Step six – change a life


“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.”
Ben Carson

The joy that one can receive from giving to others is often underestimated. In this modern day and age, most of us feel that we simply do not have the time or the resources to do so. However, it is entirely possible to change a person’s life in under a day, and you don’t have to join a charity for this to happen. If you have enough time to watch TV or browse the internet (and read this blog), then you have enough time to help a fellow human for a few hours. And it is so worth it.

Studies have shown that giving to others can help people manage their own stress and depression because of the perspective it gives them, as well as an overwhelming feeling of pride and human unity. This perspective is crucial because it reminds us that, though we have suffered heartbreak and are entitled to being upset about it, there are millions of people in the world who have much more important problems. It makes you count your blessings. If you make an effort to help somebody less fortunate than you, you will not only have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made a difference in the world, but you will feel better about yourself and about other people.

Your assignment is to find a person, community or organisation in need, and commit a few hours to helping them. I chose to donate a vegetable patch to my domestic worker, Patience. Due to years of economic, social and political oppression under the apartheid regime, there are 7 588 013 people living in informal settlements in South Africa, struggling below the poverty line every day. It took very little money and only a few hours to create a fertile patch of vegetables, which could grow and help Patience to feed her family with nutritious and filling meals.

When I arrived at Langa (the informal settlement), I was disturbed by the level of poverty its inhabitants live in. There was rubbish everywhere, stray dogs foraging for food and thin children playing with a deflated soccer ball. A far cry from my sturdy house, pleasant garden and creature comforts. Despite their difficult circumstances, Patience and her neighbors touched me with their kindness and generosity – offering me their food and rationed water. I felt too guilty to oblige. In the few hours I spent there, I noticed how loving they were. Everybody shared everything and, though they had very little possessions, the children played and laughed and the adults smiled in each other’s company.

When we finished the vegetable patch, I was hugged by just about all of the women and children – the joy on their faces was priceless. One little act of kindness meant an immeasurable amount to them. I realized how insignificant my little problems were, and how I had an incredible amount to be thankful for. It felt ungrateful of me to not be happy, because I live a comfortable and relatively privileged existence, and I have far more to base my happiness on than just one relationship.

The perspective I found that day will serve me for the rest of my life. Not only do I feel so much more thankful for the life I have, but I also finally feel that I am a good person with good intentions, I have purpose and value, and my happiness can and will not be taken from me.

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Step five – get angry!


Anger is a very normal thing to feel, whether it is a short-lived annoyance or full-blown rage. It is a natural human reaction to things that make us feel that something of ours is threatened, whether it is our life, possessions, privileges or self-perception.  After being broken up with, you will feel anger due to the fact that your ex took something away from you that you didn’t want being taken away. You feel hurt and you feel that your ‘happiness’ was stolen from you. It’s perfectly fine to exxperience these emotions, and it is very important to acknowledge them. What really makes the difference is how you choose to deal with the anger. If you suppress it, it will turn inwards and you will become an angry person in general.

This can have seriously negative effects on your personal and professional relationships, as you can become bitter, cynical and unpleasant. At the same time, allowing your anger to burst to the surface and just let rip will not help the situation either, and it will make your sources of anxiety even worse.

There are two ways to deal with the anger that you are feeling: 1) express it and 2) convert it into energy. It is okay to tell your ex that you are angry about something that they did, but make sure that you have a clear head and know exactly the source of your anger. A good thing to do would be to convert the anger into energy as much as you can before confronting your ex, to ensure that your mind will be clearer and you will not ‘lose your cool’.


A great way to do this is kickboxing. Kickboxing is an effective way to vent your aggression, because it is high impact and it makes you feel like you are fighting whatever is making you angry. It also drains your energy until you simply do not have the desire to be angry anymore. Another great thing about this sport is that it allows you to strengthen, tone and reduce fat all at the same time, leaving you feeling really good about yourself.  Another benefit of kickboxing is that it teaches self-defense, which will allow you to feel independent and in control of your life.

