May: Energy Month
After 5 weeks in a row of back-to-back trips, this Happiness Project has definitely been thrown off and tested quite a bit. With a lack of rest and reflection time (extreme introvert here), I've gotten sick, experienced exhaustion, and started to feel the momentum slowing on certain goals of mine. This is a feeling I've done a lot of thinking about since starting this project. When we start something new and have so much excitement, and then over time start to lose steam, this is when a lot of really great projects and ideas get blown off or brushed to the side. Sometimes this can make us feel like we've failed. Instead of calling myself a failure, I've been trying to practice seeing the roller coaster of self-improvement a different way.
My whole life I have been one of those people that has several passions and interests, and is constantly trying to juggle them all at once (here's a great TED talk for people like this that I highly recommend). It's easy to get frustrated when I feel like all the things I'm trying to do aren't all moving forward at the same rate. For example, when I spend more time traveling, I feel like I am not writing or exercising enough. To me, this is kind of the point of a Happiness Project. Each day I want to get a little bit better, to work at becoming the best version of myself. However, I can't work on every single thing I want to improve all at once. Spending one month on a narrow topic allows me to focus more fully and add more depth and clarity to my goals. It doesn't mean abandoning my other interests, just using a more narrowed lens to explore my goals, so I can give each topic more attention, simplify the chatter in my brain and hopefully lower the anxiety that creeps in when I start to get overwhelmed by everything I'm trying to do. When I approach all this with an attitude of self love, I am more gentle with myself and it feels much less likely that I'll abandon projects that I'm passionate about, like I might have done in the past.
So it's okay that I've taken some time to focus on travel, and now I'm excited to come back to this project with fresh eyes and explore ways to add more energy to my days! This month is inspired directly by Gretchen Rubin's January focus in The Happiness Project: Energy and Vitality. Here's my spin on this topic with the focuses for my Energy Month!:
When I'm deciding my focuses for each month of my Happiness Project, I like to find materials that help me think about the topic in new ways. In my research, I stumbled upon a great episode of the podcast, On Being, called Play, Spirit, and Character. The show's host, Krista Tippett interviews Stuart Brown, whose bio on the podcast website states he is the "founder and president of the National Institute for Play near Monterey, California. He is co-author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul." He claims that play is not only important in the lives of children, but that humans by nature are wired to play throughout the whole course of our lives. It never becomes less important, we just start to value it less over time. He also says that we stop valuing play, we are more likely to develop mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
This makes so much sense to me. When we live life for our to-do lists and allow everything to feel heavy and goal-oriented, life feels less fun and we start to internalize all the pressure. I wrote a post about play a while ago as it relates to creativity and I am struck by its relevance in my life yet again. Realizing that play isn't only important for our physical wellbeing, but also for our brain health and overall happiness was a major aha moment for me. I think the word "play" can be interpreted in a million ways, but for me it means taking part in activities for no other reason than the happiness they bring you. It's not "productive" in the traditional sense, it doesn't lighten your workload, it just brings a moment of happiness and relaxation. This could mean playing in the floor with your children, joining a sports team, making art, writing, actually playing board games, or however else you might interpret the word. When we engage in play, I have a hunch that the joy we get in return will spill into other areas of our lives, making us happier to do the less fun to-do list items, and just more joyful in general. The ways I've decided to focus on increasing the amount of play I do in my daily life are:
- Approach life with a playful attitude: find opportunities for play in normal daily activities, and never turn down an opportunity for adventure or play.
- Amplify creativity: I am writing more poetry and drawing more than I have in a long time.
- Go outside!: Finding ways to get outside for things I would normally do inside such as writing, reading, working out, etc.
