At the moment, in my part of the UK, we are being blessed with wonderful weather. Anyone who knows the British weather will know this situation is unlikely to last and we will all probably be shivering into our thermals within days. But, right now, it is lovely.
As is usually the case, I woke up today with twenty-one hundred things to do but when a nice day comes along it is important to seize it and make the most of it. So beyond writing this blog, my stuff to do list is on hold for a day.
My puppy, Willow, and I have been on a long walk across the fields near our home – blissful peace and quiet, rolling countryside bright with sunshine and the only sounds were the very distant whisper of traffic, the occasional dog bark and loudest of all beautiful birdsong.
Now back, a long afternoon and evening stretches ahead of us in which we will both spend time pottering in the garden which is a mass of spring colours. Later we will relax, either outdoors or on the comfy sofa in the sun lounge, me reading a good book, Willow, nearby having a snooze. ! daresay a glass of something chilled may also be consumed. By me not her!
The idea is that you make a note on a slip of paper or a post it note of anything and everything that makes you happy as they occur to you. It can be as mundane as a warming cup of hot chocolate on a bitterly cold day or the big stuff like family. You only add to the jar when you want to and there is no set limit on how many notes you put in or when you add them. It’s your jar of happiness and it is supposed to make you happy not stressed out. If it becomes another thing on your to do list then that would make it the unhappiness jar after all and who would want one of those?!
What you record is entirely up to you – I have noted down some memories as they came back to me, people, pets, places, situations, food, drink. The list is as endless as the things that make you happy. Your jar will probably have lots of different things in it than mine does but some of the fundamental things we will all share.
I plan to keep the happiness jar going for the whole of 2017 and add to it whenever the feeling takes me. At the end of the year I will open the jar and see just what made me happy in 2017. It’s a lovely idea and an easy way to remind ourselves of how many things we have to be grateful for because it is all too easy to forget how lucky we are sometimes as we struggle with the daily grind.
There is something about being faced by a large expanse of uninterrupted water that puts everything else into perspective, something calming about the way the muscle of the sea ripples back and forth.
A couple of weekends ago the sun was shining and sheltered from the wind Willow and I found a piece of leftover summer on a deserted beach. The sea was gentle that day, whispering back and forth across virgin sand and my puppy had her first paddle in the water. The sea wall was a sun trap on which to sit and while away time day dreaming, the sun casting a million jewels upon the water to dazzle our eyes.
The next weekend was very different. Stormy and cold with a raging wind, autumn had arrived with a vengeance. Willow and I loved it just the same. Confined to the promenade because the tide was so far in, it was exhilarating to be buffeted by the gusty wind. The onrushing waves were high and angry, battering the beach and sending foaming spray up on to the promenade to land at our feet. It was easy to lose myself in thought as I watched the peaks and troughs of the restless sea, the swells concealing hidden depths and dangers. It was a world away from the summer of the previous weekend.
Walking by the sea is good for our souls. Our problems seem to diminish in relation to the vastness of the water. It puts us back in touch with nature, the cycles of the seasons and the heartbeat of the world. It reminds us how small and inconsequential we are. And that is a good thing.
It’s a life changing sum of money but there have been plenty of instances of lottery winners who thought their dreams had come true only to see that dream turn into a nightmare because money isn’t everything and a large sum of money can bring with it a complex set of problems alongside the flying champagne corks and I’m not talking about whether you should buy a yacht or a sports car or both.
Squabbles amongst families and rising tensions between husbands and wives are the stories that hit the headlines months and years after the champagne has gone flat. It isn’t the money itself that tears people apart rather it has a way of exacerbating the fault lines that already existed in a relationship before the potent mix of lots of money got added to the pot.
It’s good to aim high. It’s lovely to have dreams. Just make sure your foundations are solid before you start reaching for the stars or have them handed to you on a plate.
Be true to yourself.
Tell the people you care about that you love them.
Show that love in what you do not just in what you say.
Take pleasure from the simple things in life – a leaf caught on the breeze, a beautiful sunset, a roaring fire.
Cherish happy times.
Look for the good in people.
Give second chances to yourself and to others.
Smile even if your heart is breaking
Practice random acts of kindness.
Remember that somewhere inside all of us there is a clock ticking so don’t waste precious moments on those who don’t deserve your time.
Never be afraid to live, laugh or love.