I went to a kickboxing tutorial at my friend’s gym (yet another freebie for this broke student) and it was very therapeutic. I pretended that big old punching bag was my ex and every time I did a big swing or kick, I thought of the way he hurt me and made me feel so humiliated when he dumped me. Let’s just say that my instructor got a little freaked out when I started swearing at his equipment. I must admit that it was a difficult session, because my muscles were a little stiff from the new exercise regimen, but once I got into it and found some rhythm in the different moves, it was a lot of fun and a great outlet for all that pent up frustration. I left the studio feeling powerful and a little proud. When I got home, I sat down for over an hour and wrote down all the things my ex has done to make me feel angry: from his annoying habits, all the way to the way he made me feel so worthless when he just walked away out of the blue. I decided not to confront him about it, because most of my anger had been vented and I didn’t want to let those things affect me anymore. I went to a nearby park where we used to hang out and I burned the letter. It felt like an appropriate goodbye.


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Step Four – say hello to the new you.

A little effort goes a long way

A little effort goes a long way

There’s no doubt that your world changed the moment your ex walked away.  It’s important to take control of your attitude towards the situation; rather than seeing it as a sad ending, look at it as an exciting new beginning, full of endless possibilities. When life changes, you have to adapt to it, so why not embrace this time in your life by reinventing yourself? Use these raw and powerful emotions as motivation to become the person you have always wanted to be, whether its rising in your profession, getting into shape or building up a social life. The changes you make can start off small, like talking to a stranger or reading up on a topic, as long as you concentrate your energy on improving the way you feel about yourself and the way you do things.

This is going to be helpful because your confidence will just keep rising and this positive energy will be reflected in the way that you convey yourself to others. You will find yourself interacting with more people, making friends easily and talking to hotties without having a complete cretin attack. Most people find confidence incredibly sexy, and if you feel good about yourself, you put out a ‘vibe’ that you are a fun and interesting person, and people will naturally be drawn to you.

Another benefit of working on yourself is that it will positively affect your future, ensuring that you will become happier by the day. Also, this long-term project will form a distraction from your sadness, and it will be a way for you to channel your strong emotions into energy to achieve positive things.

I do not mean to say that you need to change or that you are not good enough the way you are. I am just acknowledging that most people have insecurities that bring their self esteem down, or goals that they have always wanted to achieve but never got around to doing. So why not get up and actively do something about it? It’s not so much the change that will help you move on – I might get thinner at some point, but I could still be sad. It’s really just about the feeling of accomplishment, the rise in confidence and the proof of self-worth that makes the difference.

I decided to improve my self-image by getting fit and losing a bit of weight. I’m not one of those people who believe that you have to be thin in order to be beautiful, but I feel that I would look better if I toned up and lost a kilo here or there. As I have mentioned before, I am a broke student, but you don’t need money for a gym membership to get into shape. I started an exercise routine where I run for thirty minutes around my neighborhood, four times a week. Three of those times, I will do basic exercises in conjunction with the running, such as push-ups and crunches. My weekly Nia class will work fantastically for my goal because it is so much fun. Today, it was difficult getting into the swing of things because, as you know, I hate exercise and find it a chore. However, the rush of endorphins afterwards felt amazing and I am truly looking forward to letting out all that steam again tomorrow and having that lovely mood lift. Not looking forward to the stiffness, though.

Stuck on what to do for yourself? How about going to get a radical new hair colour and style, and showing it off to your friends?  Or perhaps saving up and getting an attractive new wardrobe? You could even start learning a new language that you’ve always wanted to learn. As I’ve said, the possibilities are endless, and that is awfully exciting.

Click here for a useful video on how to build up your confidence and self-esteem.

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Step Three – dance your heart out

Today, your assignment is to go to a beginners dance class. Whatever your preference might be; contemporary, salsa, ballroom – as long as you can move to some music and work up a sweat. The benefits of dance are endless and they suit the healing of a broken heart tremendously.


First of all, dance is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise, meaning that it gets your heart pumping and your blood flowing. You get to burn fat, sweat out toxins and release tons of endorphins (feel-good hormones), which you have probably been lacking for the past few days. Dancing, as with any other cardio exercise, is the best way to lose weight and get fit, and the great thing about it is that you get to have fun while doing so. I don’t know about you, but exercise is about appealing to me as being locked in a dark room with a Justin Bieber song playing on repeat, so any way to make it less of a chore is welcome.


Another benefit of going to a dance class is that you are exposing yourself to something completely new and different, and meeting more people while doing so. This has two important benefits: firstly, this is something sacred that you can own and look forward to, which nobody else can touch. Secondly, it’s an opportunity for you to make friends with your classmates and open up to new experiences. There is nothing here that will remind you of your ex, and all these novel things will form a great distraction. You don’t need to be particularly good at dancing in order to reap its benefits – my best attempt of ‘breaking it down’ resembles that of a limp blow up doll having an epileptic fit. The fact that you are trying something different and breaking through your comfort zone will give you a fabulous feeling of accomplishment.


