I live in sunny SoCal for a reason. I was not born here, but after visiting one spring-like afternoon in January, I made the decision- at that moment, that I would soon live here forever.

After returning from that trip, I set my sights on sunny California, and through a lucky twist of events, I was matched for my pre-doc internship in San Diego. Since that time, I have experienced over 800 days of mostly non-interrupted sun.I love the sun, and the sun loves me. I am likely diagnosable with S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder), which affects up to 1 in 20 people (women being three times more likely to experience the disorder). When there is a period of gray, rain, or general gloomy weather, it takes a noticeable toll on my mood.

Last Tuesday was one of those days. Los Angeles had experienced an unprecedented number of back to back rainy days. As I schlepped myself around to do my errands, dressed in my gym gear and practically dragging myself to go work out, I happened to stop at a red light right in front of a cupcake shop.

Cupcakes are one of my favorite things in life. I had to make a decision that would affect the entire trajectory of my day in 30 seconds. Would I go in to the magical cupcake factory or would I trudge ahead in my daily toil and put myself through the motions of the things I needed to do that day?

I immediately made a swift right into that deli of delight and ordered three cupcakes- strawberry, heath toffee crunch, and chocolate peanut butter swirl. I giddily hurried home, put my pajamas back on, grabbed my latest edition of Vogue, and watched Oprah. As the rain poured outside my window, I thought of all those people outside- following all the rules, and how this day, I was glad I broke them.

So much of our lives, we are expected to follow the rules…Exercise five days a week. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Brush your teeth after every meal. Floss. Go to bed on time.

There is something to be said for discipline and structure. It provides us with a sense of purpose and a reason to get up each morning. Without it, most of us would feel lost, hopeless, and depressed (most people suffering with depression usually have a significant lack of structure in their lives).

Yet, we also must take time for self care. Included in self care, is the ability to give ourselves a break and allow our minds and our bodies to step out of the daily drudge. Have you ever done something out of character for you during the day? How did it make you feel afterwards? Most people have the thought, afterwards, of “why don’t I do that more often?” The greatest example I can think of are people in California who go to the beach and leave wondering, “why don’t I come to the beach more often? I live in California for this very reason!”

What is it in your life that you’ve not done because you’re following all the rules? Think about it today and do it. See how your mood changes. Color outside the lines.

Dr. Colleen Long is the author of “Happiness in B.A.L.A.N.C.E,” and practices in the Los Angeles area. Dr. Long works mainly from a positive psychology framework as it applies to addiction, depression, relationships,  body image and weight loss. Her website can be found at www.DrColleenLong.com. All public speaking/media event requests handled through FreudTV (info@FreudTV.com).

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