Don’t strive to be happy because happiness is ephemeral. Strive for contentment instead.
Life is simple. We’re the ones that complicate the hell out of it, mostly because of our unrealistic expectations or our misguided sense of entitlement. I am as fond of material comforts as the next person but I recognise them for what they are – a way to make my life more comfortable. They are an enhancement. A choice. Would I be able to survive without most of them? Probably.
The acquisition of material things should not be what drives us and if it is then maybe it is time to step back and recalibrate.
Most of us come back from a holiday refreshed and relaxed because we are able to step away from the white noise of our everyday lives and just be. It gives us a chance to think, to feel, to breathe away from the pressure cooker of a nine to five existence. How nice it would be if we could carry that sense of freedom back to our everyday lives. The first step to doing so comes from within. Life will always throw us curveballs, stresses and strains are part of being alive. We learn from them and grow but if you can spend a little time each day counting your blessings and reminding yourself of what is important and crucially what is not, the simple life may not be as far away as you imagined.
Perfection is hard to attain and impossible to sustain so for those who pursue it we are constantly setting ourselves up for failure. What is it about giving ourselves permission to be less than perfect that we struggle with? Is it the fear of being judged by others? That niggling doubt that everyone is better than us so we must therefore try harder?
Being a perfectionist is exhausting. You are caught in a never ending loop of striving to achieve whether it be the perfect outfit, the perfect house, holiday or job. Take your pick. A perfectionist can drive themselves nuts arranging a bunch of flowers quickly forgetting the beauty of the individual blooms, focusing only on their own inability to get the flowers to look ‘just right’. Chances are anyone visiting would see the flowers and think how wonderful they looked but our own perception is forever skewed by the battle we had arranging them. We beat ourselves up for not achieving our own ridiculously high standards.
The moments when perfection is attained are so brief that the pleasure we derive from them is fleeting. How much better it would be if we could learn to find harmony and beauty in the less than perfect. It’s okay to strive for perfection but how much better it would be to take pleasure in something even if it falls a little short.
Perfectionists would be wise to study the Japanese tradition of Wabi Sabi – the art of appreciating beauty in an imperfect world. It embraces three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished and nothing is perfect (Richard Powell – Wabi Sabi Simple).
The much loved but chipped vase is wabi sabi. The plant that refuses to be symmetrical is wabi sabi. You and I are wabi sabi.
So instead of trying to make everything bend to our will, propagating our own particular brand of perfectionism why not step beyond the confines of the perfect. Life is wabi sabi and always will be so we may as well get used to it. How much easier it would be to live in harmony with an imperfect world by appreciating it for what it is instead of disliking it for what it isn’t and never will be.
Are you guilty of offering good advice to friends who are in need but failing to follow that advice yourself? I know I am. How many times have you replayed a conversation in your head and thought that was great advice, I should try it some time! We give ourselves such a hard time trying to be all things to all people, never wanting to let anyone down. It is an admirable sentiment but in order to never let anyone down someone always has to come at the end of the list and that someone is usually you.
Me time is a concept that all of us are familiar with but how many of us actually indulge in it? Instead of viewing it as a beneficial part of our lives, we see it instead as something shameful to be whispered from the side of our mouths. We say ‘I had a little me time’ as though it is unacceptable and to be frowned upon. That’s if we even allow ourselves to take time out for ourselves in the first place. It seems somehow selfish and so we feel guilty about doing so. But we shouldn’t.
A little me time in each day should be achievable without the world of families, work and chores collapsing in on itself. You may think all will crumble around you if you don’t step up to the plate every minute of every day but it just isn’t true.
A little me time could be that first cup of tea or coffee when the day is fresh and new and the rest of the house are asleep. A precious little window of time, just a few minutes long, to daydream and clear your minds of all the twenty-first century clutter. It could be a walk in the park at lunch time, play time with your kids or your dog. It could be a soothing bath or ten minutes with your favourite book. It doesn’t have to be hours out of your day.
So next time when you are feeling overburdened and stressed try to be your own best friend. Step outside of yourself and imagine what advice you would give if you saw one of your friends in a similar situation. And then – this is the tricky bit – act on it. We already have a lot of the answers within us but most of the time we just don’t listen.
A little me time is a blessing to be treasured not a guilty pleasure. So try it! You’ll feel better for it – and the world won’t end, I promise!