January. It's the most miserable of months isn't it? After the build up and anticipation of Christmas, the big day comes and goes, and as you enjoy the rest of your time off over New Year, you begin to relax and understand why we all need a break from time to time.
After a lovely nearly three weeks off over Christmas, I was genuinely looking forward to getting back to work but upon returning to over 800 emails (!) and way more work than anticipated, by the Friday, I felt like I'd been hit by a bus.
And it's not just January blues that do that - life can be...difficult at times. There's depression, anxiety, SAD disorder and a million other things that directly challenge our happiness. Some of which I've experienced, and some that I haven't... What I have done though is spent time talking with friends who are experiencing tough times, and making a note of what helps in those tiresome moments - as well as what helps to scare off those potential late nights of stress/worry/unhappiness myself.
So here are my tips for living a happier life, which I hope will help you to spend more time being happy...
One thing therapists always recommend to people is to record their feelings. Having a diary or journal gives you a place to write down what you're thinking or feeling and then once it's written down, it's supposed to help you make sense of the things on your mind and help you to find a solution. I'm not good at writing pages a day - I don't have time. But there are so many different products around to prompt you and help give you the space you need to vent. And it's incredibly cathartic. If you don't want to write a lot, why not buy one of the journals that only give you space for one line a day? Or an undated diary, so you can write whenever you want or need to without missing sections out when you're too busy.
Organisation is really important in combatting stress. I've always secretly wanted to be an impulsive person, with all the excitement that goes with it. However in reality, I need order and routine in my life to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed at times. Having a planner helps with this, and quite frankly between school plays and my mummy appointments, my blog and my day job, as well as having a social life - well, I couldn't keep track of everything without a decent planner. Knowing what I've got planned allows me to work within time scales and not need to leave things to the last minute. Good planning and organisation is really important - as boring as it sounds.
Have a Happy Place
If you're like me and have a bedroom full of 'stuff' then you may find you need somewhere a bit calmer, a bit more isolated, to be your happy place. If you're less of a hoarder/shopping addict who loves pretty things than me, then you might be okay to have your bedroom as your happy place! I just have too much 'stuff' - my jewellery tree, my make-up, my dressing table...it's my bedroom and I love it, but it's not my happy place. We all need somewhere we can go regularly for peace and calm. I recently redecorated my office and painted it white and kept furniture to a minimum and I worked hard to make it the sort of space I can relax in - now I get excited everyday to spend an hour or two in the evenings in there. Having a place to write in peace is key, but even if you're not a writer, everyone needs a happy place - whether it's in your garden, a park bench you just love, or a quiet part of the house. If you've not got one, then make one or at least make the most of what you've got.
All that said, I have spent a lot of time recently decluttering my house. Too much 'stuff' is chaotic and can add to a heightened sense of stress and feeling of enclosure in those times when the workload is increasing, your child is mastering the art of tantrums and payday just seems so far away - do yourself a favour and declutter. You'll find the space a welcome breath of fresh air that will have a knock-on calming affect on your mood.
When it comes to setting goals - be realistic. I think we're all guilty of setting goals that are just a little bit too unrealistic. I believe you should aim for the stars all the time, but putting pressure on yourself is something else altogether. All the best intentions start with a goal or aim but telling yourself you're going to write a blog post every day, or you're going to go to the gym five times a week without fail - well, they aren't realistic. Allow yourself some flexibility because otherwise the pressure you put on yourself will be a major source of stress.
Do What Makes You Happy
Sounds like a no brainer doesn't it? But how much time do you invest in the things you love? Do you wish you spent more time pursuing your hobby - whatever it may be? Well make the time. Life is too short to spend all your time rushing from work to chores and bills without having the fun bits in-between, and I for one know what it's like to get weeks down the line and realise I've not done anything I really enjoy. If you like swimming or walking - whatever it may be, make that time. A few hours in the midst of everyday life spent on the things you love, is a time investment you can't afford to miss.
Likewise it's so important to take regular breaks - I'm talking days off and holidays. Our bodies aren't designed to go at a million miles an hour forever with no time for stopping to recoup. Make sure you book time off work, off daily life - just to get a break, to give yourself a mental and physical break from it all. The change of scenery, daily pace and the relaxation will give you a fresh and happier outlook on things that may previously have made you unhappy.
It's actually so interesting to read up on how much of a huge difference your diet can make on your happiness. If you eat a lot of processed food, a lot of artificial colours and flavourings etc then you're actually filling your body with nasties that can genuinely make your mood worse. You might get an initial sugar high, but it won't last long and the 'come down' is worse than the mood you started with. I'm not a massive 'green eater' and I sometimes have a ready meal for lunch at work when I'm in a rush, but I'm genuinely trying to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables because when I do, I feel healthier and as a result - happier. Likewise with what I drink, I'm trying to massively increase my water intake and lower my caffeine levels. It's not easy in a stressful job, but as with my food choices - when I drink better, I feel better and you will too.
Now this one is difficult for me as I suffer with insomnia. But our bodies need sleep to function well and that means limiting the late nights - as boring as it sounds. I find clean sheets, a shower before bed and fresh pjs to be the best feeling ever and a great way to encourage a good night's sleep. Burning candles and lowering the lights in the hours before you go to bed is also good at helping your brain slowly switch off to the days pressures to prepare for sleepy time.
So, these aren't brain science but following these tips will help you to create your own happiness and live a genuinely happier life. Here's to a happier and healthier 2016!