It’s easy to go through a normal week of routine and wallow in the pain of the moment. With so many minor pieces of your day and week that don’t go exactly as planned, it’s common for people to internalize and catastrophize small obstacles.
Instead of telling someone or yourself to minimize the seriousness of the struggle, instead focus that energy on remembering things that did go your way. Find aspects of your life experience to be grateful for. Be thankful for the myriad of good things and details that far outweigh the bad.
Like I’ve done below, grab a piece of paper and jot down 3 things that make you incredibly happy and the exact reasons why they elicit that kind of response from you. This exercise will go a long way in helping you realize that there are things in life to be happy about and the reasons they make you happy can teach you additional strategies for finding your happiness elsewhere by employing similar methodology or recognizing common threads.
80s/90s Pop Culture
In times of trouble, I always find myself retreating back to the last sane moment I ever knew. I am grateful that my childhood was full of happiness and toys and sprite-based video games and parents who loved me. Because of this, when I’m feeling stressed, anxious, hopeless, or lost in a sea of negativity, I turn to 80s/90s pop culture to fill the emotional void.
In recent years, nostalgia has been a big business. Why would a flailing company or movie studio not lean on rebooting, re-releasing, or re-packaging their existing properties when they know there is a market of 30-40 year olds who will buy it up with grins on their faces?
I’ve just always held a torch for this era of pop culture and it spans many different mediums from the late 80s into the mid-late 90s. Whether it be advertisements, discontinued snack foods, movies, television shows, toys, music, video games, clothing, board games, or sports equipment, there’s a place in my heart for that whole aural ambience and aesthetic.
As you may or may not know, I’m “sort of” a collector of these kinds of material things and memories. I say “sort of” because I’m far to OCD and minimalistic to actually be a “collector” of anything. I’m not a completionist in that regard. I have having stacks of things. I hate clutter. I’m all about the aesthetic appeal in a controlled, manageable dose that makes me happy.
That’s what this whole post is about, things that make me happy. These trinkets on my desk, music on my Spotify, movies on my Amazon Prime, posters on my wall, and cartridges in my Super Nintendo make me genuinely happy and remind me of childhood times that were simple, happy, and care-free. Looking at, touching, and hearing all of these pieces of memory inspire me creatively and make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. That always seems to be the feeling that I’m chasing and it’s nice to have a few material objects that help get me there.
Driving down the Road in Autumn with the Heat On, Music Blasting, and the Windows Open
Even though fall is the most fleeting season of all, it’s also the most romantic. The smell in the air and the cool crispness of the breeze are extremely nostalgic and familiar to my senses. Football and Hockey return. A road winding into the distance surrounded by dramatically-colored leaves is a common sight. My weekends are filled with pumpkin patches, hot cider with bourbon, and lots of ginger snaps.
My favorite part of the fall season, however, is a very personal experience. Living out somewhere between truly rural and kind of suburban southeastern Pennsylvania, wooded roads are all around. There’s nothing like a cold, late October night, a great album, the windows rolled down and the heat blasting while you twist and turn down a dark road in your car.
There’s something about that experience that floods my head with so many layers of memories, inspiration, and outright joy. It is an experience unique to temperate deciduous regions of earth, but it’s a quiet moment that every living person should experience at least once.
Solo Hikes with Headphones On
Much like the above event, hiking by yourself is extremely personal. You’re breathing heavy and you’re sweating as the music pumps in your ears. You look around and catch a glimpse of a random bird, squirrel, chipmunk, even a wild turkey or deer on rare occasions. You walk up hills and alongside creeks. You stop to take a look at a family of ducks sliding through a pond. All is at peace and all is at one.
Not only are solo hikes great exercise and great for your mental wellbeing, they give you time to think and appreciate the minute details of life. All the trees and plants and animals are existing in this space with you and the serenity of the moment is a shared experience.
I don’t think I look forward to any type of exercise more than I do hiking alone.