End of the year

The end of the year is a time for many to reflect on the past year. Even though I like to consider myself as a rebel sometimes, I shall not make an exeption to the rule here, but instead reminisce about the past year…

Plans that didn’t happen

I wanted to make this year a Gretchen Rubin style happiness project. And I had a whole plan laid out for monthly goals. Nagging tasks, relationship, children, work, friends…

I had a good start to my journey, but pretty soon I learned something intresting about myself.

I can’t follow to do -lists! It was a surprise as I always took myself as someone who lives off ticking those boxes. But no.

It was all good, until I started failing on my goals and not ticking those boxes. It made me feel totally defeated and totally un-motivated to do anything.

I’ve never really been one for happy mediums.

It means that I sort of gave up on the whole plan as it seemed I couldn’t follow it anyway – instead of adjusting it somehow.

Perhaps this personality trait is one that I should work on next year!

Was it good for nothing then

Whether I followed any plan or not, the year has been such a rollercoaster ride, that I must’ve learned something!!

At least I’m not beating myself up for letting those plans go. That’s a lesson learned right there…

Which brings me to the twelve guidelines I had set up for my project.

I feel that even though I haven’t been following any kind of plan on my path to happiness, I actually have been following my guidelines.

  • So I didn’t follow my plan to make this a year of my happiness project. So what? No one is going to blame me for that, unless I do it my self; let it go!
  • I have been taking a lot of chances this year, things I wouldn’t have had the courage to do in the past. I think I have realized that here is now and tomorrow the chance might be gone.
  • This guideline I haven’t been excellent in following though. But I always knew it was going to be a hard one for me, because I am quite an impulsive and emotional person. So I still don’t have patience, at least not much.
  • If I have learned to let go, I think I have a little more mercy than before. This is especially in relation to myself. I’m actually quite forgiving towards other people – but I have very demanding standards for myself. So – more work on this coming up next year!
  • Just jumping has a great deal to do with the concept of being in the moment (“here is now”), a great many similarities with following your feelings and getting excited. This trio, I think, is the powerful driver behind many of my actions during the past year. As I have been getting in touch with my emotions more and more, I’ve had better opportunities in following that famous intuition. Sometimes I’ve almost left something undone, because I’ve been so damn scared. And sometimes I’m jumping all over the place in the excitement of finally being a bit more in touch with my inner self. And actually getting excited about things again. Like gitty kinda excited. It’s an amazing feeling.
  • One of the things I have learned most about is paying attention to the little things. So I’m happy to report that I now can see the trees instead of always just seeing the forest. And boy does that help bring a lot of happiness to my days! I take so much more pleasure nowadays from having a well made cup of coffee, a beautiful song, looking at the sunset or beautiful colors of the fall.
  • The hardest part about being kind is being kind towards myself. I find easily good things to say about almost anyone or anything else, but I still tend to talk down to myself. One goal for being kind, was to be kinder towards nature and animals too. I have switched my diet closer to being vegan, but I’m not exactly there yet. That’s a bit of a conundrum actually. Being kind to myself requires a bit of self-centeredness too. And I really hate cooking! Learning new things in the kitchen just does not make me happy. That’s why I’m still compromising on my diet. Because I just get super-frustrated when the food doesn’t get done easily enough.
  • Must love myself is one other hard guideline to follow. But I have started learning how to praise myself in job interviews at least. I still have a tendency to think people don’t like me very much, even if I would love them to bits. I don’t know why that is. Why should anyone spend time with me, if they hated me? If I have a bad day and, let’s say our kids are annoying the shit out of me, I blame myself for having those thoughts. As in “why am I not more grateful for having such a life. Why am I not happy as it is?” So you see, it is not easy, loving myself.
  • My favorite out of all the guidelines is this: Be an Optimist Prime. I do believe, that as I’ve gotten better with my other guidelines, I am closer to becoming this Optimist Prime. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t look like that on a lot of days, as it has not been the easiest of years. But more often that not, I seem to find the silverlining in things. I still have my fears and anxieties, but mostly I don’t let them stop me.

