psychology

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. Negativity attracts negativity, and last year I became very susceptible to this.

Luckily, I have had a bit of a revelation just in time for the new year. 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 have one life, and 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.

The Pros and Cons of being an Introvert

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I have always held the view that one’s level of natural or inherent introversion or extroversion is part of their core personality. I believe that one’s level of introversion/extroversion can be altered or improved to an extent, however, I do not believe that it is possible to ‘fully’ transform traits that are part of your innate personality, especially to the opposite end of the spectrum. I have always been an introvert, although my level of introversion/extroversion changes depending on the social context with which I am in. For the most part, I would say that 10% of the time I am an extrovert (usually at drinks or clubs), 20% of time I am an ambivert (usually when I am hanging out with friends, going to cafes, for walks, and so forth), and 70% of the time I am an introvert (almost always during formal settings – such as school, university or work). While I feel content being an introvert and believe there are various benefits of being introverted, there are also a wide array of challenges to this personality trait. Let’s begin with the positives…

Pros:

Deep thinking:

Introverted people tend to spend a lot of time observing and analysing situations, thinking logically and analytically. Introverts generally enjoy deep and intellectual conversation over small talk. They are seemingly curious about the world around them, how things and people work.

Talk is meaningful:

Because introverts are usually deep thinkers, when they do vocalise their thoughts and opinions, they tend to be well thought out and meaningful. Introverts usually don’t talk, just for the sake of talking.

Being self-aware:

Introverts tend to engage in a lot of introspection, analysing themselves, trying to figure out why they are the way they are, or how certain personality traits developed. For this reason, introverts are generally quite self-aware and have a good idea of who they are as a person.

Enjoying your own company:

Introverts feel content being on their own and tend to enjoy their own company. One of my favourite feelings in the world, is to wander around somewhere on my own in my free time, being alone with my thoughts, not having to compromise with anyone. That feeling of being completely and utterly free is a state which I highly value, as they are the times I am able to organise my thoughts and gain clarity.

Scarcely feeling alone:

Because introverts tend to enjoy their own company, this means they seldom feel lonely. One thing I have learned over the past few years is that there is a notable difference between being alone and being lonely. Even though I spend a considerable amount of time on my own, this does not mean that I feel lonely. As long as I have at least one or two ‘constant’ friends i.e. someone that I feel comfortable talking to and confiding in on a regular basis, then I’m happy.

Being accepting and empathetic:

Because introverts are prone to being misjudged as ‘weird’, this tends to make them more empathetic and non-judgemental of others, because they understand what it is like to be misjudged themselves. I have found that I usually connect more with people that are most likely to be perceived as being socially awkward or shy because I feel an instant sense of empathy for them.

Being comfortable with silence:

Because introverts tend to enjoy being on their own, this means they are usually quite accustom to silence and quiet environments. Introverts are therefore more likely to feel comfortable during silent moments compared to their extroverted counterparts who may talk to fill the silence.

Always being prepared:

Introverts like to be well-prepared – in regards to attending events, appointments, lectures, exams and so forth. I find that I check my belongings several times before I’ve left the house to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything, and usually turn up to lectures or appointments at least half an hour early. I struggle to recall the last time I was actually late for something. I have added this point to the list of pros, as being well-prepared also demonstrates that introverts tend to possess a sense of reliability.

Cons:

Overanalysing:

While I would consider deep thinking to be a positive attribute, on the other hand, introverts may think too much. For as long as I can remember, it has always taken me at least three hours to fall asleep every night, because I cannot switch my mind off. I tend to spend absurd amounts of time pondering over some of the bigger questions in life “what is the meaning of life? How was the universe created? Will we ever be able to manage climate change?”. Thinking about these topics on frequent basis can make you feel like your brain is in overdrive a lot of the time.

Being pre-judged and misjudged:

Because introverts are usually quite independent and withdrawn, this can sometimes make them difficult to read. I have found that the biggest con to being an introvert is the fact that I am constantly being pre and misjudged. There have been several occasions where I’ve been told I come across as “cold”, “distant”, “reserved”, “conservative”, even “snobby!”. While I am fully aware that I can come across this way when I first meet someone or when I don’t feel completely comfortable around them, once I do feel comfortable enough to come out of my shell, then a totally different side of my personality arises (one which not many people have seen). Unfortunately, it can be difficult trying not to internalise the criticisms of others, especially when you hear the same insults over and over. What I have found, is that extroverts are usually more likely misjudge and perceive introverts in a negative sense because they don’t understand them, whereas introverts tend to ‘get’ other introverts and their quirky personality traits –  so even though some people won’t get you, there will always be others who do.

Dating can be difficult:

Being misjudged, and taking a considerable amount of time to ‘be myself’ around another person can make dating difficult. We now live in a world where everyone seeks instant gratification, if someone doesn’t feel that sense of gratification on a first date then they will most likely give up and move onto the next. It seems rare for people to really give each other a chance anymore.

Needing to be alone to recharge:

While I do not think that needing to be alone to recharge is a negative attribute, I have only added it to the list of cons due to the negative perception other people may have of this behaviour. While extroverts require social interaction to recharge, introverts prefer quiet and solitude. During my lunch breaks, while most people sit, chat and eat lunch with their peers or colleagues, all I want is space. Sometimes I get paranoid that people will judge me for being rather anti-social, but with age, I care less and less about the perceptions of others. I’m at a stage now where I just don’t really care what others think – if someone chooses to prejudge me on my introversion, I figure that is their problem, not mine.

Feeling like you don’t fit in:

Introversion can sometimes be self-detrimental due to the tendency of excluding yourself in certain situations. For instance, if I am in a room with a group of people I am unfamiliar with, I automatically go into quiet mode while the other people happily and so naturally converse, chat and joke with each other. This can sometimes make me feel like I am the odd one out and that I must be a bit ‘socially weird’. In these situations I just try to remind myself – sure, some people can be themselves from the get go, that’s great! But there are plenty of other people out there who take time to open up, and that’s perfectly fine too, so try not to be so hard on yourself!

Not standing up for yourself:

When encountering socially confrontational situations, introverts tend to go into flight mode instead of fight mode. Unfortunately, this means that introverts can sometimes be walked all over because they don’t bite back or stand up for themselves. One of my ultimate pet peeves in life, is when someone unnecessarily speaks to another person aggressively, with an attitude or with tone in their voice. No matter how stressed out you are in your own life, I don’t believe this gives anyone any legitimacy or right to take it out on those around them. While I am comfortable standing up for myself with people I feel comfortable around, I sometimes wish that I could also do this with people I am not so comfortable with.

Being overshadowed:

Being an introvert means that sometimes your work, effort and accomplishments go unrecognised. I remember in the last school I was working at in Australia, one of my colleagues was incredibly vocal, and frankly quite eager to brag about the work she had done, and in turn, got recognised and praised for this. Yet, much of the work and effort I had put in went completely unrecognised because I never vocalised what it was I had done, I just kept it to myself.

Overall, even though there are a fair few more cons to this list than pros, I would still never change being an introvert. All that I wish, is that we lived in a world that was a little more accepting and understanding of differing personality traits, a world where there wasn’t such a negative stigma attached to being introverted. Remember, just because you are introverted, doesn’t mean that you are weird – studies have found that 16-50% of the population are introverts, so if it is any reassurance, you are not alone, there are actually many of us in the same boat!