I think that for lots of us life becomes a daily hamster wheel of getting up, sorting our kids or pets or just ourselves going to work doing the housework, getting the shopping coming home and blobbing out for the evening maybe with takeaway, maybe with a glass of wine or maybe just getting lost in some tv living for the weekend and holidays just so that we can rest.
In my opinion, this is not living, this is existing.
Living is when we consciously create our lives, making things happen for us and finding joy in the little things so that every day we are happy and excited and squeezing every moment out of our time.
Does that sound exhausting to you? Because that's how I live and I love life.
I get up early every morning, to be honest some mornings, I'm not jumping out of bed but before I'm out of bed, I've said thank you for the possibilities that today will bring and I truly mean that. I'm excited to see what will happen each day.
I really believe that being happy is a choice. Now we can't control all the things that happen to us in life and we might not like all of the things that happen or the people that we meet. In fact some may cause us terrible pain and suffering but the one thing that we can absolutely control is how we choose to respond to things.
We can choose to be stressed out, miserable, jealous and angry or we can choose to be happy. I don't mean that we have to be happy every minute of everyday. I just mean that our general mindset can be either happy or sad.
When things don't go the way we planned or wanted them to, it's ok to be frustrated or gutted but don't let that be the way you spend the rest of your day.
Obviously when we lose someone, we are sad and need time to grieve but we can still choose how we respond to these events to move through the process and we must all go through a process. It's the way we are designed.
What I'm saying is that we can make a conscious choice each and every day to be happy. To look for the things that are going well, to enjoy the things that we do - even if its something we would normally think of as a drag like ironing for example.
It's not my favourite pastime and I used to resent having to do it but then I thought this is crazy!
I could choose not to do the ironing but I don't want to walk around in crumpled clothes so if I'm not willing to drop the job, I need to change the way I think and feel about the job to stay happy so that's what I did.
Instead of resenting having to do it. I got myself to a place of feeling grateful that I had clothes to iron and a nice iron that makes the job easier and I'm pleased to have my clothes looking nice.
It's not that there's some magic formula to being happy. It's that you have to want to feel happy and be willing to out in the necessary work to change the way you normally think about things. This is mindfulness.
Now I've been doing this for years and I've taken the time to go within and identify, challenge and change the thoughts that don't make me happy. Some of it has involved being honest about some unpleasant truths about myself and resolving to work on them but I can honestly say that doing the work is so worth it.
As I said at the beginning, I love my life and for most of every day am happy and fulfilled. Now I get that that might sound very lovely especially if your life is nice and easy and lets be honest, we only ever view other peoples lives from the outside looking in so we never really know how much of a struggle their life is but the key to true happiness is learning to do it when it's not going well.
So I'm going to talk you through the things that you can do to change the way you think about life so that you can start to feel happy and fulfilled for most of the time too.
Begin with setting an intention each day to be happy.
Start listing 3 things each day that you are grateful for. Depending on where you are with things, this might be hard to do but maybe practise being grateful for the device you're reading this on or that you have clean water to drink. This is brain training or rewriting neural pathways. We're just starting the process of training our brain to look for positives in a situation, however dire rather than zooming in on the negatives. Like everything else regarding wellbeing, its a practice.
Be kind to yourself and build up slowly. The more grateful you are, the more things you will notice that you can be grateful for. Again. It's not rocket science. It's the way we've been designed in alignment with the natural law.
Be open to new experiences. Obviously risk access things but instead of automatically saying no to something or looking for all the potential problems that you might incur. Say yes and experience it with curiosity and an expectation that it will be enjoyable and work out ok.
Use an affirmation to help rewire your thinking. One I find helpful is everything always works out for me and I repeat it often. I find that because I expect it to work out, it often does. Not always the way I thought it might but, I've made peace with that too and am happy to see where life takes me.
Be as organised and proactive as you can be. Deal with things when they come in and if you can't ask for help because ignoring them can causes us stress and anxiety and these are not happy emotions.
Set goals and use problem solving tools to work out how you want your life to be and what you can do to make it happen.
Begin trying to accept people and situations for who or what they are instead of how you want you think they should be. This is a huge thing that causes us lots of misery.
Accept when you are feeling cross or miserable and have some strategies to deal with these emotions. Maybe go for a walk, listen to some music, talk to someone but, don't let them become who you are.
And of course be mindful.
To do things differently, we need to start becoming aware of how we think about things so that we can work out which ones are causing us misery because they're the ones we want to change.
You can do this in meditation but to be honest. It's very difficult to do if you don't already have a good meditation practice in place.
It may be easier to begin by reflecting on your day and looking for the things that went really well and the things that didn't. When you find the latter, start examining it.
Why didn't it go well? Could you have done anything differently.
What was it about the situation that caused you to have negative emotions and why ?
The more practised you get at this, the more patterns and triggers you will be able to identify and then you will know what it is you want to work on. After developing this practice for a while, you may be able to move onto starting to identify your feelings as things are happening and learning how to slow down, refuse to be triggered and learn how to choose to respond instead.
Now this is a huge mindset shift for most of us growing up in the west and it's essentially the basis of all behaviour and lifestyle change. BUT it is a practice!
This means that it takes time to learn and integrate. It has to be practised for us to get better so don't be hard on yourself.
As long as you have started the process and have the intention to be more positive and to look for joy, then it's all good and the more you do, the better you'll feel.
Small consistent tweaks are always much more beneficial that huge sweeping changes. So start with something you can be consistent with and layer up the tweaks in a sustainable way at a pace that you can easily manage and be patient.
Change is coming.
Some of you may feel that you'e so entrenched in your own head that this is impossible without some help and that's fantastic. There's no shame in asking for help, it demonstrates self worth and courage and should be applauded and if that's you and you want me to be your help then please get in touch.
If you've found this helpful, please feel free to leave a comment.
Whatever you choose to do after reading this, please remember, we only have this moment right now, why waste it being miserable?
Embrace it, enjoy it and love it.