The class I decided to go to was Nia, which is a technique that links the mind, body and spirit. It draws from Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido, jazz dance, modern dance, yoga and more (click on this link to watch a demonstration) What attracted me to this was the fact that it is so inclusive. Beginners of all shapes, ages and sizes are welcome, and you are encouraged to go at your own pace.

 I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed exercise so much in my life. One of the things that I loved was that it’s not crucial for you to be good at keeping to a routine (which I am  most certainly not). Rather, it allows you to express yourself in a way that you feel comfortable with, and it concentrates on finding peace and joy through the continuous movement of your body. I thought I would feel a bit silly, seeing as this is quite an esoteric form of dance, but everybody was incredibly welcoming and friendly, and the joy around me was infectious. At one point, everybody in the room was smiling and some were even laughing. You don’t even notice how hard you work your body, because the music makes you want to carry on and go faster, and by the end of the 45-minute session I was catching my breath, my legs felt like jelly and I felt invincible.


I’ve decided to go to this class every week, and I’m so excited for the next one. When I got home, I was on such a natural high that when my ex made his Facebook status about looking forward to getting drunk with his friends, I thought “Well shame, good luck with the hangover buddy” and slept like a baby. Of course, it upset me the next day, but the important thing is that dancing gave me strength and new-found confidence and it can only get better from here.

To find out more about Nia and what it can do for your life, visit

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Step Two – Take care of yourself.


Congratulations, the worst is over. You have gone through the sharpest pain of the breakup, possibly of your life, and you’ve come out alive. If my own experience is anything to go by, you probably feel hollow, bitter, depressed and ugly. Your eyes are red and your mouth tastes salty, and you keep replaying what happened in your mind. You don’t want to look in the mirror because you don’t even recognize the empty person you see on the other side. Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s normal and you are going to be okay. I’m also here to tell you that whatever negative thoughts you have of yourself right now are wrong. Your self-esteem is likely to be at an all-time low, and sadly it’s normal to hate yourself and perhaps even feel that you deserve to be alone. Please, I beg of you, do not give into these thoughts, because they are the furthest thing from the truth. You are a beautiful, special, valuable individual, and if it wasn’t for your flaws you would not be the unique person that your friends and family adore. You deserve to be loved, and some day someone amazing will walk into your life and appreciate all of the weird idiosyncrasies that you have. In the meantime, you need to learn to be happy on your own, and you need to love yourself.

What you are going to do today is call up a friend (preferably one who has been through a breakup before) and invite them to go for some kind of a pampering treatment with you. Whatever relaxes you is fine. Some might choose to go for a manicure, a facial or a massage. If you have the means, multiple treatments are great, but really just the fact that you’re actively doing something for yourself is therapeutic enough. Also, throughout this week (and hopefully every week thereafter) you need to commit to living a healthy lifestyle. That means plenty of fruits and vegetables, exercise and sleep. Your body and mind will thank you ten-fold and you will feel good naturally.

Don’t have enough money to go for a treatment? Think again. Sign up on Groupon and look out for amazing discounts on all sorts of exciting treatments near you, up to 60% off.

My friend Aimee and I chose to go for acupuncture, because we’re broke students and we know a girl who has just finished a cosmetology course, so she can do free treatments in exchange for practice. I must admit, at first this was not relaxing at all. Only when we were at the point of no return, face down on our tables, did we realize that this girl has very little experience and is about to stick many needles into our bodies, until we resemble gothic porcupines. However, once she started, I immediately realized why so many people rave about this treatment.

Acupuncture originated in ancient China, and is based on the principle that the human body has invisible meridians of energy which can be manipulated and reorganized into pleasing feelings, through sticking tiny needles into the body. Though there is no scientific proof that these meridians exist, and there is no way of explaining how it affects the body, people all over the world swear by it as a way to relieve tension, pain and many other ailments. It is commonly used to treat pain and anxiety for cancer patients, as well as a wellness treatment for anybody with stress-related problems. As the treatment promises, you don’t feel the needles because they are so small, so there is no pain. From the very first needle, I felt a wave of warmth, followed by relaxation and relief. It was almost as though my negative feelings were leaving the needles. When it was all done, we both noticed how relaxed our muscles were, and we felt lighter and energized.

