Category Archives: Happiness

Enough

What is enough?

I’ve been struggling with the idea of enough. (Am I enough? Do I do enough?) And rather than rehash my thoughts on this same idea, I wanted to resurrect an old post where I ask, “What is enough?”

Interestingly, it was first published almost exactly a year ago. Turns out that my natural seasonal rhythm lends itself to quieter, introspective winters!

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As a parent, friend, sister, daughter and wife I struggle with the notion of enough.

Do I play with the kids enough?
Am I healthy enough?
Do I call my sisters enough?
Have I been a good enough friend?
Is it enough to be content?
Am I trying hard enough?
Am I attractive enough?
Do I give enough?
Do I care enough?

Enough – not too little, not too much. Just… enough.

After struggling with the idea for a very long time – never feeling good enough, never satisfied, never entirely content – I’ve started to frame the idea of ‘enough’ in a different way. And can I tell you, it’s helping me find some much-needed perspective.

Much like the idea of tilting – where we willingly throw things off-balance and tilt in the direction life requires – I wondered if we could view the idea of ‘enough’ as a long-term notion, rather than something we need to achieve every day?

I think we can. And I think we should.

But what does that look like in real life?

Do I play with the kids enough?” Maybe not today, but sometimes clothes need to be washed, emails returned, toilets cleaned and phonecalls made. On the other hand, do I feel good in my gut when I ask if I’ve played with them enough over the past six months? Yes.

Am I trying hard enough?” Some days, I phone it in. And on those days, I am lacking. But, again, over the past 6 months? 2 years? 10 years? Yes, I try hard enough.

There are peaks and troughs, mountains and valleys for everything in life. Sometimes we feel that we are enough, other times we are filled with doubt. I think that’s simply being human. But reframing the idea this way has shown me that enough really IS enough.

But what about when it isn’t enough?

When you ask yourself the question, “Am I doing enough over time?” and the answer is silence. Or worse, when the answer is a pang.

What do you do then?

When that pang reverberates in my gut I know I need to pull up and listen. I know I need to make a change, or ask a different question.

Do I call my best friend enough?” PANG. No. Pay attention and make a change.

Have we made enough time to unplug on the weekends?” PANG. No. What can we do differently?

Am I present enough when I do play with the kids?” PANG. No. How can I change my approach?

My aim, in turning the idea of enough upside down, is to be mindful and intentional about what I’m choosing to do. Instead of being carried away by panic and regret and frustration at not being enough every day.

Essentially that means if I haven’t played with the kids enough, there’d better be a good reason. If I haven’t called my best friend enough, again, show me a good reason.

It’s a matter of listening to your instincts, your gut, and that little voice inside your head that when given a longer view of things suddenly becomes quite wise.

“Relax. You’ve done enough over time. That counts,” it says.

I think it’s time to listen.

 

 

 

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

The world doesn't owe you a room with a view

Reading the travel section of the Sunday paper is one of my favourite little pleasures. It’s relaxing and inspiring and the perfect amount of fuel for my wanderlust fire.

Not last week though.

Last Sunday I came across a brief interview with a high-profile Australian fashion designer, where she was asked for her best travel tips, experiences and recommendations. And, frankly, it pissed me off.

Having travelled a bit during my 32 years, I understand we all have different ideas on what makes a good holiday (camping, resort, tropics or adventure?), how best to travel (car, bus, plane or boat?) and what constitutes a necessity (hair straightener, running water, French champagne or a comfortable hammock?)

We’re all different, I get that. But in this interview, the respondent gave an answer that irked me beyond a mere difference of opinions. In fact, it made me despair.

She was asked: “What’s your best tip for getting the most out of a holiday?”

Immediately I could think of a hundred ways to answer:

  • Be open to new experiences
  • Stay in the one place for a while and live like locals
  • Pack your sense of humour, sunglasses and a good book
  • Eat local foods
  • Avoid souvenir shops
  • Wander
  • Get off the tourist trail occasionally
  • Stay in locally owned/operated accommodation
  • Turn off your phone
  • Put the camera down

But her response? (Paraphrased, as the paper got recycled and I can’t find the interview online):

“Act like a first-class person. Walk in to the hotel and make them believe that you are, in fact, worthy of special treatment. Even if the accommodation you are given is perfectly acceptable, act a little disappointed. Suggest that the room you saw online was a little bigger, or had a balcony, or enjoyed a better view. More often than not you will be upgraded or moved to a better room.”

This entitled point of view is one of the things I believe to be wrong with the world.

