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This is a tiny painting I recently finished. It’s acrylic on wood. The wood is a piece from an old fence and part of a gate that I had, that the wind blew down. I’ve saved the old, weathered, wooden planks and I try to use the pieces when I can. Old wood is incredibly beautiful to me.
This painting is a reminder for me, and for people like me, that sometimes, we feel sad. And that’s ok. It’s part of the human condition to feel bad sometimes. The main thing is to try to remember that even when the wind knocks us down, we can still see or at least imagine a future in which we can rise up and become something great again. Like a broken fence, we can gather our cracked and weathered pieces together and become something else entirely. Maybe something beautiful or maybe something meaningful appears from our broken bits after the storm. The important thing to remember is that the sadness we experience is only a temporary situation and the chance to rebuild is always just around the corner.
On that note there are some science based ways to help make one feel happier temporarily, but as Daniel Gilbert points out when talking about happiness in Harvard Magazine’s article on the science of happiness, we aren’t supposed to be happy all the time.
Well, of course we don’t get as much of it as we want. But we’re not supposed to be happy all the time. We want that, but nature designed us to have emotions for a reason. Emotions are a primitive signaling system. They’re how your brain tells you if you’re doing things that enhance—or diminish—your survival chances
Sometimes we need a depressed brain to slow us down and help us make a better decision. A study in 2011 showed that people with major depressive disorder performed more systemically and analytically than non depressed people.
However, neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have found a system of neurons in the brain that explain how anxiety, often associated with depression can disrupt our decision making process, causing us to make bad choices.
So if there is no way for us to be happy all the time and unhappiness is part of life, how can we manage our minds to to be healthiest? Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer to that but there are are few seemingly obvious life hacks we can all strive for, that science has shown helps.
- Exercise. This study published in the Lancet showed that people who exercised has 43% less days of poor mental health. Thats a significant amount. So get out there and start walking! Yes, something as simple as a daily walk can increase your happiness!
Go Outside. Multiple studies (here is one from Japan on what they call Forest Bathing) have shown that spending as little as two days in nature can help reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone that wreaks havoc on our body and can lower our immunity. Cortisol is also released into our blood stream when we are experiencing anxiety. And you don’t have to go to a fancy forest in Japan to get the positive effects, just go outside and disconnect. You’ll likely be glad you did!
Be Social. I know when I’m depressed I don’t want to be around people but the fact is being social can lead to a sense of well-being. A “Pursuit of Happiness” study in Germany found that people who described spending time with friends and family ended up being more satisfied than those who focused on material gains.
I’ll end this post with those tips. And remember… it ‘s all temporary, your story isn’t over, and when life gets sad or bad know that it can and likely will, get happier again.