Is depression just a mindset or is it just a chemical imbalance?

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This titles a tease, because it’s both. But the internet has been arguing about it lately, so I thought I would roll up my sleeves and dive one in.

This argument has been around for a few years now, it’s been talked about enough that I felt the need to put a disclaimer on my “How to Embrace a Happy Life” post that talked about how beating depression isn’t as simple as choosing to be happy, even though there really shouldn’t have been a way to get that from the post.

People who fight depression have gotten sick of hearing those kind of lines, which is completely understandable. What isn’t understandable is the argument that depression is only a chemical imbalance that doesn’t have much to do with mindset.

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How to Embrace a Happy Lifestyle:

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Happiness is not a destination you can reach, it’s a lifestyle you have to live.

Once you realize that no matter what you achieve you always find yourself saying “I’ll be happy when…” you start to shift your perspective on what happiness actually is. No matter what our dreams tell us, we all know that there isn’t going to be a magic point and time where we are completely happy. The reason we hang onto this hope is because looking back at our past we can point out years when we were. Our memory tends to throw out the bad days sprinkled in our good months, and it’s a good thing, looking back we can say that that was what happiness feels like, but you need to have the perspective on those times. Even your best times had nights you cried yourself to sleep.

So, if we can’t all of a sudden make it to happiness how to we become happier? Happy is a lifestyle, and it’s not one anyone can maintain 24/7. What all does this lifestyle entail?

Happiness is hard work, especially when your life isn’t making it easy. I’ve always been amazed by loved ones who are happy while going through hell on earth. You always marvel and ask them how they are doing it. The answer you normally get is along the lines of “I just decided to be happy.”

It isn’t that easy, but it is that simple. Here are some ways to embrace the happy lifestyle:

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10 Questions to Ask Yourself when Looking for Direction and Identity:

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Everyone gets in a bit of a rut sometimes. Whether it’s with who we are or what we’re doing in our lives we feel at a loss sometimes. We think we’ve moved past it only to find ourselves facing this problem all over again. Everyone says to write out our goals, and it helps a lot, but that’s not always enough. We need a lot more than that to help get us out of these holes. These questions are just the tip of an iceberg, but lets talk about what you really need to be asking yourself at these times.

  • If you got the life you wanted and ended up still being unhappy what would you do to change it?
  • Which friends do you find yourself wishing you were more like?
  • If someone were to write a biography about you what would you want them to know that they might not know from watching your life second hand?

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Internally Happy.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness recently, about what it means, how to get it, and how to keep it. I’ve even been reading about it.

Happiness is achievable, we’ve all been happy before. We know it’s real, we know we’ll feel it again. The problem with happiness is it never seems to last as long as we want it too. In fact, it often feels fleeting.

When people say they want happiness in life, they mean for life. And that’s a tall order, in fact, it’s impossible. But still, here we are wanting. So what can we do to hang onto happiness longer, or at least regain it quickly after it leaves?

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Back to the Girl I Was:

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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve strayed from who I was when I was little. Certainly life has taken me on a different path. Seven year old Anna was completely confident, unapologetic, and so energetic. The confidence and unapologetic ways were stolen from me at age twelve from aggressive bullying. But like things do, they recovered, they grew back. I wouldn’t say they are stronger, but they are here.

I’ve always had this idea that we have core traits programmed into us, that our childhood selves can tell a lot about who we will become, not because we won’t change, but because some things will always come back.

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Advice to Take to Heart:

215Someone is going to ask me about my phrasing, but there is just something about being at peace and in complete bliss that makes you feel light, like your soul weighs less. The weight of the world no longer seems so crushing.

My life has been improving consistently in the past three years. You could say adulthood is treating me well, but a big part of it is I’ve learned how to treat myself well. That right there is an under appreciated art form.

Here are my top tips to do just that:

  • Clean Out: Delete friends off social media that you don’t actually enjoy seeing on your main page. Delete old text message conversations. Clean out your contacts on your phone. Go through your desk, vanity, and closet. Get rid of the stuff you haven’t even thought about using in the past few months. Get rid of the weight of the past and make room for the things you actually need.
  • Make the Effort: You know that friend that you love but never see? Those people who you’ve always wanted to get to know but never have? Make the effort for them. Don’t do any of this “they’ll text me first” nonsense. That doesn’t work anyways, if everyone waits for someone to text them first no one would ever talk again. People are busy. You are busy. Make time for one another.
  • Journal: Blog, Photo journal. Do something to release the feelings and the memories. It’s a great way to distress and an even better thing to go through later on. You’ve felt this before, next time you do you can read yourself through how you got through it.
  • Stop Feeding Your Negatives: Stop reading the sad novels every time you pick up a book. Unfollow the depressing blogs. Download happier music.
  • Believe Your Beautiful: Tell it to yourself every time you look in the mirror. Check yourself out. Wear things that look good on you. When struggling, you just have to fake it till you make it.
  • Get Lost in Nature Every Now and Then: It’s easy to forget what being still means in a city. It’s important to emerge yourself in the great outdoors. Talk about distressing and recharging.
  • Engage: If you’re going to be on Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Twitter, than comment, send people pm’s. There’s a study that proves that people who interact on social media are happier than those who do not.
  • Wash your Towels and Bedding More Often: This sounds a little silly, but honestly it’s such an underrated pleasure.
  • Do Something New: There is more to life than just living, right?
  • Learn to Laugh it Off: How many posts do you see about “remembering the embarrassing thing you did three years ago”? And how often does something like that ruin your day. Everyone makes mistakes. You looked stupid. It’s okay, it’s all good, and in a movie you would laugh at it. Do it now. Let it go. Force yourself to the next topic.
  • Drink More Fluids: Water is the best, but tea is almost as good. Just rinse out some of those toxins.
  • Get Inspired: Read a book on something you strive for. Read a blog. Listen to a friend of role model. Listen to a tedtalk.
  • Set Realistic Goals: It’s nice to dream big. Hell, you should dream big. But make your goals possible. Nothing is more discouraging than planning for a one in a million chance and not getting it. High hopes, realistic expectations.
  • Let God into your Life: This can mean different things to different people. Figure out what it means for you.
  • Never Stop Creating: It doesn’t matter how good the end result is. It’s good for the soul, and it’s good for the mind.

Sky High

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My senior year of high school I remember thinking “what if I’m never this happy again.” I was honestly terrified of that. I had great friends, a boyfriend, and felt carefree. Freshman year of college struck and I lost my boyfriend to a break up and almost all my friends to school. It was not an awesome time, definitely not the “great college life” that everyone talked about. I spent all of sophomore year repairing it, and I mean all of it, the last half of it, I could feel full happiness on the horizon. I made friends, I found old ones, I kick started back into my hobbies.

This semester I found full happiness, honest to God every part of me bloomed. There are still a few things that could improve, but honestly I couldn’t be happier with where I am. My self confidence completely morphed. My friendships are so much more meaningful. I’m doing well in my studies, career plans, and hobbies. It’s beautiful in my soul.

And the beautiful thing is: I’m not afraid of losing it. Because a lot of the things I gained, can’t be taken from me. Life will surely try to sink me again, and I’m sure there are times that it’ll be far from sunny outside, but nothing can kill the sunshine I’ve got in my soul.