The thing about defeating depression is it can happen at any time, any place, in just one moment. All it takes is a glimpse of a life worth living. A second of a vision of an enjoyable future.
The problem with depression is it feeds on humans. Weakening you as it gets stronger. Without attachment it dies. Depression is lazy though. It will only hang on if you stick around and give it leverage. Its favorite meal is complacency. Complacency a la Misery. Fueled by lack of change.
The best way to kill depression is to try something new. Go somewhere you’ve never been, talk to new people, experience new things. The more explored, the better the chance to meet and recouple with hope, excitement, confidence: supportive partners for a life of success. But how does one find motivation to try new things when even just getting out of bed is a struggle?
When I was miserable, unable to envision a life worth living, I felt it was a win just surviving the day. Not for me, but for my parents, my family, my friends…the only people I was even living for. I thought I didn’t need to waste what little energy I had to find happiness, as long as I was surviving. That living a happy life was an unattainable goal and therefore not worth pursuing at all.
For me, motivation happened by accident. A new medicine added to my collection of pills that caused me physical pain and my idea to just get rid of them all. 15 years on medicine that was supposed to be helping but I felt as helpless as could be. It was my pursuit to “try something new” because it seemed like even less work to not have to take pills. And what is a depressed person’s favorite thing? A way to be even lazier. What was the worst that could happen? I already wanted to die. Lucky for me, my depression was fueled by that medicine. While I do not recommend tapering off medicine as a solution to the general public, for my specific experience being put on antidepressants at only 8 years old, removing the pills was the key that unlocked a world of possibilities. My new life. Cleared from the dark and looming clouds, free to bloom by my own watering.
If you’re feeling stuck, feeling like a joyful life isn’t in your cards no matter how much effort you could put in, all you need is the chance to see it on your own. No one can talk you into a life worth living, you have to feel the spark yourself. Feel the sunshine beyond your depression cloud. And you will. But not in your same routine. Your depression knows this routine too well, it knows where to hide all glimmers of hope. Your depression disguises itself as a trap, but there’s always a way to shake free.
If you feel you have nothing to lose, why not try something new? Walk a different path, follow a new account, find a new subject to learn about. If you can, move somewhere with different scenery, different faces, different activities. If you’re settled feeling unhappy because you believe there’s no other way, why not peek behind the cloud? Your only risk is leaving behind a life you hate.
The best part of defeating depression is how quickly you get to live a life you love. Every single moment post-depression feels like the most fulfilling reward. Seeing with open eyes, hearing with peace & serenity. Confidence in your own power to be and do anything. It’s a new lease on life and one you gave yourself. Now you can find more to enjoy, feel all those good feelings. You can build on this newfound happiness and there are no limits to what you can achieve. You proved that you are all you need to succeed. Your mind controls your life and now you control your mind! Take a moment to imagine a life unburdened by depression. What are you doing? Who are you with? Now chase that feeling because it is attainable and you’re only one step away from finding it.
My mom wrote a powerful piece on gratefulness for this unusual Thanksgiving holiday. A beautiful perspective on how to reexamine loss and appreciate what once was. I talk over and over about “finding the beauty” and “appreciating the little things” but her way of expressing “aggressive gratitude” was a comforting and therapeutic new way for me to appreciate.
She talks about the obvious loss surrounding all of us. Whether that loss be of a loved one, or just the normalcy of pre-COVID times, loss is something people from all over the world are sharing at this time. While there may not be a reversal to loss, she suggests looking at what was had before it was lost. The years and experiences of shared joy with our lost loved ones, or the simple everyday luxuries we might have not had a chance to be so appreciative for before they were taken away. Her words made me dive deeper into my previous ways of practicing gratitude. It’s not just about what we have now. It’s about what we’ve had, what we have, and what’s to come.
