Hello friends. Happy May! I can’t believe we’re already a third of the way through the year and hurtling towards the half-year point. How is this year going for you? Are you achieving what you want to achieve in terms of goals? Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions (if you made any)? Are you fitter, wiser, more sociable, more confident? Are you happier? Are you the same as at the start of the year? Are you in a worse position? (I didn’t get back down the gym until this week. It’s an ongoing struggle with time management and energy management but I’m not giving up yet!)
Next week is Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Week here in the UK (14-20 May). This year their focus is on stress. As someone who has battled for decades with anxiety, low moods, depression and stress this is a cause I can identify with and am happy to spread awareness of. If you are finding life stressful and difficult at the moment and things are getting on top of you then please get in touch with someone who can support you such as your GP, a local mental health service, a mental health charity, a listening and support helpline or a support group. Some contact details are listed below.
I believe happiness doesn’t just happen, it isn’t guaranteed and we often don’t realise we’re losing our ability to feel happy until it’s gone. Like a muscle that atrophies without regular exercise, happiness is a quality that withers unless you foster it. A few years ago I reached a point in my life where I had focused on my worries and misfortunes so often that I realised one day I was too stressed and miserable to get excited or happy about things the way I once used to. I had lost my spark, in fact I was in a pit of despair and feeling nothing except negativity. It’s taken me several years to re-ignite the spark. Yes, it can be done! Even though initially my circumstances didn’t change, my response to them did and that began the process of creating a greater state of happiness within me.
One of the ways I relearned happiness was to begin appreciating the small, everyday good things in my life: a sunny day; a kind comment from a friend; a song that brought back good memories; a movie night in with my son, snuggled on the sofa; a like or retweet or share of my posts on social media. I began to build up a bank of happy moments and slowly began to see that in amongst the stress and worry there was a group of people who cared about me and valued me. I began to appreciate my health that I usually only noticed when I was feeling under the weather rather than when I was feeling well. I started to see my house as a home again, somewhere to enjoy fun with my son and relax in rather than a place where the chores were never finished. There was still plenty to do and my back still ached at times and the money was still short and the weather was often less than ideal and stressful events still occurred but I gradually trained my mind away from lingering on every “bad” thing and towards noticing the “good” things. As I did so, my stress levels lowered, my temper flared less frequently and I began to feel happier.
To help me keep note of these moments of happiness, I kept a Happiness Jar. A notepad, a pen and a jar was all I needed; if something happened for which I was appreciative and happy, I wrote it on a post-it note and put it in the jar. I didn’t keep it going for long in 2017 but I did continue the practice long enough to begin creating a happiness habit. This year I started on 1 January and I am still posting those notes into my jar today. It’s filling up with gratitude, appreciation and happiness. I can’t wait to read through all the notes on 31 December and remember what a wonderful year it’s been in so many little ways as well as the obvious notable occasions.
If you focus only on the big things, you miss the everyday wonder of life. So why not start your own jar on 1 June and begin making the second half of the year a happier one? Train that brain, refine your mind and create a greater state of happiness.
UK Mental Health Contacts:
Samaritans – 24/7 confidential volunteer helpline for listening and support
Tel: 116 123
Childline – 24/7 confidential volunteer helpline for young people
Tel: 0800 1111
Mind – Mental Health charity providing services, information and support
Tel: 0300 123 3393
Together – Mental Health charity providing services, information and support
Tel: 020 7780 7300
Mental Health Foundation – Mental Health charity working with people with mental health problems and learning difficulties
Tel: 020 7803 1101
BACP – directory of therapists in your location