Lift Your Spirits

Every experience can be a positive one if we choose to see it that way…

This post comes from our dear friend, Carlen Altman.

Hi dear Free People reader, it’s your long lost friend, Carlen. Did you miss me? (No? Okay fine…) Well, I surely missed you (feeling guilty now?! JK).

The seasons are a’changing (at least here in New York City) and I don’t know about you but it feels like summer packed up and left in its wake a light, definite non-summer breeze, poking and tapping me on my shoulders with its cool but still-tolerable touch as if to whisper in my ear, “Hey you kid, put your knit sweater back on. Fall is heeeere! Why are you listening to the wind?! Get back to work!”

I initially intended to entitle this article “What It’s Like to be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP),” after learning this year that I am, in fact, one (which explains my constant feeling of overstimulation when leaving the house — especially in crowds — and an intense sensitivity to things like noise, smells and itchy fabrics [which luckily Free People doesn’t use, of course!]).

My first step in determining whether I was a Highly Sensitive Person was to take this short written test by Dr. Elaine Aron (the notable author on the subject, who coined the term “Highly Sensitive Person”). Go take the test and, if you are a HSP too, high five! (But don’t high five too hard, as we are apparently vulnerable, easily overwhelmed flowers…)

I bet you would never guess I just made that terribly insensitive Highly Sensitive Person joke from a retirement community in the middle of the woods where I have been living the past few weeks with my 85 year-old father while he recovers from cancer treatment. Despite these intense circumstances, as you may imagine, a retirement home in the woods is overall a very un-stimulating environment.

To pass the time and clear my mind from caring for my wonderful dad (who thinks Free People is for “cool, groovy chicks,” by the way), I have been listening to audiobooks and walking in the woods near a lake. I figured what’s better than listening to an audiobook on the subject of the Highly Sensitive Person to better understand my trait and possibly write an article about what I’ve learned.

The thing is, I have an embarrassing confession and I beg you not to judge me for what I am about to say or the direction this article is going in but… upon pressing Play on The Highly Sensitive Person audiobook, I could not for the life of me stand the voice of the audiobook’s narrator! (Hello, insensitive HSP alert again!)

Even my dad, while receiving chemotherapy, said “take these headphones off my ears, Carlen. I can’t stand this lady’s voice,” when I attempted to play it for him. The fact that my elderly father was pained more by the sound of this audiobook speaker than the effects of chemotherapy is a testament to its level of “auditory toxicity” if ya catch my drift.  It’s hard to explain what this voice sounded like but just imagine your snootiest English teacher who smelled of expired perfume, with spit curdled in the edges of her mouth… and amplify that fictionalized person, and the voice belonging to, by it ten thousand decibles.

Despite my irrational anger towards this shrill audiobook narrator and what I imagine her life of small, well-groomed, yapping dogs and deep lipstick stains on teacups must be like, I was determined to finish this book — both for my own benefit and those sensitive creatures  (who read the Free People blog) everywhere!

I looked to download an alternate version featuring a less abrasive-sounding narrator, but no other exists. I know you’re probably thinking, “Why didn’t you just get an actual paper book, Carlen? Why am I reading this weird dark story of yours and where is it even going? Who let you write on the Free People website, anyway? Show me an article on superfoods or kilim rugs or models off duty or anything else but this insensitive non-helpful article, Carlen!” and I would answer that “I am sorry this article is terrible and I hope to make it up to you” and follow up with that “as for buying a book-book, the lighting at my dad’s house is very dim so I have been avoiding book-books until I get back home,” and then thank you for asking all these fun questions.

The “good news” is, I finally finished the audiobook (with a lot of irrationally cranky, frustrated moments and naps in between.) And funnily enough, what I’ve learned since (finally) making it through is less about being an HSP and more about what it takes to get me out of a bad mood.  If you are in a bad mood, too (from more trivial concerns like the sound of an audiobook speaker or the less trivial, like caring for a sick relative or anything else), fear not — you have the power to lift your own spirits.

Here are some things I have found helpful to pull myself out of a bad mood… (feel free to do them in this order or whatever works best for you):


The first thing I do is sit somewhere — quiet — and meditate for 10 minutes. I highly recommend using the Headspace App (which I discussed here) but any sort of still contemplation is a good place to start. Just 10 minutes. That’s it.

