Introducing Guest Writer: Chris Haney

Today I’d like to feature a guest writer and close friend: Chris Haney. We have a running joke that we’re in each other’s karass (“soul tribe”), which is defined as a set of kindred spirits meant to inspire and motivate each other to reach the next level. In addition to being a fantastic friend he’s also a music enthusiast, cat expert, and all around lifter-of-spirits. He reigns as the resident Tupac and Eminem scholar, too. Chris remains one of the things I miss most in Texas! Believe me, you’ll see plenty more of him featured on the happier world blog in the coming weeks.

Hello,

My name is Christopher Haney, I am 30 years old – and I am just getting started. Well that was a weird way to start right? A proclamation? Maybe. This comes from an exercise that Rob Bell presented about a 92 year old woman he met who said this to him upon their first time meeting. What an idea. You likely won’t see any breaking news on these individuals. Some lurk in the shadows and some are probably in your face every day. Honoring an intentional existence that happiness is a choice in this shitty world. They invest in their mind, attitude, and approach. They are conscious. They know that the reward of happiness and joy is worth filtering out the negativity blanket that is constantly trying to wrap itself around you every day. Why do they know you ask? Because the deeper the trench – the HIGHER the peak. If you’re like me you’ve been on your own journey trying to find the right formula. You have a unique story and I have mine. Share your story with the people that deserve to hear it. I imagine that if you’ve found your way to this page it’s not because you clicked a spam button, but made an INTENTIONAL choice. There is a kindling beneath your heart and mind awaiting to be lit. Let’s set it on fire. Let’s invest in the movement.

I look forward to seeing Tiffanie’s mission develop this year and cannot wait to contribute in any way possible. Why? Because it matters.

-Haney Strong

“It is not only possible that you have your dream – but its necessary.” -Les Brown

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January 2016 Quote of the Month

“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

-AnaÏs Nin


This quote absolutely has special meaning to me, and seemed perfect as we kick off a new year!

Staying in the bud may seem safe – but the cocoon is only a small part of metamorphosis. In your cocoon you may feel safe, secure, comfortable. You’ve surrounded yourself with a shell or an armor that keeps you from being disturbed. But while the cocoon is vital for growth, eventually you have to break out and try your brand new wings. You have to show yourself that you’re no longer the awkward caterpillar and that you have grown!

Have the courage to try new things. Have the guts to define and chase your dreams. 

 

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Don’t stay cramped up in the cocoon! (Photo: HRB.org)

I encourage you all to blossom this year!

 

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What is “Mental Health”? Why is it Important?

Your mental health is your psychological, emotional, and social well being. It’s affected by many factors including your past experiences (particularly abuse or trauma), your biology (genetics and brain chemistry), and your current environment. Your mental health can be affected by where and how you grew up, your current physical state (certain illnesses affect your emotional state), and the structures and chemicals in your brain.

Your mental health is the lens through which you interact with the world. It affects how you react to new situations, how you work with other people, and what you think of yourself daily. Your mental health affects how you perceive and react to stimuli like stress, joy, pressure, and romantic attachment. It’s super important – yet there is a lack of accurate information available on mental health illness.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a guide called “Mental Health Myths and Facts” to help combat the many misconceptions surrounding the ideas of mental health.

They share,

Myth: Mental health problems don’t affect me.

Fact: Mental health problems are actually very common. In 2014, about:

  • One in five American adults experienced a mental health issue
  • One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
  • One in 25 Americans lived with a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression

 

That information might surprise you, but doesn’t surprise me. In my years of working with a wide range of people I’ve met many wonderful and resilient souls who’ve battled severe depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and other illnesses. There shouldn’t be a cloud of shame hanging over anyone who is experiencing a mental health issue. In addition, it’s important to know your current mental state may not be long term or permanent.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services outlines:

Myth: There is no hope for people with mental health problems. Once a friend or family member develops mental health problems, he or she will never recover.

Fact: Studies show that people with mental health problems get better and many recover completely. Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities. There are more treatments, services, and community support systems than ever before, and they work.

Again: your mental health is the lens through which you see the world. The world is colored with many shades – the highs of love, security, and interconnectedness balanced with the lows of sadness, grief, and failure. The good and the bad make up the human experience – but can appear distorted without a healthy lens.

Cheers to a happier world and healthier lens to view it,

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2016: A New Adventure

In 2015 I decided to stop playing small.

For the first time in a long time I took a huge life shifting risk.

I moved back to my hometown to finish my Bachelor’s in a field I’m truly passionate about and decided to commit to getting my master’s degree as well.

It’s surreal. Leaving the safe “could have made 6 figures eventually” and “everyone loved me” type of set up at my old job. I really enjoyed my job and was good at it! More importantly, I loved the incredible people I was privileged to work with. And I left this for what, you ask? Well, to move to a troubled city, return to my loving but demanding family, and see friends I felt I no longer knew.

I had a life that was comfortable before this. A good job, great friends, dinner parities and people to celebrate achievements with. I had memories of familiar places and a lot of firsts. But I hit a plateau. I couldn’t move forward in the way that meant most to me. So I took the time to unplug, analyze, trust my gut and plan a huge change.

I decided I needed to finish my degree and complete graduate school for the purpose to working in my chosen field. Not for looks or brags – but to truly do the work I dreamed of.

My move in summer 2015 back to Baltimore was a rough transition. Bright sunny Texas was replaced with less lush streets laden with potholes and litter. Switching majors pushed me further away from graduation. And even though I was earning A’s in every class (for the first time ever!)… I was a 27 year old returning student who was studying alongside teenagers; kids who never worked and knew little about their surrounding world. Returning to school full time after working, paying my own bills, and living alone was… well, quite humbling.

I felt old. I felt insecure. I felt invisible and I was hard on myself because I knew these negative perceptions clouded to great opportunity I chased in moving back. During this time – my personal growth was evident. Upon the first week of moving back I found out my arranged job opportunity had fizzled. So I did what any responsible adult would do: waited until the last possible minute to stalk indeed.com and craigslist at 2am. There I found a few “This is my DREAM but don’t have the credentials” type jobs… but went for them anyway.

In September I started working during school as a PRP (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program) Counselor for a local agency in Baltimore City. I love my work. I’ve been the “go to” girl for life advice for years and have encouraged and coached friends, relatives, partners, co-workers, the list goes on. I took immense joy in mentoring for Big Brother Big Sister and always stayed up on research in psychology and public policy. However this was my first experience counseling in a professional 1-on-1 setting. Heart wrenching stories of failures and triumphs provided context to the people and communities that once depressed me. I started to realize Baltimore wasn’t a city of failures- but really a collection of survivors. Tough, gritty, real life survivors. I learned to face the things I ran from;  the crime rate, drug use, poverty alongside my clients. Things I left behind for the sunnier side of life in Texas. And I am loving every minute of it.

I got a great start on 2016 by beginning the process of working toward my dream in 2015. Who knows what’s in store for the rest of this year but I know I’m ready to grab every opportunity with confidence and grace.

Cheers to a happier world for both you and me!

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