· By Caitlin Bray
5 Ways to Live a Happier, Healthier Life
We’ve all been there. Everything seems to be going wrong, and we feel like just running into the woods and never coming back. While it can be comforting to know that other people have been in your shoes, it doesn’t actually help fix the problem.
If you hate your life and are ready to make some changes, here are a few actions you can take to help yourself feel better. This, too, shall pass.
Take An Honest Look At Your Life
Before blowing up your life in any major way, start by taking a big step back. Is your anxiety lying to you? Is this just a temporary feeling (spoiler alert—probably)?
Take a full account of your life. Some people may find it helpful to make a pros and cons list so that they can visualize it in a physical way. Look at factors like your job, relationships, physical health, mental health, family, etc. This can better help you identify what, if anything, you really do need to change.
If you can clearly name what it is that’s making you hate your life, make a plan to change it. Hate your job? Start applying for new ones! Unhappy in your relationship? Schedule a therapy appointment or break up. It really is that simple.
You can’t fix what you don’t know is wrong. Being honest with yourself about how you feel is the first step toward making real, long-lasting change.
If you can’t easily identify a problem, but you’re still feeling like everything is terrible and you hate your life, it may be anxiety. Anxiety is a good liar, able to make you feel like your world is tumbling down even when it isn’t. Schedule an appointment with a therapist and take a hard look at aspects of your life that you can change.
If you still feel like you hate your life, but you’re not sure what to do about it, start with adding in some regular exercise.
Exercise is great for so many reasons. Not only is it a good outlet to make a positive change in your life and a great distraction technique when your brain seems out to get you, but it’s also excellent for your body.
In fact, exercise’s many benefits for the body include things like:
- improving brain health
- helping manage weight
- reducing disease
- improving your ability to perform daily activities
- strengthening bones and muscles.
It is also something that anyone can do, no matter how experienced they are. Start with a 30-minute walk if you’re unsure where to start.
You don’t necessarily have to have any skills to get all of the benefits that exercise has to offer you. Exercise can include anything from walking and yoga to running and weightlifting. Include your pet if you have one, as that can also help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
But exercise’s health benefits don’t just stop at the physical. Where exercise really shines is in its ability to help improve mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression really zap our physical stockpiles. We feel tired, groggy, and just generally ill at ease.
When you exercise, the body releases endorphins (also known as “feel good” chemicals). Endorphins not only help reduce pain, but they also naturally boost the mood and reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. These effects can be noticed as soon as five minutes into starting. It’s a pretty great return on your investment!
Diet is another great place to start when you’re ready to change your life. The foods we eat often end up like a vicious cycle—we feel bad, so we eat poorly, and when we eat poorly, we feel bad. Luckily, there are plenty of nutritional strategies people can take to help relieve their anxiety. Even the act of cooking can be cathartic, giving you something else to focus on instead of your own stress level.
You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Even making steps toward smaller, more accessible changes like eating more fresh fruits and vegetables or drinking more water can help. Supplements are also helpful.
As a general rule, people with anxiety may want to focus on eating more complex carbohydrates because they are metabolized slower. That way, this won’t lead to any sudden drops in blood sugar (which can trigger anxiety). Same with eating meals at regular intervals and not skipping meals, which can also cause blood sugar to drop.
There is also the factor of what is known as the “gut-brain axis.” While research is on-going, what we do know is that up to 95% of serotonin receptors (needed to keep our moods stable) are located in the gut lining. That’s why probiotics may also be helpful in improving mood.
In addition to whole foods, focus on getting these vitamins and minerals into your diet to help with anxiety:
- Magnesium (leafy green veggies, nuts, whole grains)
- Zinc (oysters, egg yolks, cashews)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, trout, walnuts)
- B vitamins (avocado, almonds)
Supplementation may be necessary, but many important vitamins and minerals can be gained entirely through a healthy, well-balanced diet.
This one may be hard to hear because frequent alcohol use and anxiety and depression often go together (it’s a common yet damaging coping mechanism).
Unfortunately, as much as alcohol may seem to temporarily help relieve the symptoms of anxiety, it actually worsens things over the long run. It ultimately turns into a chicken or the egg situation: does alcohol cause anxiety, or does anxiety cause you to drink? This is especially true with people who suffer from social anxiety disorder, who are more likely to drink than people with any other type of anxiety.
Reducing your alcohol intake has been proven to have positive benefits on your mental health. Not only will you feel better physically (no hangovers!), you’ll also feel better about yourself, and your anxiety will be more under control. You’ll sleep better, and your brain will go back to being able to function normally. Your liver will also thank you.
We realize this can obviously be much more easily said than done. There is no shame in needing to reach out for help getting sober. Contact a local rehab, therapist, or physician for more information. Admitting you need help is the first step, and you should be proud of yourself.
Signs that you may need to seek treatment for alcohol use include:
- Increased tolerance (you need to drink more to get the same “buzz” that you used to get with less alcohol)
- Withdrawal symptoms when you don’t drink (shaking and nausea outside of a hangover)
- You need alcohol to get up in the morning
- You’ve hurt yourself or others while drinking
- Your work or relationships have suffered as a result of your drinking
- You blackout regularly
- You hide your consumption from others
- You drink every day, multiple drinks a day, or binge drink frequently
Let’s Talk About Suicidal Ideation
We’d be remiss to not talk directly about the elephant in the room. When you feel like you hate your life and that everything is overwhelming, that may come along with suicidal ideation.
There is a big difference between passive suicidal ideation and active suicidal ideation. Knowing the difference can better help you know what actions you need to take to address it.
Passive suicidal ideation is thinking about suicide in general without actually making any plans to follow through. This could be anywhere from occasionally having the idea cross your mind to constantly thinking about how life might be easier if you weren’t around.
Remember, anxiety is a liar. These thoughts are common, and they will pass. Contact someone you trust, see a therapist, or distract yourself. Most people will have at least some level of passive suicidal ideation in their life, even those without any mental health conditions.
Active suicidal ideation is much more dangerous. This includes actually thinking about dying by suicide and making plans to do so. If you find yourself thinking this way, contact someone right away, like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Call 911 if you feel like you’re in immediate danger.
Even though you may not feel like it, you’re important, you’re worth it, you’re loved, and life does get better. Don’t listen to those thoughts in your head that say otherwise.
The Bottom Line
Even though it may feel like it sometimes, you probably don’t hate your life as much as you think you do. Making some positive changes, which will help both the way you feel physically and your mental health, can help you get on more solid ground so that you can really evaluate any other potential changes you might want to make. Use anxiety supplements as needed to get ahead of it, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you feel overwhelmed. You’ll make it through this.