When we believe we have to spend absurd amounts of money to be happy, then somewhere along the way, we have failed.
We’re always so unfair on ourselves. We pitch our life against others we see on our screens, oblivious to the fact that nothing is truly real. Or at least, not in the way it’s being shown.
We’re constantly chasing things we believe will make us happy. But if we would take just one good look at what we already have, we’d realise that our life is already bursting at the seams with it. It’s just that we keep striving towards the wrong ideals. Towards goals which in the end, will not really make us happy.
How do I know? I’ve been through the whole process of ardently wanting something, thinking I’ll only be happy when I do. And I would be – for a while. Then it’s back to longing for the next thing.
Am I over it? Not really. It’s easy to get trapped in these cycles… they’re quite vicious. But that’s the whole point of this post, of me taking the time to write what should be obvious but which has been lost somewhere along the way. To rediscover the beauty in small gestures and to surprise myself with how little it takes to be happy. To finally wake up and smell the roses. After all, it’s the little things which count. It has always been that way.
Sure, life catches up with us. We get sick, people we love get sick. We have bills to pay, personal anxieties to deal with, a 9 – 6 job which may, at times, drain us and on and on. But allowing ourselves one, maybe two of the little things everyday, makes all the difference in the world. You’ll find that with time, you’ll start thoughtlessly putting in more and more, until one day you’ll wake up realising you’re not chasing anything anymore.
- Watch the sun rise. Wake up before anyone else, grab your trainers and jog to the nearest vantage point. Don’t take your phone with you. Then just sit and watch the world being born all over again. Cheesy? Maybe. But you won’t give a damn when you’re there. It just puts you in your place.
- Make the rest of your morning count. Have breakfast like a king or surprise someone you love with breakfast in bed. Create something. Mornings have been found to be the best time to get those creative juices flowing so get cracking on something you’ve been putting off for ages.
- Make a mix of your all-time favourite songs (the kind you can unabashedly sing along to) and put it on when traffic is threatening to drive you crazy.
- Arrive early at the office. Drop your stuff and go for a coffee at your favourite café. Take your favourite book and lose yourself for those 30 minutes. [Note to self: Tip the nice barista who keeps you entertained with the art he whips up on his coffees.]
- Indulge on the little things which make you happy every once in a while – an extra cappuccino during the day. A slab of dark chocolate. A box of mixed berries. Share them around if you can.
- Get a small notebook and note down anything which has made you particularly happy. It could be anything: the new way you styled your hair, the smile you shared with a complete stranger, that 1 hour you spent with your better half in complete silence – and at complete ease. Anything. Capture it. Re-read it when you’ve had a particularly bad day. Smile again.
- Get organised. Organise your bookshelf by genre, author, colour. Sort out your wardrobe and give away anything you haven’t worn in the past year.
- Buy fresh flowers and put them in the middle of the room so people would have to walk past them. Everyone stops to smell and just generally fuss around fresh flowers. We’re so used to having everything artificial that our moods lift when we come in contact with something real.
- Wash your bed sheets more often. There’s nothing quite like getting into bed with the sweet scent of fabric softener lingering on your skin.
- Take photos and get them printed. Hang them up where you can see them. Get creative with ways to display them.
- Hug more and often. You’ll feel better (and it’s scientifically proven).
- Always take a few moments to reflect, to think over your decisions and choices and how actions developed during the day. Was there anything you could have done different? Anything which would have been better left unsaid? Try to remedy it.
- Take the time to cook, alone or with your partner. Try a new recipe. Go for something you would never have chosen at a restaurant. Dare your taste buds!
- Fridays are for unwinding so if you don’t feel like going out, just don’t. Curl up with your favourite book or series. Make yourself a nice hot cuppa or a glass of good wine.
- Do something different when you go out. Check theatre listings, fairs, festivals, small local events which help communities raise funds for historical monuments or places. Go to an art exhibition. Don’t be scared to discuss the works of art, even if you’re not an expert. Art has the tendency to be pliant, to make different people see different things. Talk it out. If you see it, it’s there.
- Read poetry. Buy a second hand poetry book and flip through the pages. Mark the lines which strike you and write them down. Attempt your own. You don’t need to win awards – all poetry needs is to speak to your heart.
- Take a nice, hot, long bath. Put on some music and light a scented candle. Make sure you do it on a day when you can stay there as long as you feel like staying.
- Make tea for someone who hasn’t asked for it. Watch as their face lights up.
- Leave early from work once in a while. Go to the beach and just watch the sun go down, without letting it make you feel like you’ve wasted your leave hours. What sort of people are we if never make time to see the sun set?
- Go to your closest library. Spend an afternoon poking around the oldest titles you can find. Take home something different than what you normally take.
- Volunteer at your closest pet shelter or do occasional donations. The happiness the animals will show will be like nothing you’ve ever witnessed. And we, in turn, can learn so much just from observing them.
- Do what you love to do most – and do a lot of it. Writing, cooking, cycling, singing in the shower. Just do.
- Stop at random towns and villages. Explore the back alleys or just have some te fit-tazza on a bench outside their kazin.
- Tell everyone you’ll be switching off your phone for a whole day and just do it. Go for a walk, stop for an ice-cream, soak it all in.
- Just live for the moment because, and I know it’s harsh, but we might be dead tomorrow. It’s just not promised and there is simply no way to bring back time. So don’t hold back on saying another “I love you” to your parents, siblings, friends, lover. Don’t stretch out stupid arguments – don’t get into them in the first place. Always do your best at anything you do and when you lapse, know that it’s perfectly fine. Just take the time you need to get back on track, and shine.
Happiness is not just about giving to other people – it’s also about giving back to yourself, and being conscious of that fact. And don’t you dare feel guilty about giving time, energy or focus where it’s first due. To yourself.