And here it is, a that truth we cannot shake: we all get down sometimes. Whether it is a sporadic bad day—that turns into a bad week, or a harsh dark winter without Vitamin D or a more sinister deep depression slump that takes you away from the world as you once knew it, it happens.
This blog post is inspired by two events, three even, one—listening to the Love Stories podcast with Dolly Alderton featuring Matt Haig and two, something I shared on my travel Instagram account that made me think that there might be an un-wanky way to talk about self-care, and three of course, the harrowing cases of suicides that have featured heavily on our online timelines in the last few weeks.
In the age of social media, and over sharing, it is hard to know what is good or bad for you anymore. You want to be informed but you are soaking yourself in the misery of the news; you want to keep connected to your friends but you are also processing messages from strangers and celebrities about body image; you want to share your life because in fact, as humans it is quite natural to want to create, but you feel sadness if someone in particular doesn’t like your photo, or maybe you have too little likes—or maybe, just maybe, no one likes you anymore. But that’s not what you were thinking about anyway. Who would care about strangers on the internet? Or your new acquaintance that is killing it on social media? Certainly not you. Right?
Self care in an Instagram story
Recently on @thewadingwade I decided to capture a day in the life of myself, the tail end of a bad week which was extending by the second. I felt myself slip into old habits that don’t make me feel my best self, which could be forgiven, but I was repeating them, which is a sure-fire way to make myself feel crappy.
I decided to get up and put into action some of my own self care practices that I had learned in the last year or so, and shared it on my stories, following up with a poll to all three of my followers—”what do you do when you are having a bad day?” the limiting options of Instagram meant that the only choice was “listen to music” or “being creative”. Strangely and surprisingly to me—it became my most engaged poll. What’s more, people messaged me, some to say they were having a bad day, and some to say they hadn’t figured out ways how to pull themselves out of their funks in general, so usually just end up wallowing. There were also a sprinkle of well-wishers, who I suppose “know how it is”.
The response allowed me to temporarily remove my cynical social media glasses, to recognise a little window of good human interaction, while realising that this topic, which is in short: how to make yourself feel better when you feel awful, was a worry of many fellow humans that I know.
It’s the little things
Anyone who has gone through a really down period of their life will remember the time they finally came back up for air. The first time they laughed and really meant it, the first time they felt quietly at peace with just being, the first time they felt pure bliss from a long steaming-hot sip of tea. For me, when I suffered from depression, I reached a point when I stopped doing anything that I didn’t need to do to basically survive. I would go to work but it would require a long pep talk, I would eat, I would sleep.
When I started to reclaim my hours in the day and my life, I realised that life wasn’t about these grand life goals that are massaged into the creases of our brains from young—meet a person, fall in love, have a baby, bye a house, get a job, get a better one, get married and then you’ll complete life!
I realised that my life, your life—is equally valid with none of those things. And while I was emerging from this state, I found all these little pockets of joy throughout my days that I would mediate on and that would give me a profound happiness for a long period of time. Example:
A cup of tea in the morning (meditation in bullets points)
Wow this is really good, I like this
I can afford this, wow
Because I am moderating how many I have, I get to look forward to this
The hard work that I do allows me to have this
I am really lucky that I want something and I can have it
I currently have the leisure of time to enjoy this
I can share this little joy with people and perhaps they might enjoy it too
Reasons to stay alive
Firstly, I apologise for being so British with my example, also for that apology.
Secondly, yes it does really work.
Thirdly, it look me back to the aforementioned podcast episode. In the episode Alderton discusses love with Matt Haig, the author of many books, but in particularly one titled: Reasons to Stay Alive, which is sort of a this is my experience with mental health and it got better for me, rather than a this is a super sciency or ubiquitous way to rise yourself out of the throws of depression type of book.
