From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, January 18, 2016

Do You Have Your "Happy Things" Arsenal?

One of the worst parts about feeling down, for me, is that I feel completely not myself. Feeling sad and depressed is like wearing stilettos in the Amazon, or bringing an elephant to the New York Stock Exchange. It just doesn't feel natural. And then I get frustrated for feeling like I'm not myself, which only adds to the cycle of melancholy.

I don't know about you, but I don't work very well under those conditions. To me its like trying to write while wearing a space suit, or while a ferret is bouncing on your head. I know there are many writers, dead and living, who are able to use these really heavy feelings as fuel for writing, but that's just not the way it works for me. I think sadness and depression can be incredibly important in writing, and I use them as sort of the rods that hook the story to the ground, but they're not the concrete foundation.

Plus its just no fun living that way. 

Caveat: I'm not talking about clinical depression here, and other chemical imbalances. Those issues need to be dealt with very carefully, and if that's what you're dealing with, please don't feel afraid or ashamed to seek help. 

What I am talking about is knowing oneself well enough to know what yanks you out of those slumps and back into feeling your happy, normal self. Have your "Happy Things Arsenal" ready for when those slumps inevitably come.

Here are three things from my arsenal:

Exercise: I never thought I'd say this, but exercise makes me happy. I've finally learned that the begrudging preparation for going to the gym pays off big-time in how I feel when I leave. So I'm recommending exercise, but with this thought in mind: don't listen to/watch what anybody else is doing. And that includes your past self. If you've previously felt obligated to love running, and actually despise it, but secretly love swimming laps, then by all means, SWIM LAPS. If your friends all love Yoga but you love biking, then go biking! Or just take slow walks with your dog, or dive into cross-fit if that's your jam. But essentially, listen to what YOU love, and do that. That's what ends up being sustainable.

Friends and Family: This is an obvious one, but so obvious that I've occasionally found myself forgetting that its there in my Happy Arsenal. I forget that I have a couple people in my life that ALWAYS make me feel better after I talk to them. My mom, my college BFFs. Figure out who those people are in your life and don't take them for granted. When you start sensing melancholy coming on like a bad cold, call them immediately. Maybe even while you're on the way to the gym. It will stop the sadness snowball from causing an avalanche.

Faith: I think sometimes, at least for me, sadness and depression is directly related to imbalanced priorities. It's the whole mountains and molehills thing when you're not looking at things with that clearer perspective. We all know what's most important in our lives, but its so easy to forget. So whatever you do that reminds you of something bigger, that strengthens your felt connections to divinity, do those things. Pray, read the Bible or the Quoran or Wallace Stegner. Watch The Prince of Egypt or take a walk or meditate. Do all those things, or whatever it is that brings you spiritual peace.

Here's the video that directly got me out of my slump this week. It's a talk given by LDS apostle Dieter F. Utchdorf, and though its directed toward young women, I recommend it to all. I personally don't see how one can listen to this talk and feel sad afterwards. In fact, (and I know its 20 minutes so this might be asking a lot) but I'm very, very curious what you guys think of it. I'd love to know in comments:

Write on!



  1. You are so right. There is nothing worse than not feeling like yourself. Being out of it, in the dumps, and just plain sad. It robs you of *you.* I don't know if it is the January blues or what....but I have been feeling that way lately. Thank you for sharing your happy things. Today my goal is to write down some of my own. To really think about the things that make me smile - and rely on them in moments like this.

  2. Those are three powerful weapons to fight depression.
    I do know a lot of writers who work best with emotional strife or sadness, but I am not one of them either.

  3. I watched the whole video! I like it. It sounds a lot like my most recent blog post (though I'm about to write another one).


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