In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I will have a blog post every day this month on a different mental health topic! Be sure to follow to catch all 31 posts!
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When I was in an Intensive Therapy Program a few years ago, we had to fill out a sheet every morning, tracking our moods, urges (if applicable), and also had to write things that we were grateful for and something we were looking forward to.
Around this time, Taylor Swift announced her album Lover. And I grabbed onto it, and every morning for my time in IOP, I would write that Taylor Swift’s new album was what I was looking forward to.
to be completely honest… there were days that thinking of something that I was looking forward to felt impossible. I was in a dark place having dark thoughts. I had just gone through a friend breakup with not one, but two close friends (both of which I worked with), I was on medical leave from work, and life seemed difficult.
It was a little thing. Nothing huge, but the idea that soon, there would be all new Taylor Swift music for me to listen to and love gave me so much hope and motivation to get through this really difficult time.
And I did! And that’s also why Lover is such a special album to me. It was the bit of light in an otherwise really dark time.
I think the benefits of gratitude for mental health are talked about a lot and pretty well-known (though, keep an eye out for another post on gratitude this month!) by now, but I think anticipation, or having something to be excited for in your life, is also important and beneficial to our mental health. In fact, the daily planner that I use (The Panda Planner, I’m obsessed with it.) has prompts for both gratitude and things you’re excited about in their daily morning review.
When I was going through another dark time in October/November 2019, I clung onto the fact that one of my best friend’s weddings was in December. I really built it up in my head, and it became my reason to get up each morning – so I could dance and drink and celebrate with my friend.
The wedding was just as amazing as I’d hoped, and I’m so grateful that I experienced it, especially knowing that there were times that I didn’t want to make it until then.
Then came quarantine. Let’s be honest. Having anything to look forward to during a seemingly endless time of isolation was super hard. But again, I held on to the little things. Weekly movie nights with my friend, Google hangouts with my cousins, Ordering from Uber Eats, Buying myself a new book or plant….
No matter where we are in life, it’s so important to have something to look forward to. It doesn’t always have to be a vacation or big life event. You can create positive events for yourself to look forward to. For example, I really gas up therapy lately. I feel so much better after each session, and it’s become a highlight of my week.
If that’s not for you, try making goals. For example, maybe on Friday, make yourself a promise that you’ll buy yourself something small for making it through the week. Really gas it up and romanticize it in your head. Maybe stop at the grocery store and buy yourself flowers. Think about all the different kinds of flowers that will be there and how it will feel looking through them and choosing a bouquet for yourself.
Or make a date with yourself to watch your favorite childhood movie one night, with your favorite snacks and look forward to that.
You can also look forward to things that aren’t set in stone yet. Like a vacation, or seeing friends or family, but I personally find this a lot harder, since it’s not something concrete or definitethat I can grab on to. Like I’m so excited to be able to see my loved ones more often because of the vaccine, but I don’t have any definite plans set to go up north or hang out with any friends yet. I do, however, have my second vaccine appointment this week, and I’ve been looking forward to that for a while. I’m going to try to make a day of it – first I have therapy, and then the vaccine appointment, and then I’ thinking I’ll stop at the grocery store to get myself flowers and dinner.
Most of the time, it’s the little things that make life worth living. I hope that you’re able to embrace the little joys in your life, and find something to look forward to.