There’s an old, outdated assumption that time heals all wounds. But I believe this to be untrue. In the words of Dr. Phil, “Time doesn’t change us. It’s what we do with that time that changes us.” We are all more than capable of taking control back into our own hands when life knocks us down.
It’s just a matter of doing so deliberately. Of making changes that will move us forward. Of finding a way to progress with purpose, rather than simply letting life knock us around into whoever we will become next.
When you’re feeling lost and disheartened with life, here are 23 simple methods of taking your power back.
1. Get In Shape.
Strong bodies and strong minds go hand-in-hand. Forget about how your workout routine is making you look and start focusing on how it makes you feel – on the strength, the dedication and the structure that it brings to your mindset. By harnessing your physical power, you’re reminding yourself that you’re capable of so much more than you used to be. In the words of Jillian Michaels, “Fitness isn’t about a crunch or a push up. It’s about taking your power back.”
2. Get out of town.
Take a day, a week or a month to escape your usual surroundings and welcome in the world outside your doorstep. Sometimes a change in mindset is as simple as a change in scenery – and being away from home allows you the space, the freedom and the tranquility to heal on your own terms.
3. Rewrite your story.
The past is nothing more than a story we repeat to ourselves – and allowing ourselves to understand this is an incredibly liberating notion. Visit a narrative therapist who can help you re-frame your experiences, or journal them out until you’re able to come to a new understanding of why things happened the way they did. Learn to pinpoint the opportunities for growth within the destruction of your past – and then move forward with those opportunities close to your heart.
4. Invite new people into your life.
The positive effect we are able to have on one another as humans is immeasurable. Sometimes the best way to heal from the toxicity of past relationships is to allow the beauty of new ones to flourish. We all end up thinking, behaving and being like the people we spend the most time around – so choose the ones who make you want to be the best possible version of yourself.
5. Tell your story.
Be honest about your past. Share the pain of everything that’s happened to you and allow your strength in moving past it to inspire other people. Don’t hide or downplay anything that feels important to you. Refuse to apologize for where you’ve been.
6. Be disciplined about self-care.
When we’re sick, we take particular care to rest, drink fluids and take medicine – even if it temporarily impedes on our productivity. When we’re struggling emotionally, we have to take care of ourselves in much of the same way. By making self-care a priority, you are setting yourself up for a quicker and infinitely less painful recovery.
7. Change your appearance.
Sometimes we need a deliberate outward change to reflect a subtle internal one. By altering your hair, makeup or style, you’re concretely welcoming change into your life – and recognizing that it can be a good thing. In fact, it can even be something that happens on your own terms.
8. Quit what isn’t working for you.
When the stakes are down and our lives are lying in shambles, we are paradoxically awarded the ideal opportunity to start over. Use your ill fortune as the excuse you’ve been waiting for to walk away from that shitty job, toxic relationship or commitment that is making you miserable. If you’re going to be forced to start over, you might as well do it once, the right way.
9. Give yourself permission to let go.
Not everything that happens to us has to have a meaning or a lesson. If your past no longer serves you, give yourself permission to let go and forget about the pain that has been holding you back. You dictate your story and you don’t have to place emphasis on anything that makes you feel small.
10. Connect with people who’ve been through something similar.
Seek out the words, company and comforts of those who understand what you’re going through. Read their stories, cherish the wisdom they’ve gleaned and use it as a constant, pervasive reminder that you are never alone.
11. Unplug for an entire week.
If you are able to do so, take a full week of your life and spend it outdoors or on the road, somewhere where your Facebook notifications can’t reach you. Sometimes it takes disconnecting from your everyday life to realize how trivial most of your worries are – and how capable you are of existing completely outside of them.
12. Physically de-clutter your life.
Take a full weekend to clean your apartment or home in a way that you never have before – ruthlessly ridding it of everything you no longer use and organizing it in a way that feels mentally refreshing. When our physical environments are in order, it becomes easier to keep our minds uncluttered, too.
13. Strengthen your relationships with the people who love you.
A close friend once told me “There’s no time like when you’re down on your luck to realize who’s really there for you in life.” When everything is falling apart, take notice of who is still standing beside you – those are the people who are always going to matter the most. And there’s no time like the present to appreciate them for all they’re worth.
14. Follow the food guide for a month.
Even the healthiest among us aren’t always putting the right foods into our bodies. So for one month, try to do so. Eat the right amounts of fruits, veggies, grains, dairy and meat (or meat alternatives). Notice changes in your energy level and mindset – and then try it all over again the next month.
15. Take a course that teaches you something new.
What we know changes the landscape of who we are. By adding to your internal database of knowledge, you are expanding your horizons and reminding yourself that there is always more to be learned and always more ways for your worldview to shift.
16. Make a budget and stick to it.
It’s difficult to feel in control of our lives when our finances are out of control. By coming face-to-face with our spending habits, we’re giving ourselves a leg up on conquering them effectively. There’s nothing quite as soothing as figuring out a way to live below your means.
17. Establish a healthy source of validation.
None of us are islands. Though we all strive to be strong, independent adults in our day-to-day lives, we all need love and affection. And finding a friend or loved one who is willing to remind you why you’re wonderful when you forget it just might be what keeps you afloat on the bad days. Validation is not toxic if you’re seeking it in the right places.
18. Become invested in the process of change, not the outcome.
Too often, we pit all of our hopes on future accomplishments that may never come to fruition. Rather than telling yourself ‘I’ll be happy when…’ learn to find joy in the simple process of bettering yourself. Take pride in the fact that you’re making changes for yourself, rather than pitting your happiness on the outcome of those changes.
19. Learn a new language.
Learning a new language may be one of the best available ways to remind yourself that there’s an entire world out there – one that operates on a completely different premise than yours. Committing to learning a non-native language proves that you could adapt and mould to one of those other realities if you wanted to – which consequently makes you feel a little less defeated by yours.
20. Learn to walk away.
Perhaps the single most important step to regaining control over your life comes through learning to walk away from the situations that are holding you back. It takes an incredible amount of bravery to break away from what you’ve known. But it also gives way to an incredible opportunity to start over the way you’ve always wanted to.
21. Let yourself be happier than you are comfortable with.
Too often, we sabotage our own happiness out of a reluctance to trust it. Rather than allowing ourselves to grow into bigger shoes, we declare our feet ‘not big enough’ and retreat. We have to start allowing ourselves to let go of guilt and self-doubt and start seizing opportunities as they arise. Even if we feel a bit out of our league along the way.
22. Try something that genuinely scares you.
There is nothing that boosts confidence quite like overcoming your fears. Make a deliberate point to take on a challenge that has always scared you when you’re feeling down – though it may seem like ridiculous timing to do so, the strength and sense of self-efficacy that will come from conquering your worries will take you further than you could possibly imagine.
23. Forgive others. Forgive the Universe. Forgive yourself.
Don’t allow anger or fear to keep you trapped in a damaging past. Allow yourself the opportunity to forgive those who have hurt you, to forgive the injustices done to you and to forgive yourself for everything you messed up on your path to redemption. Forgive not to relieve other people of accountability, but to finally allow yourself the freedom and space to move on. And to take your damn life back.