Woops. I bet you all thought I had given up on this (if you remember at all). So I set out to make this the year of my very own happiness project. I gave myself a bunch of habits to change and practice in order to become a happier person.
These are the things I have been working on:
- Go to bed on time.
- Pick up after myself.
- Write 500 words of fiction at least six times a week.
- Think about the things I love about my family, students, and friends.
- Exercise three times a week or more.
- Play the piano every day.
- Wear clothes that make me feel good.
Again, I did some of these things, never all of them, and then there was something else which I’ll tell you about later. First, how did I do these past months?
- I tell you, “go to bed in time” is still not really happening. I did worse, and then better, and then much worse, and now better again, but frankly, if I can’t get enough sleep during summer break it will get even harder once school starts again. This said, the link between getting enough sleep and being a happier person is totally clear to me. Even if I enjoyed myself staying up late and thought it would be totally worth it I’m still grumpier and without much energy the day after. If I manage to sleep nine hours I’m feeling like myself again. So this is still top of my list.
- I’ve been doing a bit better with picking up and housework. My husband said he had the feeling that “sit” was my default setting, and he is right. By the time I get up from breakfast he has been down to the basement and over to the annex ten times already. So I continue pushing myself towards being a tidy person. I feel much better when my surroundings are pleasant and tidy so I will have to continue working on this.
- I did really, really well with the fiction writing until mid-July. Then the madness of the two weeks before summer break hit, and I was stuck on my current story, and with one thing or another I haven’t been writing at all since then. I definitely need to get back into that habit, though, when I do it I feel much, much better. What I did do was start writing morning pages in earnest again, and that helps a bit. Still, fiction writing is fiction writing, and I quite like the story I’m working on so I will have to find a way to ease back into it.
- Thinking about things I love about my family, students, and friends, well, it went very well with my family. As always I enjoy spending time with my son and husband, we really enjoy our time off from school. Having a little break from students is also quite nice for a change.
- With the exercise I didn’t do as much as I wanted but even during the time when I thought I wasn’t exercising at all I managed to do something once or twice a week. Since the middle of August I have been walking and running at least three times a week. While I had managed to get my fitness up to the point where I could run for half an hour some time in spring I had to start all over again. Which I did about three weeks ago. So far I’m still in the “run for two minutes, then walk for three” – stage, and only barely make it through my one hour of work-out but over all it makes me feel much, much better. Being on the verge of becoming a runner makes me feel much more confident, and I love my body better. It might be overweight, pale, have chubby knees and varicose veins but it’s tough enough to run. Not for that long but if I keep up I will be able to run about 10k at some point. Me. I would have thought I could never do that. I’m just not built for running. Ha! Definite happiness boost there.
- Play the piano every day? Who? Me? Somehow this gets pushed back constantly. One thing is that my piano is horribly de-tuned again, and I’m secretly waiting for heating season again when it will magically pop back in tune. I hope. If it doesn’t I will have to get the piano-tuner to come over again.
- The clothes part. That one was weighing heavier on me than I realized. I managed to pack away all the clothes that don’t fit me anymore at some point but then I was left with a closet that was quite empty. I don’t have a pair of shorts, I only have one pair of jeans (that is sporting a hole), I only have one faded hoodie cardigan, and about five tees, most of those black with funny phrases on them. An outing with my husband in May to buy a suit for him resulted in me getting a pair of linen pants that don’t fit very well, and a coat that I really like. (We also got a suit for my husband. He is really easy to buy clothes for. Just today we went into a store and an hour later emerged with a winter coat, pants, two shirts and two t-shirts. The only things he tried on were the coat and the pants, and they just fit as well. I wish it were as easy for me.) But things are looking up, I went clothes shopping yesterday after not wanting to spend any money for months, and I got two pairs of pants, a new winter coat (I still had one that worked perfectly fine so I didn’t want to spend money on one, ahem. That one is seven years old…), a pair of yoga pants, everyday sneakers, and next week I’ll go to another store and get myself a couple of new t-shirts as well. I will continue to work on this because it really makes a difference. Clothes that fit do lift my mood tremendously. Also at some point I will have to learn that buying new shoes and coats every five years is not over-indulgence.
Well, it’s better to try and fail than not to have tried, isn’t it?
One thing that I realized through this project was that while all of these habits help making me happier they still didn’t help enough. Most days I was just sitting there depressed without energy. So I did some serious thinking and found that mostly the problem was my mood swinging back and forth almost daily because of hormonal shifts. And while things like getting enough sleep and exercise do help with that as well it’s still not enough. So I decided to go back on hormonal birth control for a short time. Just to make sure that it really was hormones. And, lo and behold, my mood and my energy levels have been much more constant for the weeks since I started that again. Now, I don’t really like the way I feel, it’s like a low-level meh-feeling. Not bad but not good either. I can’t take the pill for a longer time because I’m too over-weight and old for that. But for me this is proof that there is really something wrong with my hormonal system (and I know that thing is called peri-menopause), and I will make an appointment with somebody specializing in this kind of thing soon.
If I had to name the single most important thing on the list, though, it would be the exercise.