Wherever you are, here you are: how to feel happy right now.
Chatting to friends this weekend about a health issue one of them is dealing with, the ensuing questioning of life priorities that only a crisis can ellicit started to happen and I was reminded of the last conversations I had with my Stepmum, Jules, before she passed away. I’d not seen Jules for four years, thanks first of all to my own busyness (we’ll get to that) and then to COVID travel restrictions, so when I finally made it to the UK last February I was really glad to see her for, as it turned out, the last time.
We enjoyed four days of long chats together which I’m beyond grateful for, but it shouldn’t have taken a terminal cancer diagnosis before I carved out the time to enjoy her company. I should have been making the time anyway and I wasn’t. We spoke more in those few days than we had in the previous decade because I was too busy with work to call her for a chat and I’d sat with the misguided belief that there would always be time in the future to visit. Hindsight as it turns out, is 20/20 because there’s no time like the present.
“The trouble is you think you have time.” – Buddha
The death of a loved one or the threat of a health crisis are stark reminders of our own mortality and the fragility of our lives. They are also, I have found, opportunities to evaluate priorities. The fact that I cannot turn back the clock and call Jules more often is something I deeply regret, but it’s a regret I’ve chosen to learn from rather than punish myself with. I now make sure I speak to my parents very regularly, just to say ‘hi’ and check in. I’ve also shifted the way I work so I can visit them at least twice a year to spend quality time being present with them and enjoy their company whilst they’re still around. I refuse to allow regret to become a regular feature in my life.
Wherever you are, here you are.
Jules told me that one of her regrets was not doing more. She didn’t mean bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower or expensive holidays, she meant more of the simple things she’d taken for granted she’d have plenty of time to do. Things like leisurely walks for the sake of enjoying being in nature and really celebrating a birthday because even though you’re older, you’re still alive and that’s amazing (you can always lie about your age). Her words have sat with me everyday since.
The only moment any of us has is right now. With that in mind, I invite you to take this very moment to stop, breathe deeply and ask yourself where your focus is right now. What are you thinking about? How do you feel? Plant your feet on the floor and be where you are, wherever that is. What’s going on for you? What happens when you put aside the worries and thoughts galloping through your head for just a moment?
Happiness, I believe, is about being content in the moment you’re in with what you have in that moment and fundamentally, it’s a choice. A great question to ask yourself if you’re struggling to feel happy is, ‘am I ok right now?’. Chances are, unless you’re one of the Homeland characters, the answer will be yes even if it’s a ‘yes, ish’. Expand on this by jotting down 5 people or situations you’re grateful for. If you’re having a tough day this might be as simple as, ‘I had a hot shower’ or ‘I’m still breathing unaided’ and that’s totally fine.
Here’s mine (I’m writing this on a Monday morning, at my desk in my Pjs):
- I’m grateful to be able to create my own schedule (and wear what I like as I do it)
- There are four dogs asleep under my desk, lucky me to have so many four legged friends
- All my bills for the month are paid and I still have money in my bank account
- I get to do work I really enjoy
- My parents are both still alive and I have a great relationship with each of them
On a morning when it’s taken me far longer than I would have liked to write this blog post and frustration about not having done more in a morning was starting to kick in, making this gratitude list has grounded me into a better feeling reality. I do my best to choose to feel happy each day, some days that’s easier said than done, but when life gets a bit much, a gratitude practice has been a big help for me. Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on.
“Remember this: very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” – Marcus Aurelius