Over the past few weeks it seems everywhere I go I am hearing the same words spoken. At conferences, with friends and this week with my clients I have both heard and uttered these words-
“You have to fit your own mask first”.
The idea is a good one- that to look after those around us we need to first look after ourselves. We all know the phrase from the safety demonstration we all tend to half ignore each time we board a plane- The Attendants always say, “Be sure to fit your own oxygen mask before assisting those beside you”. Whilst it may seem a little selfish at first I am firmly of the view that unless we are looking after ourselves, we will struggle to look after those around us.
My Happiness Challenge
This week I embarked upon something I have called my “personal Happiness challenge”. I am conscious that I am at a period in my ‘lawyer life’ where I am struggling with the work that is to be done. You see the challenge for us lawyers (even the ‘happy’ ones like me!) is that we spend our days in conflict. Most of the time you can grin and bare it but some of the time it gets really tough.
Since returning from a beautiful week away with my family I have been struggling to get back to my desk and get on with things so I decided to try and ‘fit my own mask’ with a simple happiness challenge. I decided to test and see how I might feel if each day I got up and ‘decided’ just how I was going to feel that day. To remind myself, I set challenges- fun, silly and simple things that I would do that day to say to myself and perhaps the world that no matter what, I am going to be the best I can be today- I will do the best I can do and feel happy, grateful and positive.
So this is how my challenge went
On Monday my test was to wear something ‘happy’…
(yes that is a Dalmatian print jumpsuit- a perfectly lawyerly look- and thanks to one of my favourite Aussie labels, Gorman, my jumpsuit made me smile all day!)
On Tuesday my challenge was to sit and enjoy the sun. Despite a very long work day those couple of minutes out in the sun kept me going all day.
On Wednesday ironically my challenge was to enjoy the sunrise or sunset- and thanks to my daughter I was able to enjoy both (that 4am wake up did test my happiness levels a little but the Sunrise was stunning so I forgave her a little!)
On Thursday my challenge was to go for a walk (I know not really a ‘challenge’ particularly as I was joined by a lovely friend and we chatted the whole way!
And today I got to sing in the shower (very badly can I say) with a smile on my face as my daughter covered her ears asking me to stop.
And now for the results
I am 5 days in of a 15 day challenge and this is what I can say: Despite some testing moments this week I have felt more calm, centered and ‘happier’. What I have found interesting is that by being aware of how I feel and noticing the things that are ‘testing’ my happiness I am also paying more attention to the lovely things that have been occurring. Nothing amazing, remarkable or event noteworthy has really occurred this week and yet I have enjoyed so many beautiful moments.
One of my favourites was an email from a client I received this morning- I had to call her yesterday and she has not heard from me for a while and I knew that when she saw me calling her she would immediately think ‘bad news’. So I quickly got past the ‘news’ and then we had a chat about what we were both up to. I shared with her my ‘happiness challenge’ and also my current plan to turn my old café, next to my office, into a bit of a wellbeing and ‘happiness hub’. I felt almost sad telling her about this as she has had a really tough time these past few years and all my talk of happiness sounded trite in terms of what she has had to deal with. She made some jokes about how my ideas of staying friends with your partner are a bit crazy but then she sent me this-
Just for your reading pleasure, my divorce hearing is almost here. I finally did it!
On to better things…I have been thinking about your space where the coffee shop was.
- I love your ideas about a yoga space. The big thing right now is of course mindfulness and it would be great to see something to encourage positivity in that space.
- maybe pad the walls and get some of your highly strung clients (remind you of anyone?) to chill in there before coming in to speak with you.
- Speed dating for divorcees ;-D
- It would make a kick-arse ball pit for grown-ups. Add a jumping castle and crayons and I’m totally in.
- Art space. Self-esteem courses. Painting.
- Anything Little Miss London desires…
- See step 4.
Have a nice day and yes, it was nice to hear from you.
I arrived to work and this was my first email I read today and it made me smile. And it reminded me that even when the work that I do is really tough, it is worth persisting as at the end of it all, the people I am working with are just people, like me, facing a tough time in their lives. And even they can manage a bit of humour and a smile. And all I want for them is all I want for myself- to be the best person they can be in that moment with all that life decides to throw at them.
So where to from here
I will continue with my ‘happiness challenge’ and let you know where I get to. I think we can all do with a little more ‘happiness’ in our lives. Even when we are ‘happy’ surely we can be ‘happier’. The studies I have read suggest that ‘happy’ people live longer, function better and are more productive. Well I hope that is true. For me, I believe that happiness can be a choice that we make. It involves looking for the silver linings, making the most of any situation and enjoying things for what they are.
Your Happiness Challenge?
I still have 10 days to go and just in case you feel like joining me on your own ‘Happiness Challenge’ here are my 10 suggestions to get you started (and to complete my 15 days…
- Make someone laugh (that real belly sort of laugh that is infectious!)
- Bake a cake (now this is not easy for me but I do enjoy eating cake mixture so I will try and give this a whirl this weekend!)
- Compliment a stranger (or a friend if that just feels awkward!)
- Sit and eat your lunch outside
- Get up and enjoy the sunrise
- Get out of your office/ house to see the sunset
- Dance in the kitchen like you have never danced before!
- Make something (My daughter, London and I made play doh last weekend- great fun, it has lasted all week and I even got to play with glitter!)
- Lie outside and look at the stars (take the kids, your partner or just yourself grab a blanket and enjoy the stars tonight- so rarely do I stop and see them and they are always beautiful)
- And send a card- just because! No-one sends cards anymore so I find the ‘surprise’ card in the mail is such a treat these days. Try it- it is fun and will bring a smile to your face and someone else’s.
And if you have any more, please send them through perhaps the challenge would be longer if my list was a little longer!
Allan Chalmers once said ‘The essentials of happiness are something to do, something to love and something to hope for’ and with this I agree. So what do you think? I think you can never have too much ‘happy’ so why not choose to add a bit of happiness to your life every day. Who knows what will happen but I figure we have nothing to lose so let’s give it a go!