Greetings, dear reader, and apologies for my absence. I have no particularly interesting reason for being so quiet in Blogland recently I’m afraid, just a nasty dose of perimenopausal anxiety and angst that, fortunately, seems to be lifting somewhat now.
(I am going to blog about early perimenopause at some point, as it does seem – even in today’s apparently enlightened society – something of the elephant in the room. But today is not that day, it’s something I will do in the new year once the festivities are over, the gaudy baubles are packed away and life has returned to slate grey.Because, you know, me moaning on about hormones is guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face and a spring in their step….).
I have been mostly getting stressed and moithering about not blogging as much as I ought to; worrying about what to write, worrying that I couldn’t write, that nothing was coming out the way I wanted it to sound. I even asked friends on Facebook for advice (and got tons – it’s all been noted, thank you!). And then lo! There came a crashing realisation that it doesn’t matter how often I write, it doesn’t really matter what I write – it’s my blog and I will do with it what I damn well please.
I felt tons better after that.
So, today I’d rather like to talk about the 100 Happy Days thing that’s currently in vogue on social media.
As you can tell by the giveaway title, I am currently on day 77. As most of you know, I am also in the throes of perimenopause with massively fluctuating hormones which basically means that most of the time, things are a little bit like this:
Unless, of course, I am huddled in a corner crying my eyes out at a film, or a memory, or a cloud, or even the new BBC One Christmas ident.
Yeah. I know.
Some of you will remember that, earlier this year, I did an eight week online course with Palouse Mindfulness. Well, I have, for the most part kept up the good work with daily meditations and almost daily yoga practice (a big shout out to the amazing Adriene Mishler whose ‘Thirty Days of Yoga’ YouTube videos are pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on my face, however grim I’m feeling when I drag myself to the mat – I’m still about a supple as a breezeblock but I have super-relaxed shoulders…) and I decided to do the 100 Happy Days project as a simple refresher, a re-connect to the very essence of Mindfulness, which is all too easy to forget when you’re feeling as though the entire world is getting on top of you.
Mindfulness teaches us to live in the moment, and to find beauty in the everyday. To make the unremarkable remarkable, to open our eyes to those things we are so used to seeing and experiencing that we take them for granted and fail to notice them. On a personal level, I found it a re-awakening – I experienced things like walks in the countryside as a child again, drinking in and marvelling in the sights and sounds and revelling in each and every sensation.
I find Facebook to often be a fairly depressing – and frustrating – place to frequent sometimes. One of the main criticisms on Facebook about the 100 Happy Days project was that it highlights how very lucky and pampered we are, and what an easy life we lead in comparison to, say, someone living in Aleppo or a child whose next meal is coming from a food bank. And yes, if you are the type of person who finds happiness in material worth then maybe some of your 100 Happy Days updates are going to seem to some people to be smug and self-satisfied.
Personally, I have not seen anyone posting anything along the lines of ‘Cruise of the Med is awesome, so happy’ or ‘Ugg boots FTW!’ as part of their 100 Happy Days. Even if they are made happy by making, or spending, money, these people are choosing not to share these as ‘Happy Days’, though I appreciate that this could be more about my Facebook friends than the world in general – birds of a feather flock together, and I can’t think of anyone on my friend list who seems overly materialistic.
What, I think, 100 Happy Days has done is to help a great many people – myself included – to look up from the doldrums occassionally and glimpse beauty. To find the cloud’s silver lining. When you suffer from depression and / or anxiety, life can seem so very bleak and grey and utterly hopeless.
That’s when it’s all the more important to open our eyes and look beyond, however fleetingly.
Too ill to get out of bed today? Perhaps think about how comfortable the bed is. How warm you are. Look out the window, admire the view. Study it. Look for birds, watch them. Is it raining? You’re indoors, in the dry.
Are you jittery and anxious today? Take time to stretch your shoulders out. Feel how wonderful if feels. It might not last very long, but it will be a few moments of stretchy release that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Go for a walk – even five minutes around the block. Breathe in lungfuls of air, feel how your skin responds to the temperature and climate.
For every negative, try to find a positive. For every status update on Facebook about how grim your day is being, go and look on YouTube or Buzzfeed for something funny and post that up too – you will bring a smile to other people. Nobody is saying ‘stop having down days’, but ‘try and brighten up your day in whatever tiny way you can’. Acknowledge the things that have cheered you up, made you grin. Share it with the world.
Be more mindful of everything you do, and you will find happy moments everywhere. It sounds simplistic because it is simplistic.
Things that bring a little light into my days include mornings ironing to radio 4; watching the birds at the feeders in the garden; cold frosty mornings; pyjamas and hot chocolate after wet and windy walks home from school; sitting with my crochet in front of the fire; the boys giggling away at You’ve Been Framed or playing Minecraft together (they are making a world entirely of ostentatious swimming pools at the moment); my cafetiere; the scarlet berries on a holly bush on the walk to school; patches of bright blue sky between scudding winter clouds; pottering in the kitchen trying to create something from whatever is lurking in the salad drawer and reading in the bath. No, they don’t completely take my anxiety away, but they are like tiny candles in a darkened room. And it only takes one candle to make a room less dark.