The End Of My Happiness Project
A year ago I read a book that changed my outlook on life, helped me focus on what I wanted to achieve and showed me ways to find the happiness that was severely lacking at the time. That book was Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project and if you haven't read it then I thoroughly recommend that you do.
This time last year I was a very different person to the one I am today. I was struggling to live with fibromyalgia and the toll that it was taking on my body. I was taking medication that had side effects that affected my mind and my capability of thinking rationally about various things. I had moved into a house that was an enormous renovation project that I didn't know where to start with, and that made me feel claustrophobic every time I walked through the front door, and I was on a path of self-destruct, determined to ruin my marriage and my life. I picked up Rubin's book as a last ditch attempt to find some reasoning for my behaviour, for why I was feeling so low all the time and for why I felt that starting afresh would be better than working out what was wrong with my life. I honestly feel that that book changed my life.
I realised that in order to feel happier I had to think happier. Before I could start with any of the monthly tasks I set myself I had to change my mindset. Every time something went wrong or didn't go the way I had hoped it would, I reminded myself that there were a million other things in my life that were going right and to 'suck it up and move on'. It is so important for me to think positively otherwise I find myself sinking into a mood of self despair. I culled the amount of time I spent on social media, because I realised that I was allowing myself to feel jealous of other people's posts, or somebody's post about feeling down would make me feel down too. I stopped following a lot of people and pages to make sure that I was following those that I was genuinely interested in and that gave me joy to read. Social media went from being something that brought me down and made me feel crap to being something that I enjoy reading because I get pleasure from seeing other people's happiness.
I ditched the medication and decided to find alternative methods for dealing with the pain and exhaustion of fibromyalgia. Within days of stopping the medication I started to feel more alive emotionally, I hadn't realised how much they were controlling my mental health until I gave them up. These days I tend to just get on with it most of the time, using mind over matter as a way to overcome the pain. On the days when the pain is unbearable, the headaches too strong, or the exhaustion overpowering, I ask for help from Mark and the kids with things like cooking dinner so I can relax and go to bed early. I have finally realised that sleep is one of the best medicines there is. (My Mum was right all along!)
Once I had sorted out my mindset I started following Rubin's monthly tasks, or resolutions as she calls them. It's amazing how the tiniest task can make a difference to how you feel. Putting 3 things away before I go to bed each night means that when I wake up the following morning those items aren't still sat there making the house untidy and making me feel like I've failed at keeping the house clean.
Going to bed half an hour earlier has had a huge impact on me. One of the symptoms of fibromyalgia is insomnia and I found the more I tried to fight the insomnia the worse it got, because I would get so tense and stressed about how little sleep I was getting that it then meant that I couldn't relax enough to sleep at all. Getting in bed half an hour earlier meant that I started to relax a bit earlier and sleep came more naturally. I still suffer from insomnia, but it's more infrequent thankfully.
Making time for me was really important for my happiness too. I didn't do anything special or expensive for this. I simply did things that I enjoyed, such as switching off the tv to read my book or painting my nails. Even if it was only a quick 10 minutes to do something that was completely selfish and totally for me, it made me feel good.
Surrounding myself with the right people has had the biggest impact on my happiness. I don't need hundreds of friends, I need the right ones, the ones who make me laugh, who make me smile and whose company I thoroughly enjoy. I learnt that I don't need to be out partying every weekend, or drinking too much. I don't need to pretend that I'm still 20. I learnt that it's ok to be an adult and that actually it's a damn sight more fun than spending every weekend with a hangover. I pulled my family in close and put all my efforts into restoring our relationships. I realised that they are my life and that nothing is better than spending time with Mark and the kids. Yes it's still nice to have a few hours out with my friends, but I'm just as happy curled up on the sofa watching a movie at home. I learnt that it's ok to not take myself too seriously, to act the fool sometimes, to sing really loudly (and badly!) to whatever is on the radio, to dance around the kitchen in my pjs and to not overthink things.
There are still days when I feel like crap. There are still times when I let anxiety take over and make me feel like crying about the tiniest little thing, but those times are few and far between. Does this mean that I will put Rubin's book on the shelf and forget about it? Hell, no! I still dip in and out of it on a regular basis. I never thought I was a 'self-help' book kinda girl, but I love anything about positive thinking and achieving my goals and I read as many of those types of books as I can.
So what happens next? Instead of shutting down this part of my blog, I want to fill it with inspirational quotes about happiness and positivity. I'd like this part of my blog to be able to help and inspire others to find ways to feel better about themselves.
Today I choose to be happy and I hope you do too!