thing, right? They held a confidence I didn’t know. They seemed at home in the zoo.

It was at that perfect moment that I noticed signs on the back of every other weight machine in front of me. It said, “You Belong!”. The thumbs up logo was shrouded in the Planet Fitness purple and yellow, reassuring me that it meant what it said. I looked over all the signs, how the phrase repeated down the line. You belong! You belong! You belong!

It felt like a slap in the face though. I didn’t belong. They were trying so hard to convince me, but I just didn’t believe it. I don’t exactly know why though. No one was doing anything to me or saying anything to me to make me feel uncomfortable. It was my own self-criticism that was ringing in my ears. All along, I had been my biggest critic. I was the only one speaking negatively about myself and scrutinizing what I did and how I looked. It’s a shame that I’m the one who also has to motivate myself, finish my workouts, push myself to be disciplined, and do my best in spite of this. In spite of myself, I had to succeed.

What is wrong with me?

I let this rhetorical question bounce around my head, while I kept pedaling. No matter how many reasons I come up with, I cannot come up with a solution. I never have, in the 16 years I can remember feeling like this. So the best I could do was just finish my workout…in spite of myself.

Next, I tried the treadmill. I didn’t aim for speed or difficulty. I just wanted to get my heart rate up and get out. If not with my dignity, then at least with somewhat of a decent cardio workout. There were so many people. I had tried to escape the front row of bikes to a less crowded area. Treadmills are very popular though, so it was not possible to escape. I picked one and hopped on, trying my best to pretend I knew what to do. It’s walking, I thought. You can walk.

When I was done, I awkwardly avoided eye contact as I scurried over to the cleaning spray bottle. As I cleaned the machine, then went to put it back, then walked back to get my stuff, feeling my anxiety intensify with each trip, I waited for someone to point out something obvious that I had done wrong or make a sarcastic quip about me. That moment never came. So I retreated to the locker room, after 15 minutes on the laid-back bike and 20 on the treadmill. I didn’t know how to feel, as I changed back to my regular clothes and gathered my things. Physically, I didn’t feel anything yet. But emotionally, I was just glad I survived something scary.

Yes, the gym is scary to me. I’m trying to face more fears and do more things. So this accomplished both. I needed something to push me to workout more, since at-home yoga routines weren’t cutting it. The lack of variety in my workout and the need for more consistent, old-fashioned cardio was also a significant factor. This was the push I needed. It’s felt more like a shove off a cliff, but it’s the first step. They’re always a little rockier.

It’s like being on that treadmill. I know how to walk. So why is it such a hard mental battle? One foot in front of the other. That’s how I’m going to succeed in a new workout regimen. I’ve made some big changes to my diet in the past few months. That didn’t happen overnight or without trial and error. It’s a lot to handle, and taking care of yourself properly feels like a part-time job. But I have survived by taking it one step at a time. One foot in front of the other.

I told a few friends about my first trip and how intimidated and self-conscious I felt. I truly was beginning to think the gym wasn’t for me. All four of them told me they were proud of me. It motivated me to not cancel my membership. The $22/month I’m spending is also motivating me. But I’ve decided it really is worth it to at least keep trying. Like so many things in life–it’s worth it to at least try.

I’m looking forward to the trying. I can see myself learning more about weight-lifting, getting into a routine, and feeling more at-ease as I go. We all start off not knowing. This is just my beginning. I can already tell that having a place to go to for my workout will be better than just doing yoga in the backroom. There’s something about getting ready and going to the gym to workout that makes it feel worthwhile. It’s inspiring knowing I can do more and be more, if I just get ready and go.

And again, that $22/month is really inspirational.

My Personal Kindness Revolution

It’s a cliche at this point to say “the world just needs more love,” or “if everyone were nicer, the world would be a better place”. It’s idealistic, fantastical, even. I stopped believing in being able to change every single person with some worldwide revolution.

But, what if I could change a single person with my own personal revolution? I’m not going to pretend like I’m the nicest person in the world, or the most patient, or the most loving. But, you don’t need to be Mother Teresa to have a compassionate heart or want to do nice things. In fact, it’s simpler than you might think.

