The Pursuit of Happiness

How to Keep a Healthy Mind and Spirit in Face of Life’s Challenges

By Stephanie Chow

Photo by Alexander Lyubavin
Photo by Alexander Lyubavin

Everyone goes through ups and downs, setbacks, and hardships. That’s fact of life. We get dumped, divorced, sick, fired, evicted, rejected, cheated, and bullied; we suffer grief when a loved one dies. Everyone faces personal struggles, and they can have a serious affect on our emotional well-being. So how do we effectively deal with everything that is thrown at us?

It’s important to have a healthy body, but sometimes we forget that it’s just as important to keep a healthy mind. By following these helpful tips, you can begin the healing process by turning negative thoughts and emotions into positive feelings, and hopefully find your happy place along the way!

It’s “Me” Time

The first step to finding happiness is to love yourself! A lot of people have particular troubles with breakups and rejection because they are uncomfortable with being on their own. Being alone shouldn’t frighten you; on the contrary, it should encourage you to reacquaint yourself with things that help you answer the question “who is the person I want to be?” Surround yourself with things you love, take better care of yourself, spoil yourself—these are all fantastic ways to change how you feel about yourself for the better! You can become a much stronger and secure individual because of it.

Call it a Lesson Learned

Regardless of how low you feel, how much it hurts, or what you lost, try to remember this: even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time (and it won’t), the lessons that you are taking away from this experience are far more valuable to you than you realize. These situations—be it a breakup, job loss, or an end to a friendship—can sometimes be the best things that ever happened to you, whether it leads you down a new path, forces you to be more independent, or is simply a lesson to remember for next time.

Let’s Get Physical!

We all know about the benefits of physical fitness, but did you know that exercise is directly related to mental health as well? Studies have proven that when you exercise you release endorphins in your brain that cause a “natural high.” That sense of elation you feel after running, swimming, or playing football with your friends: natural endorphins! Exercise also gives you a self-esteem boost, reduces stress and anxiety, keeps you active and social, and (most importantly) makes you feel good about yourself. How cool is that?!

Ditch the Pity Party

When you’re miserable, it’s easy to get bogged down with negative thoughts like “It’s all my fault,” “It wont get better,” “I failed,” and “I’m not good enough.” Stop being so hard on yourself! Try putting your problems into perspective instead. Sometimes reminding yourself that there are others in worse situations will help you see the light. Your troubles won’t seem so bad when you think of more positive things, like “I still have loving family and friends,” “I’m alive and healthy,” and “This is a good opportunity to try something new.” The phrase “it could be worse” is almost certainly true and reminding yourself of this may help you see how fortunate you really are.

Photo by Gwennypics
Photo by Gwennypics


Adjusting to change can sometimes take a long time. One way to not feel overwhelmed after a setback is to create a schedule for yourself that highlights your plans for the upcoming weeks. Having things to look forward to and keeping busy are great ways to distract yourself from your problems. For example:

Monday: Get my haircut, buy a gym membership
Tuesday: Have dinner and see a movie with friends
Wednesday: Go shopping with Katie, begin my summer scrapbook
Thursday: Join dance class, begin reading Bossypants by Tina Fey
Friday: Have coffee with William, attend a “Wine and Cheese” event with friends
Saturday: Volunteer at the animal shelter, dinner with family
Sunday: Go jogging in the park with Melissa, re-organize my closet

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to create a list of your long-term goals and ambitions. Achieving a personal goal is a healthy way to move on from a crisis.

Have Yourself a Good Cry (once in a while)

You can’t distract yourself from the emotions you’re feeling every second. Ignoring and suppressing those nasty feelings forever won’t do you any good. Sometimes you have to release all those pent-up emotions. Remind yourself that it’s okay to cry and it’s okay to feel sad. Give yourself some time to mope without any self-guilt, whether it’s 10 minutes every day or one day a week, and then move on. Let out the sad feelings to make more room for the happy ones!


A good way to invigorate your life and recharge your batteries is to do something fun and spontaneous. Try new activities, meet new people, just step outside your comfort zone! Do something you haven’t done in years! Travel! Take a cooking class! Buy yourself flowers! Join a recreational sports team! Adopt a pet! Experiencing something new can work wonders for your mood.

Love Is All You Need

The biggest asset to your recovery is the strong relationships you share with your friends and family. It’s easy to isolate yourself when you’re feeling sad, and sometimes you really do need to be alone, but asking for help or company may just be the key to changing a bad day into a good one. Surround yourself with people that truly love, respect, and cherish you. Never underestimate the power of love!

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