100 Days Of Blogging #20 – I’m Happy. What’s Changed? Part I

I’m feeling happy today. I’ve been feeling, on the whole, happy all week. There’s been a genuine shift in my psyche, and for the first time in my life, I concentrated on putting my health and well-being first so I could begin tracking down the happiness that’s been eluding me. 

You may be under the impression I’m a morose person. I’m not. I’ve always loved life, and I’ve always been grateful that I’m here. However, I live with mental illnesses that want me to feel as low as low goes.

I also think a lot. And feel a lot. And when you think and feel a lot, you can become your own worst enemy and get caught up in all that’s not good with the world. 

My friend Simon, whose hands you may have seen a few posts back, inspired me to be happy. He suggested we meet up really early to do a photoshoot I’d been banging on about. I was depressed, but I wanted to create. I needed to create. I knew it would be the best thing for me to do. 

Unexpectedly, getting up at 5.30am left me with an almost magical energy that I rode on for the rest of the day. (I used to get up at 5am for years, but it wasn’t because I wanted to.) I decided to get up early for the rest of the week and seek out that precious energy. Though between 6.30am and 7am, not 5.30am.

Mindfulness is my word for March and I made the decision that it would be a month of letting go of old habits, of spring cleaning my head, as it were. I wanted to approach each day with gratefulness, optimism and enthusiasm. 

Below are things I’ve been consciously doing this past week.

Going To Bed Earlier. I’ve been making an effort to get to bed before midnight. For the longest time, I’ve been going to sleep way past midnight because I’ve overloaded myself with things to do, and/or didn’t want to put down a book, and/or was engrossed in a programme. This past week (discounting last night), I’ve been shutting my eyes before 11pm. I’ve been stuck on the idea that I need eight hours of sleep to function at my best, but I’ve been feeling, dare I say, better on 7 to 7 ½ hours. 

Getting Up Earlier. Not including today, I’ve been getting up between 6.30 and 7.00 this past week, and my energy levels throughout the day have been much more balamced. I didn’t need to nap once. The weeks before, when I was sleeping eight or more hours and was flagging by early afternoon, and often had to creep under the covers. Though depression had his teeth firmly embedded in my head then. My phone is on the other side of the room, so I need to get up to turn off my alarm. My initial grogginess is banished with a glass of water. I’ve fallen back in love with getting up early. It enables me to take my day at a much more agreeable pace and opens up much more time for two of the most essential things in my life – reading and writing.

Not Looking At Screens First Thing. I was experiencing overstimulation within moments of being awake. Now, other than turning off my alarm, I’ll leave looking at screens until after I’ve eaten my breakfast, read and completed my morning page. Avoiding screens first thing helps me, I’ve found, to start the day clear-headed and purposeful. 

Always Carving Out Time To Read. I read after breakfast with a cup of tea. Then after lunch, mid-afternoon during my tea break and again after dinner. Before going to bed, I read for one to two hours. I always have a book with me whenever I need to go somewhere. (As well as my notebook.) Reading first thing in the morning is an integral morning ritual. If I don’t read, I feel out of sorts and irritable. It’s as essential to my mental well-being as taking my medication. Sometimes I’ll think ‘I could carry on working’ while having, say, my afternoon tea break. But I know taking a break and reading even just a few pages will help carry my good mood on through the rest of the day.

Morning Pages. I’ve had an on/off relationship with Morning Pages over the years, and although they can sometimes feel like a chore, I’ve been reaping the benefits of starting my day with a mind that’s less cluttered. 

Going For A Run & Working Out In The Morning. Getting outside and exercising before starting on any work is a game changer. My focus has ramped up, and I attribute the optimism and energy that caries me through the day to being out in the early morning light and moving my body.

There will be a Part II of this post tomorrow, but I want to leave you with a quote from the excellent book The Wisdom of Groundhog Day by Paul Hannam. “You are free now to be happy. So why not choose to be unconditionally happy? This does not mean you will be happy all the time. What it does mean is that you take responsibility for your own happiness by no longer making it dependent on your circumstances, conditioning or old habits.” I’m tempted to get ‘You are free now to be happy’ tattooed on me somewhere.

I was listening to A Playlist For Night Studies while writing this post.

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