Start with the Right Attitude

There are a lot of people out there who are out for themselves. They don’t seem to be concerned at all with how their actions affect others. They might not intend to be disrespectful or rude to others–or maybe they do. They’re selfish, either oblivious or apathetic toward other people’s needs, and seemingly incapable of showing a shred of compassion toward anyone else.

Decide to not be like them.

It would be incredibly easy to succumb to your base desire to treat them the way they treat you. Instead, treat them how YOU want to be treated. It’s the Golden Rule, after all.

You don’t know why they are the way they are, but everyone’s journey is different. Maybe they were never taught how to act because they grew up in a cold and harsh household. Maybe they’re fighting an internal battle, and it affects them outwardly. Maybe they just don’t process the world around them the way others do, and it causes clashes with other personalities.

Whether it’s a good reason or not, resolve to rise above that mentality and treat EVERYONE with kindness. Rise above it, not so you can say you were the “bigger person”, but so you can say you were the kind person. Sometimes that’s what a person needs. Sometimes, that person is you. Showing kindness can benefit you just as much as the recipient.

Re-Define Kindness

What do you think when you think of the word kindness? Does it conjure images of “turning the other cheek”? Speaking softly and meekly? What about being “too nice”? That’s where you’re wrong, buddy. Those things can be associated with kindness, but the official definition is “friendly, generous, and considerate”. You can meet this criteria with any action or deed done for the benefit of another person. You don’t need to be a perky, upbeat person, either. You just have to be yourself. Anyone can show compassion or do a good deed.

Another thing: don’t do it for the gratitude. If your feelings are hurt by someone not showing appreciation, don’t take it personally. Some people have a lot of pride, and it’s difficult to express thanks. Perhaps they just don’t know about the importance of gratitude. You can feel good that you did the right thing, even if the response you get doesn’t make you feel that way.

Related Post: How to Be More Empathetic (And Why You Should Care)

Look for Opportunities of All Sizes

Some “acts of kindness” are viral sensations on social media. They’re branded as a marketable commodity, often to make the brand or influencer seem kinder, gentler, or heroic, even. This isn’t always a mirror for real life, though (and I have my own thoughts on whether this inspires others to do nice things, or if it’s just generating positive good will for the person or company posting it).

Not every act of kindness is a grand gesture. And they’re definitely not all social media-worthy. Opportunities to be good to other people come in big and small packages, some are obvious, while others are not.

For example, I have a friend that is a great creative mind with big ideas, but he struggles to stay organized or know where to start. He’s not big on practicals or logistics, but I am. I help by offering to look things up, show him options or strategies, and help him set plans and make any arrangements. 

Have an anxious friend? You could make appointments or phone calls for them, or accompany them somewhere they’re feeling apprehensive about (a new gym, church, a doctor’s appointment, etc.). The key here is listening for them to say that they’re nervous or anxious about doing something, and then offer to help. Most people with anxiety won’t ask for help with this stuff–probably because it makes them too anxious.

I’ve been on the receiving end of this, too. I talked for nearly two years about changing my eating habits. It felt too difficult, requiring far too much prep work, mental energy, and planning. With the help of internet friends and real-life friends, I received advice, encouragement, and awesome recipes. It felt like an act of kindness for me because I find this stuff stressful and exhausting, so the help meant a lot to me. For someone else though, this might be an easy way to help someone else.

If you’re looking for more simple, easy-to-execute acts of kindness, check out this post from Nyxie’s Nook. It’s a refreshing take on kindness. I love to see content like this.

Can Acts of Kindness Change the World?

I could posit that if everyone followed this ideology that the world would be better off, but as I already pointed out in the opening segment, that’s far too naive and reductive. Of course the world would be better off if everyone instituted this mindset! But that’s not likely to happen.

More realistically, this is about changing the world around you. That’s the people you come in contact with on a daily basis–friends, strangers, acquaintances, enemies. This isn’t a call for the entire world to change, but a pragmatic approach for any person with the will to change the world around them.

You’re not out to affect 7 billion people. Just looking for opportunities right in your own backyard.  