This person is privileged enough to be travelling to far-off, beautiful places, but that is not enough. She has decided that, as a “first-class person” (what does that even mean?!) she deserves more. The hotel room is not enough. She deserves a bigger one. The plane seat is not enough. She deserves a first-class one. The experience of travel or relaxation or pampering or adventure is not enough. She deserves BETTER. Merely because she is there and she is important, dammit.

I don’t have an issue with asking politely for a change – particularly if it’s warranted.  But pretending that what you’re offered is not good enough (even if it’s perfectly amazing) simply to see if you can get better? Yeah, I have a problem with that.

So let’s say this person is granted their Special Snowflake Status and upgraded to the Presidential Suite (nothing less than the best, naturally)… what then? Suddenly they believe they really are a First Class Person. After that, they want more. They want better. They believe that simply because an upgrade was granted this time, they’re entitled to the same treatment always and forever.

Suddenly, things that used to be perfectly acceptable become less-than. And the merry-go-round of better and more and new and shiny spins ever faster. Perhaps the experiences stop mattering as much as the status. Because really, when you’re looking for more or better or nicer or shinier, how can you really appreciate anything at all? You’re obsessed with bettering your situation. And for what? The status of saying you did?

Gee. Sounds like fun.

Now let’s say this person is not granted their Special Snowflake Status and cannot be accommodated in the Presidential Suite (on account of the President in situ). The mere fact that they believe themselves worthy of special treatment means they will likely be offended at the rejection. So now, not only do they not get the First Class Person treatment, but they are also dissatisfied with the original accommodation. Nothing is good enough now, because they’ve been jilted.

How is this relaxing? How is this getting the most out of your travel experiences?

And what’s more, how is this attitude of entitlement allowing any of us to experience the most of life? The most of what is happening right in front of us?

If we’re constantly comparing lives with others, how can we feel content with our own?

If we’re relentlessly pursuing more, better, shinier, newer, how can we be grateful for what we do have?

If we make the mistake of believing our needs are more important than those of others, how can we live with compassion and generosity and equality?

If we believe we should be treated as First Class People, how can we explain to our children that we are no better than someone else?

We can’t.

The world doesn’t owe you a room with a view.

Be grateful. Enjoy what you have. Soak up the experiences. And if you see someone else swanning about, believing the universe owes them a room with a bigger bathroom and newer sheets? Let them have at it. A worldview of entitlement is its own reward.

Instead, allow your world to become an altogether more beautiful, generous, rewarding place by simply being grateful, present and conscious. I believe that to be its own reward too.

 

Delight

True delight is in the finding out rather than the knowing.

Bushwalks are one of our favourite activities on the weekend.

We pack bags full of the essentials - water, snacks and suncream, dinosaurs, hand-drawn maps and chocolate – and head out to the national park.

What I love most about these excursions – even more than the exercise and the appreciation of nature we’re getting – is the tiny moments of delight they afford us.

We notice the bugs skimming across the lagoon surface, the pink algae and the birdsong. We spot flowers and rock formations and animal tracks. Things that are always there but rarely seen simply because we’re moving too fast.

Finding delight

When we go on a bushwalk we try to make it leisurely. We stop (a lot). And while sometimes I miss the feeling of getting my blood up and hiking fast up the inclines, it seems that we’ve become pioneers of the Slow (Walking) Movement.

And really? It’s a delightful way to view the world. You don’t need to be bushwalking or exploring or doing anything out of the ordinary at all, because delightful moments surround us everywhere, if we’re willing to slow down for a moment and look for them.

  • a water droplet on the bus window
  • street art
  • a flower growing through a crack in the footpath
  • the swoop of a bird high in the sky
  • clouds
  • a young couple holding hands
  • a reflection of sunset in an office building’s windows
  • a brief sniff of the ocean air
  • a snowflake
  • a cat curled up in your lap
  • the first leaves of a seedling pushing through the soil
  • the smell of rain on the dirt
  • a sleeping child’s breath
  • fingerprints
  • a mushroom growing out of leaf litter

Some people think of delight in the same way they think of love. If you go actively looking for it, it will elude you. I disagree wholeheartedly.

If you are open to beauty, if you are open to the possibility of delight, if you go searching for it, you will discover that it actually surrounds us at every moment. It may not look like you’d expected. It may not feel the way you imagined. It may not be the cookie cutter version of delight or joy or beauty. But it will be there. Just allow yourself to be included and you will find it.

