I don’t know about other cultures enough to be sure, but in my country giving compliments (and actually receiving too!) is one of the most difficult things in human interaction. In some ways I value the modest mindset we have here, but in others it’s pure madness!
One of my friends is terribly good at this. She may tell a completely random person in some ladies room that they have the cutest shoes she ever saw. And I totally love her for that! I think it’s just the way she is, though spending a lot of years living abroad in Latin America might have enforced the habit to her advantage I’d say.
I wanted to follow in her footsteps, because it just makes me so happy seeing the other person smile at the compliments!
I hesitated a bit, but my opportunity came one night at a local supermarket where the cashier was so pretty in her black hair, redredred lipstick and cool tattoos. So I told her that I really like her style and the response was a very spontanious smile and a “thanks”!
I’d like to think I made her evening slightly more tolerable as her posture seemed to change after this incident.
Especially customer work can sometimes be really exhausting, so any positive feedback is certainly welcome.
So I will resolve to give compliments, not only to friends and family, but to random people crossing paths with me too.
February is generally seen as the month of love and though in Finland we celebrate friends on February 14th, not lovers, I decided to follow Gretchen Rubin to a month of relationship bliss.
What is love?
Of course you can love more people than just your significant other, but the word love (= rakkaus) is not a term used loosely in Finnish language. You REALLY mean it when you say it. Well… There’s always a player or two in every pack, but in general it’s pretty serious business.
So I say it to our kids and my hubby, but even if they are not the only people in the world that I love, they are propably the only ones I’ve said it to, in addition to some past boyfriends.
In addition to having this cultural background of seriousness when it comes to expressing love, I have of course some ideas in my own head about it.
In an interview years ago I was asked what I thought love was, and I answered that “it’s a series of compromises”. Even though I was in a completely different place in life then, I still believe the basic idea to be true. (Just make sure, you are not the one making all the compromises!)
I guess you could say I have somewhat of a practical (eugh, what a word) way of seeing love, but that is not standing in the way of my happiness. I will rather have a husband who changes the occasional diaper instead of one who brings home flowers – and that’s all. And so after years of learning what I really value, I found what I was looking for in my husband.
Why add love on the list at all then…
I love my hubby and totally see us getting old together, but recent years haven’t exactly helped in keeping things fresh.
Two small kids has meant a lot of sleep lost, a baby with allergy and skin issues, a stretch of unemployment, money worries that came along with that, stress, depression, sickness… You name it. It’s all just too easy to loose sight why you got together in the first place.
I’m also carrying some personal baggage I’ve known for a long time to exist. I’m digging pretty deep into myself to figure out what happiness means to me, so it actually isn’t surprising that some skeletons are trying to jump out of the closets aswell. One of those skeletons transformed itself into the happiness guideline “must love myself”.
And the resolutions are
Or were?? I’m not actually sure anymore!
My list at the start of February looked like this:
The 21-day-project has given a lot of good reminders about things to do to be happier in your relationships. But I can’t help feeling that perhaps I should stretch that project out along the whole year. I feel like I can’t absorb a new piece of advice every day and really make it work in my favour. I’m thinking for the last two weeks of February I will narrow my scope down and choose only some, like “be aware of unconscious overclaming”.
Then there’s those demons. I was planning to do some exorcism in form of some reading, but I’m realizing my wounds may be a little deeper than that. I don’t want to just drop it, because cleaning those skeletons out of my mental closets is pretty damn crucial. So I’m trying to figure out a new approach to that one.
I also seem to cheat at the “no dumping” rule (oops). I’ve had some difficulties at work and after a crappy day I just need some perspective. But I think I don’t complain about trivial things, like getting my shoes wet or spilling water on the floor that much anymore. So there is definetly a shift towards better things here!
I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve managed to hold on to our date nights, thanks to my lovely parents! Asking for help, when it’s just for relaxing, is another thing that does not necessarily come naturally to us Finns. It’s good to have some adults alone time regularly.
We haven’t been doing anything extravagant, but it’s still great.
