For the past couple of months, I have been based in Sydney instead my usual base in LA. Spending time in Sydney has largely been a peaceful and happy time for me, time spent in a vastly different environment to LA around my family and old friends has allowed me the break that I needed. Whilst excited to fly back to LA in a few days, I am glad to have had time to reflect on my life and happiness itself, what it means to be happy and what needs to be done to become a happier person.
Last year I wrote an article about anxiety. Whilst certainly not a medical professional, my article highlighted some of my personal experiences with anxiety, some of the shapes and forms it has taken on in my life and included some tips and insight into what has helped me. After the article was published many actors, some that I knew and many that I didn’t, reached out to me and shared their experiences and struggles with anxiety. It was both comforting and upsetting to me that so many actors struggle with this and other mental health issues.
It is my belief that mental health issues and in turn mental wellbeing is simply not discussed enough within the acting community, largely to the detriment of actors, especially because statistics have shown that actors are twice as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than the general population.
With this in mind and my own recent reflections on happiness, I wanted to share some of my humble tips on how to be happier human. As always, I hope this article inspires you and encourages you to love yourself fully exactly as you are.
‘You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.’ – Elizabeth Gilbert
There is a great quote from Doris Day, ‘gratitude is riches, complaint is poverty.’ I strongly believe the first step to being happier begins and ends with gratitude. There is an incredible power to being truly grateful for what you have in your life right now, at this very moment. There is a deeper power in expressing that, this might mean keeping a gratitude journal and writing a daily list of what you are grateful for in your life. Cultivating a positive mindset can mean reshaping the way you have thought and therefore framed your life and experiences for many years. The road to undoing some negative thought processes can take time but ultimately the journey to appreciating your life and practicing gratitude will have immediate and long lasting positive outcomes for your mental health.
A lot like the practice of gratitude, positive affirmations are proven to have an incredible impact of your life, the act of speaking positive affirmations daily will help in your journey to becoming a happier you. Every day we have thoughts or affirmations, these thoughts affirm a belief system within us and about our lives, it is our self-dialogue. In order to have a positive mindset, your self-talk needs to be positive and linked to self-love. A great way to create a positive and loving dialogue in your head is through the act of positive affirmations. This is to repeat simple, positive phrases to yourself daily. Research has shown that the brain processes them best when the affirmations are simple, short and concise. An example of this might be, ‘I am beautiful just as I am.’ Or, ‘I am successful’ and ‘I am a good friend.’ It may feel silly at first but just like practicing gratitude, practicing daily positive affirmations is a quick and easy way to be happier and will have a long lasting impact on your mental wellbeing and personal happiness.
In our current political and social climate, we know both the adverse and positive outcomes of social media. Whilst social media can be an incredibly useful tool for an actor, countless studies have also linked the use of social media to depression and even a lowered feeling of self worth and satisfaction in life. Viewing a persons instagram feed is viewing a sort of highlight reel of their life and yet as much as we know this, it can still be difficult to not compare yourself with others online, creating a feeling of dissatisfaction. Whilst I’m not suggesting to delete any social media accounts, it is important to understand that if you are feeling down or struggling emotionally, a quick skim of your feed might actually make you feel a lot worse. Our social media accounts can often have a negative affect on our lives and yet their addictive power means we continue using them. Just like monitoring the content you consume, sometimes deleting your social media for a few days and disconnecting can have a powerful and positive outcome for your mental health.
YOU ARE NOT A CIVILIAN
A couple of years ago whilst shooting a film in Sydney, I was fortunate to be on set with an actor that I have long respected. During a conversation, he said something to me that would change my personal mindset forever. Discussing being an actor, I was lamenting that I often longed to have more stability in my life, commenting that often I didn’t feel that I fit in around people with more conventional lives. He simply looked at me and said,
‘Well, you are not a civilian. You won’t ever be and the sooner you accept that and stop trying to become one, the happier you will be.’
For me, in that moment, truer words had never been spoken because even though I was shooting a film, the usual fears were still filling my mind. I still had no idea what I would book next or if I would run out of money. It was a period in my life where I really needed someone to tell me that it was okay that my life was not following the usual benchmarks. Sometimes when we are struggling with personal happiness as an actor we need to be reminded that it is okay to be different and to have made different choices, because to be different is to exist on your own terms and to live your life authentically. For me, this is something I struggle with and yet strive to do daily.
THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
The reality is that the acting industry is undeniably cut throat. It requires a great personal juxtaposition; an actor must be both tirelessly resilient and yet also be sensitive, empathic and open in order to convey the emotional capacity to act- to relate. Being both incredibly sensitive and also resilient is no easy task, handling a barrage of rejection whilst remaining empathic and connected without at some point becoming overwhelmed or struggling emotionally is difficult; sometimes impossible. No one is happy everyday, everyone has personal struggles but the pursuit of happiness and self-love is the most worthy pursuit of your life. Whether you are an actor or not, finding ways to be happier is simply a human pursuit. My personal exploration of happiness has been an ongoing and likely life long journey yet it is something that I believe as actors we should explore to its fullest. Perhaps it is the role of actors to exist fully, to feel everything, the good and the bad but I think as humans it is our job most of all, to be grateful, to live authentically and to be happy.
‘The only way to be free in an unfree world, is to be so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’ – Albert Camus