Lately, I’ve not been doing so well.
That is a hard thing for me to admit. As those who know me well will tell you, I find it difficult to admit that I’m struggling and often keep my thoughts and feelings pretty well bottled.
Over the past year I’ve felt a sharp decline in my overall happiness. This, I have self diagnosed, has been caused by a combination of:
- general lack of purpose
Or maybe I’m just having a quarter-life crisis, who knows. What I do know is that it sucks. Big time.
I’ve got through the large part of this year by clinging to the knowledge that I had my Australian road trip to look forward to (which was epic and you can bet I’ve got a bazillion blog posts coming up!). However as we hit the run way back in London so the impending sense of dread of returning to my normal routine smacked me hard. Round the face.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about factors in my life that I could change to jerk myself out of this pity party. Where I live, where I work, how much I exercise etc. and I’m sure that, yes, these things might make me feel better for a while but I do not believe they are the core of the problem.
I think that core of the problem is that we are taught to externalise happiness – the house, the job, the body. More than that I think that it we are taught to compare those externals to those of other people. I want their house, his job, her body. I think this approach often breeds feelings of inadequacy and ultimately, misery.
Therefore I am going to attempt instead to focus on the internal. As Dr Stephen Covey (author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) says:
inside out rather than outside in
As luck would have it, one of my favourite people bought me a Christmas present that is designed to help you do just that. I don’t whether she knew I’ve been having a tough time, or whether she just saw this and knew it would appeal to two of my greatest loves – organising stuff and pretty stationary. Either way she nailed it (thanks buddy!).
Let me introduce you to…
The Happiness Planner
It is essentially a diary but it is is also so much more than that. The purpose of The Happiness Planner is to get you to live life with purpose. It advocates for time spent meaningfully.
It does this by asking you to complete a number of exercises at the beginning. These include listing the things that make you happy and how often you would like to do each of these things. Then the things which make you unhappy and noting whether you have the power to change these things.
It asks you to identify your strengths and weaknesses. Admit to your biggest fears. List the things that you are grateful for. It takes you on a journey through the things you’ve already achieved. The things that you are most proud of and lessons you have already learned. Before asking you to set out some aspirations for the future.
I have done a number of these types of exercises before but they were always either in an academic or professional context aimed at making me a better student or a better employee. The goal had never been my own happiness. Knowing that no one else was going to read it, that there was no grade or appraisal dependent on it was liberating. It meant that for the first time, I was 100% honest. I mean really honest.
About what is currently getting me down from relationships with people closest to me, about my own short comings, about my biggest fears. Its a safe space. Writing all those things down was an affirming experience.
I was breathing easier already.
Once you’ve completed these tasks the rest of the planner is a diary of the year ahead; one page for every day of the year. It starts by asking you what you’re excited about for that day and what your main focus will be. At the bottom of each page is space for reflection with fields for what the day’s highlights were and what you’re grateful for.
I’m not saying I will complete this religiously everyday but I can say that I’m already feeling better. I feel like I’ve got some of the control back over my life and that I have more power to change those things which are getting me down than I thought I did.
If all that wasn’t enough The Happiness Planner also comes with rose gold stationary. I bet you’re interested now aren’t ya.
I’ve already stuck the happiness sticker to my phone case so I have a constant reminder to live with purpose.
Here’s to 2017 being a very happy year 🙂