How to Have an Awesome Day

How to have an awesome day

There are good days and bad days. Some bad days are out of our control, and some good days happen in spite of themselves.

But I’m discovering there are many things I can do (even if sometimes I really don’t want to) that make an impact on the sort of day I’m going to have. Without sounding ridiculously self-righteous, this is how I have an awesome day:

Start it the night before

I need decent sleep in order to function well, so I make sure to get to bed early. I have been known to go to bed when the kids do, and am always in bed before 9:30pm during the week.

You can: work out how many hours sleep you need, what time you need to wake up in the morning, and work backwards until you find your ideal bed time.

Early rising

My alarm goes off at 4am every morning except Sunday. I am (obviously) an early bird, so this works for me. It lets me get 2 hours of writing or work done before the rest of the family wakes up, and it takes the pressure off during the day. I get the quiet time that I desperately need – which helps me stay calm and positive during the day, even when milk is spilled, arguments break out and appointments run late.

A good breakfast

When I eat a fast breakfast – something like toast or sugary cereal – my day often doesn’t go to plan. My energy is down, I crave sweet, fatty or carby foods and my mood is darker. So I make sure to eat a decent breakfast, something that includes vegetables and protein to keep my energy up and stop the 10am munchies.

Usually I’ll sautee vegetables (mushrooms, kale, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, corn – whatever is in the fridge) and serve it with either a poached egg or a dollop of natural yoghurt and jalapenos on top. If time is short, I’ll make a green smoothie of frozen banana, almond milk, spinach, chia seeds, coconut oil, honey and cacao and take it with me.

You can: get up 10 minutes earlier and try this yourself.

Move

Even 5 minutes of sun salutations while my coffee brews is enough to make my body feel energised. I also try to exercise a little more intensely a few days a week (either by running or doing a couple of rounds of the 7 Minute Workout) and find my general outlook much sunnier on the days I get physical. Combined with weekend bushwalks, taking the kids and dog for a neighbourhood stroll and the physical activity of gardening, cleaning and parenting – I’m moving more now than I have for a long time, and it reflects in my mood, energy and general worldview.

You can: try the 7 Minute Workout, take the dog for a walk around the block or try some simple stretches every morning or evening. Take advantage of incidental exercise by using the stairs, raking the backyard, getting off the bus one stop earlier or taking a walk during your lunchbreak.

Smile

During my 5-minute kitchen yoga sessions, each time I reach my hands above my head and stretch to the sky, I make myself smile. I push a big, stupid, cheesy grin across my face and I say thank you. Seriously. It used to feel silly, but now it really does lift my mood.

You can: smile at yourself in the mirror before heading off to work. Smile at a stranger. Smile for no reason other than to feel it lifting the corners of your mouth. See if it doesn’t make you feel even the tiniest bit happier.

Drink water

If I’m dehydrated, I get headaches, I feel cranky and my body is sluggish. So I try to drink 2-3 litres of water a day. I’ve found the best way to get close to this amount is to fill my 1.25L stainless steel drink bottle and leave it on the kitchen bench when I ‘m at home. Every time I walk past it, I take a drink. If I’m working I have the bottle on my desk, and if I’m out it goes in my handbag.

You can: take a reusable drink bottle with you to work, the gym, or keep it on the kitchen bench when you’re at home. Start with one full bottle a day and slowly increase your intake to two.

Be kind to myself

Work is hard. Parenting is hard. Marriage is hard. Home-keeping is hard. By showing myself a little compassion, not expecting myself to be all things to all people, and knowing that it’s impossible to do everything, I allow myself to feel good rather than bad. So the laundry didn’t get put away, but I did play hide and seek with my kids. I’m OK with that.

You can: show yourself some kindness. Accept that it’s not possible to do everything, and that’s OK.

 

Obviously, your awesome day will look different to mine. What works for me may not work for you, and that’s cool. Also keep in mind that these don’t all happen every day. I try to include most of these elements, most of the time, but sometimes life just gets in the way, you know?

But if you’re wanting to create better days for yourself, why not spend this week paying attention to which days are good and which days are not so good.  Then ask yourself why. What was different about the good days? What about the bad days didn’t work for you? Try to incorporate more of the good and less of the bad, and see how it impacts your days. After all:

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you’re heading.”

– Lao Tzu

I’m a huge believer that we ultimately choose our own happiness, but I also believe we need to do the work in order to foster that happiness. No-one’s going to do it for us.

Here’s to a good week, friends.

Contentment: the underachieving version of happiness?

