Choosing Beauty with Guest Sahar Aker

This week the Mental Health Mamas are joined by Sahar Aker who found a way to choose beauty on a daily basis which helped her when she found herself in the depths of depression. #IChooseBeauty is a simple concept that requires just a moment out of your busy day to shift your mood because as Sahar says on her website, it?s not about changing what you see, it?s about changing how you see it.

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Tina: Hey everyone, I'm Tina

Serena: And I'm Serena, and we are the Mental Health Mamas.


Tina: Welcome to No Need to Explain. We are so glad you're here.

Serena: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.

Tina: We come to not as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as parents with lived experience who are on a mission to normalize the conversation around mental health.

Serena: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You'll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website,

Tina: Last week, we had a guest, Jake Eagle, talking about his book, Power of Awe: Overcome, Burnout, Anxiety, Ease, Chronic Pain, Find Clarity and Purpose in less than one minute per day. It was a very powerful empowering episode highlighting the benefits of noticing to improve our mental health and our physical health.

Serena: Right, and if you haven't listened, it's a good one. And we think it's tied closely to this week's episode. So today we have a guest with us who has openly struggled with clinical depression and at the suggestion of her therapist started noticing things around her. From this noticing grew of movement, and she's here to talk to us about this today.

Tina: As Sahar Aker says on her website, I Choose Beauty, ?Clinical depression runs in my family. I've struggled with it most of my life, but this time around was different. This time I didn't see it coming. It had been building for years and I didn't have a clue that I was slipping into a dangerous downward spiral.? Sahar calls herself a depression warrior, love that. Sahar, welcome to the podcast.

Sahar: Thank you, thank you so much for having me. I love that you guys are striving to normalize mental health and talking about it. I think that's so needed.

Tina: So we would love to start our conversation with you telling a little bit of your story to our listeners.

Sahar: Sure, so just kind of going off of what you just said. Yeah, I've always struggled with depression and then it was all gosh, it's been, it was like in 2009 when all of this kind of hit. It was just one of those things where something would go wrong and I'd be like, I'm okay, and not really deal with those feelings. And then something else would happen. It was just like, I'm okay. I just kept bouncing back up and then after a while, I just, I don't think I even realized it, but I just kind of sunk in this dark hole.

Serena: Yeah, so depression is tough. And as you say, it kind of sneaks up on us, right? And we don't always tune into those feelings, building. So tell us about how your therapist helped you out of your dark place and where you went from there.

Sahar: I was living in Columbus, Ohio at the time and I had been in therapy, I think, for a couple of years, mainly doing cognitive behavioral therapy. And I was doing better, but I was still super vulnerable, it's one of those places where you take one step forward two steps back, so it was just kind of doing that balance. And we were coming upon winter, it was November and winters in Columbus, Ohio are really tough. Super overcast, and of course, we get dark earlier and then it's really cold. So that was, you know, dealing with seasonal affective disorder was always something I struggled with too. So he suggested, he just really knew a lot about positive psychology. And that field, what they believe that philosophy is that if you notice an appreciate beauty, that you're more likely to find joy and meaning in everyday life. So he challenged me to try to notice something of beauty every day, and that's kind of how things got started.

Tina: Hmm, that's awesome. So we love your tagline. I show you how noticing life's beauty every day can help improve your mental health, and it is so true. Are you, let's see, you're going on eight years of daily posts, right over 3,000, is that close?

Sahar: It's close, okay. So when I hit 8,000, which was about a year ago, actually, it was February of 2022, I kind of stopped posting every single day because I was posting every single day for 3,000 posts. And I still notice beauty every day. And I still post, I just sometimes take a day or two off of social media just to get myself a break. But basically, this year actually will be, in November, will be 10 years since I started. And what happened is when my therapist told me to start noticing beauty, I'm a super visual person. So I just took it a step further and I started taking pictures of the beauty I noticed and posting it on Instagram using the hashtag I choose beauty. And yeah, I honestly was super skeptical when he told me to start noticing beauty. But after I did it for just like a week, I could tell a difference. I just felt like a glimmer of hope. And so that's why I kept going.

Serena: And I just love the, I'm just going to use the word momentum. I found you a few years ago, and I don't remember how I discovered your page and your movement to notice beauty in everyday life. But it was, so I'm in upstate New York and we were approaching winter and same thing, right? I thought, okay, so I know there's beauty. And like, you talk about November and I have that like sinking feeling in November, I think, okay, winter's coming, right? And so I really, I embraced what you were doing. And then I guess I'm using the word momentum because not only are you posting, but all these other people are posting too, right?

Sahar: Yeah. So what happened is after I had been posting for a year and I was like, oh my gosh, it's been a year. I posted a post about that. And I had a lot of people thanking me and I was like, I don't, why are you thanking me? Because I was just doing this to desperately heal myself. And that's when I realized that it was helping other people. Inspiring other people. So I launched a 30 day hashtag I choose beauty challenge where I guide people to find different types of beauty every day.

Tina: It sounds a little bit like, for many people, it would be a balancing act, right? So social media can really suck us in in ways that we are like, okay, so you are looking into the world to find beauty. You're not looking to social media for some, you know, for some response back, right? And I think that's, that might be a little bit, I guess I'm just thinking about this from the perspective of I love your perspective, which is I'm putting things out to the world because it's, you know, it's creating joy in myself, right? And I guess that might just be a little warning, like don't look for what's coming back see the other people's beauty, but don't need to be liked a million times, right? And I know you've said you didn't ever rely on that.

Sahar: Yeah, I mean, obviously it's hard when you're on social media to ignore all that, right? And I would be lying if I said I ignored it, but I think that I just think that I've learned to, well, number one, I really don't follow anyone that is gonna, that I know is gonna bring me down. And yeah, and I just, I just recently, you know, now you have the option on Instagram to not show how many likes you get and I really like that because I don't think that's what it should be about.