I’ve spent a lot of time the past few years thinking about grief as well as gratefulness. As a writer myself, I sometimes wonder what more I can pull from the same topics without sounding repetitive. While most of my writing inspiration comes from my own response to life experiences, diving into the minds of others opens up an entirely new library. Experiences I might not have had yet, or will ever have, but coping techniques that can prove successful for an extensive collection of obstacles. Reading my mother’s words reminded me that even while going through similar struggles, there are many different paths we can take to come out stronger.
Learning from loved ones is always a blessing but sometimes it's about reaching outside our comfort zone. Listening to people we may not agree with. I haven’t always been the best at opening my mind to relationships with people who share different views. Especially as the country stands so divided on views that are life or death for so many. But my father has always encouraged me to take on opportunities to try to understand the views of others. To surround myself with all types of people and keep my mind full with an eclectic collection of knowledge and understanding. I may not walk away with a new friend, but I will always walk away with a new perspective.
While I’m definitely a believer in “living in the moment” and the ease that comes with that practice, I am also very much a person who takes life seriously. I enjoy deep conversation with someone who is willing to share their thoughts just as much as a fun activity. So when I read my mom’s blog post, I felt inspired to share my response. To highlight my excitement when reminded how much more there is to explore within my own mind. And to understand that while I may feel I’ve exhausted every avenue of a certain topic, there is always a different perspective and a different journey to growth. Another aspect of being human that I value so much, the never-ending journey of exploring capabilities.
We all know no one is perfect. There is no such thing as a human who makes no mistakes. Who is “the greatest” at everything and who can guarantee they have no flaws. Humility is a vital quality to the wellbeing of oneself and one’s surroundings. Sadly, a quality our president, leader of the most powerful country in the world, has not tried, let alone mastered. The ability to admit one’s own wrongdoing with an open mind in an effort to learn and grow moving forward is an understanding that comes with maturity.
Think about the last time you got in a debate where the person on the other end held onto their beliefs even past realization they were wrong. Would you have felt better if they admitted they were wrong and asked how they can do better? Or would you have preferred they stick to their beliefs even after they notice their mistake? I am always impressed by someone who is willing to say, “I was wrong. Thank you for teaching me something new.” What is the point of sticking with beliefs that no longer serve us? Truly all we can ask from any human being is to take responsibility and keep pushing to be better.
Change is hard for anybody but stubbornness has never promoted positive transformation. What is the purpose of being stubborn if it prevents you from learning more? Is it out of fear? Maybe it’s more comfortable to sit in what you think you know.
Open-mindedness can carry a person a long way. Exploring new boundaries, enlightening new awareness. Humility is the door to embracing all that awaits. The willingness to take what’s new and what needs change and bonding with that opportunity. To be able to say, “I didn’t understand before, but I’m excited to learn more now.” What is life if we’re not learning? What is freedom without personal growth? What is authenticity without humility?
I see humility as honorable. Honest, authentic and well-intended. Vulnerable and grounded. We, as a country, are having trouble connecting during this time. Seeing eye to eye and uniting on the same front. Too many people unwilling to sacrifice their own beliefs and having conversations, not with an open mind, but to further push their own theories. I hope we can all agree our country needs work. We need change. But what is change without humility?
I wish for more apologies and more of “I’ll do better.” For more people to learn how to listen, and listen to learn. I believe a world filled with people in tune with their own self growth is far more powerful than one filled with people who think they know it all. So let’s show off our humility. Demonstrate maturity in acts of recognition and put aside our ego to better serve ourselves and others.
While uncertainty brings to light what’s important, unknowns have a way of challenging the curious mind. As they say, ignorance is bliss. My dog likely has no understanding of the coronavirus and its current effect on the world. (I say not likely because he’s a secret genius and ya never know!) He still gets to swim in the ocean and hike in the mountains. He still gets fed the same food, three times a day. And while he loves to have playdates with his pals, he is an independent boy whose company with the earth is most vital to his happiness. While his way of life hasn’t been altered enough to notice, his lack of fear or concern for pain of those he can’t see has allowed him to live the same care-free, beautiful life.
