Last night as I drove home in the evening sun from college along the country lanes – the golden fields glowing alongside me and the sunset illuminating the sky in magnificent pinks and oranges, Usher “Yeah” came on the radio (remember that classic?). So, of course I cranked it up and busted out all of my moves that were legally possible whilst driving down country lanes at an average of 60 mph! I realised in that moment of nostalgia and joy, that I was feeling happy. I felt good and content, and life felt good – just as it had earlier that day as I wiggled my toes in the warm sand at the seaside with friends.
In these moments I not only felt happy, but I also felt confident, peaceful and excited to be alive.
Feeling confident, happiness, joy and contentment aren’t always easy emotions to experience – especially if we are prone to anxiety or depression, paranoia or insecurities (and anything in between). If we have lost someone, or a relationship or job we loved has ended, joy and happiness seems to feel so out of our reach. I know all to well that in these seasons of life, the good times can easily pass us by, especially if we fail to acknowledge them and embrace them.
This week has been/is mental health awareness week. Having had my own bouts of depression, grief and insecurities in my lifetime, I could quite easily sit and write several posts about what that means to me and perhaps can mean to others. I could write thousands of words about how we need to support others, listen and help strengthen them in dark times and broken states – it is something I feel so strongly about. But this isn’t what this post is about. This post is for you – you who struggle to notice the good times in life, or seem to find that happiness and “it’s good to be alive” thoughts to be out of your reach (or at least few and far between).
It came out of my own self awareness that I had last night in my counselling course. I have been aware for a while that I have a tendency to see the negatives in life and can fall into negative thought patterns and that often that is talked about over the good times in life. Studying about endings last night highlighted that again for me.
What do you think about when you hear “ending”?
Up until last night that word for me meant sadness, loss, grief, lonely and anxiety – all negative and dark feelings. But look at it again – Ending means finale, which is often the best part and highlight of a play. It means a new chapter, new opportunities, change and adventure.
Suddenly turning it around and seeing it in a new light, the sad and darkness is replaced with light and excitement – you feel hope instead of hopeless.
Often in life situations are about how we look at them and being aware of our default. I am aware more than ever that I fall into negative thoughts and so more than ever it is so important to acknowledge the good times in order to get out of that and bring balance. Because, having been in both the darkness and the light, I realise now that both are equally as important to acknowledge. Mental health awareness is about being aware of how things, moments and people make us feel…even things as finite as the meaning of words and how we take that. In order to have a healthy mind, contentment and joy in life, you have to recognise the impact of each of these things on your mood and well being – then you begin to see the toxic people/situations, the places that create anxiety and negativity, the people you follow online that make you feel insecure and not enough, or the food that makes you excited to eat. You can begin to choose to unfollow or create distance, and you can choose to spend time on the film that brings you joy to watch, or the friends that make you feel enough and help you to laugh!
Why we need to acknowledge and embrace the good times
It isn’t always easy to be able to acknowledge the good times and moments and then embrace them – especially when life is dark and hard or high stress! But as we do, and as we embrace them more and more, we will notice significant health benefits, confidence, and self awareness. Here are some of the reasons I see as to why we need to be acknowledging and embracing the good times in life for better mental health.
Anyone who has been depressed, anxious or low, knows all too well how tired, ill and detached you feel. You can develop stomach pains/ulcers, headaches, aches and pains (to name a few). Acknowledging moments of happiness and delight, increase our serotonin and give us more good feelings. They counteract the effects of low mood and anger, and help us to feel invigorated.
Shows you life isn’t all bad!
Following the loss of Poppy, life felt like it wasn’t worth living. I was utterly distraught and broken. I thought I might never laugh or feel joy again. Taking time to breath in the sea air, or close my eyes and feel the sun on my skin, opened me up to feel happier feelings. These grew into allowing myself to feel joy with my family or at the cinema… a concert and out with friends. Moments turned into days and each one of these, whether it was a walk in the woods, a pretty view, a tasty treat or time with friends and family, helped me to be assured that life isn’t all bad.
There are bad moments in life. Heck there are terrible and traumatic moments that leave us broken and hopeless. But acknowledging the good times showed me that there are also lots of good and happy moments too – and it can do the same for you. Choosing to embrace them gave me reason to live, and helped me to go another day. It helped me to be aware of what in life makes me happy, and how to seek for that in moments and weeks of difficulty going forward.
Helps you connect to what brings you joy
As I just touched on, acknowledging the good times in life; like realising as you drive along in the sunset dancing to usher feels good and clears your mind to helping you feel invigorated for a moment, goes a long way to learning about and connecting to the things that bring you joy. Knowing these things, will always serve as a lifeline when life is hard and emotions are low.
I wrote a whole post here a little while ago about this for that very reason. We not only get to know ourselves, but we get to be able to distinguish between what is bringing us down, and what is lifting us up. If you aren’t sure what in life brings you happiness and joy, I would suggest grabbing a notebook or piece of paper and start scribbling things down. Anything from a song, to a walk on the beach or wearing your hair a certain way – awareness of these is such a source of strength.
Helps you to live in the moment
One thing that has really affected my life as I have studied to be a counsellor, has been about living in the here and now – after all, it is all that we have and are sure of. The past, however hard it has been, can seriously push us down to some awful places if we continue to relive it. Acknowledging feelings of happiness and joy pulls us into the present and helps us to distinguish between how we feel now, to how that makes us feel now. It also grounds us from wishing life away for things out of our control as we learn we can create and feel joy and contentment in the here and now. It is empowering.