How Gratitude Has Affected My Mental Health

Inspired by Cassie from Upcycled Adulting, I wanted to talk about something that has impacted my life. 

Gratitude, or more specifically, the practice of being grateful has shown positive effects in multiple scientific studies. The correlation is clear: being grateful is linked to increased happiness, overall better mental health, increased empathy, and better physical health.

You could play Devil’s Advocate and say, “well, there are other factors at play here. This doesn’t prove definitively that gratitude makes you happier and blah, blah blah.” And to that I would say, yeah, that’s true. You could say there are other factors that affect these results. But isn’t it just a big ole coincidence then that a bunch of case studies just happen to all include gratitude as a variable? So, I’ll err on the ever-so-cautious side that gratitude = good. 

So, how do you do it? Writing a letter of gratitude to someone, even if you don’t send it, or keeping a gratitude journal are two ways of flexing your gratitude muscle.

I know, barf, right?

When I first heard about the benefits of gratitude, I rolled my eyes and thought it was corny. It seemed contrived and insincere, like going around the table at Thanksgiving and saying what you’re grateful for. I can hear some cliche answer from divorced Aunt Julie, who believes in the healing power of crystals and strongly advises you to get your tarot reading, about being “thankful for my health” or “being here with my family”. It’s not that I don’t feel grateful for things; it’s that it feels phony to point them out or celebrate them. But if that’s easy, then it wouldn’t be any trouble to start practicing it, even if it meant nothing, right?

So I decided to just try it. I added a line in my self-made mood journal that’s for gratitude. I list at least one thing I’m grateful for. 

When I sat down to think about it each day, I realized just how easy it truly was, but not for the reasons I thought. Gratitude isn’t just a feeling. You don’t have to feel this humble sense of reverence and awe at how the fate of the universe cast this burden of good fortune on you, though you’re a wretched and undeserving soul. It can be approached logically and methodically.

I am in relatively good physical health. I don’t have a terminal illness. I have all my limbs. I have an awesome son, who is still here on this Earth with me. I still have both of my parents. Both of my siblings. I have a nice office job, after nearly 10 cumulative years in retail. I make decent money in a low-stress environment where I am afforded the opportunity to learn new things. I have a great boyfriend. I’m working toward things I love, which is so cool and exciting. 

These things vary in significance, but they are the same in that I am grateful for them. Oh, and this feels like a good time to say this: gratitude is not a substitute for negative feelings. No one gets to tell you, “hey, you have so much to be grateful for. Don’t be mad/sad/upset about this other thing.” It’s manipulative, and it trivializes your feelings. However, naming what you’re grateful for does help put things in perspective and allows you to see the forest for the trees, or the silver lining, or the bright side. Pick a trite saying. It doesn’t erase anything bad or negative in your life; it just reminds you of the positive and cultivates warm, fuzzy feelings in response.

Are you really better off this way? YES! Because you can then see through the fog and know you can survive. You may be in a bad place, but you have x, y, and z. Life is about balance (life is about a lot of things, but one of them is balance). Your depression won’t go away from writing down what you’re grateful for–but you can say, “at least I have this” and derive some sense of pleasure or joy from that. It’s a lighthouse in the storm, at least.

I added this single line to my daily journal, and after two weeks, I did see a difference. It could be my overall self-care/mental health routine. It could be I’m listening to what I need more than what I want. And it could be that being more grateful has added to my robust self-care agenda and increased positive feelings in my life. Being grateful for things is more than just not taking them for granted or making sure you know what you have before you lose it. It’s a harbinger of better things to come, of all the good that exists in your life.

I feel like I’m never satisfied. I am always looking at the green grass on the other side. I’m not doing enough. I just struggle to really feel good or satisfied about much in my life. Gratitude allows me to slow down and say, okay, but I do have this thing, and I’m glad about that. It does put things in perspective, so yes, I’d say it works. Plus, with other parts of my self-care/mental health routine, I’m able to feel more content with my life where I am now.

Try it out! Do it as a rote writing exercise. You don’t have to feel anything. You don’t have to focus on achieving a particular effect. Just do it for a week and see what happens.