The weather is complete shite today – rain, rain and more rain. On a grey day like today I really need a boost – I need my happy list: a short menu of easy, mindful activities I love. Sounds simple doesn’t it. But wait!
The art of happiness is in part maintaining our contentment levels day to day and doing that is dependent on a little self-discipline. Yes, I enjoy my work, parenting and chatting to relatives on the phone but if you ask me if all of these things contain nothing but unbridled contentment I would have to say, er, no. My happy list contains only the things that bring me personal happiness and satisfaction. No sense of responsibility, no duty and no expectations. You could call it a selfish list. But I won’t because that’s much less fluffy. Here’s mine…
When you consider what to add to your happy list ask yourself these questions:
what do I gain a huge amount of joy or satisfaction from?
what do I do just for me and not out of duty to anyone else?
which activities leave me feeling satisfied and content?
what fits in with my life easily?
what do I enjoy for the sake of doing it rather than for the outcome?
What not to put on your happy list
There are some activities which feel great at the time but leave you feeling like poo afterwards – eating your own weight in chocolate, taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Temporary highs are not what you need for real happiness.
Another thing you might want to leave off your list is exercise. Although running or yoga are really great and can leave you feeling awesome they can also feel like a duty. Leave anything off your list that you feel you should be doing. We want personal contentment and nothing less.
Schedule your happy time
It’s really important to schedule time for the things you enjoy. Ensure your list contains things you can do regularly and then commit to doing one activity each week. In doing so you will maintain the feel good factor your list embodies, rather than allowing yourself to crash and maybe choose the wrong things when you feel bad. We can all reach for drink, chocolate, drugs or an old, bad relationship when things come on top.
Having a list is great but if you don’t make time for some of the things you know you enjoy then you only have yourself to blame.
You don’t necessarily have to write and then laminate your happy list – you’re not Ross from Friends. You can just keep the happy list in your mind unless of course, you want to make a piece of art out of it. That might be one of your happy things!
Here’s my current top 5 and why I chose them….
1. Making kombucha (or any home brew)
Before I committed to living without alcohol I was a dedicated home brewer. I loved foraging for blackberries, elderflowers and sloes to make flavoured gin and whiskey liqueurs. Now I don’t drink alcohol I have discovered a far healthier and quite frankly, tastier drink.
Kombucha is fermented green or black tea which can be flavoured with all manor of ingredients. I am currently going through a raw phase – drinking the first ferment and not bothering with flavours. The good bacteria in kombucha is giving me a warm glow from the inside out. I also love adding ginger, lemon, rhubarb, all sorts.
The best thing about making kombucha (or even cider or beer) is the focus required to get the ingredients and balance of flavours right. If I mess up on proportions then it will go wrong so I need to pay attention as I work. This takes me out of my everyday thoughts and into my activity. Home brewing is a very mindful practice indeed!
I used to keep my puzzle fetish on the DL because I thought it was super uncool and I was still someone who said ‘DL’. But the fact is that a god jigsaw puzzle is one of my most favourite things to do in the whole world. Give me a detox tea, a box of maltesers (to counteract the detox) and a Ravensburger 1000 piece puzzle and you will witness contentment personified.
Puzzling is an all encompassing activity that doesn’t allow for outside thoughts. It’s an exercise in focus and calm. As long as you setup in a place that won’t be needed for a few days you can dip in and out of your puzzle as and when you have a moment.
I always choose a puzzle with a picture that makes me happy because by completion you will know every inch of the picture. This is a mindful, almost meditative pastime that I love, probably a bit too much.
3. Growing things
Watching life emerge from the tiniest of seeds is incredibly satisfying. Planting and preparing takes effort, which is the whole point. There’s little space in your head for worry or internal dialogue when you are preparing pots and watering. But the real benefit of this practice comes when I walk past the pots on my windowsill and notice a teeny green shoot, peeking above the dirt.
I often find myself just leaning on my elbows looking at the pots and thinking about how the heck it’s happening. In’t nature brilliant!
I sometimes wonder if I should just quit this activity because I am rubbish at it. I am grateful that my kids have no experience of anyone else’s home baking so they seem to think I am Mary Berry. When one of them asks,
Mum can you make those chewy cookies again?
Probably not because they were only chewy from under-cooking and every bake is a new adventure I have literally no control over….
However, I just love it! I must admit to often watching Netflix on my iPad when I bake, which is probably where I’m going wrong and it’s not so mindful. But taking time out to create something with love is always good. If you can do it with complete focus then even better.
5. Upcycling furniture
I love painting furniture. I used to do it as a job many years ago when my mum owned a furniture shop. Sanding, staining, sealing and delivering. The simplicity of taking a chest of drawers or a stool through several processes, each time getting closer to completion. It’s as focused on the now as it gets and I always feel super happy in that space.
We have a little rowing boat, which I am currently repainting. I was reminded as I hunched down, paintbrush in hand yesterday, of how rewarding it is to care for wood like this. Strange to say but that’s how it feels.
Also, knowing that this item is used and old but will still loved and will continue to be loved rather than dumped is very fulfilling. So much better than heading to Ikea for more flat pack!