Be happier in the now

I guess it’s sort of the point of my whole year of happiness – to be happier in my everyday life. 

But in the past weeks I had some new realizations about this. 

First was a discussion with my sister-in-law who commended me on my energy to go walking, go to a diy concrete course, organize our apartment… I think I was so baffled I wasn’t able to answer anything in the moment, but it did start a thought process in my head. 

One: being able to do all the above mentioned things are greatly due to family members. 

Having a husband who is happy to take care of the kids, so I can “do my own thing” is pretty damn valuable. We are also lucky to have most of both our families and friends living in the same city with us. Those are the pair of extra helping hands when we just remember to reach out. 

Two: being able to do and also doing above mentioned own things boosts my energy. Those are the little (or big?) extras that make life just that bit more enjoyable. When you find that something you like to do, it’s not a chore, it’s a huge joy! For me, these diy courses have proven to be a great source of joy – especially having two of my very dear friends there with me to share the experience!

Not a 100% success, but making it was still a joy!

Remember, 

not everything you do to be happier has to be mind-blowingly huge. 

If you have been dreaming of a beautiful garden – start with planting one flower. Any start is a start. If you think exercising would make you happier – start with doing something once a week. Or if you work at an office, start with taking the stairs instead of the lift / elevator. In a high-rise, perhaps it’s possible to get off the lift a few storeys too soon. I mean it, any start is a start.

Grandparenting

Another thing that led me to thinking about happiness in the now have been articles I’ve read about grandparents, who want nothing to do with their grandkids. And the reason for this? “I have brought up my own kids already and now it’s my turn to enjoy my life!” 

Oh how sad that makes me. I mean, they are entitled to feel like they are feeling, and I am sure they have deserved a break. But in this day and age, where the official retirement year in my age group is something like 2050, 

I would really hope to start enjoying my life before I retire. 

Our kids have a special relationship with all grandparents (we have truly won this lottery and have 6 different people we can count towards this group) and I think their lives would be so much less without them. 

Junior has an especially strong bond with my hubby’s dad, because when he was a baby, they drove around together in a car a lot (desperate times, desperate measures – check my bio for the background on this) and Junior somehow just knows that. 

Our Princess is a bit older and is already able to appreciate different things in different people (well, in the family matriarchs mainly – she’s a bit afraid of men these days 😳) 

I am so grateful the grandparents in our kids lives do not feel that spending time with our kids is too exhausting or demanding. And I fully intend to start living my life so that I don’t have to reach retirement to enjoy my life.

Are your labels all facing forward? 

I am positively DROOLING over the pictures on this instagram feed I found. Enjoy some porn for organizational freaks like me. 

I have a thing about labels facing forward, and some images from supermarkets with all shelves stocked neatly just look positively ravishing to me!

Our apartment (or even mine when I still lived alone) never looked like that, and propably never will, but I do love organizing our drawers! (yeah, freaky, I know.)

I mean look at this!
 

Even so, I hate cleaning – that’s why minimalism, konmari and organising our living space in general are important aspects of my happiness.

January Ran Off!

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.

Winter in Helsinki. You never know what you gonna get.

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.

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Switching my Instagram browsing for an intresting book.

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.

Weekly Tip: Have a “Power Song”

I have two passions in my life that I have carried with me since the beginning of times. Sometimes closer to heart, sometimes further, but nevertheless, they were there.

In addition to my (perhaps obvious) passion in writing, I love music. Like, can’t understand how someone can go without listening to any. Like, does not fit in my head how someone could not get a kick out of listening to it. And it doesn’t have to be the top100 songs of today. I have gone through all kinds of phases looking for the music to fit my soul at any given moment.

And when it comes to music, I like pretty much it all (except perhaps the Finnish national gem: metal, sorry folks). I have had a Snoop Dogg phase, I have had a Mozart phase, a Beatles, a Madonna, a techno, a jazz, an african rythms phase, a… Well, you get the point.

The only tv shows I really watch anymore are singing contests. E.g. watched every season of American Idol that ever aired in Finland (oh yes, I am a huge country fan too!) and that was a lot of years.

Because of my instantly switching taste in music, my power songs vary through the years aswell. But I always have a few. For example I have realized that when my head is full of things to remember, I tend to navigate towards up-beat popsongs (a genre I usually don’t care that much for). 

A power song is the song that instantly lifts your mood and makes you feel better (not necessarily up-beat songs always!). The song that you do not get tired of, even if you listen to it on repeat for a year.

