happiness

Finding Happiness

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The past ten years, I have experienced a multitude of highs and lows. Some of my biggest highs being – my first degree in psychology, moving countries on my own and travelling. And some of my lowest lows involved – going down the wrong career path, failed relationships and a lingering feeling of loneliness. Last year I decided to take action and change my most significant “low” – I left my previous profession as a teacher and  returned to University in pursuit of a new career, one much better tailored to my interests and personality. In 2017, I got to this weird place in my life where I was so grateful that I had new path ahead of me, yet, because my life had not panned out the way I expected, I felt angry at the world, at humanity and at life in general. It got to the point where I actually wanted something bad to happen to the earth because I wasn’t happy with my own life. Negativity attracts negativity, and last year I became very susceptible to this. On a number of dates I went on, I would receive the same criticisms over and over – “you’re too introverted”, “too guarded”, “too reserved”. I will never understand how another human being can actually have the audacity to vocalise their judgements and criticisms of another person on a first encounter, but that’s what happened in my case, time and time again.

Luckily, I have had a bit of a revelation just in time for the new year. I was speaking online to someone I had dated very briefly, whom again, felt the need to make their criticisms of me known and heard. And then I realised, I am sick of being weak. I’m fed up of being an anxious person, I’m fed up of caring what others think, I’m fed up of not standing up for myself. I’m tired of hearing and internalising the same continuous criticisms from others. Maybe it’s time to do something about it and make a change.  I decided to stand up to this person and give them a piece of my mind, and it felt great. It dawned on me in that moment, that I have one life, and I don’t want to waste it being spiteful. As cliché as it sounds, I want 2018 to be the year where I find happiness. I don’t want to just be content in life…I want to be happy. It’s time to disconnect from the negative mentality that has skewed my mindset for too long now, and adopt a more productive one moving forward. And I would love to help others who are also going through the same process.

During my ‘low’ phases of life, I would occasionally experience what I can only describe as being “depressed ruts” or “funks”. Sometimes these ruts would last twenty-four hours, sometimes they would last several days, and sometimes they could go on for weeks. Over the years, I have learned several techniques that have helped me break out of these ruts. Below are the main tips I would like to share with you, if they can be of any help.

How to break out of a rut:

  1. Take a break from social media – deactivate it, delete it, just get off it. Various research has found a strong correlation between extended social media use and depression. Browsing through everyone’s ‘highlight reels’ sure isn’t going to make you feel any better about your reality. Just ditch it.
  2. Preoccupy yourself – take up a hobby, a sport, an art, just anything that will occupy your mind. Sometimes too much free time with nothing to do can be incredibly detrimental. It may result in spending excessive amounts of time overanalysing situations and focusing on your emotions. Do something that will distract you.
  3. Exercise – exercise leads to a release of endorphins in the brain, leading to increased feelings of positive emotion. Not only is exercise great for your health, but it also has tremendous effects on the mind.
  4. Vent but don’t create a pity party for yourself – talk to someone about what you are going through. Sometimes you just need to vent and be listened to, no matter how small or mundane the matter may seem. There is nothing wrong with this. However, make sure that your aim of venting is not to get people to feel sorry for you. If this is the case, then you may start relying on others to make you feel better – for them to do and say the right things. But ultimately, it is you that needs to get yourself out of the situation.
  5. Get out – on your own, or with a friend. Connect with nature. Just get out in the world and do something. One of the worst things you can do when you are experiencing a depressed rut is to stay in your room all day long, feeling sorry for yourself. It is more likely this will only prolong and increase the negative feelings you are experiencing.
  6. Put things into perspective – remember that there is always someone who has it worse than you. Make a mental note of all the things you should be grateful for in life.
  7. Treat your rut like a challenge – instead of letting the rut consume you, change your mindset and view it as a battle. Tell yourself that you are going to beat this rut and don’t let it take away anymore of your time.

For the year 2018, not only do I want to diminish my negative mindset, but I also want to become a more happy, and a more confident person. This goal is going to be a bit of a work in progress – but these are the tips I have learned so far and will continue to implement.

How to become more confident and happy:

  1. Keep a journal – use a personal diary to jot down your thoughts and ideas, it’s a great way to organise, clarify and make sense of your thought processes. Also, remember to write down positive comments about yourself. If you tend to be quite a self-deprecating person, writing down just a few things you like about yourself can really help boost your self-esteem.
  2. Be a good person – be kind, and be respectful. Even if you are a shy, guarded, or introverted person, if you treat others well, you will always have this to fall back on. I often try to remind myself – sure, I might be a bit socially awkward, but at least I am a good person and treat others with kindess, and that’s all that really matters.
  3. Keep in good shape – don’t get me wrong, you can definitely be out of shape and still be confident. But I think many of us would agree that when you look great, you  feel great. The past few months I have been going to the gym and have lost a fair amount of weight. I still have a few milestones to reach but overall it really has done wonders for my confidence.
  4. Make eye contact – lack of eye contact with another person can often portray a sense of disinterest and disengagement. This is a point I really want to work on this year because it is something I sometimes struggle with. While it may feel challenging at first, I’m sure in time, it will become second nature.
  5. Be aware of body language – similar to the above point, if you are with another person, and are constantly adjusting yourself/fidgeting, this can often make you seem anxious and insecure. I know this is easier said than done, but try to just relax and hold your head up high. Again in time and with practice, this will probably become second nature.
  6. Smile more – rather self-explanatory. Smiling will make you seem more warm, and others may warm to you faster.
  7. Say ‘yes’ more – put yourself out there, say yes to new experiences and opportunities instead of hiding away. I have always had a bad habit of avoiding certain social situations where I may be put out of my comfort zone. But this year I want to make a conscious effort to say yes to more opportunities and to meeting new people.
  8. Stay away from social media – as with the previous list of pointers, disconnect from the online world. Comparing yourself to others rarely results in positive feelings about yourself.
  9. Try not to care what others think – again, easier said than done. Just try to remember that you only live once – who cares if you embarrass yourself.
  10. Stand up for yourself – stop being weak, stop letting people walk all over you, be strong and stand up for yourself. If someone criticises you or doesn’t treat you well – speak up. Explain yourself, give them a piece of your mind. This can really help you to feel more powerful. Just make sure you have the right intentions when doing so i.e. don’t bite back at someone with the sole intention of putting them down.
  11. Fake it til you make it – this is a tip I have seen a lot online. Quite an ironic one to be fair. Even though I am always myself with other people, I often get told that I am ‘acting’ too reserved. While it is not an act, maybe putting on an act is the best way to go. I feel a bit iffy about this point, but am going to give it a try.

