I won’t pretend that I have it all figured out. You’ll see from the regularity of slightly morose tweets that I definitely haven’t nailed a consistently joyful life. That said, I think I am long in tooth enough to know what does help me increase the percentage of happiness. It’s normal and probably healthy to have times of sadness, and periods of our lives where happiness takes an inadvertent back seat. Sad, traumatic and stressful things happen in all our lives, and reflection and reaction to these times allow us to gain some perspective on our lives at a whole.
Here’s just a few things I’ve realised have a positive impact on my life, and have the ability to turn those frowns upside down. Do let me know what works for you in the comments section…
Sort Out Unfinished Business
I don’t think this alone will lead to a happiness, but not having these burdens will alleviate a lot of stress and will no longer detract from your potential happiness. Not all situations can be sorted out in the traditional sense. You may need counselling to get to a place where you can find closure on the issue even though you can’t completely fix/change the situation. There’s been a few disagreements, or things I have or haven’t said, that have played a part in my troubled sleep over the years. Where possible I’ve tried to sort those relationships out or messaged the person to clear the issue up. It doesn’t always go to plan, but in doing so you fill eased by the knowledge you’ve done all you could, and presented yourself in a way you can live with. Sometimes it’s a case of things you haven’t done that leaves you troubled. Write them down on a bit of paper so they’re not wurring around your head, and tackle them when you can. Ticking off that list will be very satisfying.
Surround Yourself With Positive People
Surround yourself with radiators not drains. In the last few years I’ve stepped away from, or gratefully lost, a few people that were having a hugely negative effect on my life. One was extremely harmful and effected my life in a such a way that everyday involves coping with the aftermath. Others have been those types of friends that are constantly putting you in awkward situations, are difficult or high maintenance, or extremely demanding of your time and patience. In short, those ‘friendships’ where the balance is completely off, and you find them take take taking and you getting little joy out of the situation. There’s also those people in your life who subtly or not so subtly make you feel worse about yourself. Via snide comments or manipulation they make you feel less than, or question the person you are and the way you want to live.
I can’t tell you how much good people and good relationships can impact your life. Those people that congratulate you on your little/big achievements, and that give you that boost when they can tell you need it. For me it’s the ones that are understanding of my situation. The friends that don’t get huffy with me because I’m a bit off the radar at times. The ones that totally understand that my health and work means that I can’t be as sociable as I’d like to be. The ones that know I want to be a better friend, and that I love them in spite of the gap between each rendez voux or catch up over Whatsapp. These people want you to succeed and will be your cheerleaders through fails as well as successes.
Hopefully the majority of you reading this are innately kind, and acting with a friendly and sympathetic heart without even thinking about it. If you think the stress of and grind of daily life has taken effect on your ability to express you kindness, you may have to be a bit more conscious about it. The good thing about it, is that it doesn’t have to cost a thing. Send a friend a message/tweet out of the blue to just say something nice or tell them that you love them. Write a kind comment under a strangers photos on Instagram. I personally love telling strangers in shops how great they look when they try something on and I see them looking doubting in the mirror. Those little boosts make such a difference to a day – I know I feel pretty chuffed when someone runs over to ask where I got my dress from for instance. I went through a period of doing random token gifting where I’d leave little gifts at peoples work or outside the house and I loved the thrill of doing that. If you know someone is struggling in some way, little gestures that let them know you are here to help go a long way.
I’ve spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and asking questions about what I’ve done to deserve certain frustrating aspects of my life. This attitude and mindset will get you nowhere. Beyonce was right. Sometimes life gives you lemons, so just go and make that yummy lemonade (She said it in a way cooler way than I ever could and with much better hair). You can’t stop all bad things from happening, but the way you deal or react to them will govern how much it takes a hold on your potential for happiness. Rather than giving up because things haven’t gone to plan, be open to adapting to this new avenue or path and making the most of the situation you find yourself in. My career hasn’t gone how I hoped it would, but I have found some joy in experimenting and trying the things I never knew I’d enjoy or flourish in doing. I know you’ve heard it before, but sometimes bad accidents and unfortunate events can set you on a very rewarding path.