What the year has brought me, even without following the plan, has been pretty amazing actually.

I have made two friends, which I don’t believe would have happened without me growing as a person. Amazing times spent with old friends. Trust. Laughter and tears. Good music. Intresting conversations. Amazing tattoos. Opportunities at work. Courage to tell how I feel. Courage to voice my opinions. A sense of humor, that was lost for a long time. Mostly I just feel that I am back – the slightly crazy, and slightly awkward type, who is never lost for words.

Is it selfish to pursue happiness?

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10154493023211744&id=41949341743

This is something many of us happiness seekers ponder. 

In my case especially because fundamentally I have everything in my life I could ever imagine needing. Also because so much in the world seems to be wrong. There is hunger, torture, war, racism… Things my husband and children will hopefully never have to face, but that are reality to a lot of people – even friends and family members.

I remembered a discussion I had with a colleague some time back. Today, I realized the meaning of what he said, to my happiness project. 

I argued that I’m doing this to be happier in my everyday life, because not all of us have the possibility to quit our job and move to Gili Air. 

He argued that that’s basically bullshit – that you always have a choice and he for example chooses to be a whore for money. (He’s quite a straightforward type of a guy and voices his opinions loud! And I quite like him for that by the way.) 

So his point was received – very loud and clear – but I wasn’t entirely convinced. 

Who knows why, but I had a sudden epiphany about why everyday happiness is the way to go for me. 

We are not all the adventurous type. 

And that’s ok. 

E.g. I’ve tried living in rental apartments. But I care deeply about being able to make the place look like OUR home and that is not entirely realistic in a rental in Helsinki – in my experience. 

I’m intrested in interior design and even paint one shade of white over with another, if you get my point. Having our own apartment and there a kitchen, we designed for our purposes, makes me satisfied on a daily basis. I realize this may sound strange to some, but I like our well functioning kitchen and the fact we can afford to pay our monthly installments to keep that kitchen. 

Then again, I have friends who I’m sure will never spend all their lives living in one place. Others that would never work from 9 to 5 (like I basically do) and so on. 

And that’s ok too.

It’s amazing if someone has found their passion in traveling on a motorcycle around the world, working odd jobs here and there and they are able to fulfil their dream. But I like that little bit of predictability in my life that a steady paycheck and a safety net of friends and family around give you. Truthfully, I would go as far as to say that I would feel anxious and stressed without a steady income and a place to call home.

Helsinki. My home.

And so I realized, that even if I still don’t think a “whore for money” is the accurate way to describe my goal in life (or that everyone really has a choice), I actually am not intrested in quitting my dayjob right now. That may change one day, and I’m fine with that aswell.

I find enjoyment in a lot of things I have right here, where I am. Recognizing that, and giving myself permission to actually BE happy where I am (no matter what the social media, newspapers or advertisements say) is perhaps the biggest victory of my happiness project so far.

I don’t necessarily need a study to tell me, that a happy person is more likely to give back to their community. Or that the happier a person is, the less reason they have to hate or envy people around them. So actually I shouldn’t be the only one benefiting from my happiness.

Trying to be happier “in the now” doesn’t stump your possibilities for personal growth, or dreaming big. I dream! There are so many travels I need to do, tattoos I plan to take, studies I want to continue… 

It’s just that I know from experience that if I feel shitty where I am right now, no outward circumstance is actually going to fix that (e.g. quitting that day job…). The everyday life will catch you eventually.

So figure out what it is that makes your everyday life happier. In some cases it’s moving to Bali. In some cases it’s moving out of a rental. Perhaps expanding your social circle. Sleeping more. Finding a long lost hobby you used to love…

Or maybe you are already exactly where you are supposed to be. I’ve heard it’s a possibility.

