Category Archives: Happiness

Doing Nothing is Doing Something

The Undeniable Power of Doing Nothing

When two of my favourite things to do are sitting around a campfire and listening to the rain, it’s rare that I get to enjoy them at the same time. They tend to be mutually exclusive.

But on Saturday night, as a light rain fell on my umbrella, I sat in front of our small backyard campfire and did nothing at all.

No camera to document the moment.

No conversation.

No planning.

No phone to tweet or Instagram my evening.

No urgent need to rush off and be productive.

No anything.

I sat in front of that fire and listened to the rain drops hit the hot coals. I watched the smoke rise up and over our wooden fence. I felt the warm, heavy weight of our dog as he slept on my knee. I heard the distant rumble of thunder.

And it was beautiful.

But it was hard. At least to begin with.

It was hard to sit there and do nothing. More than once I thought, “I’ll just run inside and grab my phone. I can take a photo.” Unspoken were the additional tasks I would then do – check Twitter, maybe Facebook, definitely take a moment to Instagram the fire photo, possibly check a news website and see if any urgent emails had come through. (Urgent emails? Really? Who am I – the Prime Minister? Come on.)

But I did none of those things, and I was rewarded. After about 15 minutes, I noticed my brain doing two unexpected things.

First, I got really creative. Words and ideas and stories and pictures formed in my mind. I head-wrote a book chapter, I thought through two or three blog posts and I imagined a series of photographs I want to take.

My brain was unencumbered by constant input and was allowed to create output. The only stimulation was the flickering of the fire and the patter of the rain. My brain had room to be creative and I was amazed at how clear my mind felt.

The second thing that my brain did, was that it let go. I got sleepy. It was only 8:00pm and I felt properly and deliciously drowsy. My body relaxed and I felt comfortable enough to simply sit there and enjoy the feeling.

My eyes and brain are used to staring at a screen of some description in the evening. Be it the TV, while watching our current series of choice on Netflix, or my iPad, while reading a book, my brain is often exposed to the blue, flickering light of a screen at night.

Considering those blue, flickering screens actually promote wakefulness, it’s no surprise that I felt sleepy in their absence. My brain was just doing its job, after all.

So I sat by the fire for an hour or more. I soaked in the peace. I let my thoughts wander where they liked. I looked at the world around me. I noticed little things that so often go unnoticed. I ignored the need to do something, and instead, I did absolutely nothing.

In a world that values action, and results, and success, this felt like a counter-cultural thing to do.

How often, when asked what we did over the weekend, will we respond, “Oh, nothing much.” When the reality is that we cleaned the house, visited friends, took our kids to sport, grocery shopped, watched a movie, had a BBQ, bought a birthday present, cleaned out the garage, paid some bills and felt overwhelmed.

These things have to happen, they are everyday tasks – mundane, even – but they are not nothing.

Saying these tasks are nothing simultaneously makes them seem insignificant (they’re not, it’s called life) and makes you wonder why you’re so tired when you haven’t done anything (because you never actually stop).

We need to carve out a little more space in our lives for truly doing nothing.

  • Lay on the grass and stare at the sky
  • Sit on the lounge and close your eyes
  • Light a campfire and watch the flickering flames
  • Walk out the front door with no idea of where you will wander, then do it aimlessly
  • Turn off every single screen in your home and lie quietly on your bed

Let your thoughts go where they will, and resist the urge to get up and do something.

If we all embraced the need to do nothing at all, a little more every day, I wonder how different we would feel?

From Me to You…

This is a little video the kids and I made to wish you a wonderful Christmas and bring a little peace to you and yours over the coming days, no matter how you celebrate.

I was going to finish off this week with a post about switching off, unplugging and taking a digital break for the holidays, but Courtney Carver summed it up perfectly in this post, so I won’t go cluttering up the internet with my own version.

