Please help me regain some happiness in my life.
October 19, 2011 1:26 PM   Subscribe

Please help me regain some happiness in my life.

K, so I'm going to sound like a self victimised d*ck here, but here goes.

My sister told me a great line the other day. She said 'is there anything in my life that is or should be making me feel blue/depressed'. It's a sound statement and there really isn't that much in my life that should make me feel blue. And yet I'm just not feeling that happy these days. I'm 22; I'm not pessimistic, though I have been called cynical before.

I've recently finished university and got the grade I was hoping for and last week I passed my driving test. Both things have made me really happy. But in general I still just feel unhappy (it's almost as if nothing I do is good enough any more). I have enough motivation to continue eating healthily and doing bits of exercise here and there but little else. I'm currently doing temp work and am looking for a full time job (preferably something to do with what I studied at uni).

I suppose my question is can someone give me some advice on how I can seek out lasting happiness (whether it be some helpful comments or just a reminder that I need to bog wash some sense into myself.)
posted by sockpim to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
have you considered the possibility that you are clinically depressed?
if so, there is no one line answer.
posted by Flood at 1:30 PM on October 19, 2011

Depression is not reserved for people who have a lot of bad things happen to them. It's a real thing that you may be suffering from (mildly). You may find it helpful to talk to a doctor or a counselor.
posted by Gator at 1:31 PM on October 19, 2011

Echoing everyone else, you don't need to have a reason to be Depressed. (the medical condition) Mention it to your doctor and see what he says.

If you absolutely need a reason.. you just made a huge jump from "student" to "worker".. even if you worked before. Until now your profession was student. This is a big change, and while you might not feel as though it is, perhaps your subconscious does. You are no longer who you've been the last 22 years. It's a big deal to be an Adult. (not in number of candles on your cake but in action)
posted by royalsong at 1:40 PM on October 19, 2011

I remember reading an article recently which said that a common trait many happy people shared was a sense of purpose, whether in work, in their family relationships, etc. (sorry, can't find it at the moment).

Could this be part of it? That you're doing work you don't find fulfilling, and after a transition from university you're unsure of what your purpose is? Maybe meet with a career counselor or spend some time thinking about ways to integrate the components of a dream job into a practical career. For example, continue working at the bank (or whatever) but volunteer DJ at the local uni radio station at night.

Also--don't underestimate what royalsong said. Being an adult is kinda really hard sometimes, and no one tells you that; you might be in 'surviving' mode instead of 'thriving' mode right now, mentally, after a big transition like the one you just had.
posted by stellaluna at 1:56 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I remember reading a line in my world religion class concerning Buddhism. I too was going through a down time in my life. I can't remember verbatim but… "Just as times of happiness do not last forever, neither do times of sadness." I felt I was depressed at the time as I didn’t have any friends and was stuck in a crap situation. That line really stuck out for me. It gave me hope, no more than that, a knowledge that my time of sadness will pass and I will eventually be happy again. I toughed it out through my period and things go exponentially better within a year. I think one important thing is to first, realize your situation is temporary – as I did when I read that line from my text book. Just that realization alone might give you the backbone to get through the days until your situation changes. You want lasting happiness, but realize there are ups and downs, and right now you are just on a down period.

Another thing that helped me while on my down period was exercise. You say you do a little of it already, which is good. I would even take it one step further, maybe join a local gym and try to hit it every other day. Challenge yourself and get a weight lifting regime. Funny thing about exercise is it has effects on other parts of your life if you put in the work. After I started going to the gym (and I never did before), I started gaining muscle, this in turn made me lose body fat and made me look a bit better, which in turn makes you feel more confident as clothes fit better and the opposite sex takes more notice. After awhile, I would feel “off” if I didn’t work out. Confidence is a great catalyst to happiness and new opportunities.

Now, about 5 years later in my late 20s working in the cubicle farm – I am happy. Things can be better, but I have a lot of things that are great in my life and for that I am happy. The jump from student to non-student is a tough one, but people do it all the time. Good luck! Also, look up Less Brown on Youtube as he is an awesome motivation speaker.
posted by amazingstill at 1:56 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, dysthymia isn't just for the people with Big Problems. I fought the diagnosis for a long time because I wasn't unhappy most of the time. Or so I thought, till I started being happy more of the time.

Also, transitions are super hard. Go easy on yourself. And congrats on your recent accomplishments!
posted by ldthomps at 1:57 PM on October 19, 2011

Happiness is overrated. If any of us thinks about life's minutiae for too long, I bet we would feel inadequate or unsatisfied or even depressed. I try to separate out what I can control (not happy with my job, what can I apply for?; not happy with friends, who have I not heard from in a while?, etc.) and what is handed out by the universe (grumpy fellow-subway riders, all-day rain). All it takes is a small pleasure to turn my day around--such as this. Are you satisfied with the direction of your life? Are you proceeding toward a goal? It sounds like you are, so don't feel like you have to have the life of an A-list celebrity in a glossy magazine. That, and what the posters say above me.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:00 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the help. From the counselling point of view, I had a mental breakdown during university a couple of years ago and took several counselling sessions. I do have some good natural anti depressants that work really well, but I can't take them as I'm on some medication for my acid reflux.

