A Tactical Tool For Finding Happiness Right Where We Are

April 24, 2020

Photo by Brigitte Tohm 

Today I wanted to share one of my favorite tools for getting out of my head and finding joy/contentment with my current place in life. I have to admit that I do not use this tool nearly as much as I should, but every time I do, I usually feel so relieved.

If you are anything like me, you have a million thoughts buzzing around in your mind most of the time. I know personally, there are a billion things I want to see, experience, overcome, and achieve during my life. Sometimes those thoughts seriously overwhelm me. Kind of to a point where it's crippling... then I end up lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling and having a despair party (which is different than a pity party because I don't feel like a victim - but instead, I feel like a loser who is self-sabotaging my life). Long story short, these episodes are always caused by the same destructive thoughts:

  • "I'm not good enough." 
  • "I'm not doing enough." 

Oy, Nia. We've been down this road soooo many times. I know those thoughts are not facts. I know they don't serve me. I know I've dedicated a lot of time in the past to overcome them... but the shitty thing is, I will constantly have to overcome these same two limiting beliefs. And so will you. That's just how life works, unfortunately. The fact that self-doubt will always be something I battle isn't really the issue. Bad thoughts come and go. Bad days are inevitable. It's only a problem when I let these thoughts consume me and let them rob me of being present or finding joy throughout the day. And my favorite tactic to prevent this from happening is to sit down and do something called a "brain dump".

Eventually, I want to develop the habit of doing a brain dump every single morning because this is one of my top anxiety-fighting skills. But hey, I'm far from having my shit together all the time, so I give myself grace (another thing I want to do much more often). In a gist, this is how a brain dump works. Every single thought swarming around in your mind, you write that bad boy down. That includes everything on your to-do list, that random book you've been wanting to read, things you want to cook for dinner, all the mean thoughts you've been telling yourself, that new job/career industry you think you want to explore, that dating interest you want to tell-off because he/she ghosted you.... literally every single thought that is draining your energy/focus. Write it down, in no particular order. Just as it flows to you (or record yourself talking if you don't feel like writing). I like to start with one big, messy list, and then take multiple sheets of paper and create categories such as: blog, fitness, dance/pole, career, cooking, mental health, entertainment, finances, love life, home decor/cleaning, etc.

Now after you have all of those thoughts out of your head, no longer distracting you, the fun part begins. It is time to prioritize that list! Yeah!!!!! Wooooo!! Why is this so fun for me? Because it helps me calm down and realize that I do not need to accomplish everything on this list so quickly. And it helps me pinpoint what actually matters for that day. I personally only choose 1-7 things to focus on each day. On days when I'm really depressed, I only have one priority and I'm ok with that. It's not like I've ever gone through a covid-19 total shutdown before. On other days when I feel really energetic and healthy, I can mindfully commit to tackling 3-7 of my top priorities. It ebbs and flows.

Check-in with your emotions and take note of what your emotional/physical and financial needs are for the day. Are your basic needs met (food, shelter, transportation, utilities)? Do you feel sick or injured? How emotionally drained are you? Do you have enough money to buy food for next week or pay rent? Do you have extra energy that you can dedicate to a small task such as cleaning your room, doing a 10-minute workout, or having a 5-minute journaling session?

Once you have checked in and reset your perspective, you can prioritize and pick a few things to focus on. Here is a short example of my braindump today:

  • finish Financial Peace University before free trial runs out (3)
  • write and publish blog post (2)
  • fill out one page of my "52 Lists of Happiness" journal (4) 
  • update budget (4b - can do tomorrow if I start feeling too drained)
  • *note to self: take a mental break from dating apps because talking to all these fuck boys is draining me instead of being a source of entertainment/fun. (5)
  • write down my reading wish list (7)
  • vacuum apartment (1)
  • at-home mani/pedi (6a - do at the same time as #6)
  • promote blog post on Pinterest and IG (2b)
  • start Pinterest marketing course (9 - can start next week) 
  • catch up on Blackish (one of my favorite tv shows) (6)
  • read for 20 minutes tonight (8)
  • *note to self: skip dance classes today because my shoulder really hurts (5b)
I make comments next to a lot of the items on my list so I can provide myself with space to push them off to another day. This is important for me to do so I don't feel like a failure if I don't follow the order of my list. 

After my daily brain dump, I feel like I have a mini-game plan that aligns with my priorities. I can relax and focus on one thing at a time. Obviously, things always pop up throughout the day that we didn't plan on, so flexibility is key. The point of this exercise isn't to crank through a to-do list, but to allow ourselves the mental space to find peace without throwing our dreams out the fucking window. Living a fulfilling life will look different for each of us, and it will consist of multiple things/categories. Once we take note of where we currently are in life and remember that growth is really just made up of smaller actions, we can start to enjoy the process again and give ourselves a break.

 I don't need to have accomplished x,y, and z by now just because Suzie on IG already did. We are different people, with different paths and experiences and I'm focusing on creating a life that I love while she is doing the same. The more I remind myself of that, the easier it is for me to be happy here and now while pursuing my goals in a healthy and mindful manner. That's my wish for all of us: growth and fulfillment in a healthy and mindful state. Wishing you all the contentment and joy this week in the midst of this chaos. Thanks for taking a moment to read this post. I hope this activity brings you just as much peace as it brings me. Until next time, my friend. 

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