05 May One Year of my Happiness Project….
One year can bring about a lot of change. A change in government, a baby is born, you can lose someone close to you, your career trajectory can change, a new friendship is formed, you sever ties in a relationship… the list goes on. Whether the outcome be positive or negative, change is an inevitable part of life. Something we can’t run or hide from. We reflect back on a year with a smile, or sigh to ourselves, so happy that it is over. Today marks the one year anniversary of my Happiness Project. What I have learned in the course of the year is astronomical. I have tried new things, learned the most I ever have and put in place new habits (and abandoned lots too!). So much has changed around me, but so much remains the same. The biggest shift? My mindset. While externally, things on the outside are still at times chaotic, calmness surrounds my soul. Once a woman who reacted so strongly with fear, I have learned to embrace change and react with love. Oh what a year can do!
One year ago, on May 6th, I was broken. I felt like everything was crumbling down around me. I was lost, exhausted and angry. May last year was when my soul came apart at the seams. Desperately clutching at the events of my life, I tried to hold myself together, but to no avail. I was a newly wed. This was meant to be the happiest time of my life. Yet why did I feel like the weight of the world was hanging from my ankles, pulling me into an abyss? My wedding day, as beautiful as it was, shone a spotlight on me. Like an x-ray, this magical day exposed so much love that I had for my husband yet, what glowed glaringly at the same time – was pain and trauma from my past. After the wedding day, a number of health issues began to present. I was told by a holistic doctor, that the buck was up and now was the time to stop running. The insomnia, the stress, the skin conditions, the headaches and infertility were a result of a lifetime of trauma that I had stuffed at the back of my mind, choosing not to deal with until later. This baggage began to fester and was slowly attacking me from the inside out. I was so heavily conditioned to protect myself and achieve milestones like a bull at a gate, that I ignored every warning sign my body tried to give me. Through the process of simply telling my story and acknowledging my past to a woman I just met, I was met with sympathetic eyes. In this moment, I experienced emotions I never knew I had, all of which were racing to get out from their cage within me.
Stumbling across Gretchen Rubin’s book ‘The Happiness Project’ was the best thing that ever happened to me. I knew that the way I lived my life was doing nothing for my well being. Starting my own Happiness Project was a practical way to implement good habits, which I could track and reflect on. So I set my first resolutions and began to write! I originally began with a document, which I would play in. I spent any free time tinkering with creative writing strategies and expressions. No one read it for a long time. It lived on the harddrive of my macbook and was met my only my eyes for a few months. I soon decided to create a WordPress blog page. Somehow this made me more accountable. I still hadn’t shared my blog with anyone, but I loved posting as if lot’s of people were reading. I spent hours seeking quotes from authors and memes to accompany my reflections for each of my habits. For a long time, no one even read it. Not even my husband. Eventually, I was ready to share my message, thoughts and soul with others. I braved my fears and forwarded the link to my husband and some close friends. My blog was never anything to seek attention or think I was better than anyone else. It was and always has been – an outlet. This blog is my therapy. While I meet with a psychologist every month – I sit and meet with my blog a couple of times a week! It is here that I can reflect upon books I have read, podcasts I have listened to, share my experiences, knowledge and opinions and so on. It was a way of tracking what I had done in an attempt to cement and recall all the amazing life lessons I had learned.
In one of my first posts, I named my blog and Instagram ‘Happiless.’ I described how this work is an adjective meaning – ‘That is without happiness; devoid of happiness. ’ I can’t tell you how unbelievably sad this makes me feel for that woman who described herself as that. In this early post, I stepped out the chapters of my life in a series of short 1-5 word sentences which I implore you to read (as depressing as it is) as the tone in my words were so very different from what they are now. As I sat here and read them today, tears pricked up into my eyes as I remembered each one with so much emotion. How can so many feelings be contained within a few short words? When I selected the title ‘Happiless’ for my blog, I always had a vision that I would one day get to say…‘Well, I have finally moved from happiLESS to happiNESS. Although, I never knew whether that day would really come. Was just a dream, always slightly out of my reach. However, I have come to know and learn so much about happiness in the past year. For so long, I thought it unattainable as I watched two parents who were unhappy and unsure of themselves their whole lives. In my day-to-day life I watch people complain about their circumstances. I often wondered – Is anybody happy?