Whenever I feel like I would just like to leave my plate on the dining table instead of taking it to the kitchen, I remind myself “it takes less than a minute now, but when I have 10 plates, it’s serious work.”
One of my leading principles in becoming happier is “less whining”. I want to learn how to “let go” of things and usually complaining tends to make things only bigger in our eyes.
But I am still going to have to be honest and tell you why I wasn’t super-successful with my January resolutions. It’s propably healthy for any reader intrested in their own happiness project to understand that sometimes life just won’t flow the way you planned it to, but you still don’t have to throw in the towel!
Number 1 habit to track: play with kids.
I don’t know why this seems so hard to me. I love talking to my kids (especially our five-year-old has an amazing imagination and vocabulary to go with that), I love reading to them, going out with them… It’s not that I don’t spend time with the kids, but this type of playing that I mean here (think The incredible years) just does not come naturally to me.
The goal is to spend at least fifteen minutes (minumum requirement) playing with the kids without interruptions, but especially on weekdays it just feels like a stretch. This is somewhat of a dilemma, because not playing with our kids makes me feel bad, but playing with them just feels like another day at work on top of the one I just came home from.
I don’t know if this makes any sense to anyone – but playing with horses or cars or fairies just feels weird! At least I realize what the situation is like and try to answer “yes” more enthusiastically when either of our kids suggest playing something. Junior of course is sort of easy: he is two years old, not as verbal as his sister, and loves to play with cars. To him the best thing is, when mummy (or daddy) is laying on the sofa so he can use the legs as highways for his cars!
The weeks I was in bed rest though were of course not successful at all and might be one of the reasons this has not become a habit yet. I only wonder how on earth does one make oneself more playful, when one is just… Not? All tips on this are more than welcome.
I will be following Gretchen Rubin’s month of ‘be serious about play’ for sure…
Number 2: SLEEP
I think I was a bit arrogant when it comes to sleeping, thinking I have already taken all the necessary steps towards better sleep. I go to bed early and sleep for 8 hours. Of course the kids wake us up on a regular basis, but that is not something I can control.
What I realized I wasn’t doing: putting my phone away early enough. Even though I use a filter and try to avoid reading bad news in the evenings – I’m a worrier so reading those news stresses me out even during the best of days – you can get badly stuck in a flow of Instagram photos just to mention an example.
As a conclusion, for February, I will switch my phone peering nights to some breathing exercises and a book. A book always has a natural place where you can stop reading and continue later, whereas a social media feed is endless.
Number 4: Exercise
Being out of commission three out of four weeks didn’t exactly do much for furthering my exercise efforts. I had quite a steady rythm where I went to the gym twice a week and to aerial yoga once or twice a week.
I would be quite happy with those numbers, if I wasn’t doing an office job sitting on my bum most of the days eight hours a day. Well then. I hired me a personal trainer for 10 meetings! I met her last Friday and she already had a lot of amazing tips and hints. And she only worked with me for 50 minutes. Ten times 50 minutes = a lot of knowledge. Perhaps I was a bit arrogant on this point aswell, thinking I already had all the answers and only lacked the execution. I think the work with my new personal trainer will merit a post of its own. We will wait and see.
Meanwhile I want to give you a reading tip: Ellen from being-change.com has written a thought-provoking piece on exercising right. I agree that when looking for ways to make exercise a routine that is actually fun we should think about what exercising right means for each and everyone of us.
Number 6: Last but not least. Write.
I think in the past I might have just been upset about the fact I had to stay in bed for days on end not being able to do anything. Well this year I decided to be grateful for the fact that for once I had time to write, and ponder, and research andandand! I have trouble napping even when I’m really sick. So I always do something – watch the Netflix or read a book… But this time I spent a majority of my hours in bed writing things. On the blog, in my journal and so on. What can I say except even bed rest has it’s perks!
All in all I think it’s the mindshift from not actively thinking about what actually makes you happy, to actively trying to figure out what habits are the ones you need to change, that has made the biggest impact during January.