So those are my main pointers on how to break out of a rut, and how to be a more confident and happy person. I hope this post can be of help to anyone who has, and is experiencing something similar. I also hope that these pointers will change my mindset for the better this year and continuing onward. I would love to hear your best tips and pointers regarding your journey in the pursuit of happiness. What do you do to get yourself out of a rut?  And what are your best tips for being confident and feeling happy? Please leave a comment below.

Returning to University at age 25

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For a variety of different reasons, people end up going back to University later in life. I did my first degree in Psychology which I thoroughly enjoyed, however, this degree is limited in career prospects. Because of this, I then completed a Graduate Diploma in Teaching. While this qualification guaranteed me to work as a teacher, I never enjoyed the University course or the line of work. Throughout my short-lived career as a teacher, I would often ponder over the thought of going back to University and starting again. Yet I would always think of reasons that opposed this, because I ideally, I didn’t want to start again. It wasn’t until my third year as a teacher that I realised I could no longer work in the profession; that I didn’t want to live my life unhappy in my career and finally felt the desire to go back and start again.

Once I had made the decision to go back to University, I decided to research what it would be like returning to University as a mature student (although I’m not sure 25 would qualify as being “mature”). I noticed this topic was a search trend on google. Therefore, I thought this post may be useful to any readers considering going back to University in their mid-twenties, and as with most of my blog posts, what the pros and cons of this may be.

Before I delve into the list of pros and cons, I think it’s firstly quite important to establish whether returning to University would be a viable option for you. I believe there are two main factors you need to consider before making the commitment of returning to University in your mid-twenties.

  • Your financial situation. University is very expensive. Many people are already in substantial debt due to previous studies. I think it’s very important to consider whether returning to University is worth the financial burden. Personally, I believe that if you are truly unhappy in your career, then you should change your situation, despite the financial liabilities. However, if you are seriously in debt, you may need to consider other options. It’s also important to find out whether you qualify for any allowances. In New Zealand, if you are 25 and over, you may qualify for a housing allowance, as well a supplementary allowance. While the allowances aren’t much, it is fantastic in the sense that it almost allows people to take a second shot at getting their careers right without having to reach too far into their pockets. Also, if your future career offers a decent salary, this should also be taken into consideration. As a teacher, the salary was relatively low, however, as a dental hygienist/therapist I will be earning almost double what I was a teacher, so this alleviates any stressors of having a small student debt once completing my new degree.
  • Putting your life on hold. When you decide to go back to University, you not only have to put your life on hold in a financial sense, but also personally. If you have a partner and are wanting to start a family, these plans may need to be delayed. Raising a child and attending University won’t be an easy option. However, if you are single, or have a partner, but no plans to settle down in the near future, then you are in a great position to return to University.

If you have made your decision to return to University, fantastic! I have been back at University about a month now, and below are what I have found to be the main pros and cons of returning to University at age 25.

Pros:

  • Increased work ethic. When you’re older, you tend to have less of a desire to socialise and “party”, compared to when you were in your early twenties. All of that is probably out of your system, and as a result you are able to become a lot more focused on your work and motivated to achieve high grades. I have found that I have a much greater work ethic than ever before.
  • Increased confidence. The majority of people at University are around age 18-21. I find that with age, you become more confident in yourself and less concerned as to what people think of you. At age 25, I feel a lot more confident speaking up and do not feel intimated by people that I may have been when I was younger.
  • Feeling better suited to the career path and with your classmates. People tend to know themselves better as they get older and become more self aware. Once you have figured out a career path that is best suited to you, you may find that you fit in better with the ‘crowd’. As a student studying education, I felt no drive and no passion towards the profession and I did not fit in with the crowd. While I should not generalise, I will admit that the majority of people on my teaching course were very loud, extroverted and arty. I remember everyone being so enthusiastic when singing nursery rhymes and demonstrating lesson plans, while I felt completely awkward and uncomfortable.  I have always been introverted and quite a logical/structured person. I find that a lot of people on my current course also possess these personality traits and I see this as being a huge indicator that I am on a career path much better suited to my personality.

Cons:

  • As mentioned before, there are financial consequences of returning to University, as well as having to delay certain life plans.
  • Comparing yourself to others. All of my friends are now working full time, earning an annual salary, being able to save and travel abroad. I sometimes find it frustrating knowing that I will need to wait several years before doing these things again and sometimes feel as though I am slightly behind compared to my friends. Yet, when I hear someone speaking about being unhappy in their job, that tends to reassure me that while I may be behind, it is still worth starting again and getting my career right.

Overall, I definitely find that the pros of returning to University at age 25 outweigh the cons. If you are thinking of returning to University, just make sure you do your research in regards to the financial aspects and find out whether you qualify for any allowances. While returning to University and putting your life on hold may not sound ideal, it’s important to look at your life in the long run. Getting your career right while you are still young is easier than starting again much later in life.