Fast forward to a year later, and I never imagined that I would have changed as much as I have or achieved what I did. As I discussed in the opening of this post, my life on the outside hasn’t changed much. Sure, some things have progressed, my husband’s knee has healed and we are out of that funk. But I still battle the same external things – a missing father and infertility. But how I feel on the inside is dramatically different. I no longer react with deep sadness. In may last year, I was defensive and I was a victim to my circumstances. Today, my husband doesnt give me that worried look anymore. I think I’ve actually convinced my family and friends that it’s not all just an act and that I really am in a positive place. It is through hard work, persistence, reflection and this blog, that I totally transformed how I view my life. Only once before this, has a cosmic shift occurred in my life. Following the death of my mother, I took action to change how I chose to react to people and situations. Again, (more consciously and intentionally this time) I have shifted my life from one realm into another more positive and productive one.
As I scrolled back through the posts on my blog, I have attempted so many habits in order to find happiness. I still have so many notes ready for the creation of many more posts. It is interesting how when I first began my project back in May 2017, my resolutions were much more surface level. Of course, it is important that I ‘drink more water,’ and ‘get a good nights sleep’ but the content of my posts has evolved and I see how much I have grown in just a year. Habits have been formed and for the better, I took up yoga – something I still do today, which is such a positive remedy for my anxious and stress filled times. I noted back in June that the quality of my relationships could improve, I wanted a deeper connection with my family and friends, and I progressively developed this throughout July and the months that followed. Not only this, but I made an effort to form new friendships and avoid gossip. I can honestly say that I have improved upon how I speak about others and I offer perspective to situations. I knew that in the depths of my despair, I was slipping away emotionally from my husband, so I set more resolutions to spend time with him, show him I care and offer more affection. As a result of hard work, we are in such an amazing place today, where we rarely fight and always spend memorable time together. Self love is something I lack at times and in the space of a year, I have had ups and downs. Sitting here now, I can proudly say how much I love and respect my body for all it has endured and how how well it holds up through all the stressful times.
The most important things I have taken away from my Happiness Project are some internal and spiritual wonders. In the past year, I have developed a mentality of gratitude. I have a new found ability to be appreciative for all the good and amazing things in my life. This has been my saviour. At the end of the day, I started this project in an attempt to heal all the pain I have endured in my life. All I wanted initially was to improve my mindset and restore my fertility so that I could prepare for a family. A year later, I may not have restored that ability to have children (and who knows if I ever will), but I am ten thousand times happier than I ever have been in my life! Being able to say that I am grateful for every hardship in my life is a true miracle. I am so grateful my mother died, for this taught me to love and respect my family more. I am grateful for my infertility, as it set me on this path of self-discovery. Moving through all these moments as a result of my health anomaly has also resulted in me forgiving my father – the man who hurt me the most. I have also offered love and forgiveness to previous partners who I (at the time) thought had wronged me. This experience has sparked so much learning about self-improvement, physical health and spirituality. I have gone from someone who thought the world was out to get me, to someone who knows that there is a plan for me and that no time should be wasted in negative spaces.
Happiness comes through training your mind to see the good in everything. Through these posts, I have become so unapologetically vulnerable about my life that it has opened me up to the abundance of love that surrounds me. My friends, my family and my husband are allowed into my life now. They offer support, they listen and they value add to my life in ways I never allowed before. Moving forward, it is time to rebrand my blog. The title ‘Happiless’ is null and void as it doesn’t ring true for me anymore. Almost fortuitously, tomorrow is the day I begin my studies to be a health coach. This new path will hopefully mean I get to work with people who have made the choice to choose their health and happiness over anything else. I haven’t yet decided on a new name, but this will come in time. For my blog, I have deeper content prepared as I traverse the rocky terrain of embracing hard times, being vulnerable, and improving my self-love further. I hope that this next year will also be when I begin my new chapter as a mother. But who knows? Through adopting a stance of flexibility to what could be, accepting what is and doing my best with what I have got, I can continue to not just exist, but live.
Life is short – spend it happy! When you devote a whole year to habits and rituals that promote happiness, you learn a thing or two. But, the most important comes in the words of Marianne Williamson…
‘The key to happiness is the decision to be happy’
You don’t just wait for happiness to show up after finding God, seeking enlightenment or taking a holiday…it is when you choose it for yourself. Happiness comes when you consciously let go of negativity you carry, you throw out that victim status and stop blaming other people for your misfortune. Everything can go wrong in your life, I get it. I, at one stage, felt like that was happening to me! But when you tell yourself this, you are choosing to focus on the bad and not being grateful for all of the good. You have placed to much emphasis on all the things you don’t have, you can’t possibly see what you DO have. You will never be truly happy if you continue to hold onto the things that make you sad. So therefore, the ultimate gold nugget of wisdom I can impart after a big year is that that happiness is a choice – not a result. Stop waiting for it to show up at your door. Look around, for there are so many incredible and beautiful reasons to be happy.