If you are a living, breathing human being (and let’s just assume that’s the case), you have good days and bad days. You have days when you feel like you can tackle any problem and others that make you feel completely inadequate as a person. These are the ups and downs of life.
When you become a dad, the rollercoaster of good days and bad days gets a little crazier. Your sleep schedule gets messed up, your diet isn’t great, and your relationships change – all of which are key factors in managing your mental health. As a result, dads can forget how to be happy. Have you ever been there before? Are you there right now?
Dr. Sarah Allen says that symptoms of anxiety and depression increase 68% when men have children, especially children between the ages of birth to 5 years old.
If you haven’t guessed by now, we’re talking today about something real and raw and that a lot of fathers are afraid to talk about: “What do I do when I’m not happy being a dad? How do I make those bad days better?”
If you’re a dad, you know exactly what that’s like. You are sitting on the floor, playing with your little one, your wife is on the couch, smiling about the fact that you’re such a great father, and you feel like crap on the inside – you having trouble feeling like you normally do.
What do you do when you’re stuck in a rut like that?
How do you fight off those feelings?
Depression and gratitude can’t coexist.
The secret to happiness, and climbing out of a funk that just won’t go away, is training your brain to think positively about things that might, at first glance, seem negative. It is training your brain to be grateful, to stop complaining, and to make gratitude a habit.
Now, here’s a disclaimer. Clinical depression is a serious thing. The advice you’re receiving here is no replacement for good, professional counseling. If you’re experiencing anxiety and depression, please go talk to someone who can give you the tools you need to handle what you’re going through.
With all that being said, here are some helpful tips for how to be happy and how to get out of your funk.
Write it Down in the Morning
If it’s not a journal or notebook, just find a piece of paper to write on. Every morning, at the very moment you wake up, write down what you’re thankful for.
And don’t just right down what you’re thankful for. Include a “why” statement. Here are some examples of a good, gratitude statement:
- I am thankful for my family because they love me unconditionally.
- I am thankful that I’m breathing because I get to see my kids grow up.
- I am thankful for my job because it allows me to live in this house.
Then, repeat this exercise at night, but do it a little differently. Instead of writing one gratitude statement, spend time making a list that includes the events of the day:
- 3 positive things that happened (I got to spend extra time with my kids today; I got to eat lunch with a friend)
- At least 1 thing you’re thankful for (family, health, life).
- Include a statement about how each item made you feel (“I got to spend extra time with my kids and it made me feel blessed”)
Negative thoughts breed more negative thoughts. Practicing gratitude creates more gratitude. It’s the law of attraction.
So, if the thing you’re annoyed by, or the thing that makes you angry, is unchangeable, keep it to yourself. If it’s something that is beyond your control, and your comment is not going to be constructive, don’t let it fester.
Instead, turn your negatives into a positive! Try to let your anxiety about the situation lead to constructive thoughts and comments. A perfect example is being stuck in traffic. Do have a long commute to work? If so, you know that there’s nothing more annoying than traffic that turns a long commute into an even longer one.
- Complaining sounds like this: “I hate traffic. This sucks. Why does my life suck so bad?”
- A constructive comment sounds like this: “This traffic sucks, but at least I get to listen to this awesome podcast today.” “This isn’t ideal, but I get to call my dad and hear how his fishing trip went.”
See the difference? The key here is to practice gratitude because we know that it changes the way we feel in every area of our lives.
Podcast Ep. 91 Fighting Depression With Gratitude
Practice gratitude with your family
At dinner, or whenever you have quality time together, go around the table and have each family member share 2 positive things that happened during the way and 1 thing that they are thankful for.
You’ve probably only done this at Thanksgiving or maybe at Christmas, but it’s important to make it a regular habit.
An unexpected side-effect of doing this together as a family? Your kids will inherently learn a healthy coping mechanism for the obstacles of life. You are giving them a tool that they can pull out down the road when they find themselves in a similar kind of funk.
Fake It Until You Make It
All of these tips for how to be happy may come across as contrived or forced. And, in some ways, it is.
As you begin writing in your journal in the morning and at night, turning negatives into positives, and practicing gratitude with your family, you will probably need to “fake it until you make it.” That’s because the secret to happiness is not a quick fix. It’s a long journey toward training your brain to think positively about life!
Still skeptical? Give it a shot and let us know what happened.