I’ve also accepted my looks as I got older. I’m never going to be a huge fan of my knobbly knees, wide hips, increasingly deflating chest and pocked skin, but I work with what I got and acknowledge that fact that it functions enough to live my life to an extent many would be grateful. The aspects of my looks I’m not able to accept or that notably hinder my happiness levels.. I am taking measures to try and change or improve them.
I’ll touch on this more later…but being accepting of others will make the atmosphere you live in more loving and peaceful too.
Stop Comparing yourself to Others
Perhaps the hardest thing to stop with today’s emphasis on social media, but one that is integral in carving your very on unique and happy journey. Firstly we have no way of knowing how and to what extent everyone is editing their life before posting it online, what you believe to be aspirational, ‘goals’ or flawless may not be all that it seems. Secondly we’ve all got different events., stresses, difficulties, talents, strengths, weaknesses, logistics all shaping the flow or speed of our progress and evolution, so trying to keep up with anyone else doesn’t really make any sense at all. You can only do your best given your current situation. That may mean your best isn’t very good at all, but at that moment in time outside influences mean that it’s hard to achieve to the best of your ability. You may have the same end goal as someone but the way you want to approach is may be extremely different. Do you thing, your way, and good things will happen. It may not be as quick as you like, but you’ll at least be comforted knowing you stuck to your guns. Surely it’s better to have your own special story too. No imitations here…
Living in the present
A lot of us are living in our heads, so distracted by events of the past that we forget to embrace the present and the possibilities of the future. I’ve always tended to dwell, and it’s a particularly hard habit to curb, but the effects of doing so are life changing. If you think rationally about it, it doesn’t make sense to constantly go over and over what’s already taken place. Do learn from these experiences and work out how they can be useful in shaping your future. But you also don’t want to be so absorbed in what’s already happened that you completely miss the joy and drama of the now. Open your eyes, heart and mind, and embrace the person you are now and the things in your life in that moment. Only then can you shape your future and decide the best way to get there.
I know a lot of friends will be nodding their head vigorously at this one ( Holly, Zoe and Charlotte in particular). Whether it’s the exploration and discovery of new environments and cultures (and the people you meet while doing so), a change in climate, or simply the escape from your every day live – travel seems to instill a great amount of joy into peoples lives. As the popular phrase goes….a trip is the only thing you can buy than can enrich your life…or something of that ilk. For me it’s a combination of factors I think. I am generally a much happier person when the sun is out, so I am already going to be a substantial amount perkier when located in a brighter location. The sun also gifts me with more energy so I am able to live life a bit fuller – which is drastically different to the life I live at home in our dingy climate.
As an artist I am natural observer. I love to people watch and to truly absorb my surrounding.
The other fantastic after effect of traveling is that it can have a profound effect on how you perceive your life back home – sometimes you’ll realise just how great you have it, sometimes you’ll have an epiphany about the things that need to be changed. Travel can also leave you invigorated and raring to get back into your work….perhaps the things you’ve seen will have sparked inspiration. I could go on for pages about the positive effects of travel but you get the gist….
We all have the hermit days (weeks or months) where we don’t want or feel able to step outside the safety of home. Whether it’s bad acne, anxiety, or fatigue that’s preventing you, please try to step outside, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Aside from fresh air and an injection of VIT D, changing your situation and the scenery around you can make sure a difference to your state of mind. I find a good walk leads to clarity of thought. Surrounding yourself with incredible views or nature also reminds you that the world is a pretty amazing place. I’m not sure I personally ever do enough to encourage the release of those positive chemicals that fitness and exercise release, but of course that’s another possible benefit.
When I was incredibly depressed I found everyone telling me to be positive extremely aggravating. After all if it was that easy we’d all being doing it, and all be feeling great. But in hindsight I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Last year I went to a introduction to mindfulness where I was told about the importance of recognising these negative thoughts, but being able to say ‘not right now’ to them. When you feel that nag of guilt, shame, stress, frustration, doubt creep in it’s almost like saying ‘Oh I see you there, but I don’t have time for you right now’. The more often you do this the easier it is to stop them in their tracks. I am slowly but surely getting better at this, but it’s an ongoing process.
