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!
I am grateful for the happy family memories that have been created over the years. Holidays and high days, summer sun and Christmas fun. Warm smiles and laughter and silly jokes. I’m grateful for the way that memories can spring from nowhere brought to the fore by a colour or a smell or a song on the radio and I am once again back there with the wonderful people and pets I have been lucky enough to share my life with.
I’m grateful that I will always have those memories stored away in my subconscious. A treasure trove to call on now some of the sweet souls who helped create them are gone. They will be there to comfort me on the cold days without them, they will help to dry my tears and make me smile again. And I am thankful for that.
Last night I had a dream. It involved close family members, some alive, some not. We were enjoying a day out sightseeing in London. We had a fine time. I can’t recall the places we visited but I remember how happy I felt. I came home with a glossy bag depicting some of London’s most famous landmarks and, bizarrely, a 30% off voucher for afternoon tea!
Whilst I have done ‘the sights’ in London many times over the years and sometimes with members of my family, I have never done it with the exact combination of people who undertook the trip in my dream. I have my memories to thank for creating that and I am grateful.
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.
Everywhere you look there are people telling you to be thinner, fitter, happier and healthier. They are promising you quick fixes to difficult problems. All you have to do is buy into their message and all will be well. For them, maybe. Financially. Call me a cynic but I don’t think we need any of these so called experts to show us the way. Most of what they peddle is common sense dressed up in fancy new clothes. If we stopped to think we’d probably know a lot of this stuff already and we could certainly use our intelligence to fill in any gaps.
We have all succumbed to the marketing skills of the New Year salesmen and women at one time or another. None of us is immune. They tap into the need within all of us to mark the start of a new year in a positive way. We are all keen to begin again. Whatever mistakes we made last year, the new year is a clean slate. We haven’t made any bad calls yet. We haven’t exercised any questionable judgement. We will, you know. It’s just a question of when but for the moment our slate is still shiny and untarnished.
So if we have the ability within ourselves to tackle our own problems why do we, year after year, invest in the merry go round of New Year promises the gurus make on our behalves? I think it comes down to belief. We have the knowledge, we have the ability. What we want is to put our faith in someone other than ourselves because we know ourselves only too well, right? We want to believe in the New Year Salesperson’s spiel because if we follow what they say to the letter we won’t fail this time. We won’t be the person we were before, the one who tripped and fell, the vulnerable one, the one who started with the best of intentions but faltered when things got hard. This time we’ll be a better version of ourselves, a new version.
If you want to be thinner, fitter, happier and healthier in 2017 I wish you all the best. They are worthy goals. But I think the best gift you can yourselves for the New Year is to promise yourself you will try to be fearless. I don’t mean reckless. I mean fearless.
Nowadays there seems to be a compunction that we all have to be doing something all of the time. Even if we are waiting in line for something the ubiquitous mobile phone will be scanned and checked. Down time is a concept that seems to be frowned upon by modern society but I believe it is essential.
Bombarded by constant stimulation when do we have chance to recalibrate? As our bodies need sleep to repair and regenerate so our minds need quiet time to re-energise. Giving ourselves the opportunity to stare into space and drift off wherever our minds might take us should not be seen as a waste of time. We should think of it instead as essential maintenance for the soul.
Opening our minds up can lead to some interesting outcomes – Memories can bring people and places back to our attention after a long absence, solutions to problems can sometimes present themselves to us even though we weren’t directly focusing on them, ideas occur that would make life easier or better. But freeing our minds needn’t be so productive it can also lead to aimlessly drifting from one inconsequential thought to another and that’s all right too. Sometimes it’s not about doing, it’s about being.
If your life is normally busy and full make time for a few daydreaming sessions here and there. Turn off all your devices and give yourself permission to step back and do nothing for a while. The busier you are, the more beneficial time out will be.
Tuning out the white noise of modern life and letting yourself drift is a great stressbuster and best of all it’s free.
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.