What does it take to be happy?

What does it take to be happy?

A while ago I promised I was going to start looking after myself (see: I’m a Rubbish Mummy). And yet, a few weeks later, I found I was in exactly the same predicament – I was still exhausted, spent and drowning in my to do list. Madly kicking my arms and legs to keep my head above water. Nothing had changed, I still wasn’t happy.

I’m pretty good at looking after my family and my friends, my home, my businesses. But when it comes to prioritising my mental and physical well being, there never seems to be quite enough time. It always gets bumped.

I’ve analysed my lack of happiness a lot over the years! I’ve:

  • Read The Happiness Project and worked my own version (for an entire year – with varying degrees of commitment!). Read many many books in fact!
  • Worked on my fitness and diet to try and like the shell that I inhabit.
  • Committed to NLP counselling with some incredible light bulb moments.
  • Practised and studied yoga regularly for years
  • Changed career drastically (twice)
  • Upped sticks and left the rat race
  • Left behind relationships that were not healthy

The list goes on and still I found myself with the same niggles that I wanted to change. So what does it take to finally break through and be happy?

Hit the pause button

For me, this has been going on for decades. Always searching, always striving. Making changes – big ones and little ones – to reach this unattainable goal. And it hasn’t worked.

In yoga, we talk about dis-ease. And I think that is such an accurate way to describe how I felt. Everything was out of kilter.

What steps could I take this time that would actually work? After so many failed attempts over the years, how was I finally going to feel content with my lot? What does it take to be happy?

Clear the decks

I cancelled everything.

Everything in my day is scheduled, including cleaning! So, I went through my calendar for the next few months and deleted everything that was not absolutely essential. I needed to start with a clean slate. And I know that my biggest issue is not having enough time. Or that’s what I tell myself.

But that’s not actually true. I have the same amount of time as everyone else and at least a proportion of them are happy. So it’s probably more accurate to say I don’t use the time I have well.

Breaking the self-sabotage habit

This was my biggest mind block. I know full well that if I get a good night’s sleep then I feel better, I’m happier, I’m a nicer person, I get more done (sounds good, right?) so why did I sit pointlessly scrolling through my phone or watching a film that I’m not really enjoying until 11.30pm? And then wake up, knackered. Why didn’t I read or just go to bed?

Because it’s a distraction and if I go to bed at 11.30pm, there’s no way I can get up at 5.30am every morning. Err, what?

Up with the sun

This is a game changer for me. I always felt tired. So how does getting up at 5.30am help? Getting less sleep to become more happy doesn’t make sense at all! But for me it does. Bear with…

It is still a bit of a struggle getting up before sunrise but I categorically know that if I come downstairs and do 12 rounds of sun salutations with a mantra, I feel great afterwards. I then get to do an hour’s work before anyone else in the house is up. I’m ahead of the game and that is a huge boost to someone who always felt like she was playing catch-up.

It then means I spend less time during the day feeling guilty that I’m not working when I’m with the family. I can stop and have a chat with someone instead of always having to dash off. Little moments in the day can just be without me feeling like I’m wasting time.

Stop over-committing

My children did so many activities!

It’s not the activities themselves, it’s the incessant fetching, carrying, organising, buying kit, packing bags, scheduling, squeezing in meals, reminding about practice.

We rushed from one thing to another to be where we needed to be, and, I’m ashamed to say it, I was shouting at my children to get a move on, all.the.time.

During lockdown all that stopped so why when it eased did I allow it to creep back?

Now we have dropped all bar two activities with approval from the kiddiewinks. Their bedtime is now later by half an hour so that routine is calmer because we’re not rushing (revolutionary, I know!).

I have resisted taking on more classes, despite quite a bit of pressure to do so. And I am getting to bed at 10pm to do a meditation and sleep.

Prioritise me

This was hard. I don’t feel comfortable prioritising myself still if I’m honest but I have made steps to drag me up the priority list so my well being and happiness is above the DIY list or the cleaning at least.

For me, it looked like this:

  • Addressing my relationship with food
  • Exercising regularly – I have totally embraced online classes
  • Practising yoga in a way that suits me – I split my physical and non-physical practice up in the day.
  • Eating healthily and mindfully
  • Not drinking alcohol or caffeine
  • Scheduling my teaching so that I get one week off every six weeks – this coincides with school holidays
  • Taking time after a shower to put on body lotion (I didn’t say they were all big steps)
  • Buying fresh flowers
  • Recognising when anxiety is becoming an issue and taking steps to address the trigger.

Taking a break

We have booked and cancelled so many holidays over the years due to work commitments but both me and my husband have promised ourselves that we will take a couple of breaks each year.

We have booked our first holiday and have another one in the pipeline.

And has this made me happy?

A few weeks in and I feel lighter, I feel freer.

I feel happier, really I do.

So, I would ask you this: are you happy with your lot? If not then change something but make sure you’re changing the things that are causing the problems and take some steps to make yourself happier.

I’d love to know what you try, so drop me a message and let me in on your tips for happiness!