I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world. To educate ourselves on topics that prove relevant in our own lives, as well as the lives around us. I think it is our duty as human beings to try to understand what we can and our responsibility to show humility when we lack information. We must take warnings from health officials seriously, even when they don’t feel like a personal requirement. Not to go about life as if we’re trying not to catch this thing ourselves, but as if we have it and will spread it to someone who can not survive it. With that being said, we must also stay calm. Peace of mind always comes back to the idea of letting what’s out of control be. Working with what we have. Motivated, but not reliant, on realistic achievements. Doing our best and being okay with that.
So when it feels like the world is ending, what is important to you? Is it maintaining close communication with loved ones? Reconnecting with lost relationships? Appreciation for the simple things? My priorities have become clearer than ever. I want to help. Help those who aren’t as fortunate as I am. Offer guidance in the ways I feel confident I can give back. Quick recipes for those who aren’t used to cooking at home, but are now confined in “quarantine.” Sharing my at-home workouts for those who can no longer access their gyms and are feeling unhealthy with the frozen meals, chips, and other non-perishables they’ve filled their kitchens with. Providing reviews for hikes in the LA area to inspire solo adventuring. Disconnecting from human contact does not prohibit getting out in nature. Reminding people of the magnitude that comes with light from darkness. How much brighter we shine when we reach the other end of the tunnel. Hugging the light, glowing because we know what it’s like to miss it.
There is a silver lining to all that is being taken from us now. The earth is getting a chance to renew. Dolphins are appearing in the now tourist-free Venice canals. A breath from pollution. Our planet standing strong. The newfound appreciation for company, gatherings and hugs. The joy we will all feel when we can have those back again. The ways we have found to stay connected through technology. TikTok video challenges we can all participate in and never-ending memes circulating to cheer the population. Group video chats and birthday celebrations via FaceTime not only show commitment to our responsibility in reducing our pandemic footprint, but a commitment to each other. A promise to remain in contact while physical contact is sacrificed. We are uniting. It is with love and teamwork that we will prevail. We aren’t there yet, but we will get there. So many innocent lives are being taken from this horrible outbreak, it’s hard to see past the horror. Worried who’s next, grieving lives already lost. While ignorance might be more comfortable, knowledge with hope is more promising. Be smart, stay safe, and think of others. How can you give back? Make adjustments for what’s important. We will get through this, and we will be better because of it.
I recently had one of my oldest, closest friends fly out to visit me in LA. The type of long-term friendship that I consistently choose. Our bond feels unbreakable and in no way pressured by our history. As we have grown up and become more adapted, mature women, our connection has remained aligned. Most of our free time in high school was spent together; slumber partying, going out, even traveling to other countries side by side. Although personal space and time independently are priorities to me, my confidence our time together would be spent preciously and only overwhelmed by joy enabled a 6 night stay.
After our first day of In-N-Out, walking along the Santa Monica bike path, and dog meet Auntie bonding time, we floated into la la land and the conversations got deep. When you know someone for so long, and have shared your deepest darkest secrets, you’re brought to a place of vulnerability where the trust to share everything authentically yourself is guaranteed. Not to mention, we’ve been through plenty revealing stages of life together and seen it all; the good, the bad, the ugly. To be able to just be, no worry if your intentions come out right, if you’ll be misunderstood or wrongfully judged by something you do or say, is the most freeing kind of relationship. Life is already challenging enough, friendships should be rewarding. The longing to feel understood is comforted and at ease when you’re able to simply enjoy time with a friend and feel mutually inspired. Your friends should understand and respect your values as you do for them.
Although sharing similar interests, this friend and I have always been very different in many ways. She was straight A’s honor courses and pushed herself to study challenging material. I was mostly A’s basic courses and didn’t read a single book in high school. She’s the kind of person who would drop everything for a friend in need but be mortified if a friend does so for her. The kind of person who goes to Malawi with the Peace Corps and gets offered a scholarship to Law School because it’s just that obvious she’s going to change the world. I’m the kind of person who cherishes just how special she is and makes it my mission to ensure she doesn’t lose sight of her own charm.