Contentment

On Sunday, as I was enjoying my fifth Mother’s Day morning and my first complete with breakfast in bed (pancakes, coffee, newspaper and 5-minute interval cuddles) I realised something.

For the first time in years, I genuinely feel content. Heart-fillingly, not over-the-top-dancing-down-the-street-joyfully, but level-headedly, almost-constantly content.

Years ago I was reading someone’s thoughts on happiness versus contentment (and I’m sure those thoughts were Rhonda’s from Down to Earth, but I can’t find the exact post) when something she said pulled me up short. Paraphrasing:

I don’t aim for happiness. Instead I aim for quiet, constant contentment. Things don’t need to be great, but if things are good most of the time, I’m content. 

Initially I disagreed with this notion. Isn’t this idea of contentment just an underachieving version of happiness?  Surely, shouldn’t we be looking for the best experiences available and striving for the highest levels of happiness? The most fulfilling satisfaction? But as I’ve continued down this path towards a simpler, slower life I now understand exactly where she was coming from.

Happiness is obviously not a bad thing, but it’s impossible to be constantly happy. Everyone has down days, everyone has problems. Everyone gets sick, argues with their partner, is disappointed by someone, has a rough day at work or wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. To expect any different is, frankly, naive.

But creating a life of constant, quiet contentment means you are in a strong place from which to weather the storms of disappointment, setback and upset and you are better prepared to experience those joyful moments when they do arrive. I’ve come to realise that aiming for contentment is essential in living slowly and simply. 

For the first time since becoming a mum more than five years ago, I feel solid. I feel content. I feel like I am open to all that life has to offer, but no longer think I’m entitled to it. And honestly, it feels wonderful.

Last week I visited my psychiatrist for the first time in 18 months and, smiling, she said she could see a palpable difference in me. “You have confidence. You’re shining.” And, for once, I believed it.

Where has this contentment come from though? I started from a place of complete and utter despair. So what changes have I made in order to arrive at this place of (totally imperfect) contentment?

Simplifying

No surprises here. But decluttering, simplifying, streamlining and letting go of decades worth of stuff has left me free to pay attention to the more important areas of my life. Areas that, given a little more time and attention, have blossomed into the most vital parts of my world. For me that’s: kids, husband, health, writing, serving others.

Priorities

Over time, simplifying life has lead me to understand my priorities and to actually live by them. Nothing feels better than laying in bed at night knowing I have put my energy into the things that matter most.

Acceptance

Accepting who I am, the phase of life I’m currently in, my weaknesses, my strengths and those of people around me, have all lead me to a much calmer headspace. I’m more compassionate towards others and myself, and that means I’m more relaxed in the face of troubles. Whatever it is, it will pass.

Finding the tiny joys

Taking time to look for the tiniest of beauties – dust motes, water droplets, kids laughter, smell of a campfire, warmth of a hug – has made me see how lucky I am.

Hard work

The feeling of satisfaction that comes from a long day in the garden, an intense early-morning writing session, or working through a problem with one of the kids is really hard to beat.

The deathbed test

“Will this matter to me when I am on my deathbed?” It has a certain knack of putting things in perspective, don’t you think? When I find myself getting worked up over a stained shirt, a burned dinner, a sharp retort or a late appointment I ask myself what I will think of it on my deathbed. Typically, the answer is that I won’t. 

Giving up on comparison

Contentment is so much easier to find when I stop looking at what others have and comparing it to myself. There is no way you can win when comparing your life to others, and doing so only gets in the way of your own contentment.

Helping others

Even though this blog is only a very small space on the internet, I’ve been fortunate enough to have it help other people. Every week I get emails from readers asking for help or thanking me for something they have read here. And I can’t tell you how much that act of helping others has actually helped me. Too often we get wrapped up in our own problems and our own difficulties. But extending our hand to help someone else in need forces us to think about them instead.  Realising I am not the centre of the universe has (ironically) helped me to find contentment. It’s not about me, and that’s OK.

What do you think? Is aiming for contentment enough? 

 

Other Things:

To all the mothers, mums, mamas, mother-in-laws and mother-to-be’s: I hope you had a fabulous day on Sunday.  (And to all the desperately-waiting-to-be-mums: I hope you got through Sunday with some warm hugs from those around you. It can be a difficult day.)

Also, I had the opportunity to chat with Elle Roberts of Seeking More Staying Grateful last week, where we discussed all manner of things related to living a better life. We spoke about contentment, how our homes affect the way we feel and the why comparisons steal our joy. Check it out below:

 

 

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