This is a follow up to this post, which was pretty well received: https://m.reddit.com/r/GetMotivated/comments/4xk3d1/text_10_years_ago_i_was_deeply_depressed_and/
I had requests for more detail on the specifics of how I turned my life around so this post will focus on the strategies and tactics I used.
First I want to clarify, I'm not hiking the AT to help with depression or anything. I'm hiking because it's what I want to do. I'm hiking because I'm finally not held back by fears. I'm hiking because I'm finally LIVING after years and years of hiding in my room. I see this hike as a capstone on over a decade of self improvement.
Very briefly I'll recount my past(my other post has more detail). I grew up as an anxious and depressed Chinese kid. I was adopted from China at 8 and my father died when I was 13. This created a lot of problems that took me many many years to come to grips with. As a consequence I went through cyclical depression and anxiety for my teens and most of my twenties(im 29 now). I've had serious suicidal ideation and many points in life where I felt I couldn't possibly continue on. Despite it all I was able to push through and apply these practices that slowly, bit by bit, changed my inner being and as a consequence changed my outer world.
Through the years I've had MANY relapses where it felt like everything I'd learned and gained was lost. But each time I fell I was able to come back a stronger, wiser, and with less fear.
Fitness changed my life. I was 100lbs going into highschool. Scrawny with zero confidence. I asked for a weight set for Christmas when I was 15 and started doing random lifts. Benching a whopping 25lbs. Curling 8lb dumbbells. But I stuck with it and by the age of 21 I'd built up to 189lbs and 8% body fat. Here's a old post I wrote up on /r/fitness talking about that transformation: https://m.reddit.com/r/Fitness/comments/18w30k/so_i_heard_rfitness_liked_asian_transformations/
Fitness gave me a sense of control over my life. It gave me confidence. It gave me the belief that I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to – a belief that was completely foreign to my younger self. Without this confidence I would never have taken any of my actions later in life because I wouldn't have believed myself capable of achieving any of those goals.
So I think it's vital to start the process of change with a cornerstone habit. It doesn't have to be fitness. But I think fitness makes a great one. You can measure your progress. It will make you feel better and improve your cognition. You'll receive external validation as you make progress and gain confidence and an improved self image.
I think meditation makes for another great cornerstone habit.
I recommend focusing on one simple habit and building your new life around it. Don't make it complicated. Start with a 15 minute walk everyday. Focus only on this habit. Then after a month build upon it. Add 25 push-ups to the end of your walk. Then a 5 minute meditation session. And so on. But not everything at once. Just build one simple habit that you don't skip no matter what. A simple habit that's not overly complicated or difficult to maintain. Changing a life starts as one simple change which will build unstoppable momentum given time
The mind is everything
Truly our attitudes and perceptions are everything.
You see it on the trail all the time. Two people can be hiking the same trail and have completely different experiences.
One is worried about what they'll do when they get home. They're worried about rain. Worried about the upcoming mountains.
The other is enjoying the sunshine. They're lookimg forward to cooking a warm dinner. They're happy that they get to spend a few months in nature.
Same trail. Same hike. Two totally different experiences.
Because of their attitudes. Because of their perceptions.
When I'm depressed I think of how unfair it was that I had to leave everyone I knew at the age of 8. How much easier life would be if I didn't grow up being so screwed up psychologically from my early childhood experiences. If I had a normal family. If I connected with my parents like most of my friends.
But I can't change the past. I can only change my attitude and reactions today. And it's when I take responsibility for my attitude that I can fight the darkness. I can look at my childhood as a curse or a gift. I KNOW I'm much stronger mentally and emotionally today because of my early life experiences. All my many periods of depression has forged an inner core of strength that others don't have. I'm much more resilient for the experiences.
So I can choose to wallow in self pity or I can choose to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to me and make the best of it.
And that is powerful. We all have an incredible core of power within us. To claim it we need to have the courage to stop being a victim. To claim full responsibility over our life. To see our tribulations as a trial by fire.
We are only victims of life if we allow ourselves to be victims. You can be great. It's there within you. Let go of the self-pitying narrative. It's only a story. Choose a new path. Choose the path of life. Choose to accept what happened in your past as a inevitable and necessary stepping stone to becoming the fully actualized and fully vibrant human being that you know you're meant to be.
And this change happens again with the smallest steps. It happens by choosing, on a daily basis, on an hourly basis, to change your attitudes and beliefs. Day after day. It's hard work. You've had years and decades of negative thoughts. They won't go away in a day or even a year. But they can and will be changed with perseverance.
Everything you need to know has been written about by someone else.
I started the path reading a Tony Robbins book. Now I think the guy is kinda cheesy and long winded but at the time his book helped a lot.
I don't have many specifics to recommend. Everyone is different. You will find your own authors who speak to you. But I firmly believe that once you set an intent to find the books and people that you need, that they will them materialize in your life almost as if by magic.
So open yourself to learning. Seek out authors. Seek out audio books. Open yourself to learning. Everything you're struggling with someone else has overcome and they've written books and given talks that will help you achieve similar outcomes.
Get a handle on your addictions.
Until you master your addictions you cannot master yourself. For me my big addictions were video games, porn, and caffeine.
Mastering these was less a matter of actively trying to suppress them than a process of filling my life with more positive activities.
Here's a video I made talking about getting off caffeine: https://youtu.be/_kXq8na6Q9w
And my marker for positive/negative is simply what makes me fulfilled and happy at the end of the day. For me video games, porn, and stimulants gave me a temporary boost but always left me empty and depressed at the end of the day. And as I've removed the addictions with things like meditation, exercise, building my business, hiking the AT, socializing, being with my girlfriend i end the days happy and fulfilled.
And it depends on how you're approaching a thing. When I used games as a tool to escape life they left me unfulfilled and unhappy. Now I play hearthstone a few hours a week, for fun, and it's great! Again it comes down to attitude and perspective.
So that's my simple yardstick. I get rid of that which leaves me empty and add that which makes me fulfilled.
Change in the end is actually very simple.
It really is. Focus on positive habits. Add to them. When you inevitably fall then start back small and build again.
Try new things. I try everything i come across. Crazy stuff. Astral projection. Lucid dreaming. Chakra crap. Most of it is BS and not useful but there are some really helpful nuggets that I never would have found if I hadn't tried. I've read a bunch of really useless self help books but most have had at least one tiny piece of useful info and thus weren't a waste of time.
Like Bruce Lee said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”
In the end what gives me peace is that all we need to do is try. Given a long enough time horizon improvement always happens, if you try.
So don't stress. Just try. Do what you can. If what you can means taking a shower and walking around your house – awesome! That's all it takes! Now do that again tomorrow. And soon you'll build unstoppable momentum. It truly is amazing.
I've hiked about 1,300 miles now and have about 850 to go. Here's some photos from Maine(just finished hiking Maine). Now on to the White mountains. https://imgur.com/gallery.jpg/sdUjG
Goodluck everyone and happy trails. I'm posting photo updates on IG if you want to follow the journey. www.instagram.com/jackjoneshg