Towards the end of the podcast, Alderton asks Haig to read out is final chapter heartbreakingly titled: Things I have enjoyed since the time I thought I would never enjoy anything again. You can listen to it yourself on the link below, or find it elsewhere and skip to 45:12-47:47.
I don’t want to write out the whole chapter but I want to give you a snippet of the sentiment of the prose:
Things I have enjoyed since the time I thought I would never enjoy anything again.
Yellow skin paper backs
Skin against skin at one in the morning
Short shallow kisses
Drinking water after a long run
Getting the all clear after a health scare
Will ferrel in Elf
Watching my son being born
Sitting on a bench in the park on a sunny day
Writing this book
It goes on. It broke the host, and me, for a reasons that I hope I have captured in typing this out. First is the title, which to some may seem dramatic but to others painfully relatable. Secondly is because it hits so firmly at the centre of what it means to be human, the things that make our days, our years brighter, ‘the little joys’ you could say. And full credit to Marie Kondo for that word being back in my regular vocabulary.
The little things you enjoy: an exercise | #MyLittleThingsChallenge
I want to encourage people, well you, to do what Haig did in this chapter for yourself. Not only is it a great exercise in gratitude, for those who are still pulling their hair out about what self care means anyway? And wondering why having a long bath with candles is not curing their down day? The little things, universal, and personal to you, no matter how utterly strange, are a great place to start.
Whether you share it on a physical diary, your own blog, your social channel, I would love to hear your experience with the exercise. Use the hashtag #MyLittleThings so I can browse your joys too!
As for me, I will of course leave you with my own list, and also say that if you are reading this on a down day, you start feeling more yourself soon.
#MyLittleThingsChallenge by Kyomi Wade
Ice cold water on a swelteringly hot day
Kisses from my youngest brother
Hugs from my middle brother
The expression on my dad’s face when he’s first seeing me again after a long time
Hearing my mum say “it’s KyKy!” through the door when I am home after a long time
A glass of rose after a long week
Piña coladas (don’t judge me)
Spontaneous nights out that flow without fight
Dancing to Drake songs
Jhene Aiko’s album ‘Trip’
SZA’s song ‘Broken Clocks’
PG tips tea in the morning
Bacon and avocado sandwiches
Full english breakfasts on the weekend
Coffee breaks at work with nice colleagues
Chocolate covered cornflakes
Egusi soup made by my mum
Hearing my aunty rant about something out of the blue
Laughing with my cousins until my belly hurts
Writing a poem and instantly knowing I’ve captured the right emotion
Hearing a writer I respect tell me they love my writing voice
Short tight hugs
Waking up on holiday
Spending hours on the sofa with a girlfriend talking about life
Hearing the Nigerian accent
Hearing the Irish accent
Thinking of cheeky things my nan said when she was alive
Reading The Shadow of the Wind
Being shaken to my core emotionally by the book ‘A Little Life’
Watching Call me by your name for the millionth time
Watching the ‘Before’ trilogy
Thinking of Ethan Hawke
Reading Bukowski’s poem ‘So You Want to Be a Writer?
When people tell me they’ve read my book
Long Facebook messages/whatsapps/voicenotes from people I’ve connected with on my travels
When someone tells me I made them feel better
Wearing 3/4 length skirts
Flowy dresses in summer
Having my hair done long and curly
Flowers in my hair
Flowers in a vase
Flowers on the streets of Bali
Connecting deeply with someone for the first time
When someone appreciates my cheesy jokes
Chinese food from east London
Talking about uni memories with my old housemates
Going to the beach for breakfast in Broastairs with my friends
Fresh air on my face after being inside for too long
Having the energy to write again
Falling in love with Berlin
Moving to Berlin
Hi reader. As this may be the first time we are e-meeting like this, I offer a short introduction of the need-to-knows. I am a London-born writer currently living in Berlin. I’m a fan of food, travel and life—and am particularly curious about how love changes people. Nice to meet you! Join me on Instagram if that’s your thing at @kyomiwade.