Friends – a natural high

“In fact, a weak social circle is bad for your health, adds Barker. According to research from Brigham Young University, not having enough friends is the same risk factor as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

https://www.fastcompany.com/40424657/the-best-way-to-make-new-friends-according-to-science

As a kid I was the most open, approachable person you’ll ever meet. I had no trouble making friends, I cornered even the shy ones. 

Some experiences have led me to be more wary about people, so making new friends doesn’t come as naturally as it used to. It’s propably a mix of poor self-esteem and getting attached to people quite strongly – which always opens up a possibility to getting hurt.

Luckily despite all my issues, I have been blessed when it comes to friendships.

Laws of attraction

I don’t know that in my current life situation (work, two kids, marriage) I intentionally try to seek out people to bond with. But some just stumble on my path, whether I try to look for them or not – and I’m certainly not complaining.

Some of my friends I’ve known for so long (one friend 33 years out of 36!), I have no idea how we initially met, or how long it took for us to get a thing going.

What I do know, is that a certain chemistry, attraction is present in all my friendships. It doesn’t necessarily mean we were best buddies the second we met. Just that there was something that made us (or at least me!) want to swap more than a mere hello. 

Sometimes the attraction is so present, it’s almost tangible. In those situations I’m very adamant that a person belongs in my life.

Almost twenty years ago a black haired girl walked into our classroom. I can’t remember how she was introduced or anything – but I do remember thinking “She intrigues me.” When we finally hooked up through a mutual friend, we were an instant hit. And we really are like the sun and the moon, but I could never imagine my life without her.

Some friends feel more like family, even when they live further away. (I love the fact that whatsapp exists.) 

Some friends you don’t see in years, and still, when you bump into them, you chat like you had just seen them yesterday.

There are those friends that have stood by you every step of the way, helping, giving much needed love when you had none to give.  And they still keep on giving. Advice, laughter, experiences…

There’s even a friend who held my hand in childbirth and saw a baby come out of me – and it all felt perfectly natural. She’d make a perfect midwife by the way, even though she might not think so.

All friends so different, all contributing to my happiness in one way or another.

How to find friends 

I’ve managed somehow apparently! But I never had any kind of calculated tactic. Mostly I just try to keep an open mind. 

I’ve met friends through work, studies, hobbies… All quite natural places to meet people. I’m not picky about age or gender either – you never know who you hit it off with. 

I’ve met some really intriguing characters through friends of friends – so if I’m asked to join a party or a dinner for example, I try to go. Even if it scares the shit out of me (honestly, I’m no social butterfly…)

What if people feel like the scariest thing ever

If you feel like you need a bigger social circle, but you suffer from e.g. anxiety or depression or you’re just shy, meeting new people is propably going to feel daunting. I must confess I was lurking at home for quite some time.

But then I realized I could use our kid as a clever cover-up. I shamelessly used him as an excuse to meet people. Even then I didn’t join a moms group, but rather found out if any of our neighbours were home with a baby too. I just function better when there’s not too many people to talk to at the same time.

And as luck would have it, I found someone. 

The importance of having friends

It’s that age old wisdom about sharing. Share your sorrows and they will seem lesser. Share your joy and it’ll multiply. 

When my friends succeed, have happy events in their lives, are trying new things… I’m there to share the excitement. With a pure heart. I can be many things, but I’m not jealous. I feel their butterflies, their smiles and I’ll feel an instant lift myself. 

Admittedly, while not so strong myself, I propably haven’t been the best consoler to all those around me. I am there to listen though. Most of the time that’s really all any of us need.

Doing different things with different friends – all a bit depending on our life situations, history (or taste in music!) – just gives me so much. 

Friends, who know you like the back of their hand, friends who share your passion for books and writing, friends who understand your work life, friends who have that similar stage in life, friends who made it through school with you and those who will party with you all night long and have the courage to laugh at your ridiculous hangover. Then there are those new beginnings where you are cautiously figuring the rules of that particular friendship out. 

