Week eight of the simplify your life challenge brings us to the last building block that will serve as the foundation before we move onto our next nine categories of topics.
So far our building blocks have been:
awareness of all the good things in our life that we can find to be grateful for (even when we think we have had a bad time)
taking stock of how our lives currently look
setting our goals and priorities – where do you want to focus your time and energy
reinforcing these previous blocks with a vision board
The last building block is about happiness. As we move forward intentionally I think it would be great to explore what happiness means to you as an individual. What makes you happy? What takes away your happiness? If we are living our lives authentically this will look different for everyone. Whole generations moved forward with their lives never really thinking about what would make them happy. They were told you went to school, got a job, got married, had children, raised them “right” (usually while sacrificing yourself financially and/or emotionally), retired and THEN enjoyed life.
Today we are living in an evolving world where people define their own paths, work “unconventional” jobs, change careers in their 40s (“it is never too late”), choose to be child-free or have Daddy stay home, live on the road with their kids, home school or unschool, and on it goes with endless choices.
Choices are a good thing, but so many people are overwhelmed by choice. Sometimes it is easier to go along with the “shoulds” than it is to pave your own road. Easier does not always mean happier or best though.
What is happiness?
Defining happiness for yourself could be one of the hardest challenges yet – or it could be simplified and personalized with ease. We each come at this with our own stories and our own dreams.
By addressing happiness I am not talking about achieving a state of total bliss 24/7. That is unrealistic and even those people who seem to always be happy and bubbly all the time have periods of time that are flatter, if not actually “down”. Life is full of light and dark, shadows and subtleties. In our troubles and challenges we grow, gain insight and experience greater joy by contrast.
For those currently battling depression (and I know there are quite a few involved in this challenge) I hope you will feel comfortable opening up and possibly helping others (and/or yourselves). This week’s challenge is not about “how will you make yourself happy right this minute” or even “you must know what will make you happy”. It is about exploring for yourself what that might look like in a judgement free zone. You might want to explore one of the things that drives your depression or share what changes have worked in your life to improve it. On Wednesday there will be a guest post from Naomi from Seven Cherubs who is a survivor of Post Natal Depression like myself. You might also like to read one of my posts where I acknowledged how far I had come since PND and the comments there from others in the same boat. Acknowledging your progress forward can be a huge step in itself.
In my own case I work from two perspectives – what do I want in my life that will make me happy and what have I identified that leads me down the path to depression, anxiety, discontent.
The happiness challenge – do 1, all or none of these things (with “none”meaning “design your own happiness challenge and post about it”)
1. Explore what makes you happy and brings you joy. Reflect on what stands in your way – what comes between you and happiness? Think about how you can overcome those hurdles. Think about how much time and effort you currently spend on the things you identify as making you happy.
2. Create a happiness list - all the things that bring you joy great and small; what makes you laugh, smile, sigh; from the simple pleasures like your morning coffee to great conversations to laugh out loud TV to indulgent beauty treatments. Have a look at your reflections on 2011 post for additional ideas (or read those others’ linked up for inspiration if you have lost touch with what you used to enjoy).
Some ideas to think about: books, quotes, hobbies, food, exercise, nature, senses, colours, clothes, people, songs, activities, indulgences, practicalities, learning, art and creative ideas, service, play, sports, self care, gratitude, adventure, experimenting, recharge…
3. The big challenge – do 1 thing every day from that list and, if you want, note how you feel before, during and after. Do this every day until you write your blog post / journal (and keep going for as long as you can after that-everyone can find time for a small happiness hit daily if your list includes ideas from all areas, take different amounts of time, money, energy – find one you can do that day!)
Overall the aim is to uncover what makes you happiest on a day to day level (rather than our big picture views with values and mission statements). Try to figure out ways to bring more of that into your life this year. Whether it means getting up earlier, being brave and putting yourself out there, spending a little money on yourself or saying no more often. Happiness does not suddenly appear one day – like arriving at a destination – it is an ongoing evolution and one you must actively participate in. (you deserve it!)
Further reading and resources:
TED talk (video) by Shawn Achor – The happy secret to better work - explores gratitude, journaling, exercise, meditation, random acts of kindness
CNN article “Want to be happy? Stop trying to be perfect”
Laura Schenck’s article “3 Paths to happiness” which outlines the 3 paths explored by Dr Martin Seligman in his book “Authentic happiness”.
A recent Courier Mail article covered 10 tips for being happy
Link up for week seven – “vision boards”
If you blogged about your Vision Board or any Simplify Your Life challenges please add your link below into the linky and not in the comments. If you do not see the linky refresh your browser and it will usually appear. Please remember if you link up take 15 minutes this week and visit some other bloggers and spread the feedback and support comment love.
Find your simple,
Images: girl buried in sand – by flickr user pink sherbet ”D Sharon Pruitt”
Yellow tulips – my favourite flowers – from flickr user Jesslee Cyuizon