Happiness by Design: What I learnt after 100 Days of Happiness

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“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
Don’t complain”.

– Maya Angelou.

I’ll start by saying they obviously weren’t 100 days of pure, blissful, untainted happiness, they were 100 days of life. But they were some of the best days of this year, and each and every day gave me something to be happy about. (Having started in July and finishing in early October, the 100 days were nestled comfortably between the nightmare of Brexit and the even bigger nightmare of the recent U.S election results, otherwise I would have called it 98 days of Happiness).  

I received the Happiness Planner as a birthday gift in the post in late May from my dear friend Etta.

At the start, I had to sum up what I wanted to achieve over the 100 days. I had things like:

– More mental clarity – stop ruminating on career thoughts
– Be more present with Maia
– Write at least one blog post a week
– De-clutter upstairs
– Read 10 books
– Go to bed earlier
– Cultivate more healthy eating habits

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”.

– Zig Ziglar

I also had to fill out:
– What makes me happy and unhappy
– What my strengths and weaknesses are
– What I normally get upset or frustrated about
– What qualities or habits I would like to improve
– Who I would like to see more often
– What and who I am grateful for in my life
– How I saw myself in 5 years and 10 years both personally and professionally.
– What my dreams are, what I want to achieve in life
– What I’ve achieved so far that I am proud of

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things”.

– Henry Ward Beecher

Each day I’d fill out:
What I was excited about
My main focus
Exercises
Meals ( didn’t always fill this out)
My To-Do list
The good things about the day
What I hoped for tomorrow

At the end of each week I’d fill out:
Describe the past week in 3 words
Rate the week from 0-5 on things like healthy/unhealthy, stressed/calm
This weeks highs
This weeks lows
What I learned
Who and what I was thankful for
What I wanted to improve/what I hoped for

At the end of the 100 days I filled out:
Describe the past 100 days in 3 words
What was your most common state of mind?
What were your happiest moments?
What little things did you most enjoy doing on a daily basis?
What new skills did you learn?
What personal qualities or habits did you develop, cultivate or strengthen?
What new things did you discover about yourself?
What did you do that got you out of your comfort zone?
Did any negative events happen? How did you overcome them?
What and who are you most thankful for?

*A blog post to come answering some of these questions..

It was sometimes a struggle to fill out each page half-asleep at 11pm, but I stuck to it. The summary at the end of each week proved to be the most revealing. I learnt a lot each week, about myself, and what really makes me feel crappy or happy. A lot of what I learnt was just confirming what I already knew ( things like “sleep comes first”, “alone time is sacred” and “I do have the ability to go a week without sugar”), but the planner gave me the chance to think clearly about what was happening and the things I needed to change.

“The habits that took years to build, do not take a day to change”.

– Susan Powter

And somehow – I think due to the process of daily monitoring – I actually did the majority of things on my list.  “Go to bed earlier” and “cultivate more healthy eating habits like lemon water and kale smoothies” sort of fell down the wayside but “presence with Maia” and “more mental clarity” came before a 10pm bedtime.

I’m now very good at limiting the minutes I spend on my phone in Maia’s company to less than 5 a day. I’m more present in every little moment with her than I’ve been in months, always trying to bring my thoughts back to what is happening now and not concerns about next week or even next year.

I have more mental clarity than I’ve had in a long time. (Read about my improved mental clarity here).

All in all, I’m glad I did it. I’m happy I committed to taking the time each night to think about what I was grateful for, what made me smile, what I hoped for the following day. It felt good so sit down on a Sunday evening and think about what I’d learnt that week. It gave me a new perspective on, well, my life. It gave me a sense of “God, I’m a really really lucky woman, I have SO much to be happy about.” 

So if you take anything from this post, let it be this:
-Take note of what you want to change about your life, and set about doing it.
– Take note of what makes you happy and if you can, carve out more time for it
– Each and every day, take note of what you are grateful for

This is what we call: Happiness by Design

 

“The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have.”

– Randy Pausch

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