Thanks amazingstill, that helps, especially as I'm currently reading the book 'The Art of Happiness' by the Dalai Lama. I suppose I just wish I could go back to my carefree self where I enjoyed every day without a care in the world. If I wasn't so aware of my mortality/afraid of death I think maybe I could.
posted by sockpim at 3:10 PM on October 19, 2011

That's also true about the dampers of every day life. I'll look up Less Brown also. Thanks for the help.
posted by sockpim at 3:19 PM on October 19, 2011

sockpim, i would also listen to some of Tara Brach's podcasts which are dharma talks on meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She is a buddhist psychologist whose talks have really put things in perspective for me and have helped me tremendously in my quest to feel real, or whole, or happy (however you want to put it). One teaching is to not resist unhappiness, rather to recognize what is bothering you, allow it to happen (don't resist it), investigate it, and then non-identify with the unhappiness - because like a weather system, it will pass.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 3:29 PM on October 19, 2011

You're not a self-victimised d*ck for feeling the way you feel. You're a person who has feelings and is feeling them. That's okay. Not all of the feelings are going to be positive. That's okay too.

You are in transition. You just finished a phase of your life, and it sounds like you are looking for a new phase. So, you've experienced a loss. You are finished with being a child. That's another loss. You are waiting on something new. That's an anxious place to be. You're entering -- and not by choice, but inevitably, the way we all do -- a period of your life in which there are a lot fewer "should" statements. That's also an anxious place to be.

You might be depressed. You might have some angst, some malaise, some ennui. It's okay to take them seriously as feelings, to let yourself feel them, even to explore them a little bit. It's okay to read some books about these sorts of feelings, or to talk with someone about them, even if that person is paid to provide you a safe space to explore them out loud.
posted by gauche at 3:45 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm with gauche... Is there something you could be grieving over? Childhood issues, big or small(ish) can really carry over a lot more than people think. Have you lost any friends or family members? Parents divorce? Or sometimes even people with good parents didn't get loved the way they needed/their parents weren't perfect and they had minor subconscious issues from that. I know it sounds odd, but I believe it to be true.

As for practical things: Check the blood chemical levels. Maybe talk to a doctor or psych about meds (if you feel the need) I am a huge believer in volunteering. Nothing like working at a women shelter or crisis center for some harsh perspective. Or at a (no kill) pet shelter for warm fuzzies.

As for fear of death.. its very ironic that fear of death can lead to unhappy living. Perhaps some existential philosophy? The universe will, occasionally, shit on you. You can stay miserable or upset, or acknowledge your feelings, examine them, and decide what to do. Sometimes its appropriate to be unhappy. Sometimes you will beat yourself up for failures. Nobody (but perhaps yourself) expects you to be perfect, or thinks perfection is attainable. Take some time to walk in parks. Skydive. Take bubble baths.
posted by Jacen at 4:32 PM on October 19, 2011

Post-college depression is common enough that if you google it, you'll find plenty of information. You're in a transitionary phase that, by the sounds of it, is a bit unsettled. You work a temp job, and you're not exactly sure where your current path will lead. You've completed school, and now you're realizing that you're not "done" with becoming who you want to be, it's just that the choices you make now will be a lot less structured and harder to grasp. Instead of a list of majors and classes to choose from, you have an endless array of choices of every kind in front of you. That can be a bit daunting.

Often when I'm depressed or anxious, I'll find myself focusing on little things, or things from the past, things I can't change. After a few months to gain perspective on the situation, I'll look back and realize I wasn't worried about those things much at all, what I was really worried about was the broadest issues of my life; a more existential dread of, who am I, am I doing enough to be successful, will it all work out, etc. You might find that if you're turning thoughts around in your head, trying to think your way out of the situation, that in the end none of the worried thinking really mattered.

Keep moving forward, and sometime really soon you'll start feeling a lot more sure of the ground under your feet.
posted by malapropist at 4:50 PM on October 19, 2011

You speak only of school (which is work) and work. Other than your sister, we're not hearing anything about the people in your life.

So, how's your social life?
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:22 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

My social life is pretty good. I was lucky enough to not have any scars from childhood and my parents were good to me throughout. I get on well with my siblings and am living with my parents until I find myself a full time job (I get on with them really well).

I've been pretty introverted throughout my life. Though I've really opened up since leaving university it's as if finishing it has opened up a can of confidence for me (self confidence is always the thing that holds me back). I still don't actively go and talk to large groups of people, as I just deal with that concept and think it'd be a bit weird if someone did that to me whilst I was in a group of people and they were singular. Or, if there are two benches, one with someone on and one empty one, I'll always go and sit next to the person and try and make an attempt at conversation. I don't have many friends, but they are good friends (sadly I don't see them very often as everyone is a lot further away now). I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm still an introvert, but I'm a lot more confident than I was back in university.

I love doing things in the outdoors, I'm fine with doing them alone. I guess also now that I've finished university I don't really know how to make new friends either.
posted by sockpim at 2:17 AM on October 20, 2011

Introversion and lack of confidence are key personality predictors of lower reported happiness. See this article for instance. One tip: you might want to join an acting class or some other kind of performance based activity to overcome this.

Alternatively, you could just accept it as a feature of your personality and take heart in the idea that the world needs serious, grounded people as much as any other. You could shoot for other kinds of values instead of narrowly construed emotional happiness.
posted by leibniz at 5:55 AM on October 20, 2011

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