By Genevieve Davis
I am not a naturally happy person. Maybe it’s thanks to my DNA, my brooding astrological sign, some trauma I acquired early in life or a cosmic cocktail of the three but I tend to look at the opposite of the bright side. Everyone has their own innate happiness setting and mine has historically been somewhere between “dark blue” and “perpetually concerned.”
If you met me today that might surprise you. I come across as buoyant and generally pleased to be alive. This is not me being fake. It’s because I have changed my disposition. Over time I have deliberately and carefully repatterned my brain to become a more naturally joyful version of myself. No prescriptions involved.
There have been periods of darkness accompanied by attempts at medication but I didn’t like how they blunted my mind and spirit. I felt like I was moving through the world in layers of bubble wrap. I knew there had to be another way but I wasn’t sure what it looked like. So, I made a study of how to rewire my brain. I read articles, books, watched documentary films, talked to experts, listened to interviews -- all about how to be less bummed. It turns out that happiness is not a divine accident, something that only lucky people get to experience.
There’s no silver bullet. It’s a series of incremental decisions I make every day based on my research and a lot of trial and error. Just like exercising it’s not something done once and, voila, you have a great ass. It takes commitment, but it is possible and accessible. What works for me may not be the exact combination of factors that work for you but here’s my quick (and abbreviated) cheat sheet:
If you do this combination of things on a consistent basis it’s really hard to be totally pissed off at the world or depressed. It’s not gonna change overnight, but shifts will happen. None of these things are expensive or particularly time consuming. You don’t need a fancy gym membership or a plane ticket. It doesn’t cost anything to say you’re sorry when you mess up, but it’ll make you feel a hell of a lot better.
What’s on the list twice? Journaling. That’s not an error, it’s because it has been that important to my process. It’s why I started AllSwell, in an attempt to share with others what I have found to be quietly and radically transformative for myself.
To be clear: I don’t float around in a state of bliss. I still have challenging days but they don’t pin me down any more. I know what to do about it. I go back to my list and gradually my mood shifts.
Despite who I am today, there is who I used to be. I’m grateful to that version of myself because she gave me a place from which to start this journey, a baseline empathy and a tender heart. But I’m really glad to be operating in this world at a higher frequency and if you’re having a tough time I wish the same for you.
Go have some fun and write about it. Need a jump start? Check out the latest round-up of AllSwell Reads below. Click through to meet some amazing people (like you).
Photo by Heidi Zumbrun
Over the past decade the amount of first-class mail has dropped by more than 50%. Not counting holiday cards and invitations the average American household receives just 10 pieces of personal mail per year. Nearly half of British children, according to one survey, have never sent a handwritten letter. In an age of torrential email, incessant group texts and lackadaisical Facebook birthday posts, snail mail has become archaic, almost vintage. But that doesn’t mean its days are over. Read more at the link above.
By Ben Ono
The past 10 years have seen an explosion in the scientific study of happiness. The findings so far are complex and incomplete. But if they could be distilled into one simple prescription for happiness, it would probably be this: say thank you. Gratitude, it seems, is a key—perhaps the key—to feeling more satisfied with your life. It improves your relationships, increases success in the workplace, it’s even good for your (literal) heart. Listen in at the link above.
By Genevieve Davis
“I’ve been journaling since I was a single digit. A family friend gave me my first diary as a gift for my 8th birthday. It was a smallish book with a floral cover and a little golden lock and key so I could keep my thoughts private. In retrospect it was one of the most meaningful gifts I would ever receive. I still have that journal.” Our founder Laura Rubin chatted with Bravo TV about her pen to paper practice and the many proven benefits it presents. Dive in at the link up top.
By Laura Aziz
The time-suck that is Instagram has a literary upside. Go figure. Poetry may be an art form but it’s rarely been a career even for the most legendary poets. William Carlos Williams was a doctor. Wallace Stevens was an insurance executive. Charles Bukowski held a bevy of odd jobs, including work as a dishwasher, a truck driver, a gas-station attendant, and a postal clerk. The poet’s story has long been one of a double life, split between two urgent duties: making a living and making art. With the rise of Instagram, that is changing. Read more at the link above.
Photo by Heidi Zumbrun
Hemmingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober” and we’re pretty sure he meant that literally. But if an artist’s job is to see the world and things as they really are, and to simultaneously imagine something new entirely. Oscar Wilde was not the only artist to proclaim alcohol as a pathway towards both. But does alcohol lubricate our creativity or stifle our best work? Creatives weigh in on how sober stints have impacted their creative process and offer advice for rethinking your relationship with alcohol. Read more at the link up top.