“I just want to be happy!” Those were the words I said to my counsellor at the beginning of last year while I sat there feeling the complete opposite of happy. I was overwhelmed and scared. I felt so sad and lost. Surely being happy couldn’t be so hard to grasp?!
To be honest, I can’t really remember much from my first counselling session except that he was kind. He said that I’d burnt myself out trying to please everyone else and gave me permission to put myself first. He told me that I needed to rest and to do things that nourished me and made me feel good.
I had no idea where to start. I didn’t know how to be happy and I certainly didn’t know where to begin.
What nourished me? What made me feel good? I felt like I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted or what I enjoyed doing. So I googled it! Obvs. I started coming across the term ‘self-care’ and my instinct told me to follow that path.
I started writing a list of things I enjoyed doing on my own like reading, baking, having a hot bath, going for a run, eating cake etc. This seemed like a good place to start so I tried incorporating them more often into my time.
At first it felt really strange. I was so used to making myself feel guilty for not being productive or doing something useful around the house. To allow myself the time to just sit and read for a few hours was so alien. I actually felt a bit uncomfortable so didn’t read for that long during that first session.
Learning how to be happy without the guilt took time but I got there in the end.
I also started to watch personal development videos and TedTalks on YouTube to get more ideas about how to create a happier, simpler life. It all came back to being comfortable with yourself. This allowed me to push away those guilty feelings and to prioritise my me time.
One of the things that I’ve heard time and time again during these videos was that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. This made so much sense. You are heavily influenced by the people in your life and I wanted to be influenced in a positive, loving and life enhancing way.
Having A Giggle
Laughter really is the best medicine and any type of laughter will do. If I’m feeling down or fed up, I know a quick way to get me back on track is to either watch a sit-com or a comedy, spend time with friends (my friend are hilarious!) or just by replaying a happy memory in my head. It lifts my mood and makes me feel a bit more positive.
Peace Of Mind
Worrying is the greatest thief of joy and making it a priority to reduce the amount of negative chit-chat going on in my head was a must.
I try to start each day off on the right foot by opening my journal and writing:
- 10 things I’m proud of myself for or things I’m grateful for
- Something I’m looking forward to/excited about today
- What step can I take towards my goal today
This takes 5-10 minutes and sets up my day in a positive way. It also means that I’m always looking out for things to be grateful for or to pat myself on the back about.
One thing my counsellor had me do at the end of each day was to write down the following:
- What went well that day
- What didn’t go well
- What I would change if I could
Within a couple of weeks I mostly wrote “nothing” for 2) and 3). It wasn’t that things always went to plan but I didn’t see them as issues when they didn’t work out. I also believe that I learn from each experience so why would I change it?!
Move That Body!
When you exercise, your body releases serotonin, dopamine and endorphins (feel-good hormones). They interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain (like natural painkillers). They also trigger a positive feeling in the body.
I try to move my body for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, 6 days a week. I need a rest day once a week for my head as well as my body’s recovery. My favourites include running, yoga, swimming and going out on my new bike with my fella. I also enjoy a brisk walk with my dog, Winston.
At The End Of The Day…
There is no magic pill to creating a happier life, you have to take action and make it part of your routine.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have days when I hear myself say “I just want to be happy!” but they are few and far between now. When these happen, I know it’s because I’m not prioritising my self care.
I’ll ask myself what I feel I’m missing and how can I go about fixing it. Self-awareness of your feelings and being able to question them is such a useful tool. It can break your mood and change your perspective.
If you’re really struggling with life then I would highly recommend seeking help from a professional. Maybe go to your GP and ask to be referred for counselling or contact a charity like Mind.