I’m not one for lots of woo-woo. I don’t believe the universe delivers. I don’t think things happen for a reason. I make things happen… or not.
On this blog, I’ve shared my feelings on fear and failure—how I experience it and how I react to it. There’s been a great response, and it is heartwarming to know I’m not alone.
But at various times in the year, I deliberately start to turn the mood around.
In truth, I’m a pretty happy and chilled out person. I try and see the best in people and find the silver lining to every challenging situation.
I’m intrigued by the idea of happiness. I think that aspiring to 100% happiness 100% of the time is foolish. But more contentment – being happy with your now – and more joy is entirely possible.
I call it Project Happy.
I really mean Project Contentment that’s not half as catchy.
What is my happy?
There are usually some really big things on the list, such as spending carefree time with my family, the love of my super adorable and excitable dog, reading, great weather, nice smells, surprises, having time to do nothing … the list goes on.
I realise that underlying many of the things that make me happy is having time to enjoy them.
I’m constantly trying to carve out time for my business around my family. I struggle to balance them let alone carve out time for myself. I often over-book myself and it leads to a situation where work fills my brain.
Is time management the secret to happiness?
I know that I don’t need to find more time for enjoyment; I need to make the time I have, count for more.
I think mindfulness and focus are the keys to my contentment. When I’m present in each moment, I can more easily find its joy.
If I can find my happy, moment by moment, that equals one big happy!
How I’m working on my happy
I asked my buddies on social media how they work on their happy, and I got a whole range of answers, ranging from wine and exercise to not sweating the small stuff and disconnecting from technology.
Appreciating what you have was a big one.
Here are some of the ways I’m looking after my own well-being so that my happiness will flower, moment by moment.
Stopping the tech chatter
Sometimes my brain feels like an outboard motor running at top speed. I get up, and I’m reaching for my phone to check my to-do list. Are there any new emails? Social media updates? Any crisis that is going to blow my day out of the water?
I’m a copywriter, not a doctor. There is never a crisis so important that I need to read about it before I’m even properly awake.
Notifications from technology can feel a bit like this:
So why is checking my phone the first thing I do every day?
When I didn’t have a smartphone for a month, I loved it (eventually). I wasn’t notified every time there was a new e-mail or update, and I survived. In fact, I felt much more relaxed. Once I got a new smartphone, I slowly backslid into Notificationland, and the outboard motor feeling was back.
So as part of working on my happy, I turn off most notifications. I’m using the iPhone screen time tools to wean myself off checking my phone so often, but at least my phone and laptop aren’t vying for my attention every moment of the day.
I know that the next step is to actually remove social and emails apps from my phone, but I’m not quite there yet.
What about you? How do you manage the relentlessness and neediness of technology? I NEED HELP!
Finding some Headspace
I’ve been learning to meditate for a few years now and—you guessed it—there’s an app for that. I use Headspace to learn how to maintain focus and mindfulness. I often let the habit slip but I know it trickles into me feeling more rested and getting better sleep every night.
You might be thinking, ‘Bah! Meditation. That’s for hippies! I don’t have time to sit on the floor and think of nothing. I’m too busy!’
Firstly, this app makes it so easy, and it starts with just 10 minutes a day, no incense required.
Second, the more I meditate, the more focus I have during the rest of my day, so I’m actually getting more done at the same time.
I’m trying to practise mindfulness during the day as well. A new skill needs practice, after all. So if I’m doing something—whether it’s copywriting, playing with my dog or hanging out with my girl—when I catch myself thinking about something else entirely, I bring myself back to the moment.
If I remember something important, I make a note of it, but if I’m thinking about e-mails or my to-do list or social media, I ignore the train of thought. Google+ can wait.
I’m still learning and getting distracted, but it’s becoming easier and with that is coming to a sense of calmness and clarity that is making me happy.
Taking a reality check
The next way that I’m working on my happy is by being realistic about what I can actually achieve in a specific timeframe.
When I load my to-do list up with everything that has to be done for the month, I finish each day with a long list, and I feel like I’m on a treadmill that is never going to finish.
At the start of each day, I work out my priorities for the day and what I can get done while my kids are doing other things. Some days I have up to four hours. Some days I have one hour. Some days I’m lucky to grab any time at all.
By knowing how much time and being realistic about what I can get done, I am more likely to actually tick everything off my to-do list. And that’s a freaking nice feeling. It also means that when I spend time with my family or (gasp) have a moment to myself, I’m not worrying about all the zillion things I haven’t done.
This applies to things such as housework, grocery shopping and the constant list of other chores we all have to do as adults.
If I’m really not going to get it done today, I plan when I will get it done and forget about it until then. If I don’t get everything done, I forgive myself. There’s always tomorrow.
This is quite hard for me, but I’m persisting. I know I just need to practise until it becomes a habit. (Here is a great article on how long that process takes.)
An interlude about switching off
So far, all my happiness-boosting plans sounds like work stuff, but it’s really all about creating more quality time. Quality time, whether it’s by myself or with other people, makes me happy.
I’m not getting any younger, and I want to suck out as much happy-time as I can, rather than letting my life speed by as I march around, eyes down, getting stuff done.
Get a physical hobby
I have lots of things I enjoy doing but I seem to prioritise everything and everyone else above myself. No one can fix that but me, so I’m about to get myself a hobby that gets me out of the house and gets my body moving.
My husband plays disco-golf with his buddies every week and I envy the time he spends outdoors (and I’ll be honest here, away from our small kids).
We both decided that I could do with a hobby too.
So, as part of working on my happy, I’m going to spend some time trying different activities, starting with indoor rock climbing. It will challenge me, mentally and physically. I can do it in all weather. I can do it all times of the day.
I’m hoping to get strong, push my boundaries, feel the fear and do it anyway.
Inspire me with your hobbies in case this rock climbing malarky doesn’t work out.
Be consciously grateful
The last part of my strategy is to make time to appreciate all I have. I used to keep a notebook, and at the end of each day, jot down the things I was grateful for that day. I stopped doing it when I reached the end of the notebook, but I’ve picked that up again, in a fashion.
I have a five-year journal that allows me to write just 1-2 sentences for each day. I recap on what I’ve done as well as noting what I’m grateful for in that moment. I also tell the people around me what I appreciate them for during the day. I think that’s important.
These little moments I spend reminding myself of the wonderful things in my life and the mindfulness I’m cultivating will help to turn my mindset outwards, sending out nothing but good vibes.
WOO-WOO!! I know but the science backs it up and that’s good enough for me.
So, am I happier?
Well, it’s just the beginning, but I do think it’s important enough to keep at it. All these things working together are helping me to be more calm, more present, more appreciative and more joyful, and I hope it will ripple out, like the effect of a stone thrown into a pond.
I also hope that my brain will have the breathing space it needs to let awesomely creative ideas simmer and bubble away.
So, I’d love to know, do you actively work on your well-being and happiness (or contentment and joy)? If so, how?