Now that I’ve reached 22, I would like to think I’ve learned some valuable lessons. I’m sure that by the time I reach 82, I’ll have had many more lessons, but for now, these are all I’ve got. Some of these were learned through experience, while I learned others through some excellent interpersonal communication classes I took this semester. Here are ten tips that should help you maintain sanity through your 20-somethings and beyond:
1). Quality over quantity (activities): You just won Super Bowl Tickets and your home team is playing their biggest rival. You know that you would much rather count the tiles on your bathroom floor than watch a football game, but you feel that you have to go because it is what you are supposed to do.
DON’T GO. You will have a much better time doing something you know you would enjoy more that day, whether it be counting tiles or spending the day shopping at the mall with a friend. Sell the tickets and use the money for something you would have a more enjoyable time doing.
The same applies to visiting fancy monuments in foreign countries while studying abroad, etc. If you would rather spend the day café hopping than touring monuments you think you are supposed to see, go café hopping; you won’t regret it!
2). Quality over quantity (making plans): You already know that you want to spend the day with your boyfriend or your best friend or your mom, or whomever it may be. Yet, Bobby, Susie, and Tanya also asked you to hangout. Although you were looking forward to your plans with the initial person, you do not want to let the latter group down. You think, “Maybe I can fit everything in. I’ll hangout with [Insert name here] all afternoon and then meet up with Bobby, Susie, and Tanya” or “What if I invite [insert name here] along with Bobby, Susie, and Tanya? That way everyone is happy.”
DON’T DO IT. Sometimes these methods work, but typically, people end up more aggravated. You will either show up to one of your plans late or someone in the later group will wind up upset that you always have to invite so-and-so along. While this outcome is not always the case, it is likely that you will be happier if you stick to your initial plan, tell the other group you are unable to make it that day, and make plans with them sometime later in the week, when you can have an equally enjoyable time with them and feel less stressed.
3). Do not try to block out “negative” emotions, but instead, accept and observe them: Dr. Caplan and Dr. Mortenson, my interpersonal communication professors, introduced us to the work of psychotherapist David Richo. He suggests that the best way to deal with negative emotions that come with heartache, loss, etc, such as anger or sadness, is not through distraction. The healthiest approach is simply to accept the emotions. Do not say, “I am not sad,” “I am not angry,” but instead, “Yes, I feel sad right now, but I know this emotion won’t last forever.” Dr. Caplan reminded us we should not view ourselves as our emotions, but instead, see them as outside of ourselves and view them as if we are weathermen observing the weather. He added that if we think of the saddest or happiest we have ever been, we probably do not feel that way right now, so if we are feeling down, we should accept our sadness and think, “Hmm, this is interesting. I feel so down right now, but like the weather, eventually, this will go away.”
I read somewhere that a study asked one group to think about a blue elephant and another group to try hard not to think about a blue elephant. The study found that the group asked not to think about the elephant, thought about the blue elephant ten times more (I am not sure of the exact statistic, but the number was significantly larger) than the group that was asked to think about it.
At first, all of this advice sounds like psychological mumbo-jumbo, but try it and you’ll be amazed at the results. If you accept sadness or anger, it goes away sooner. If you block it out, the emotions linger and come back to haunt you!
4). Do not try to block out negative emotions by distracting yourself: Richo also reminds us to avoid unproductive activities, such as watching television, drinking, binge eating, going on Facebook, etc, when we are feeling sad, anxious, or angry. He advises doing something productive as a way to establish “adult trust” in yourself. Adult trust consists of the knowledge that you are able to be independent without relying on other sources or people to deal with your emotions. If you are feeling down, go for a long walk or run, clean your room to near perfection, or have a healthy meal.
It sounds silly, but showing yourself you have the ability to do something constructive while feeling sad boosts your mood by helping you see what you are able to accomplish on your own, and how, in the future, if you are feeling this way, you can pursue similar activities to deal with your emotions.
5). If you are on a diet, allow yourself at least one day a week to splurge a little: If you are like me and have difficulty not eating everything in sight when food comes your way, you will feel proud of yourself once you lose weight. However, I notice that when I am too strict with a diet for long periods of time (and by diet, I simply mean eating healthier and exercising), I typically tell myself, “You have been dieting to near perfection for a month. You deserve two weeks to go crazy!” then revert back to my old habits. Of course, many people have much more self-discipline than I do. But I notice that the times that I eat healthy, yet allow myself a few glasses of wine each Saturday and one not-so-healthy dinner, I wind up doing even better, since I do not feel so deprived or as if I deserve some giant award to overeat again!
6). This one may not be accurate in every case, but as a general rule of thumb, remember that the most genuine guys do not immediately call you “cutie,” “beautiful,” etc: Wait for the guy, who either waits to give you such compliments, or, even better, who waits to give you more realistic, non-cliché compliments that specifically apply to you. I’m sure there is an equivalent to this advice for guys too. Perhaps, wait for the girl who doesn’t call you “hottie” right away?
7). Forgive, but do not try to forget: Thomas S. Szasz says, “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” Another useful lesson we learned in our class with Dr. Caplan is that harboring resentment or holding a grudge against someone only affects you. Think about it: If you continue to stress over something someone has done to you in the past, you only cause yourself more stress, not the other person.
However, it’s also unhealthy to try and block out a negative incident. The healthiest thing to do is to accept the situation, say, “This happened” and then forgive the person. You will feel ten times better.
8). To feel happier, tackle a nagging task: Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, suggests we will feel much happier if we tackle a nagging task rather than putting it off. For example, you have to call the doctors office to request forms you need for a new job, but have been putting off the call. If you are in this situation, the best thing you can do is to MAKE THE CALL. It seems tedious, but I agree with Rubin that getting similar tasks over with really does lead to boosts in happiness.
9). Start a gratitude journal and a nice things jar to boost your happiness: Rubin suggests starting a gratitude journal, which is a journal in which you list multiple items you are grateful for each day. For my gratitude journal, I typically write down seven items every day that are as simple as having a great cup of coffee. As a generation that is constantly looking toward the future, you’ll be amazed at how good focusing on what is valuable about the present moment will make you feel.
Starting a nice things jar, an idea I took from Pinterest a few years ago, has a similar effect. Buy a mason jar, and, if you want, decorate it. I put sunshine stickers on mine. I then bought colored paper to make it more fun. Each day, write one nice thing that happened to you and put it in the jar. Don’t read the slips until all at once at the end of the year. Like the gratitude journal, focusing on “nice things” is beneficial in that it helps you focus on the positive versus stuff that might stress you out.
10). Have fun: While sometimes it’s easy to focus on the petty stuff, don’t forget to enjoy yourself too!
I hope some these tips prove useful. Because, as Bill Bryson, one of my new favorite travel writers suggests, “That’s the trouble with losing your mind; by the time it’s gone, it’s too late to get it back.” Hopefully, this post will provide you with enough sanity and happiness through your 20-somethings and beyond!
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