My takeaway from how a friendship could work so well when the partnership involves two entirely different people is this: I am able to appreciate and understand her for who she is without questioning my personal characteristics in comparison. I am able to listen and learn from a different perspective without feeling pressured to adjust my own. There is an unspoken relief in appreciation without obligation for change. No added worry or desire. No lessened value with lack of individuality. These kinds of friends are treasures. Valued for their authenticity and admired exactly as they are.
As much as I may seem like I have the answers to living my best life, most of what living my best life means is never ending growth and learning. Although we might not always hold or fight for friendships with those who differ in beliefs, human interaction assigned truthfully to its purpose can secure a positive takeaway. It’s an important piece of self-development to have an interested, understanding mind and open ears when interacting with different kinds of people and new or unfamiliar perspectives. Every second I forget to listen, I am losing the potential to gain new intel, which is something I discuss further in my post Learning to Listen, Listening to Learn.
Growing up we usually have a more limited pool of people to choose friends from. It’s rare to find people we connect perfectly with in life, let alone from this designated group. We gravitate to friends for different reasons, whether they’re a “good time” to be around, they laugh at your jokes, or you have shared activities bringing you together. As we age out of high school and meet more people from different towns, countries, upbringings, we pick and choose our friends with different agendas. Maybe it’s more important to us now that someone understands our career choices. Maybe our definition of a “good time” changes from laughter and partying to stimulating conversation. The friendships we prioritize when it comes to spending our energy should fulfill our life in a way that suits our needs. Never stop pushing your boundaries and challenging your intellectual beliefs. Remain aware of your passions and stick up for what you believe in, but keep in mind that all sorts of people can be a good friend. Judge less the person you are friends with and focus more on how you feel about yourself when you’re around them. Some of the best friends you’ll have are the ones who offer you a whole new world.
Something that’s hard to admit but I know I struggle with is listening. I believe the kind of listening as an act of compassion is something I am very good at. A friend needs time to vent, I am there to listen, no judgements. I feel confident in my empathetic listening as it is a way I feel helpful and take my time comforting and making someone feel better, which comes naturally to me. The kind of listening where I open my ears so that I can learn is where I am lacking. I have decided to prioritize my focus on becoming a better listener.
For so long I lived a crowded life. Running on high volume with an incredibly loud mind and constant socialization as distraction. My focus as I’ve built an independently happy life has been to be independent. The trauma from my past hindering my openness to help and guidance from others. Feeling if I leave my life in anyone else’s hands, I have the potential of being manipulated and losing sight of my true power, my control. But who says learning from others is giving away my power? Call it “control issues” or call it what it really is, closed-mindedness and unwillingness to learn. Isn’t collecting more information enabling me to have more control? I always have the option to take or leave what is given to me, but to leave a learning opportunity unopened, ignore that gift, is only hurting me. How can I be in power of my growth if I’m not listening?
Earlier this week my friend posted a weight lifting video arching her back. In Pilates your lower back is supposed to stay down and I just recently made the connection with my upper abs to keeps my lower back flat. I try to eliminate arguments from my life. If I disagree with someone, I ask myself if it’s beneficial to anyone to hear my opposing opinions. Can I offer new information in a way that is appreciated or would my suggestions only feel like an attack? If it’s the latter, I bite my tongue. This person is happier with their opinion and I don’t want to take that away from them. Agree to disagree in silence. I have never bench pressed like this friend so I made sure to quickly google the suggested form. With an extremely quick search and a few spotted “no arch” finds, I decided I was knowledgable enough to share my newly learned technique. I reached out with this technique and the hopes of helping her safety and efficiency with her exercise. She explained to me that you’re supposed to have an arched back. For a second, my ego was hurt. I was just trying to help, why so quick to reject my advice? She isn’t listening to me. But then I took a step back. Reminded myself of my mission to become a better listener. Who claimed me the queen of bench pressing when she has been at this for months? Although my initial gut prefers to be right, I’d actually rather learn something new. I told her I was interested in learning about bench press form if she was willing to help me. She was patient enough to explain what she has learned and sent me some articles to back it up. I could let go of my opinion. I listened, let go of my pride and I learned. It may seem like blogging is about helping people, but through social media and interactions with my readers, I get the chance to be helped in return. In this case, I was expecting a helping moment and walked away feeling I was the one who was helped the most. I hope my feeling rewarded is mutual and my friend got something out of teaching me.