My power songs of late are:

Paula Vesala – Älä droppaa mun tunnelmaa https://open.spotify.com/track/69swdPHM0bC1zPRrFhvEI5

Daughtry – Waiting for Superman – https://open.spotify.com/track/4AU7z13HYmPMetlWbq1mys

Enter Shikari – Gandhi Mate, Gandhi – https://open.spotify.com/track/45dDchfPSB5zfTtFf7yTJ5

Sofia Zida – Guerrera https://open.spotify.com/track/07hxHONV6ExTwpqqqIGnBJ

Want to share your own power songs? I’m always intrested in finding new artists!

January Resolutions: The Lowdown on Eating

What a strange month it has been. The happiness project has been very present in my thoughts for the past month, but like I hinted, things haven’t exactly been going according to my original plan. The original plan being our family pretty much stays healthy.

Still, I have learned a lot by just observing my thoughts. I am giving myself a pat on the back for realizing, that I am doing this happiness project really for life. Not only this month, not even only this year.

If you are like me and tend to be very impatient and by rule like to finish projects before having a rest, you may have the same epiphany. Others might wonder if I really  needed to start a happiness project to figure that one out! Your revelations will be of another kind, but I’m quite positive they will happen.

My number 3 resolution for January was: Eat better.

May I confess? It honestly shouldn’t be this hard! I know everything I’m supposed to do to eat better. I could propably lead a course on the subject for all the knowledge I’ve gathered through the years. I know which foods make me feel ill, and the ones that give me the boost. So why on earth do I steer towards the bag of candy or white bread or french fries when I know perfectly well, it is not going to be a solution to anything. I’ve struggled with my eating more than anything this month. Not being able to exercise only makes it worse. Unfortunately my body reacts to a flu in a very strange manner and seems to be telling me to eat garlic bread and ice cream, not fruit and veggies.

What are the things I include in eating better then? For one thing, no meat (one of my guidelines is “be kind”). No weird diets (I have been on and off diets since I was 13, and it hasn’t made me happy so far!). For the rest, just eat anything that makes me feel good. And sometimes break the rules.

When I was still breastfeeding Junior (it’s a fairly common practice in Finland) and he had pretty major allergy issues, I decided to follow an elimination diet to make him feel better. It is not something the docs suggested, but it seemed to work, so I didn’t really care. (Loosing sleep for 8 months will make even the most obedient personality go a little rebel!)

During that time my diet included nearly zero sugar, because wheat was the worse thing for Junior. And there is wheat in nearly everything that has sugar in it, so… When it came to carbohydrates I ate vegetables, berries, some fruit, rice and a moderate amount of barley and millet. At that time I was still eating meat, so I ate that in addition to eggs and some dairy products, like cheese. It was all about smoothie bowls, omelettes and some gluten-free vegan desserts, like this perfection. And boy was I feeling good!

So, why, oh why, did I go back to my bad old habits? I’ve tried answering that question myself during this month of realisation and have come up with this:

  1. Obviously I care more for the well-being of our baby (or others in general), because I was totally able to limit my eating when I was doing it for him. Time to start caring more about myself too (yup, check guidelines and you’ll find “Must love myself” there)
  2. I am still looking to food to have a quick fix. I turn to the crappy choices especially when I am sick, tired, stressed, in a bad mood… You name it.

Hopefully I will get better in loving me during my happiness project. That is what I’m aiming at anyway. But number two still needs some looking into. I need to find my other quick fixes that will not lead my steps to the refrigerator door.

I have joined before in some online courses that have honestly been very good in keeping me on track with my eating. But when they end, I have trouble focusing on healthy eating without the constant reminder to do so. I did just start another 10 weeks with  Kaisa Jaakkola, so let’s see where that takes me. The point is after all to keep tracking the January resolutions alongside the new ones, so there’s still hope!

If you’re intrested in checking out the online courses I’ve attended, here are some suggestions in Finland:

  1. Kaisa Jaakkolan hyvän olon hormonidieetti: http://www.optimalperformance.fi/hyvan-olon-hormonidieetti/
  2. Hanna-Kaisa Ranisen eroon makeanhimosta: http://www.hannakaisaraninen.com/eroon-makeanhimosta/?gclid=CIvNrJ6p29ECFRjgGQodJ-sHPQ
  3. Elisa Mattilan kuningattaren korsetti: http://www.kuningattarenkorsetti.fi/

They usually start regularly, so if you just missed the boat, another one will arrive later.

If you are interested in similar knowledge in English, at least Sarah Wilson preaches the same type of eating (no calorie counting, fresh food, no white sugar and so on). But she appears to be quite meat-oriented (judging by her book I read), so I’m not aware if she gives a vegetarian alternative on her courses. If you have suggestions for other books in English to read on this subject, please give a shout! If your sweet tooth is aching, I definetly recommend checking out vanelja.com and her cookbooks.

What are your “quick fixes” that do not include eating? Have you managed to quit your habit of stress eating and how did you do it?

(And in case anyone is wondering, I’m not getting paid for mentioning these providers ;))