This section is inspired by Gretchen Rubin. In her Energy chapter she focuses a lot of how a tidy space can hep you feel more energized and motivated to tackle daily tasks. This is so true for me. If my room is messy, I honestly think I procrastinate more. When I have a clean space to work in it makes me more motivated to do my writing and other work. To me, creating space means removing negative energy from my life, physically and mentally. If I free up that space, I will have more energy to focus on positive areas of my life, and this will result in more happiness. This month I am deciding to focus on that freeing of space to make room for the things I'd rather put my energy toward. Creating space isn't just about tidying, but creating a positive atmosphere for growth physically and mentally as well as freeing up my daily schedule to breathe energy into my days and allow life to feel a little bit lighter. Some of my ideas for getting started on this are:
- De-clutter to practice minimalism: giving everything a place, cleaning, and getting rid of material things that do not bring me joy
- Strategize to lower procrastination time: As Gretchen Rubin says: do not put off anything that you could do in under 5 minutes.
- Begin Bullet Journaling: I am such a visual person and bullet journaling appeals to me so much, if I organize my calendar in a way that is visually more soothing and less chaotic to me I feel like it will create space in my days and in my brain for other important things like play!
Here come the hard life lessons. I've been working on this my whole life. I even have a tattoo to remind myself to lighten up. I am a perfectionist, I care a lot abut the opinions of others, and I always try to put my all into every single thing I do. These can be good qualities, but I need to make sure I am not using up too much energy on things that are not serving me. All of my goals exist in order to make me feel happier, and more like myself, so it'd make no sense to allow all this stuff to add stress or darkness to my life. want to free up some of this energy that turns into anxiety, and instead put it toward mental endeavors that bring me more happiness, such as meditation, gratitude practice and more lighthearted living. I want to give people all the energy they deserve in my life, but I'm learning not to give that energy away to people or thoughts that don't deserve it. Putting energy into negative thoughts, resisting the present moment, and being hard on myself are all things that create heaviness in my mind and are mentally exhausting. Ways I hope to begin living a bit lighter are:
- Deciding if it's worth the energy: Not devoting time and energy on negative people or thought processes
- Letting go of resistance: Embracing the present moment by diving further into meditation practice
- Practicing gentleness: When negative or self-punishing thoughts come up, deciding to practice gentleness instead.
Rest, the thing that gives us energy! Duh! I feel like I truly do not value rest enough, and I don't think I am alone here. Even when I am "resting, " usually I am watching Netflix, or chatting with someone back home, or doing some writing. I rarely just rest and enjoy the feeling of doing nothing. I have a feeling that if I get more quality rest, then more quality energy will come into my life. By resting more fully, I'll also be able to do things like drink less coffee, and I will have more energy and time in my day to do things I enjoy doing like working out and writing, which will further increase my energy! Ways I plan to focus on quality rest in order to amplify my energy levels are:
- Continue to emphasize evening routines I established back in February for Mindfulness Month.
- Schedule in me-time: that introvert thing. I need my time alone and it has to be a priority.
- Rest for rest's sake: like I said. Just spending a little time enjoying rest with no distractions.
This blog makes me so happy, and this Happiness Project is a huge part of that. I'm not moving mountains here and maybe I'm not sticking with every single thing that I set out to do, but thinking about and trying out all of these ideas is helping move in the direction of a better relationship with myself than I ever knew was possible. I feel like I'm on to something here, and I appreciate everyone who is following along and all of the encouragement I have received along the way. Working toward adding more energy to my days already has me more joyful and motivated for life. I'm looking forward to seeing just how much goodness I can cultivate. More Energy, please!
A Happy Update:
Regardless of what happens with this Happiness Project, there are certain things I've already learned and accomplished that I will be able to take away from this journey. The discovery I'm most thankful to have made so far is meditation. I've been using the Headspace app and I'm proud to say that I'm on my 27th day in a row of 10 minute meditation. I can't say enough about how glad I am to have begun the process of cultivating a meditation practice, and I fully believe that it will prove relevant for each month's topic over the course of the year and onward! I originally set a 28 day challenge for myself, and have a poster hung up in my room so I can check off the days. As I approach the end of that goal, I'm now excited to see how far I can go with it! My new goal is 50 days in a row!