If there is one thing that I’ve become an expert on, as a result of living with an energy limiting chronic illness for 17 years of my life, it can be summed up as being happy when you can’t do very much. For everyone who is now faced with not being able to do all the things you used to rely on for a sense of happiness, here are 7 habits that will keep you happy if you aim to include them every day.
Including some kind of gratitude practise in your daily routine, helps to prime you to appreciate the moment. True happiness is really about the ability to be present to all those little moments of joy and appreciation that are available in day to day life. Chronic illness taught me that living for the highlights of life isn’t really happiness, because of how easily that can be taken away. Take the time now to learn to appreciate the little moments of the day to day and you’ll be set for life.
There are many ways to practise gratitude. I like to practise at the end of my meditation practise, but you could post something on social media every day, write something in your journal or even make a scrapbook of all the things that you appreciate. It doesn’t matter how you choose to do it, making gratitude a regular part of your day will bring you more spontaneous moments of appreciation, and they’ll all add up.
Creativity isn’t really about being artistic; it’s about tapping into yourself and finding ways to express your inner essence. Creativity is also a little like a muscle, the more your practise, the easier it becomes. Including creativity in your day doesn’t have to mean diving deep every day. Do something small every day that exercises your creativity muscle and you’ll find yourself spontaneously become more expressive. For me, my daily creativity comes through writing and preparing delicious meals despite about a dozen food intolerances in our household. For you, creativity might look very different, just be conscious of making space for it on a day to day basis.
Take time for silence or meditation
Taking time in silence or practising a formal meditation is another way to make sure you are able to tune into the real you. We all have an inner wisdom that will lead us towards happiness and health, even in the most challenging of circumstances. Unfortunately though, there are many ways that life’s experiences can lead us to sever our connection with that wisdom. Aim to include some silent time every day, time to just be, instead of to do and you’ll be making space to reconnect with that wisdom.
Love and nurture
Quite simply, loving makes us happy. Lock-down offers a great opportunity to take the time to allow love more fully into our lives. Consciously take the time to be appreciative of your loved ones. Value the time you spend with them. Enjoy whatever you can do for their happiness and well-being. Think about how you could be more loving in your community too. Could you help someone in need, or simply just smile at everyone you pass on your daily walk? (I like to silently wish everyone I meet happiness, joy and laughter).
Even if you are isolated and alone, sending a message of love or just bringing someone to mind and imagining them happy and health can bring you the lovely sense of well-being that comes from allowing love to flow through you. Loving pets and nurturing plants can also bring a similar kind of happiness.
How could you make the act of loving a more conscious regular part of your day?
Make time for laughter
Make sure you actively seek out opportunities to laugh. Perhaps watch a comedy program every day or aim to share something humorous on social media. Take it in turns to tell a joke at dinner or have a regular time in your day for some silly dancing. Make a choice to take life less seriously and have a little fun. Laughter isn’t just something to wait to experience, set your day up to make sure that it happens.
Count you wins – no matter how small
Lock down, like chronic illness, can limit the ways in which you can seek out a sense of achievement. But your sense of achievement will be directly related to the standards you set for yourself. Choose to be more realistic about what is actually possible for you right now and you’ll get a fresh chance at the rewards of achievement.
It’s always been helpful for me to base my sense of achievement not on results but on the actions I take. Start by making your bed in the morning, count any tiny act of self-care or care for another as an achievement. See the value in making another smile, the value in making a nice meal for your household, or doing the washing up. When you learn to value all the little things and make a practice of paying them attention, a sense of reward is no longer something that needs to be strived for. And let me tell you a secret…. letting go of striving is major step towards finding happiness in just being.
Move your body
Getting the body moving can lift the spirits, not moving enough can drag them down. As someone with very limited energy I’ve had to find creative ways of moving at home. Going out for my daily walk has always been an important strategy even if that walk has only been a couple of hundred meters at times, but during my really bad days I haven’t even been able to do that. My morning Tai chi has been my saviour, not only does it get my lymphatic system flowing in the morning but the mindful aspect, centres me a brings a sense of peace. It also only needs a tiny space to be able to do it. I also have a gentle yoga routine that I practise at home in the afternoons which brings similar benefits. There are so many ways to practice mindful movement that don’t need you to have an athletic bone in your body and in this digital age, it couldn’t be easier to find an instructional video online.
My favourite happiness inducing movement at home is dance. As I have to be careful with my energy, I only dance for a minute or so at a time, but if you can do it for longer, why not have a daily disco or learn a new dance style online?
Building new habits isn’t always easy, so be kind to yourself. Pick something that you think will have the most impact to start with, choose a time or something that’s already a daily part of your life, to anchor it to and take a week or so to get it established before adding in something else from the list. Or simply set an intention to become aware of how you could include more of the above in your daily life and just see what develops.
I’ve had a huge amount of experience of being very restricted in what I can do, so take it from me… with a little bit of habit building, happiness is very accessible despite being stuck at home!
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