Monday, August 17, 2015

How To Keep Happiness Going When You Know You're Going to Cycle

Happy Monday! My Friday post was a little... um... brutally honest and, while cathartic for me, and perhaps you, if you tried a similar exercise, wasn't the happiest for readers in general. So today, I figured I'd try to be a little more optimistic to start out the week.

Happiness for those with mood cycling is, as I've written before, short-lived at best and elusive at worst. (Hypo)mania doesn't always equal happiness, not by a long shot, and he down cycle obviously never does.  Furthermore, happiness can actually feel uncomfortable for us at times because, in a way, it feels false. We're always wondering when the other shoe is going to drop, or when it's going to slide from genuine happiness into shaky, jittery, anxious, obnoxious (to others) hypomania.

Because of this, I've worked hard on trying to discover ways to ground myself in my happy moments, to value them instead of being afraid or leery of them, and to prolong them as much as I possibly can until genetics takes over and I no longer have a choice. And this is what I've discovered.
  • Surround yourself with amazing people who want you to be happy just as you are. People who truly value you in every mood stage, who don't want to change you or fix you. They know that being your true, authentic self is what will make you happiest, and they support that. 
  • Value YOURSELF exactly as you are, and give yourself some slack. Even on your happiest days, you may have difficult moments. It doesn't mean you're not "doing happiness right". It means you're human, and virtually nobody is completely happy, without one moment of sadness or hurt or frustration or even anger, 24/7. 
  • Choose enjoyable activities that have positive associations. You may love doing a certain activity, but if it makes you think of the ex who just broke your heart or the good friend that just stopped speaking to you, perhaps shy away from it for the moment. You'll be able to do it someday, but today might not be the day. 
  • Bring out your inner child. You know why children are so happy? Yes, they don't have jobs and bills and mortgages. But they also don't have judgement - from themselves or others. They don't care if they're a bad dancer or artist or they're clothes are mis-matched or they're going to get filthy from playing outside or splashing in puddles. They do it because it's fun. Period. Without inhibition or reservations. Sometimes, you just need to let go, goof around, be silly, laugh out loud, and stop caring if everyone is pointing at you (assuming that person doesn't include your boss or law enforcement). You don't have to live your entire life this way. Just a moment here or there. And remember, there are no rules - your fun doesn't have to be anyone else's, as long as it makes you feel good. 
  • Get your sleep, eat healthy, exercise, don't overwork yourself just because you may have the energy to do so, keep your day to day life as balanced as possible, have fun but don't go wild (read: alcohol over-indulgence and all-nighters will increase the chance of cycling downward sooner). 
  • Make note of the little moments that make you smile or giggle or warm your heart. You can do this in a notebook or an art journal or with photos or on a Pinterest board if you feel the urge to share.  Just do it in a way that you can look back on it when you're needing a little extra nudge of happiness.
  • Do something nice for someone else as long as it's not at the expense of yourself. Try it in simple ways: compliment someone, especially if they seem like they could use it; help someone who's lost and looking for directions; hold open the door for someone who has their hands full, even if you're not going into the same building; pay for the toll or the coffee for the stranger behind you just for the sake of adding some niceness to their day. See what happens.  
  • Understand that when you cycle downward, it is not your fault. If you have done everything you know to keep as healthy as possible, you've tried as hard as you can. It's called a cycling disorder for a reason. Beating yourself up over the fact that you're going into a depressive cycle, which genetics makes inevitable, will only make you feel worse. And remember, just as you couldn't prevent your (hypo)manic cycle from spinning downward, your depressive cycle can't last forever either, no matter how much it seems that it may. 
Do you have some go-to tips for helping to keep happiness going as long as possible? As always, I'd love to hear them! 

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