Little Bits of Happiness Each Day
This hub came about after a lovely conversation with one of my best mates, Sara. Sara's a lovely lady with a similar outlook on life to me - though she probably doesn't think so, she thinks she's got control-freak issues, but she's actually a star.
Sara and I were discussing what it's like being just out of reach of your dreams, of knowing what the next step will be on the path to intellectual contentedness, but not quite being able to set off. Family commitments are the prior claim on our time, we both have three young children, and we both relish the challenges that being full time parents brings. But we both have our own ambitions and struggle with various emotions that come with them. It is occasionally tempting to give in to feelings of resentment towards our children, because, poor things, through no fault of their own, they prevent us from getting on with a career. Of course, we don't actually give in to those resentments, because we know that they are a load of rubbish - plenty of men and women juggle careers and children successfully. And what a nonsense it would be to resent something that we created by choice. Misplaced resentment in any case, since our 'jobs' as stay at home parents are the very reasons we are afforded the time to explore our ambitions and potential. We have the precious opportunity to start any career we fancy from scratch, we are very lucky.
But Sara and I were also discussing how to get through these mummy years without going insane from boredom, without becoming depressed and irreversibly isolated. Sara won't mind me saying that she has battled with depression, and still does. She won't mind because she says that it's important to get it right out in the open and talk about it. But Sara also knows some of the important secrets of how to keep downness at bay. Sometimes she forgets them I think, but even those of us who don't suffer any kind of depression can feel frustration, and sadness, and just have days when we feel a bit low for no good reason.
Sara and I both believe that the secret to getting the most out of the lifestyle we lead, while we can't be doing what we would love to be doing for a job, is to find little bits of happiness each day. It takes a bit of practise, but very quickly it becomes second nature. I have been acknowledging nice things for a few years now. And just giving a figurative nod to the little things in life actually makes them more powerful, they become big things.
The first things I used to smile about were those flashes of brilliant light in the street, that rare instance when you catch a stranger's eye in town, and you both smile at each other. That moment, that connection is one of the most satisfying feelings. If nothing else nice happens in your day, you should still be alright because that shared smile will have given you a lift. Even if you have an awful rest of the day, you might want to practise focusing on that little happiness instead of the big nasties. Your thinking might move towards this: I have had my car scraped by an idiot, my boiler is on the blink, my children have been possessed by demons today, and I have no food and no money to buy any so I cannot feed my family; but that lady smiled at me this morning, so all is right with the world, and I am blissfully happy.
Yes, alright. I know it doesn't work like that really, but it could. I suppose I am advocating a spot of Buddhist thinking here. Turning as much of life's experiences into positives as we can. It's about altering our perspective really. Anyone can do it.
Let's have a little look at what makes me happy every day. I dare say my things will be very different from your things. I can only think of a handful of things off the top of my head, but there are thousands:
- Waking up makes me happy. Alright, I'm only human. Perhaps not the actual waking up, because I could always do with more sleep. But once I am up I'm usually pretty excited about starting my day. Mornings are good, because there's a full day ahead. I appreciate that lots of people hate mornings, and sometimes I do too, especially when I've been up in the night with poorly children. But I am slowly learning how to lie to myself and pretend that I am not tired. I present my body with the illusion of energy, and oftentimes now it falls for it.
- Three handsome sleepy smiley faces emerging from my boys' bedroom. I defy anyone to feel moody when they see my little guys in the morning. Of course, as soon as they wake up properly they may well proceed with the first of the day's arguments. But I try to hold on to the happy feeling.
- Other drivers being courteous make me happy. Always a winner. This happens daily, it really does (though I live in a relatively small town, which might explain the phenomenon).
- Chris Evans on the Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2. Sublime. Chris is like Marmite, and I am firmly in the 'love him' camp.
- Seeing my mummy friends at the school drop-off and pick-up. It's only for a few minutes each day, but seeing my lovely ladies makes me very happy. I do have some very excellent friends.
- My three mornings off a week (yes, I did say that I'm a full time parent - I almost am, barring nine hours a week), when all of my children are away from me, are a wonderfully precious thing. To be alone is beautiful for me, and I do like to make the most of that. I never do housework on these mornings, because that would be a scandalous waste of my time. No. My free mornings are almost always used for writing.
- Writing makes me happy, regardless of the fact that I don't get paid for it.
- Being alive makes me happy. I try to remember that I am alive every day if I can.
- Thinking about history makes me happy, thinking about creatures that lived half a billion years ago (I am writing this whilst watching a David Attenborough documentary about the first life on Earth - I feel it may be colouring my thinking.) Thinking about ancestors over the centuries, people who really lived, makes me happy. It makes me happy to bring them to life in my head just a little bit.
- Making exactly the right cup of tea makes me very happy. It could be something to do with being English, I don't know. Not too strong, not too milky, Earl Grey.
- Chocolate makes me happy.
- Unexpected sunshine makes me happy.
- Being wrapped up enough to keep lovely and warm on a cold day makes me happy.
- Stand up comedians make me happy.
- Visiting my grandparents makes me happy (and I'm a lucky girl because I still have all four of my grandparents), especially when they're in the mood for telling stories.
- Thinking about my plans for the future makes me happy.
- Taking my boys to Saturday morning football makes me happy.
- DVDs are one of my favourite things, and they make me happy.
- Sunday dinners make me happy.
- Hearing my eldest son read a page of his reading book without making any mistakes makes me happy.
- Climbing trees makes me happy.
- My perfume, that reminds me of Barbados, makes me happy.
- Researching for holidays makes me happy.
- Marvelling at today's technology makes me happy. Likewise the wonders of the Universe, the Earth and the human body. Science makes me very happy - it's magnificent.
There is no point in just waiting for the rest of your life to happen. Sara and I are waiting for things in our lives to happen, but while we're waiting we're doing other things, and our lives are not on hold. You can't spend too much time waiting to collect the ingredients for some magical formula of fulfillment, because if you don't know how to be happy now, you still won't know how to be happy when you do have your dream job and financial security. We all know that money doesn't buy happiness - our wonderful world of celebrity shows us daily proof of this. It sounds ridiculously corny, but it is true that happiness comes from within. If you focus on the negative now, when you are on the verge of change (if you are, you might not be), then you will still see the world in the same negative way when you have everything you want. And finding contentment, right now, today, will not mean that you will suddenly lose your ambition and motivation. Not at all. It's simply the difference between living life now, or wasting it by waiting for it to happen.