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Happiness is not the only key to Wellness: 7 Ways to be Well when Un-Happy

Our culture is obsessed with happiness. We’re constantly bombarded with advice on how to find happiness. Ads promising products to make us happier. Services flaunting how they “happify” their customers. Happiness is marketed, bought, and sold as a commodity.

But we all know we don’t always wear the same shining smile as billboard models or instagram celebrities. We aren’t always beaming with joy, and it’s foolish to hold ourselves to that standard. In fact, research has shown that happiness is not always linked to well-being; sometimes, in fact, valuing happiness to an extreme is associated with major deressive disorder. It is perfectly possible to be well without constantly being happy.

Our other, un-happy emotions are just as valid – what’s important is how we support and regulate our well-being when we aren’t feeling so great. In this week’s wellness challenge, we’ll focus on one un-happy emotion each day and try a concrete strategy to maintain our wellness as we work through our feelings.

  1. Anger: Journaling is a cathartic way to face and process whatever’s been pushing your buttons. We made a mini-tutorial on how to “anger journal” – check it out here.

  2. Exhaustion: Up-regulating activities, such as listening to soulful and upbeat music, increase our energy when we’re feeling mentally and emotionally drained. Make a playlist of your feel-good songs, plug in some earphones, and jam to it as you go about your day. Heck, throw a personal dance party in the bathroom! (And don’t forget to share your favorites with us.)

  3. Loneliness: Sometimes Zoom check-ins and shared memes just don’t fulfill our need for meaningful and sustained communication. Try starting a pen-pal exchange with someone you’d like to get to know better (this can be yourself!). To keep the conversation deep, you can draw from these 36 questions for increasing closeness.

  4. Stress + Anxiety: Sometimes, less is more – both in our physical surroundings and our headspace. Look around you and remove one thing from each domain. For instance, you can declutter your desk and meditate for 5 minutes to clear your mind. Or, you can do a load of laundry and turn off your phone in the meantime, getting rid of notifications and distractions.

  5. Confusion: Clarity is hard to find in a year as confusing as this one. Take a blank paper/tablet and draw a mind-map of everything going on in your year, including those distracting thoughts that might feel irrelevant. It’s okay if it’s messy; laying out the chaos is the first step to clarity.

  6. Frustration: You’ve tried and tried again, but still haven’t gotten what you’ve needed. It’s okay to take a break before charging up the same mountain. Spend a few minutes taking care of another need you have: make a warm meal, wash your hair, get in a few hours of a shut-eye, do a quick workout. These are successes that deserve to be celebrated, too, on your way to accomplishing more daunting tasks. You’ve got this.

  7. Numbness: It’s perfectly valid to struggle to feel anything at all. But that doesn’t mean the things you normally enjoy have lost their charm completely. Do a simple activity, such as taking a warm shower, that normally brings you pleasure. Move slowly and pay extra attention to your body and your breathing. Stay mindful of how you’re caring for yourself with each action. That said, it never hurts to chat with a mental health specialist either, especially if you’ve felt emotionally flat for more than a couple of weeks.

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