I will be taking a break over the Christmas and New Year period, with less frequent posts and (much) less frequent social media and email. I will still be around in some capacity, but don’t hold your breath for an email before New Year! After all, there’s oysters and prawns and sparkling burgundy to be had. Pools to be swum in and afternoon naps to enjoy.

Thank you so much for being a part of the extraordinary community here this year. It’s been such a pleasure to get to know some of you and I’m looking forward to doing even more of that next year. It’s been a huge year though, so let’s make the rest count.

Much love,

Brooke xx

The Antidote to Perfectionism is Life.

The antidote to perfection is life

Are you a perfectionist?

Someone who is constantly battling the need for things to be “just right” before you’re satisfied? Never actually feeling satisfied because you’re always finding something wrong with your efforts?

  • Projects at work
  • The state of your house
  • The blog post you’re agonising over
  • The behaviour of your kids
  • Your garden
  • Friendships
  • Your social life

The need to be perfect will invade every area of your life if you let it.

And guess what? You’ll never get there.

You, your work, your home, your kids – these things will never be perfect.

Can I tell you what’s better than perfection?

Living.

Living is better than perfection.

And anyway, perfect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  • Perfect is predictable
  • Perfect increases stress
  • Perfect hates to be messed with

I’ve discovered that the imperfections, the signs of life, the quirks and the idiosyncracies – these things are beauty.

You deserve to experience these things because you deserve beauty.

But what to do?

Let Your Standards Slip

Are you afraid of what will happen if you stop striving to be perfect?

Can I tell you what will happen?

  • you will achieve more
  • you will not be paralysed by the fear of being imperfect
  • you will give yourself permission to try new things, to be bad at new things, and to laugh at yourself being bad at new things

I don’t mean live like a pig, or eat whatever you want, or stop turning up to work. Please, don’t do any of those things.

But allow yourself to do your best and then let it go.

Let’s repeat that for emphasis: Do your best and then let it go.

What Do You Have to Gain by Letting Go?

By letting go – just a little – you will gain:

  • time
  • contentment
  • space for other things
  • productivity
  • energy

So please, stop holding yourself to impossible ideals.

You cannot have a perfect home, perfect children, a perfect partner, a perfect sex life and a perfect figure. Hell, you can’t even have one of these. Nothing and no-one is perfect.

Accept it and start living.

 

PS. This post is blunt and to the point. I hope you’re not offended by that.

PPS. This post is blunt and to the point because it was aimed at me as much as anyone else! xx

 

In Defence of an Ordinary Life

In Defence of an Ordinary Life

When my grandfather died six years ago, my dad gave the eulogy at his funeral. In a beautiful address, he shared details of Pop’s life – his upbringing, his faith and his family. Some of it I’d heard before but much of it was new to me.

My Dad then shared something with the friends and family gathered in the church. He said there was no fanfare about his Dad, no drama, no huge success story and no enormous wealth. Instead, he was a man who held his family close, loved a good story, and believed in the benefit of hard work. He was devoted to his wife and together they lived a life of goodness, simplicity, passion and faith. They were surrounded by friends who loved them, family who cherished them and a community who supported them.

“Dad lived an ordinary life. But he lived it in an extraordinary way.”

He had lived an ordinary life – family, work, friends – these were the cornerstones. But he was content. He was happy. He was kind. He was supportive. He was loving. He valued the simple things in life. And he was loved.

 

Ordinary is Not Boring or Weak.

We are so often told to go big, be bold, live larger, dream higher, be extraordinary… And that to be anything else is to be selling ourselves short.

But amidst the noise of advertising telling us we can break free of ordinariness if only we, “Buy that dress! Have that house! Take that holiday!” there is an argument for an ordinary life. A life of deep relationships and love, of giving to others, to your community. A life where you have the time and the energy to be fully present in the lives of your partner, your kids, your friends, your work.

There is value in a life lived quietly, full of contentment, love, play, friends and family.

 

What About Dreams? Goals? Aspirations?

