I admit it, this week has been cold and full of a cold and I have had the dreaded writer’s block. It’s almost Christmas and my head has been full of ticking the last few things off the Christmas list and racking my brains to make sure I haven’t forgotten anyone, as well as avoiding the inevitable slow job of card writing. I’m thinking of potato-printing our names on the cards to save hand-ache but that is another messy projects only in the stages of brain work at the moment.
Mid-week was the School Nativity, a late and, to be honest, a bit of a drawn-out affair only made bearable by my own little bundle of joy’s unscheduled and improvised dance routine on stage, busting the coolest moves that I have ever seen a small fisherman do, ever. Everyone with a sense of humour was in tears of laughter at his happy dancing.
So it was this lively and bright soul who I asked for help with my blog post this morning, whilst trying to shovel hazelnut spread on toast down his neck before school. “What can I write about today,honey?”, I asked. “Happiness and joy”, he replied, after a small pause.
I’ve had my dalliances with the dark side of life but now I consider myself to be a pretty happy person. Lots of people experience trauma and survive, some are able to deal with it and some are sad for a long long time. In the UK today, depression, anxiety and general sadness seems to be widespread and without going into a dissertation-length analysis about the causes of this, I believe it to be a result of the competitive, results-driven and un-equal society that we live in. But we are here, this is where we live, so, how can we make our lives happier?
A friend of mine has recently published a book entitled “The Caveman Rules Of Survival”, and whilst I haven’t read it yet, it strikes a chord of truth within my soul. Humans have been on this Earth for a relatively short time and the world that we live in has changed a lot since the days when we had to be part of a pack and face daily dangers in order to survive. Stress and anxiety are our brains reacting to situations that provoke a natural physiological response but in fact, generally, won’t actually hurt us and probably won’t kill us either.
So, how can we use this information as a starting point to happiness? Understanding our brains helps us realise that a lot of feelings are in fact a physical response to something and not Us, not our core, not who we are and certainly not a defining characteristic of ourselves. Feelings pass, however horrible they are, they stay, sometimes for a long time, but they will pass. Thoughts too, come and go, like cars on a busy road, and if you practice mindfulness you will learn to observe them with curiosity and less fear.
Happiness is not a state of mind that comes easily to everyone, it is a practice, that must be practised, and I am by no means an expert. Other factors that inevitably affect our happiness quota are making sure our basic needs are met, through food, shelter and security, and these are things that many thousands of people in the UK are not blessed with this winter. The NHS website advises measures such as getting enough sleep and taking regular exercise, both of which I notice to boost my levels of well-being.
Talking and sharing is also advised by them and I would go one step further and add that being part of a community that you feel part of helps. I love being part of online communities and there power of the internet is that it can join like-minded people together from all over the world.
Caring, is another great route to happiness, for pet, a person or even for a stranger. Do random acts of kindness, from a smile, to tins for the foodbank, leaving kind notes on a windscreen or even helping somebody you know that is in need. Try it, however awkward it might feel, and feel the glow.
But most important of all, be kind to yourself. I don’t mean buy yourself lots of meaningless trinkets or status symbols, but take ten minutes for yourself, sit, breathe, and tell yourself that you are OK, you are a worthy, worthwhile, amazing and unique individual.
Written by our regular contributor Catherine.
All views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Room To Grow.