Life is a journey, and change is the only real constant we can count on. We each, as individuals, can move in one of only two directions: We can progress and grow alongside life’s curveballs, or we can become stagnant and brooding and watch the world pass us by.
We all want to keep moving forward, to keep progressing and claiming our own share of the happiness this world has to offer, but life’s little setbacks can get in the way. They might even stop us in our tracks. Stagnation is an easy rut to fall into, especially when we’re feeling discouraged or hurt. We may feel frozen in sadness, indecision or fear.
What’s worse, we may settle in our grief because all other options might feel impossibly difficult. We can become so emotionally empty, that even the smallest effort to resume forward movement can feel like taking on Mount Everest.
We can become comfortable in the rut, trapped and miserable as we might be, because it often feels easier than facing the painful climb back up and out. The hard truth is we may have to force ourselves to let go of that comfortable agony and be willing to accept and push through a bit of added discomfort if we want to continue forward.
I remember after I first left my ex, how mired I felt by feelings of betrayal, resentment and loneliness. I felt no motivation to do anything. Nothing brought me pleasure. The world felt colorless and empty. All I felt I could do was sit and ruminate, immobilized by my despair.
But that’s where part of my story begins. I sought counseling, and my therapist suggested I take a few different steps to reconnect with myself and find freedom from my brooding:
- Set a daily routine and stick with it, even if it feels excruciating at first.
- Learn and practice mindfulness.
- Make a list of once-enjoyable activities, and then make it a point to spend time doing at least one of them every week—no matter how much of a chore they might feel like.
I made my list and penned at least one activity into my calendar each week. For a good couple of months, I forced myself to engage in activities my therapist kept insisting would eventually return my joy to me. I felt like I was floating through the motions, barely there. If anything, doing them felt like a hassle, even though I knew, deep down, doing something was better than nothing.
I stuck with it, even though I didn’t want to. It felt so pointless. Still, I kept to it.
Then, one evening, I was making jam. It had felt like the last thing I wanted to do at the time, but I’d remembered finding the necessary skimming and stirring motions meditative, so I pushed myself to get to it. Nothing could have prepared me for the breakthrough joy that finally hit as, once again, I went through the motions.
The feeling was so overwhelming that I found myself standing in the middle of my kitchen, sobbing, struggling to handle this sudden and unexpected moment of pleasure.
I didn’t go straight to becoming a happy, motivated person as a result of that one moment but it did start me on the path toward rediscovering myself and embarking on a journey toward self-love. One positive milestone led to another, and before I knew it, I was reclaiming my joy, one moment at a time.
I enrolled in yoga and meditation classes, and I began to practice both daily. I took steps to improve my finances and work-life balance. I took my life back by the reins and took ownership of my future.
Looking back on where I was just a few short years ago, I want to sing about my success from the mountaintops: I survived, and so can you—but you must be willing to dig deep, push through and find your strength. It’s in there, even if you can’t see it quite yet.Getting started is the hardest step, and then there are those first few months that feel pointless and exhausting, but they are the down-payment of the most valuable investment you’ll ever make. Think about it: How much money would you be willing to spend to get your life back? What’s a few months of added discomfort, when the payoff could be priceless?
It’s time to cut away your bars and abandon your cage. Only you can do this.
And you can do this.