I’ve been reading a lot of Gretchen Rubin lately. I loved The Happiness Project, so read Happier at Home earlier this month, and have been listening to her podcast off and on, too. One of the biggest things that has resonated with me, particularly reading Happier at Home, is that small changes in the way we approach life can have a big impact on your mood, and on the mood of those around you. I’ve been making an effort to foster positivity in my life, to take less for granted and to appreciate the good times and it does really seem to be working – I feel in a much better mood generally, and find myself having more patience with Theo (and Peter!) as a result.
These are some of the things I’ve been doing more of lately:
- Treasure more memories. Whether it’s taking photographs or writing down highlights from your week, it’s so important to take some time to remember the good stuff. Photo albums are sometimes criticised for just showing the happy moments (or the false smiles papering over less happy moments), but so what? For me, looking back through old albums makes me feel so happy. I love revisiting old holidays. And yes, some photos were taken at times that didn’t feel happy in the moment (e.g., the photo of Theo when he was 5 months old, crawling around with his entire babygro covered in poo), but they can really make me smile now! Now, as well as taking lots of photos, I also write my memories down a lot more, something I’ve shared more about here.
- In a similar vein, I’m a big fan of the gratitude diary. It takes about a minute a day, and I just run through the day in my mind, and write down whatever stands out. Easy, but a great way to end each day on a positive note.
- And when you’re feeling crappy, I think writing that down helps too. I’ve written before about how I don’t like writing negative stuff down in a permanent diary, but I still think writing out negative emotions can help to lessen them in your mind. What I do now I write it all out, reread it the next day, and then rip it up and throw it away. Very effective!
- Set realistic goals. There’s nothing to make you feel better than achieving a goal you’ve set for yourself. But if these are too hard (“learn Chinese”) or not something you actually want to do, it can just be demotivating. So, each month, I set myself 7 goals in 7 different areas (based on these Essential Seven) that I think will make me happier and be achievable. It works for me.
- Get some perspective. When I get stressed, I ask myself one question: A year from now, is this still going to be making me feel this way? If the answer is yes (it never is), then it’s a good thing to worry about. If the answer is no (always), it’s not as big a deal as I think.
- Get offline and go outside. With children, the answer to pretty much every crappy situation is to get out of the house and be outside, and I’d say the same is true for adults, too. We are animals, at the end of the day, and it feels like being in nature soothes some essential part of us that other remedies can’t quite touch. As the weather gets nicer, I’m so grateful to have a small garden – getting outside and doing a bit of weeding in the sun can’t really be beat for relaxing activities! (I’m talking weeds that are in loose-ish soil, not those bastards that are practically concreted into the ground)
- Declutter. My house is so chaotic right now, but I’m trying, slowly but surely, to clear the clutter. I’ve sold books through We Buy Books, I’ve sold a few bits on eBay, Peter and I cleared about 7 boxes of stuff from the loft to go to the tip… having less stuff that I don’t want or need makes my heart feel lighter, plus I’ve made back a bit of cash, which always comes in handy.
- Give love, get love. Support friends whenever you can, be the first customer at a craft fair, if a stranger is wearing an awesome jumper, tell them. I don’t believe that if you put out positivity, it’s all you’ll get back – bad things happen to good people all the time – BUT it certainly creates a positive atmosphere around you, and that can’t hurt.
- Don’t compare – ever. This one is probably the hardest, but you never know the ins and outs of anyone’s life other than your own, so even though someone might look like they have the perfect life on social media, everyone has their own cross to bear. The grass is never as green as it looks from the other side of the fence!
- And similarly, accept that the only person you can change is yourself. You can tell the people around you the things you wish they did differently, but at the end of the day, it’s entirely down to them whether they do anything about it. But your attitude, your approach to life… that’s in your hands to change. Be the change you wish to see in the world, right? I wish to be a more positive force for my family and friends, so I’m starting right here.
I asked people on twitter what they did to foster positivity and here are a few of couple of their suggestions…
“Adapt self talk to reshape questions with only negative answers. Eg why can’t I…to how can I?” @Scribbleyoga
“Actively work on a few plans at a time, and don’t over commit to yourself to one of those plans. Also look for opportunities of self-development, even if it’s just reading a blog or watching the odd @TEDTalks”, suggests @AmazinMic
There are loads more things I could have added to the list… meditate regularly, turn off your phone more, exercise… What’s top of your list?