It was lovely to have Aimee there to talk to about the breakup, and we even had some laughs. Though it might bring up some sad thoughts, it is so vital to speak about the breakup with someone else, so that you can get a different perspective on the situation. I found it comforting to know that Aimee had been through the same thing and is now very happily living the single life. It felt really good that I had company, and that I’d done something nice for myself.

Today reminded me that I deserve to be happy and that life feels better when you take care of yourself and your well-being. The fact that my outing with Aimee made me laugh and feel a bit better gave me hope that the future can be bright and joyful, without any dependence on a significant other. As for the negative thoughts, they still come and go. However, after reading an article on dealing with low self esteem after a breakup, I have learned that you can combat this by recognizing when you are giving into negativity, allowing it to pass quickly and giving yourself constant positive affirmations. Eventually, this becomes a habit and you can actually train yourself to think positively and believe in your worth. A handy thing to do is to write a list of all the things you are good at, what you like about yourself and what others have complimented you on. Referring to this when you are feeling low can bring you out of the negativity and remind you of all the reasons to be proud of yourself.

I sincerely hope that you will laugh or smile at least once today. Read the article that I’ve just mentioned, go treat yourself, talk to a friend and most importantly, love who you are. You are definitely worth it.

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Step One – Grieve.

Let it out

Let it out

As I am writing this, I am at an all time low, and I’ve given up on all self-respect and dignity. I am currently sitting in my living room, which is so messy it looks as though a chocolate wrapper and tissues bomb has exploded. It’s late afternoon and the sun is glorious outside, but I have spent the day alone, sulking indoors with the curtains closed. I am wearing the baggiest and least attractive pyjamas any person could own, my hair resembles the nest of a bird who was born a bit special, and I have an impressive layer of KFC grease on my face (earlier I found a chicken crumb on my eyebrow, God knows how vigorously somebody needs to eat in order to achieve that). I have spent the day crying (actually blubbering, like an injured whale), eating comfort food and watching movies such as Romeo and Juliet and The Notebook – because the stupid lovers die and that gives me great satisfaction. Now, though this may seem like an unhealthy and really quite pathetic start to a week of wellness, it is, in fact, the best thing one can do. I have never been so depressed in my life, and I’m wallowing. But the important thing is that I am only allowing myself to do this for just 24 hours. 24 hours to let it all out and be as pitiful as I want. There is even an alarm set.

See, mental health professionals cannot seem to stress enough the importance of allowing yourself to grieve over a loss, whether it is that of a loved one, a relationship or even just a life phase. The fact of the matter is that heartbreak is the closest to bereavement most of us will have felt so far, and if you do not allow yourself to go through the necessary stages, from disbelief all the way through to acceptance, then it can have seriously negative effects on your mental well-being in the long-term.

It is a very human thing to both fear sadness and avoid it at any cost, because it seems counter-instinctive to feel so uncomfortable. This is exactly why we have such common defense mechanisms such as denial and repression. Many of us will receive the bad, albeit well-intended advice “Keep busy, don’t think about it” or “have a stiff upper lip, don’t let it get you down”. However, by denying the existence of your sadness, you are not dealing with a complex set of emotions that need to be worked through in order to find peace. Pushing your grief to the back of your mind allows it to grow like a cancer, and it is exactly this that forms the root cause for many people’s depression, anxiety and commitment issues.

Now is a good time to change your perspective on sadness. Even though it is a very unpleasant feeling, it is incredibly useful in the healing process.  Allowing yourself to grieve will give you clarity on the situation and eventually you will be able to accept that, though you have lost something important to you and that it is a very sad thing, you are still a beautiful and loveable person and deserve to feel happiness despite it. Acknowledging sadness allows your mind to channel and release a large chunk of it, and then the fun part can begin: moving on and making the most of this amazing gift that is life!

So go on, feel sorry for yourself for a day. Cry like a baby – and not the beautiful kind where a tear rolls down your radiant cheek. No sweetie, cry that ugly red-faced cry that makes you look like an angry sumo-wrestler with bowel-movement problems. Feel the lowest you will ever feel, get it over with and sleep on it. Then, wake up and put some cold cucumber on those pink, puffy eyes and get ready to face the world.

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