11 Ways to Let the Light Back In

I recently ended up in a crappy situation and had to scrape myself off rock bottom – possibly the rockiest bottom of depression I have ever encountered. I couldn’t stay like that, literally couldn’t live like that, so I deliberately and thoughtfully found a way to pull myself back up. The beautiful thing was that I did it, and it was hard but also not really that hard. It showed me that even in the crappiest of situations it’s possible to find your strength – even more than you knew was there – and draw on it. It’s possible to let the light back in.

I’ve been thinking about how to do that and there are some strategies that usually work for me, so I thought I’d share them with you (and with myself for the next time I need them, because there’s sure to be a next time).

Here are 11 ways to let the light back in.

11 ways to let the light back in
1. Listen to podcasts that make you think. I like This American Life, Radiolab, Death, Sex & Money, and (when it returns) Invisibilia. Two feel-good podcasts are Dear Sugar and Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

2. Read the Brave Girls’ Club.
Brave Girls Club quote
3. Read stories from people who have experienced the same thing you’re struggling with. It will make you feel less alone.

4. Exercise. Just do it!

5. Find something that’s happening in your community that sounds interesting and go to it. Getting out is hard, but helpful.

train tracks
6. Put your phone down and pick something else up – a book, a craft, anything.

7. Related: turn off notifications for Facebook and whatever else sucks you in and allows you to be passive. Don’t wait for other people to post something interesting/inspiring/funny. Passive procrastination is a huge mood killer.

8. Go for a walk and deliberately look. Take pictures of things that make you pause.

art in a garden9. Eat ice cream. Or whatever you like to treat yourself with, but use it as a treat. Don’t make it a habit, or it will contribute to your crappy feelings.

10. Colour. Yes, with crayons (or, my preference, pencil crayons).

adult coloring pages

11. Make your bed. Truly, it helps.

What strategies have you found that help you let the light in?

Hello, Inspiration {5}: Mountains

Rocky Mountains in Alberta

“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”

Robert Macfarlane, Mountains of the Mind: Adventures in Reaching the Summit

A visit to the mountains doesn’t always result in reaching the summit of solace. More later.

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Hello, Inspiration {4}: It’s a Breeze

I’m not big on resolutions, but I am big on opportunities for self-renewal. January is peak self-renewal time for me and this year I took extra advantage of it.

By the end of last year, after an illness-plagued fall, I was feeling rough. I hadn’t been eating well and my last good workout was becoming a distant memory. I could have acted on that nagging suggestion to change my habits in mid-December, but mid-December is a pretty ridiculous time to start making those kinds of changes, wouldn’t you say? So I planned for January and its brimming potential instead.

January 1 found me working up a sweat and feeling much better for it. I got a new phone for Christmas and spent some time browsing for apps that would keep me going; I ended up downloading a whole bunch intending to stick with the ones that worked best.

A lot of the healthy-habits type apps were either annoying or not especially motivating. Many of them, as well, seem to attempt to do everything, as if a major overhaul is the only way to make health goals succeed. (Maybe that’s the case for some people, but it doesn’t work for me.) I did find one I really like though – enough that I thought I’d share it.

It’s called Breeze and it’s made by Runkeeper (which I also use). It popped up as a suggestion on my phone and since I like Runkeeper I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s really simple – it just tracks the steps you take each day using the tachometer in your phone.

I think I like it because it’s friendly, and it offers motivating comments as you go throughout your day.

Breeze app messages screen

It gives a goal each day, based on your own activity level rather than suggesting the unattainable-for-the-average-person 10,000 steps. And when you reach your goal, it gives you confetti. I like confetti.

Breeze app confetti screen
It also assigns you a spirit animal. I’m not sure exactly what the point is, but I think it’s cool. (I started off as a lion and then became a fox, evidently due to my short bursts of activity. See? Walking down to the Starbucks in my office building does have its benefits.)

Breeze app spirit animal

In any case, now that January is nearing an end I figured some people might be looking for a bit of inspiration to keep going. This is one of mine.

Breeze-app-goal-met

Hello, Inspiration {3}: Fat Snowflakes

Last weekend, one night after the boys were in bed, my dog came up from the basement and asked to be let outside. When I opened the door to let him back in a few minutes later, I looked outside and realized it was snowing – big, soft flakes, the kind that accumulate quickly and muffle the world.

It doesn’t often snow that way here, but it’s one of my favourite things. We mostly get the kind of snow that shoots rather than floats past the streetlights; it looks nice once it settles but it’s not nearly as romantic when it’s coming down.

At that point in the evening I had mostly settled in and was enjoying the quiet, but that snowfall was not to be missed. I snapped a leash on the dog and out we went.

It was perfect. Pure joy. We walked through the snow, which was already almost to his tummy and over my boots, and listened to it squeak beneath our feet. At the field near our house, with no one else in sight and nothing in view but pure white, I let him off his leash. He bounded away, running large circles around me, as I cut a path through the deep snow. He was happy and I felt at peace.

snow scene framed by trees

I highly recommend this. The next time you notice your equivalent of fat snowflakes, get out there and breathe it in. It’s worth it to stop and notice joy, whether it falls from the sky or presents itself a different way.

Just breathe it in.

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Hello, Inspiration {2}: One Word

I had a revelation on December 29 about the one word I had chosen for 2014. It took me 363 days to get there, but once I did a whole bunch of things made sense.

Early last year, I intended to choose another word to focus on for the year. Having done it in 2011, 2012, and 2013 with what I considered satisfying results, I figured it would be a no-brainer. The problem was I put too much of my brain into it.

The first time I did this in 2011, someone suggested I let the word come to me. Sort of hokey, I thought, but was open to it. And came it did. Same with the next two years. And then last year my funk got in the way and I didn’t just sit with it as I had previously and instead I chose a word. It was a word that was connected to things I wanted to do – mostly self-centred things that had less to do with what I needed and more to do with what I thought would make me happy.

I never revealed the word here because it didn’t stick. And I was disappointed that it didn’t stick but I was also unmotivated and never actually considered why it didn’t feel right. And then, two days before the end of the year, I was talking to a colleague and friend at work who also, I discovered, happens to do this one-word thing and it all made sense. Suddenly I was back in the same headspace from the beginning of the year and I realized that my deliberately choosing the word rather than being open to whatever might come to me had thoroughly defeated the purpose.

Funny how something you didn’t realize you weren’t aware of can suddenly make a lot of the unarticulated frustrations from the past year dissipate.

So this year, I went back to letting my word identify itself to me.

Soar - one word 2105

I tried to force one with a particular meaning (act? choose?) but I realized that was me layering expectations onto a sentiment that I needed to just accept. I don’t need the pressure of being on the hook for certain things I think I should do. I need to do what I feel is right and let come what may.

Soar.

We’ll see where it takes me.

hello inspiration