Key factors in happiness: Gratitude and perspective

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I think one of the most important factors to happiness is perspective and the ability to develop and nurture it before a long amount of time has passed.

Given time and distance we can see how the trail of bad things were leading us to something good. It changes our mind on whether the bad times were worth it and most of us submit to the age old truth that those things needed to happen to us. If we’re able to keep that mindset in the present it changes our reaction to negative events. We start to see them as brutal necessities that will lead us exactly were we need to go.

It’s a hard mindset to keep though, and it is always easier said than done. One thing that greatly helps us cultivate perspective in the present is gratitude.

Giving thanks daily keeps our mind centered on the good. It helps us maintain a positive outlook on the future by realizing if there is good hidden throughout our terrible day, there will be far more when the darkness starts to fade.

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Mental health medications aren’t supposed to be a prescription for shame

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I want to talk about the shame that comes with being on medication for mental illness. It’s why so many people avoid talking to doctors and getting the help they need. It’s a common phenomenon, but that doesn’t make it less harmful and dangerous.

Before I start this post I need to say that I got diagnosed at six and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t taking pills. You might wonder if I’m really the right person to talk about this subject, but I think that it adds another layer of understanding. I know it added another layer of protection. I got to learn my valuable lessons in safety while I was still being actively cared for.

I remember in grade school telling my mom that I wanted to be normal and that I wasn’t going to take my pills anymore. Since she was with me 24/7 she decided not to fight it and let me stop them. It only took two weeks for me to come to her with the bin of pill bottles and ask what I was supposed to take. I needed those pills not to be miserable, I understood that then.

It wasn’t a particularly long lesson, but since I was pretty dang bipolar it didn’t need to be. It kept me from questioning the need for medication again and it was a blessing that it happened as a small child, not when I was suicidal in middle school or swinging in and out of depression my senior year of college. I had a safety net, which isn’t something most people have as they sit in the doctors office unwilling to share their needs because they’re depressed, ashamed, and scared. So they go home, untreated, and things don’t get better.

That’s when it gets dangerous. That’s when it gets harmful.

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OOTD: Tackling what a lifestyle blog means to me

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( Jeans: Banana Republic Factory // Shirt: Loft (similar) // Booties: Steve Madden (similar) // Sweater: J. Crew (similar) )

This is my first Outfit of the Day post in a little over a year, and that one was posted with the same disclaimer to why it had been so long. I stopped posting them because I got frustrated that those posts were doing better than my posts on serious topics like mental illness. I’m not a fashion blogger nor did I have desire to be, I added the OOTD because I thought how we present ourselves is a great part of lifestyle and this blog is supposed to be a lifestyle blog. That’s changed a little, and I didn’t really mean for it to. It started when I published “I’m Not Offended by my Bipolar Jokes. You Shouldn’t be Either.” I was really unsure when I published it, I thought it was going to go over poorly, but I was wrong, it did well and I felt amazing having published it. So, more serious posts started getting mixed into my blog. Posts on my personal relationship with suicide mixed with photo diaries of my horse. It felt good, then I got more invested in the serious topics, and as you might have noticed, they started to dominate.

It’s not a bad thing. The topics I’m writing about are important, at least to me, and I feel like they need to be talked about. That’s what a blog is supposed to be, isn’t it?

But I’ve strayed a little to far from where I started. I need a little lightness in these posts too. I need to include the everyday joys, after all, life isn’t just about the serious topics, and it definitely isn’t just about mental illness and other hardships.

So here is my outfit. Here is my smile. Here is a picture of me in my everyday life.

Anna Down South is about me as a whole, that includes seriousness and it includes happiness.

Doing charity in private: The problem with public giving

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I did a certain charitable act a month or so ago and I wanted to tell someone about it, almost immediately. Maybe that’s a normal reaction; when we do something we feel good about we want to share that overwhelmingly positive emotion. But maybe we just like to lift ourselves up by telling others how great we were in that moment.

Maybe it’s a little of both. Maybe we think it’s the first but in reality it is the later.

I choose not to tell anyone that day, or the next, in fact I didn’t tell anyone, and if you don’t count this (which I can’t decide if I should) I still haven’t. But, the overwhelming desire to tell someone did open my eyes to my own desires. It made me step back and wonder why, after the joy from doing good had passed, was the next emotion a self serving one?

