On a cold February afternoon, I posted a special invitation on a Facebook group in Edinburgh called ‘The Meadows Share’. I asked if anyone would be willing to share any advice for themselves when they are having a bad day.
My goal was to create a short film that reaches people, so I figured it would be great to feature as many people as I can. That will help bring across the message that we all experience difficult times. It was to normalize emotional struggle. We all have something to deal with. I was humbled to meet several, incredibly raw, vulnerable and empathetic folks who were willing to share their own experiences by opening up and even crying in front of my camera. All of them shared the ambition to contribute for others and a wider cause. We all seemed to want to reduce the stigma we carry around difficult emotions– they are okay to have. If several of us open up, it can give permission for others to do the same.
This experience shockingly ended up giving me too access to touch upon my own humanity, through the lens of others. Unexpectedly, in the end it included my own. I will tell you about it here:
“IS IT OKAY TO HAVE A BAD DAY” is my short film-music-video. It is a part of an interdisciplinary project lying between Cognitive Science and Film. The film was created with and for young adults, aiming to share mental health coping skills. It was designed to both provide research-based advice for emotional struggle in addition to encourage self-compassion and sharing.
My goal with creating this is to reach the person sitting at home, under their blanket, and dealing with a difficult time. You may just be trying to escape your thoughts by turning to social media and scrolling down ‘Instagram’ in search of distraction. In fact, the words to the song were based on lectures given by Tal Ben Shahar, at his Health Psychology course PSY1504 at Harvard University. It focuses on what he calls ‘giving ourselves the permission to be human’.
What I was not prepared for, was a powerful moment which occurred when I decided to add myself to the film. Since I am the musician, I thought it would make sense to include myself during a rough moment in life. Somewhere on my dusty drive I found an old video I took with my phone of myself crying so I dragged it into the video draft. As I scrolled over to the clip segment I noticed lip movement and therefore decided to listen. I was murmuring “all he says is ‘I don’t know’as an elephant tear rolled down my cheek. My hand started shaking as it suddenly hit me: this video was taken just a year previous, during one ofthe most excruciating times in the hospital visiting my fiancé, a month before I lost him. Here I was sitting in front of my screen and seeing me-back-then weeping. At the time, I remember, the experience was so unbearable that all I could do was focus on supporting the family doing what I can to hold myself together. Now, a shocking warm wave filled with self-empathy overcame me. I suddenly saw myself amongst all the others in my video. Now, one year late, I was able to finally look at her (me) amongst those sharing their own struggles advice. Suddenly, I was relieved to be just another person having, well, a very bad day. And… it was Okay.
Validated and embraced within the others in my own film; being “part of” encouraged accepting my own struggles, allowing that part of being human. There was suddenly nothing wrong with my experiencing pain, or with me. It was all OKAY.
Creating this music video has allowed me to be with, learn from, and co-curate extraordinary moments and insights about other people’s coping skills. And surprisingly, I also got in touch with myself. I hope this experience will encourage me to be kinder to myself, and I also hope this video can reach other hearts and use the research–based information, in addition to the personal stories, to better cope with what they are dealing with.
My larger ambition is to air such mental-health oriented music videos onto channels like MTV and, to normalize playing them at mainstream dance clubs around the world (post-COVID). Often messages in pop music and clubs occur to be communicating messages such as status and desirability, and I aim to shift this pendulum to more responsible messages promoting self-acceptance, social empathy and support.
Over the past year, I got together with similar mindset-oriented artists and individuals and founded PosiFest.uk which is getting volume on Facebook. “Is it OK to Have a Bad Day?” was one of the first videos featured on PosiFest. As a team we always look out for and welcome anybody to join us and share their own advice on coping. PosiFest’s mission states that “Together, we create fun and belonging. We declare into existence a loving world that cares”.
- Link to full length music video documentary (8 minute) https://youtu.be/18EqjbpbG4A
- ..and a link to a feedback form, if you would be ever so kind to share your feedback it would make a big difference for me https://bit.ly/37BLRBD
- Link to 1 minute Trailer https://youtu.be/GsipneCURmo
- Link to 2 min Trailer https://youtu.be/nCUrKY-X9P8
After submitting the final film, participants were happy for me to share their entire interview “behind the scenes”. Those precious conversations can be found on my YouTube channel:
I was deeply moved to witness the response of one of my participants once the project was aired “I don’t have time to shower every morning but I do have time to watch this video”.
WORDS TO SONG
Is it Okay to Have a Bad Day
(Permission To Be Human)
By Shalhavit-Simcha Cohen and Kilooh
Is it okay
to feel a little bit down to have a bad day
To experience discomfort jealousy and pain
To hide from the sunshine and stay in the rain
It is alright
to sometimes sit on a bench and not constantly fight
The negativity and instead embrace the sadness
Abandon sanity and explore the madness
Why do I try
To obsessively reach for the sky
To never look bad to never be wrong
To hide all my weaknesses and always be strong
Maybe it’s fine
To not be perfect and always shine
because if you never stray from your path
You are probably a dead person or a Psychopath
Is it okay (to allow myself permission)
to be human?
We do not allow ourselves to be sad and make mistakes
we put on a pretty smile and act all fake
Just to look nice our mental health we sacrifice
As the anger builds up we explode and pay the price
We are ashamed of others and we don’t share
Imagining the worst outcome we get scared
By suppressing emotions we become our worst enemy
Our bodies get weaker and our brains lose sanity
Paradoxically, we can only try to heal
when we accept the pain and welcome how we feel
Five minutes of writing or calling a friend,
can put your mind at ease from always trying to pretend
When you are blocking them they become a distraction
So drop your baggage and you’re ready to take action
You put the rainbow of emotions in an embrace
They don’t control you anymore and it puts you in a better place
Is it okay (to allow myself permission)
to be human?
If you write cry share and give your emotions place
Accept there is pain and give it space
You won’t mindlessly react but mindfully act
Words of song based on studies by professors:
- Tal Ben Shahar of Harvard University on the topic: Permission to be Human
- Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School on Psychological Safety
- James W. Pennebaker of University of Texas studies on Expressive Writing