It is so easy to get carried away in the industry of motivating. I do feel I have so much to offer and I catch myself interrupting to share insight instead of listening, learning and growing from someone else’s. Every second I forget to listen, I am losing the potential to gain new intel. The opportunity to add to what I can offer. With patience and open ears, I can attain more knowledge to eventually share myself. Isn’t that the mission? To offer any and all advice that can change someone’s life? How is it that I already know everything there is to know? That is the best part of living. We can’t possibly know everything. Each day, every moment, holds opportunity to learn more.
Am I the obnoxiously loud girl? When my parents would remind me to lower my volume in a public restaurant, I used to get defensive. I wasn’t listening to what they were suggesting. They weren’t telling me to quiet my voice, but to be mindful of how I was speaking. I was so quick to deny that I am that girl at the table instead of simply owning my flaws and working towards the person I want to be: respectful, calm, and collected. I am not perfect, perfect isn’t the goal. However, when I notice repetitive behavior that I am not proud of, I know the person I want to be is within myself.
For so long my voice was faded out. Trained by experience not to matter. My mind wasn’t capable of being clear enough to speak anything of value. I was sick, I couldn’t be accountable for my words. Anything I said was “the disease” talking. My words twisted as paranoia or diminished to the retaliation of feeling like the world was against me.
I will not lose my voice now that it’s been found.
I don’t need to be loud to be heard.
My voice doesn’t need to be most powerful to remain in power of my own life.
I will continue to speak, but in addition, I will truly listen.
One of the things I tried not to expect with my move—but is one of the reasons I chose California—is the difference in perspective on making a career focused on benefitting others through health & lifestyle advice. When I talked about it around Boston, I mostly had the response, “So, what do you do for work though?” The most positive reactions I received when sharing my purpose in life were at an event to benefit a non-profit my dad is hugely involved in. I’m not sure if that was just because I was the daughter of the guy who has been so beneficial to the program, or if it was because I was surrounded by a community of people who also strive to utilize their resources to help others who need it. I was hopeful that because so many more people here in California dedicate their lives to health & lifestyle offerings, I would get more encouragement when sharing what I do and aim to do moving forward!
So far when I’ve met someone who asks what I do, I have gotten high fives, even hugs in response! People have asked specific questions and want to know how they can help or be a part of the difference. People have been going out of their way to offer advice on how to get started here and how they would help. I’ve had people suggest quieter beaches to run my upcoming class on positive thinking and activity. I even met an Emmy winner who said he would love to help with video footage if I decided to incorporate that somehow!
It seemed to be the case that when I encountered someone who wasn’t quite understanding the value of what I do, if I took the time to explain further, that person would come around and sometimes even admit they wrote me off at first. The impact that an open mind has on understanding others is huge. It takes mindfulness to listen to someone openly without judgement. Mindfulness takes a whole lot of practice, but the less judgement you carry and the more understanding you can offer, the more peaceful living on a planet surrounded by so many different types of people and views becomes. The people and perspectives we come across are out of our control, but imagine how empowering it can be to substitute curiosity and hopefulness for feeling upset, offended or confused. It is never too late to start believing in a positive lifestyle for yourself and others around you.