Tina: Right, yeah, yeah, I love that, I love that. Sorry to just derail us a little bit there but I just wanted to address that because I think when we talk about social media, it is the thing for some people.

Sahar: Yeah, definitely.

Serena: Absolutely, yeah, it's really easy to get sucked in and when is it enough, right? Because it's probably more,

Sahar: yeah, it totally is. It's hard, it's a really hard balance and I think, you know, you just have to, you just have to be intentional and figure out what works for you. You know, if you need time away, which is what I realized. It's just, it's, yeah, you know? Yeah, it is hard. I can't ever, I can't imagine being growing up with social media. I think that would have been detrimental to my mental health.

Serena: Yeah, right. I think about that all the time. Like, yeah, our kids are growing up in a very different world than we did. And I don't think we even understand it as adults. So, yeah, for kids to grasp that.

Sahar: Yeah.

Serena: Yeah, so I heard you use the word intentional and I do think that there's a lot of intentionality in this. And I love that. I love that idea. But we also want to hear maybe some of the other ways that you take good care of yourself. And we talk about this often in terms of our toolbox, right? What do you have in your toolbox?

Sahar: Yeah, well, I have a, I have a actual physical toolbox and just like one that I rely on just in life in general, but definitely the looking for beauty every day is just one element. I think the most important is therapy and the right medications. And then, you know, I really try hard to stick to the basic, you know, healthy lifestyle because that plays a role in your mental health, you know, getting a good night's rest, clean diet, movement, and then minimizing your exposure to environmental toxins. I also rely on coping statements that I learned in therapy and I repeat those when when I'm not feeling well, like, you know, it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay. Just keep repeating things like that. And that helps reframing negative thoughts is something I always go back to. It's like I can't do it enough. And I, there's a workbook called the anxiety and phobia workbook that is really helpful. Also use Insight Timer. It's a free app for meditating. And it's got so many different things. It's got everything from soundscapes to guided meditations for self love. I mean, it's just amazing. And it's got some paid meditations, but a lot of free ones too. And then I do journaling. I journal every day. And then in my physical toolbox, I just keep things around that make me feel good, whether it's an inspirational card deck, you know, essential oils for diffusing, lavender, things, just things that make me feel good.

Tina: Hmm, that's awesome.

Sahar: Yeah.

Tina: So when you journal, do you use a particular, do you use prompts or do you tell us more about your journaling?

Sahar: Yeah, actually. So for a long time, I was just using random notebooks and every day I was asking myself the same questions, the same prompts. And so that in turn became, I turned it into a journal. So that I wouldn't have to just keep writing this, you know, the same prompts every day, but I would just obviously change the answers. And it's my Finding Hope Journal launched in May of 2022. And it's got morning prompts and then evening prompts. And they're all about helping you feel better about yourself. And about, you know, your life, I think that's really important when it, you know, when you have depression and you're not feeling good about yourself, it just kind of, the prompts kind of guides you to look for little things and, and what you can look forward to tomorrow and things that you did that little things, you know, whatever you did that was tiny that day that made you feel proud. And I've been using it now that I have it.

Tina: That's awesome. That's awesome. It's good sometimes to have prompts so that you are being thoughtful every day. And I imagine you can find that on your website. I'm curious about how our listeners are going to find you. And what, what are your connection points? Tell us.

Sahar: Yeah. So my website is, And yeah, I have a shop on there with my, um, with the journal. It's actually on Amazon, but it links to it from my website. And then some other products in my shop. I, I turn my coping statements that I learn from therapy into designs that are on, um, t-shirts and mugs and printables. So that's there. And then the other way to connect with me is really on Instagram. It?s kind of where I hang out. And my handle is at, I choose dot beauty.

Serena: Mm. Great. Thank you. And I, yeah, I totally recommend that everybody go and follow because, uh, very, very inspiring.

Sahar: Thank you.

Serena: Before we wrap our episode up today, um, is there anything we haven't asked you that you want to make sure you put out to the world?

Sahar: I think what I want people to know and what, um, what led me to begin the doing the challenge and offering it to other people is, I just want people to know that there is light after the darkness, um, I was in a place where I didn't think I was ever going to see the light. And so I, I feel like what I went through was so that I could help others. And I'm very open about talking about my journey and, um, you know, connecting with people who've gone through similar things in their life. I just, um, like you, I just feel like we need to normalize those conversations and, yeah, I think the most important thing is just to let people know that there is light after darkness. So when, when you don't feel like that's ever going to happen, just know that it, that it really is.

Serena: Yeah. So with last week's episode on the awe method of less than one minute meditations. And now the I choose beauty movement, uh, we have some new tools in our boxes.

Tina: Yes, we do. That's awesome.

Sahar: Always want to collect more tools. That's what I learned

Tina: exactly, right? It's absolutely cannot have enough toolbox. My toolbox is pink. So I just feel like my proverbial toolbox, I cannot have enough things. It cannot be big enough. I was, I, I've said this before Serena. It's like Mary Poppins, right? Like, yeah, I feel like it's just, I opened it up and they're all these things. So Sahar thank you for joining us today and sharing all of your well earned wisdom, I would say.

Sahar: Well, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Serena: Thanks Sahar. And so podcast friends, we are as always grateful for all of you taking the time to listen and support us. You can help us up by visiting Apple podcasts. Leave us a review while you're there. Subscribe and please share our podcast with others. If you like what you hear, you will find more content on our website. and connect with us on the socials. Call us and leave us a voice message. You'll find that number in our notes. You could share a bit of your story, give us some ideas for future podcast episodes are just called to say hi.

Tina: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.

Serena: Thanks so much for listening.

Tina: Bye.