When I’ve had a life slip or feeling down I really try and channel that energy into something that will increase my mood. For instance I did a bad interview this week and was feeling crap about the missed opportunity (she was v high profile). So rather than go to my room and curl up in a huff I decided to film a video and write a blog post, and ended the day feeling that I’d be very productive. On this new high I was then able to say ‘well it was good experience, and I’ll be better at it next time.’
Also, think about the advice you give to your friends when they’re down and apply it to you!
I’m not saying you’re not allowed to feel sad about something, sometimes having a good cry or venting via a rant is useful to unleash some tension. I’m talking about moving forward and having the ability to learn from it and not waste your energy on dwelling on what’s been done.
I have also created a inspiration mood board. I’ve got pictures of people and things I find inspiring, as well as the goals I want to achieve in the next few years. When I’m in a rut I refer to it and it helps me pull myself together and to get going on my ‘to do’ list.
I think if you are more accepting of difference you find socialising and living life (with other humans) a lot less stressful. I’m not suggesting you have to agree with everyone, but be open to their opinions. Each to their own is something I live by, and it can be applied frequently. As long as people aren’t being harmful or unkind to others of course. I’d much rather people were being their authentic selves rather than pretending to be something they’re not to appease me. I think if you’ve been through a few things in life you tend to be more understanding of others, and although you may not agree with them you can understand their decision process, particular quandary, or opinion. When friends of mine have made mistakes or had some life hiccups I always make a point of not judging them because life is tricky and it’s impossible to be flawless in your decision making. In being that person that listens rather than judges you can build some really strong and deep bonds, as people will know they can always come to you for comfort and advice. I’m not saying you shouldn’t challenge people or even debate, but don’t be so rigid that you’re closed off to any opinion that wasn’t initially yours.
I’ve known a lot of people who have struggled to form relationships and friendships because they have a very obvious guard up. I totally understand why people do, it’s a self preservation issue.
Some people are naturally slightly closed off and others have built up this barrier since an event has taught them that opening up can leave them vulnerable or hurt. We adapt during our lives, and change your behaviours according to past events and situations. Unfortunately not all these changes are positive or helpful in creating a happy future. While I think it’s important to have our wits about us, try not to be closed off or guarded to the point of being cold and unapproachable. You could be preventing yourself from allowing the most wonderful people in your life. It will undoubtedly have an effect on your relationships at work too – warmth doesn’t have to equal weakness. Being open about your life can also be extremely beneficial to others too. In sharing your story you can help others come to terms with difficult aspects of their own lives – in turn this will deliver a very rewarding and fuzzy feeling. It really is win win.
Well I say get creative. What I mean is do more of what you enjoy. Although I do think letting loose creatively can be a great way of zoning out from stresses (we’ve all seen those mindfulness colouring books). Using experiences/emotions and venting through creative activities can also be incredibly cathartic. I get a lot of joy out of taking pictures and feel incredibly relaxed when I find some time to draw (which is never these days). From watching TV reality shows and seeing people known for one talent finding out they’re an incredible cook or ballroom dancer, shows that we all have untapped talents. In trying new mediums, disciplines and art forms, we could potentially uncover a natural flair or affinity for something which could change our lives immeasurably. The more things we experiment and try, the more possibility of a joyous discovery.
Make Time for Friends
Sometimes I get so used to working on my own at home, day after day, that the mere thought of socialising becomes terrifying. I worry that I’ve forgotten how to communicate with others that don’t consider writing a comment or pressing post a valid form of interaction. The longer I leave it the worse it gets. On the days where I’m up to date ( as much as you can be with a 24/7 job) and I’d love a chilled night in, I try and force myself out. Once you’re there your realise the uplifting and restorative rewards of time spent with good pals – the sort of pals you don’t have try with, the kind that will accept you just as you are (whatever that state may be).
Cuddling an animal is one of the most effective and fun forms of therapy in my opinion. I feel instantly uplifted by the presence of my cockapoo pal Rosie. I love that she digs her head into me a little bit harder on those days where I really need it. Her silly-ness and eagerness for belly rubs is always amusing and distracts from anything more stressful on my mind that given day.
Hope this helps. Love Soph XX