Originally featured on allbrightcollective.com by:
Photography by Jessica Delp
How can we find happiness in the everyday, especially in the midst of a global pandemic? Here, Lotte Jeffs lists seven achievable things you can do to up your serotonin.
'Be happy' can often feel like an item on our to-do list, stuck somewhere between ‘clean kitchen cupboards’ and ‘answer 10,645 unread emails’. It’s a thing to either achieve or ‘fail’ at. But the truth is, happiness is nebulous. It comes and it goes, and it slips through our fingers just when we finally felt we had a handle on it. There’s no way we could ever check a box and consider it ‘done’.
Most of the time we don’t even recognise when we are happy, because the concept has been so commoditised by social media. Unless we’re on a white sand beach with the love of our life, having just written a bestselling novel or sold our start-up for millions, we believe we’re not even close to the edges of real joy.
This has been the year of feeling a bit ‘meh’. In so many ways we are happy and grateful for what we do have, but also pissed off at the sacrifices we’ve made, the people we miss, the trips and parties that have been cancelled. And then, of course, comes the guilt and shame for not feeling happy when some people have it so much worse.
Sigh. If only happiness wasn’t so hard.
Well guess what? It doesn’t have to be. Instead of thinking of happiness as this grand ideal that’s impossible to achieve, let’s aim instead to simply feel a bit better Here are some easy things you can do that may not lead you to ecstatic Nirvana just yet, but might bring a smile to your face or help you feel a bit lighter when life gets heavy.
It sounds obvious, but making your bed sets your intention and brings order to whatever chaos the rest of the day throws at you. When working from home, try to avoid turning your bed into a sofa and sitting on it with your laptop. Instead, keep it as a sanctuary solely associated with rest and relaxation – a place to retreat to.
A mid-week break can work wonders for your productivity and enjoyment of work. There’s no pressure to do anything big or exciting on “hump day” (sorry!), which you might feel if you’re OOO on a Monday or Friday. Everyone else is at work so you can do something just for you. Watch TV all day, go for a long walk, clean your house - and whatever you do, don’t check your emails.
How often to you frantically type WhatsApp messages to a friend when having an actual conversation could have been so much more nuanced and meaningful? Don’t worry about ‘intruding’ on their day or it not being the ‘done thing’ in your relationship, simply call them out of the blue. You don’t need a reason. Swapping emojis for real emotion can make you feel connected and ‘seen’ and is so much more fulfilling that firing off DMs.
The very act of handwriting a note to someone and talking honestly about your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic. But remember that you’re planning to post it! Ask them some questions or offer comments and observations about your correspondent too, because no one wants to read reams of your self-reflection. Save that for your journal!
Yes, really. As grown-ups and as women, there are so many fun things we feel are inappropriate for us to do. But tapping into your childlike spirit can be very freeing, and a reminder that it doesn’t matter at all what anyone else thinks. Enjoy the novelty and push yourself to go a bit higher than you thought you could. Just make sure you can get back down.
I recently swapped the position of the sofa in my living room so it’s not in front of the TV. This means that rather than mindlessly slumping in front of a Netflix show every evening, I use the hours after my kid is asleep to talk to my wife, read the magazines we subscribe to and do some of the jobs I never seem to have time for in the day. I go to bed feeling much more satisfied than I do after watching two hours of Friends.
We are so hard on ourselves. Exercise is, of course, important for physical and mental health, but it can sometimes spiral into ‘punishment’. Particularly when other things feel out of control, there can be a tendency to be very rigid and unforgiving in what we expect of ourselves and our exercise regimes.
Give yourself some days off from working out to realise that it’s OK to do so – you won’t suddenly lose the level of fitness you’ve been working hard on, and your body will thank you. Switch the early morning classes for something in the middle of the day – sleep is just as important for your physical health. Take a look at the kind of exercise you do and integrate lower-impact work, too. Maybe try running without a fitness tracker so you can relax and go at a happy pace rather than trying to beat a PB.
Most importantly, ask yourself – “am I enjoying this?” If the answer is no, then news flash – you don’t have to keep doing it! Sometimes we get so attached to our routines that we forget to question the extent to which they are making us happy.