As you’ve probably guessed, I have had a horrendously busy few weeks – which is why I’ve been so quiet on the blogging front.
I’ve actually been – for me, anyway – pretty stressed out. Things have been a little more complicated than they usually are, and I’ve been thrown entirely off balance. My healthy lifestyle has been solemnly limping along since I got sick a couple of weeks ago and found my appetite totally thrown off; my gym visits have been sparse and half-arsed because I’m finding myself feeling too guilty about not doing everything else; and my mindset’s been totally outta whack. Thanks to my iPhone, I never, ever switch off. I’m running on a combination of caffeine and blind panic most of the time, and it’s exhausting.
When you get into this kind of state – one which, asking around, is really, worryingly common – it’s almost impossible to break out of it without feeling guilty. The socially acceptable response seems to be to get drunk, but I tried that on Friday and yesterday’s hangover just meant even more guilt. I’m pretty sure that’s a fail on my part, but anyway – let’s continue.
I’ve been so busy, and so frazzled, and in such a whirlwind, that I’ve managed to lose sight of my priorities. And I don’t mean paying rent, although that’s always up there – but by priorities, I mean the less tangible stuff that’s a hell of a lot more important.
I mean, in a world where it’s all about how much money you could have, or how pretty you could look, or how many bathrooms you’ve got in your house, it’s ridiculously easy to get caught up in chasing these things, because they’re a measure of your accomplishments. They’re a marker of what you’ve achieved.
Same with the scales. I say it again and again, but the pounds lost there are only one measure of your success. And yet, time and again, people let their self-worth and wellbeing be defined by the number they see between their toes.
Happiness, though, is not a number. It’s not something that you can measure up in any tangible way, and quite often, it’s easy to forget that it’s even a goal. When the pressure is on to tick off those measurable goals, wellbeing tends to get pushed aside. Don’t get me wrong – there will be times when it isn’t plain sailing. When you really do just have to focus on getting stuff done. That’s okay. But when you lose sight of the option of happiness, or when you start to think happiness and material things are one and the same… That’s when it’s time to reassess.
What I’m not saying, though, is that you should quit your job and go spend three months meditating on a beach (although if you’re in a position to do that, feel free to take me with you, because I love free holidays.) That’s impractical, and totally impossible for most of us.
What’s not impossible, though, is to find the happiness in what you’ve already got. Where you already are. The moments that catch you in the day and make you feel a little better. For me, that’s opening my bedroom window in the morning. My first sip of coffee. Saying “thank you” to someone. Getting a message from a friend, family member or total stranger. Working out. Red onions and balsamic vinegar. Getting into bed before 10:30pm.
These are all simple little things, but ones I’m only appreciating properly as I type them here, because I’ve lost sight of all the good stuff by being, frankly, worn out. Instead, I’ve been filling my days with negative feelings. I’ve been opening the window because it’s too damn hot, not because I want to enjoy the fresh air. I’ve barely been tasting my coffee, because I’m drinking it in an “oh my God, if this caffeine doesn’t kick in soon I’m going to punch a dog” kinda way. Saying “thanks” and replying to messages have become rushed necessities, working out and eating nice things are just eating into my work time, and as for getting into bed early? Gimme a break.
The only difference, then, is in attitude. I can choose to enjoy all these things I appreciate in my day, the things that for me, personally, are little instances of happiness… Or I can just let them pass me by as part of all the other stuff going on in my busy, stressful life, until eventually I’m too burnt out to enjoy anything at all.
Quite frankly, option B scares the crap out of me.
I strongly believe, too, that if you’re taking note of all the little instances of happiness in your day, all the things that make your life great, you’ll be better placed to make better choices when the big ones come up. Career choices, relationships, all that stuff that takes a lot of thought – these things will be a lot easier to make choices about if you’ve got your personal priorities straight, because you know what matters to you.
You know what changes you could live with, and what you couldn’t live without. You know what wellbeing is for you, personally. If you’re not clear on these things, there’s a much higher chance you’ll find yourself making the wrong choices, for the wrong reasons – because your priorities aren’t quite in order.
Now, I’m not by any means saying this is easy to do, because it takes some thought. It takes practice to remind yourself to appreciate things as they happen, and not take them for granted. That’s why material goals are easier to focus on, because they’re right there, all shiny and glowing and cool – but the more you do it, the easier it gets, until eventually, appreciating the day-to-day stuff is normal, and you’ve got the whole happiness thing sussed.
So take stock. Step back from the whirlwind of stuff going on all around you – all the worries, and stresses, and pressures to get this thing or be this way, and enjoy the tiny moments of happiness as they come. Because they’re life, and they’re worth living for.
And on that note – I’m going to go outside and enjoy the sunshine. ‘Cause if that ain’t a recipe for wellbeing, I don’t know what is.