That seems like such an obvious thing, doesn’t it….
But what if you have been feeling bad for so long, that you can’t remember what doing something that made you feel good - actually felt like?
That was the dilemma I was faced with when I was asked to list all the things I loved to do…..liked to do…..or if desperate, I was not adverse to doing….
Can you do that now?
Magic wand, no barriers in place, can you list 5 things you love to do? What 5 things make you happy?
Well I couldn’t.
I could not honestly list out 5 things I loved to do. I think at my most wretched, I had nothing I loved to do, I just had work - way too much of that - and family life that I needed to do and that needed to be done.
It was a really bleak existence. There was no joy, there was no being alive, there was just continuation from the day before.
So when I had to focus on what I might love to do, I had to list out a host of things , hobbies, sport, music, travel anything that gave me pleasure.
I think I must have been better from taking medication for a while, because the realisation that I had become a person who didn’t like to do anything was a little confronting. Actually, it wasn’t that I didn’t like to do anything, it was that I had really forgotten what I loved to do.
Where was that Leanne who actually loved to do lots of things.
I found that I had long forgotten how to take time out for me to enjoy life. It is easy as a mother to do quite a bit for others ( I speak from my perspective, so not having a go at fathers!). We just get caught up in the stuff that needs to be done for our family, in work and in our community that we cease to see that we need to do things for ourselves to sustain all of those other things.
I know… I scoffed at that too..
Hands up if you aren’t one of the Oprah generation that believes “I need to take care of my needs before I can take care of the needs of others”.
I am not one of those people.
I tend to pull away from that thinking. I come from the angle and core believe that I have to put my happiness and needs bottom of the list, that taking time out for yourself is selfish. I thought that people who openly said that and acted in that way, were, well, SELFISH and it just didn’t sit with me at all.
So where did that leave me.
Frankly in a heap, an exhausted, lonely and bitter heap.
It is not that I was playing the martyr, it is not that I even resented doing things for others - on the contrary, doing things for others did and does make me feel better.
But because I was doing nothing for me at all, nothing that sparked an inner bubble of happiness, brought a smile to my face or gave me a warm feeling on the inside at all (even a little), I ceased to see that there was any joy around me. It was a real struggle to find 5 things I liked to do, for no other reason than I liked to do them.
I had to have a long hard think about what I used to like, what given current circumstances I could actually do again ( either from a time or money perspective), and how I might go about kick starting some kind of interest in good things.
You really need to plan to do some happy things. It does feel forced and weird and it can take some real re-programming to start doing things that will make you feel better ( even if at first they don’t ).
Michelle Bridges makes a lot of sense when she talks about motivation or lack of motivation. Her thinking is that not everyone is going to have motivation at all - so to substitute for that you need to build up habits and routine and in time, that will get you were you need to go-..
and who knows, along the way you might just get that motivation.
So for me, I had to plan some happy time. I had my list of things and I had to plan that I would do say 3 different happy things during a week and I just had to do them, even if doing them did not actually make me feel happy at the time.
But habit and routine are funny things. I read a great article this week on how routine and order helps with treating and managing depression. (this article here) Even the process of making a bed, or clearing away some dishes triggers something in our brain that helps our depression. The same is true when we seek to build a routine of happy time.
Something like this - My Happy List
- Sunday - walk to a coffee shop and have coffee in the sun,
- Tuesday - sit outside and read 2 chapters of a book with a cup of tea
- Thursday - go to a bookstore and browse books to buy and read ( or go to library if buying books is not possible )
These kinds of things, were the kinds of things I put on my list. I engaged those in my family to help me with my happy things. The main point was that I just started very very small but did them each week, endeavouring to build a habit.
At first it seems like nothing is happening,and you might think, I knew it - nothing will. But stick to your routine, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant.
Because before you realise it, you are starting to look forward to your Tuesday “happy thing” and that is often the first step on a path to happiness.