Say thank you.

I highly suggest stopping whatever you’re doing and writing a list of 10 things you are grateful for in your life. It can be anything from the air you breathe to the health of your friends, to the fact that you have access to the Internet (and that this animal exists). No matter what’s caused your bad mood, there are always things in your life that are going wonderfully, whether you are focused on them or not. Inspired by my most favorite book The Magic by Rhonda Byrne, I like to formulate my list of things I am thankful for in this way. This book has helped me get out of any bad mood:


After you make this list, re-read each of the 10 sentences you’ve written outloud and say “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!” – FEEL THE GRATITUDE.

One of the things I decided to be grateful for was … my sense of hearing! I am very blessed to hear ANYTHING, even the terrible shrill voice of an audiobook narrator. Think of how lucky you are to experience things like beautiful music and even the sound of people at restaurants chewing loudly.


(And remember to feel grateful to have access to running water.)


For now, go out for a walk, preferably somewhere in nature (or just with trees nearby). Look up at the leaves and if you like, listen to music or an audiobook. I definitely recommend listening to binaural beats for music or for an audiobook, The Power by Rhonda Byrne. I could write a thousand articles on how much I love the positivity of Rhonda Byrne, but I will just say that The Power focuses on the power of love and how all problems in this world stem from a lack of love.


If you are in a bad mood, it sounds counterproductive but take a few minutes to welcome and embrace your uncomfortable feelings. Maybe even say “What’s going on, bad feelings? Why are you here?” Cry or draw a picture of what you imagine your bad mood would look like if you feel like it.

In this moment of “welcome”, I realized what wasn’t upsetting me was the sound of the shrill audiobook narrator but the fact I am listening to it while sitting in a retirement home caring for my sick dad all alone in the woods.

Once I decided to embrace the scary feelings of sadness I have — the feelings of the unknown, the feelings of hopelessness, the feelings of the unknown — and just F E E L, it passed and I felt better. I also remembered to be grateful that I love another person on this planet enough to want to take care of them. I accept this moment as it is. I love my dad as he is, sick and all and know I cannot control anyone else, just accept them.


Although we cannot control how anyone else acts, it is very powerful to think about and visualize exactly what you want to happen in your life. Stop thinking about what might go wrong and focus on what could go right. Being negative and positive take equal amount of effort. Being negative does not give you any more control over a situation, just less peace in the current moment.


This sounds like a no-brainer but many feelings of anxiety come from dehydration. Make sure to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.


Get out of your own head and help someone else. Call your older relative and tell them you’re thinking of them. Call your local animal shelter and volunteer to take a dog for a walk. Smile at a stranger (if they don’t look too crazy, or actually take the risk and do it anyway). Even if your goal is to make just one person smile, you will be making the world a little more positive. (And bringing positivity to others is bound to make you feel better in the process.)


Accept that nothing is permanent. Not this feeling, not this moment, not life. If everything stayed the same, can you imagine how boring life would be? Accept that change is inevitable and just appreciate this moment right now.


Should you find yourself in a Bad Mood, I hope this list helps you as much as it has helped me during my difficult time listening to the audiobook (er, I mean dealing with grievance and mortality).

I will write more about what I (actually learned) on being a Highly Sensitive Person in my next article and, in the meantime, let’s try to remember that every experience can be a positive one if we choose to see it that way.

And, P.S., my dad is set for a full recovery. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


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7 years ago

Haha, that intro… :-) Great tips, it’s all in the little simple things.

7 years ago

i love this post!! you wanna come over and help me clean out my closet?? – dunkatut

7 years ago

Just reading this helped to lift my mood. I too, am a hsp… much needed article. I love every concept and especially the writing style- Carlen! Thank you :)

7 years ago

This was great! Thank you and quick recovery to your dad.

7 years ago

As always great post :)
Thank You dear!

7 years ago

This is such an inspiring post! I especially loved the part “Stop thinking about what might go wrong and focus on what could go right. Being negative and positive take equal amount of effort.” Because it’s so true! I am a firm believer that if you think happy thoughts, things will be happy and well, and the same for the opposite; bad thoughts mean bad things often keep happening! It’s all about perspective, what you think you become! (:

7 years ago

Needed this today! Especially that echidna puggle nugget :)