Having dreams and goals – even extraordinary ones – isn’t counter to living an ordinary life.

Dreams are wonderful. Sparky and I dream of travelling with our kids, introducing them to the world, experiencing new people and places.

But before we can find happiness in living those dreams, we need to recognise that life is ordinary and to find happiness in that.

If you can’t find joy and contentment in your day-to-day, what makes you think you will be any happier living in the south of France? Or once you’ve run that marathon?

The day-to-day is just that – daily rhythms of work, family, friends, love, responsibility. And instead of constantly battling the ordinariness of those things, we can accept them and find happiness and contentment and joy in them. Because it is enough.

When we are content in our ordinary life, we free up so much energy to embrace opportunity, to be idle and to dream. And that’s when extraordinary things can happen – if you want them to.

What ordinary thing are you thankful for today? Let us know in the comments below – in fact, shout it from the rooftops! Because it is enough.

 

Are We Gratitudinally-Challenged?

Are We Gratitudinally Challenged?

How’s your attitude of gratitude these days?

Are you brimming with positivity at the thought of another Monday morning commute? Simply thrilled that you are blessed by mountainous piles of laundry? Endlessly joy-bound by the dozens of toys that clutter your child’s bed? Awestruck at the good fortune of being allowed to pay your phone bill?

Probably not.

Well, I know I’m not, anyway.

Until I think about it like this:

  • a Monday morning commute means a job to go to.
  • mountains of laundry means a way to wash dirty clothes and clean clothes to wear.
  • toys for your children mean people love them and want to demonstrate that.
  • paying for your phone bill means you have money to do so and a phone to use.

How annoyingly sugar-coated, right? Trust me, even I am rolling my eyes here as I write that list. In fact, I thought long and hard before publishing this post. After all – you don’t need me to tell you how lucky you are to have a phone bill, or a job you don’t love.

But this is how gratitude works. It’s not just a matter of being grateful for the beautiful things. It’s quite easy to be grateful for a hug, a newborn baby, a good coffee, beach holidays, snowflakes and kisses.

But for me, the real power of gratitude lies in recognising the blessings in everything we have – particularly those things we take for granted.

But what if I’m not feeling it?

Last week, I was in a bad frame of mind. Just cranky and tired and all used up. To be honest, I didn’t want to feel grateful. I didn’t want to hear how lucky I was. I was wallowing, and damned be anyone who tried to snap me out of it.

That happens sometimes, I guess. People have bad days. The good seems…less so. We get caught up in the idea of, “I’ll be happy when…” Or “It’s easier for them because…”

I don’t buy it.

Yes, gratitude is hard. No, sometimes we don’t want to allow ourselves to feel grateful, because that will require us to stop wallowing. But the reality is, my mum was on to something when she routinely told me as a self-centred, moody teenager, “There are people in the world who would love to have your problems.” 

Someone is happy with less than you have. (via Slow Your Home)

Man, that really used to piss me off.

I didn’t want to hear that. If it didn’t improve my situation right then and there, I didn’t care.

But, as teenagers sometimes do, I had totally missed the point.

Understanding that there were people who would love to have my problems really could have improved my situation. Because, all of a sudden, the out-of-fashion trainers, the missing mixtape and the schoolyard gossip would have mattered so much less. Understanding my privilege could have brought about perspective.

But instead, I missed the opportunity to learn that lesson at 15. So here I am, at 31, still trying. Instead of teenage worries, I am now consumed with phone bills, laundry and clutter. But instead of getting lost in them, I’m trying (really, really trying) to see the good in those things.

I’m trying to flip it, and shift my perspective.

Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t. But the more I practice this way of thinking, the closer my gratitude remains to the surface. It’s becoming easier to dip in and out of it as needed.

Yes, gratitude is hard. But it doesn’t mean we should stop aiming for it.

 

What’s one thing you can choose to be grateful for today? Even if you really, really don’t want to be? 

 

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