I want people to know I’m a good person, which is a flawed logic,  because if you are a good person, people already know. Goodness isn’t something that goes unnoticed. Perhaps people don’t see to which degree you are good, but they still know that you are. Goodness doesn’t come from one charitable act, or even a handful, it comes from a mixture of constant charitable acts and other acts of kindness and righteousness.

Telling people of one charitable act, won’t change their mind if they’ve decided you’re a bad person. It takes them seeing a visible transformation in your everyday actions for them to suddenly change their perspective on you. That’s possible, keep in mind, if you fear you are seen as a bad person, or even a not-so-good person, there is plenty of time to change that. Change is real and possible, so don’t stop seeking it.

But change doesn’t come from bragging. In fact, bragging always has the opposite effect that the bragger means for it to. If someone takes to bragging people take to disliking them and thinking of them as a worse person than they probably are. We can’t stand self-righteous people, yet somehow we still manage to be pretty self-righteous ourselves.

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A letter to those struggling with their Bipolar Disorder:

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In a lot of cases depression can be cured, and I mean cured, marked done, filed away for good. Depression isn’t always chronic, sometimes it’s short lived. That’s pretty magical, but bipolar disorder is nothing like that.

It’s a disorder, a disease of the mind, if you will. It can be treated, but it can’t be cured. It is everlasting.

I don’t find that as scary as I once did.

At first it’s a terrifying thought. I have to live with these swings forever. There will never be a time when I’m not taking medication. This is something that will affect my life till I die.

Oh yeah, it sounds terrible when you focus on those aspects. It sounds a lot less frightening however when you talk about the different stages of living with a mental illness like bipolar disorder.

You start to realize that you will get better even if you are not cured. You’ll find your perfect cocktail of medications that keep you balanced and you’ll only have to go to the doctor every year or so. The upcoming days won’t be met with vicious swings, but little ones that warn you that you need to change something. You’ll learn what helps you outside of medication and you won’t rely on it as heavily as you did. You’ll move on with your life and bipolar will become a side note when you define yourself, because the characteristics will no longer define you.

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About College: The parts that are more valuable than the degree

 

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As tuition prices sky-rocket a lot of people have started asking if college degrees are worth the money. In some ways they are, but the degree itself doesn’t mean much unless you’re becoming a doctor or a lawyer. It’s a piece of paper, a line item on your resume, that over half of the other applicants have on their’s as well.

In my opinion, college isn’t really about the degree. Sure it’s the end goal, you definitely want to get it if you start it, but it’s not the most valuable part. The value of college comes in other activities only available on a college campus. And I’m not talking about a social life. I’m not taking about taking another four years before hitting the real world. I’m talking about the resume items colleges offer.

My resume was beautiful leaving college, at least, beautiful for a kid in her early twenties who had never had a full-time job before. That wasn’t the focus though, you didn’t see the part-time work at the fro-yo place, you saw list of college activities and courses that counted as real world experience.

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Seven Things:

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Happy Thursday! I hope everyone is having a good day. It’s been a busy week for me, but I finally managed to finish this round up. I hope you find something good in it.

  • Millennial are killing… divorce? Finally something good. This article explains why divorce rates are falling, a lot of it has to do with who is choosing getting married. It also adds that cohabiting unmarried couples tend to be unstable, which is something that this book touched on in a chapter that really struck me, actually that whole book struck me, so I feel the need to link it whenever I can.
  • If you’re a Carolina girl (or boy!) like me, you might be interested in getting this cute Carolina Strong T-shirt. 100% of the proceeds go to Hurricane Florence recovery. Mine is in the mail as we speak!
  • This article by The New York Times on Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s “health” brand, is hysterical, in depth, and truly wonderful. It’s the best written article I’ve read in a long time.
  • I didn’t know our grey squirrels were boring or plain until I saw the the Malabar squirrel in India. Talk about having a beautiful animal to dig up your flower bulbs.
  • Speaking of animals and hurricanes, studies have shown that birds can predict them far before us, which isn’t surprising, what is is the fact that they’ll lay their eggs months early to avoid the storms.
  • “Social justice in the shadows” is the title of this article, which is insightful, moving, and also sheds warning. I’d suggest anyone read it.
  • This article could also be titled “even when you sit up straight you’re doing it wrong” and you should read it. Good posture now rids of of bad back pain later, and after Lyme, I’d like to never have back pain again.