What it takes to be a friend

You have to work on your relationship. You can be insanely blessed, like I was, and get your friends back after a long silent period (because of a relationship by the way, not mental health issues) – but it doesn’t always work like that.

Like I said, I get attached to people, which also means that I’m fiercely on my friends’ side. 

My only fear is that I don’t always know how to show my appreciation well enough, remember to stay in touch often enough, or I leave something unsaid in fear of conflict, which may lead to weird situations.

Let opportunity knock

Seeing as how I’ve managed to quit smoking six years ago, I would think it a bad policy to let my social circle shrivel. 

So that in mind, being more open to people, and opportunities to meet people, is something I’m trying to embrace as part of my happiness project. I actually quite enjoy my me-time, but I would go nuts without my friends!

Famous Finnish comic strip. It’s a valentine’s day greeting from a friend. ❤️

Living up to my guidelines

Today I was more nervous than I have been in a long while. I tried exercise, singing and even dancing, but the feeling wanted to stay with me. 

See, today I did something that I’m not sure I’ve ever done before. So I was definitely pushing my boundaries, and you know how our mind doesn’t like those boundaries pushed. 

I mentioned it briefly in a previous post, how I had followed my intuition in wanting to get to know a person better. I also mentioned, that plan didn’t go quite as I had hoped. Turns out though, it didn’t backfire either. 

I think today was an excellent proof that my happiness project and guidelines work for me. They are taylor made for me and my issues and I think I must have followed more than one of my guidelines today, or leading up to today’s event.

Anyone figuring out their own guidelines, can be as successful with theirs, as I have been with mine.

What I had planned turned eventually (suggested by this other person) into a sunny afternoon spent with excellent food, great people and family fun. 

Oh believe me, my ego is trying sooooo hard to make today’s experience less enjoyable for me – but that’s just cause my ego has serious trust issues. (Right now it’s telling me, that I will freak the people out we met today, if they happen to catch this post.) But I won’t let that stop me…

Because honestly, today, even the weather was on my side.

Life is too short to wake up

in the morning with regrets.

So, love the people who

treat you right and

forget about the ones who don’t.

And believe that everything 

happens for a reason…

If you get a chance – take it;

if it changes your life – let it.

Nobody said that it would be easy.

BUT

it would be worth it.

Paulo Coelho

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.

img_2127
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: Gratitude Journal

Weekly Tip: Gratitude Journal

If you do nothing else. If you can’t do anything else. Do this: 

write a gratitude journal.

I have been doing it everyday now since the beginning of January. I have tried before, but like with everything I have done in the past, took it too far. Tried to write a page full of things. In pretty handwriting. BIG things. It doesn’t work like that (well, not for me anyway.)

In my bullet journal I have a really teeny tiny slot to write down three things everyday I was grateful about. And for the first time yesterday it really paid off! 

It had been quite an exhausting week (and weekend), mainly because I was still not completely recovered from my flu and suddenly my hubby got a gout attack in his foot. If you are familiar with gout, you’ll know the  infection will make a person completely immobile until it’s cured. I missed some nice appointments I had made with friends and so on. 

In the past the clear signs of a sinus infection that appeared last night would’ve been the last straw.

Instead I did this:

I took out my bullet journal and wrote my three lines (and I will make an exception sharing these with you now):

– My sister-in-law took our daughter to a friend’s birthday party (so I saved a trip on the subway and bus with two kids). 

– My goddaughter (in lack of a better word) came over to play and the girls played so sweetly together it was a joy to watch

– Hubby’s foot is possibly on the mend (as he can actually sit for some time and bear SOME weight on the foot). 

And as I was writing my list I was filled with joy from the past day’s events and actually had a good and worry free night of sleep.

Concentrate on the good, do not dwell on the bad. 

One of my guidelines for the year will be the same as Gretchen Rubin’s: “Let it go”. Applies perfectly here too.