Working on my happy. Why it’s important and how I’m doing it.

I’m not one for lots of woo-woo. I don’t believe the universe delivers. I don’t think things happen for a reason. I make things happen… or not.

On this blog, I’ve shared my feelings on fear and failure—how I experience it and how I react to it. There’s been a great response, and it is heartwarming to know I’m not alone.

But at various times in the year, I deliberately start to turn the mood around.

In truth, I’m a pretty happy and chilled out person. I try and see the best in people and find the silver lining to every challenging situation.

I’m intrigued by the idea of happiness. I think that aspiring to 100% happiness 100% of the time is foolish. But more contentment – being happy with your now – and more joy is entirely possible.

I call it Project Happy.

I really mean Project Contentment that’s not half as catchy.

What is my happy?

There are usually some really big things on the list, such as spending carefree time with my family, the love of my super adorable and excitable dog, reading, great weather, nice smells, surprises, having time to do nothing … the list goes on.

I realise that underlying many of the things that make me happy is having time to enjoy them.

I’m constantly trying to carve out time for my business around my family. I struggle to balance them let alone carve out time for myself. I often over-book myself and it leads to a situation where work fills my brain.

Is time management the secret to happiness?

I know that I don’t need to find more time for enjoyment; I need to make the time I have, count for more.

I think mindfulness and focus are the keys to my contentment. When I’m present in each moment, I can more easily find its joy.

If I can find my happy, moment by moment, that equals one big happy!

How I’m working on my happy

I asked my buddies on social media how they work on their happy, and I got a whole range of answers, ranging from wine and exercise to not sweating the small stuff and disconnecting from technology.

Appreciating what you have was a big one.

Here are some of the ways I’m looking after my own well-being so that my happiness will flower, moment by moment.

Stopping the tech chatter

Sometimes my brain feels like an outboard motor running at top speed. I get up, and I’m reaching for my phone to check my to-do list. Are there any new emails? Social media updates? Any crisis that is going to blow my day out of the water?

I’m a copywriter, not a doctor. There is never a crisis so important that I need to read about it before I’m even properly awake.

Notifications from technology can feel a bit like this:


So why is checking my phone the first thing I do every day?

When I didn’t have a smartphone for a month, I loved it (eventually). I wasn’t notified every time there was a new e-mail or update, and I survived. In fact, I felt much more relaxed. Once I got a new smartphone, I slowly backslid into Notificationland, and the outboard motor feeling was back.

So as part of working on my happy, I turn off most notifications. I’m using the iPhone screen time tools to wean myself off checking my phone so often, but at least my phone and laptop aren’t vying for my attention every moment of the day.

I know that the next step is to actually remove social and emails apps from my phone, but I’m not quite there yet.

What about you? How do you manage the relentlessness and neediness of technology? I NEED HELP!

Finding some Headspace

I’ve been learning to meditate for a few years now and—you guessed it—there’s an app for that. I use Headspace to learn how to maintain focus and mindfulness. I often let the habit slip but I know it trickles into me feeling more rested and getting better sleep every night.

You might be thinking, ‘Bah! Meditation. That’s for hippies! I don’t have time to sit on the floor and think of nothing. I’m too busy!’

Firstly, this app makes it so easy, and it starts with just 10 minutes a day, no incense required.
Second, the more I meditate, the more focus I have during the rest of my day, so I’m actually getting more done at the same time.

I’m trying to practise mindfulness during the day as well. A new skill needs practice, after all. So if I’m doing something—whether it’s copywriting, playing with my dog or hanging out with my girl—when I catch myself thinking about something else entirely, I bring myself back to the moment.

If I remember something important, I make a note of it, but if I’m thinking about e-mails or my to-do list or social media, I ignore the train of thought. Google+ can wait.

I’m still learning and getting distracted, but it’s becoming easier and with that is coming to a sense of calmness and clarity that is making me happy.

Taking a reality check

The next way that I’m working on my happy is by being realistic about what I can actually achieve in a specific timeframe.

When I load my to-do list up with everything that has to be done for the month, I finish each day with a long list, and I feel like I’m on a treadmill that is never going to finish.

At the start of each day, I work out my priorities for the day and what I can get done while my kids are doing other things. Some days I have up to four hours. Some days I have one hour. Some days I’m lucky to grab any time at all.

By knowing how much time and being realistic about what I can get done, I am more likely to actually tick everything off my to-do list. And that’s a freaking nice feeling. It also means that when I spend time with my family or (gasp) have a moment to myself, I’m not worrying about all the zillion things I haven’t done.

This applies to things such as housework, grocery shopping and the constant list of other chores we all have to do as adults.

If I’m really not going to get it done today, I plan when I will get it done and forget about it until then. If I don’t get everything done, I forgive myself. There’s always tomorrow.

This is quite hard for me, but I’m persisting. I know I just need to practise until it becomes a habit. (Here is a great article on how long that process takes.)

An interlude about switching off

So far, all my happiness-boosting plans sounds like work stuff, but it’s really all about creating more quality time. Quality time, whether it’s by myself or with other people, makes me happy.

I’m not getting any younger, and I want to suck out as much happy-time as I can, rather than letting my life speed by as I march around, eyes down, getting stuff done.

Get a physical hobby

I have lots of things I enjoy doing but I seem to prioritise everything and everyone else above myself. No one can fix that but me, so I’m about to get myself a hobby that gets me out of the house and gets my body moving.

My husband plays disco-golf with his buddies every week and I envy the time he spends outdoors (and I’ll be honest here, away from our small kids).

We both decided that I could do with a hobby too.

So, as part of working on my happy, I’m going to spend some time trying different activities, starting with indoor rock climbing. It will challenge me, mentally and physically. I can do it in all weather. I can do it all times of the day.

I’m hoping to get strong, push my boundaries, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Inspire me with your hobbies in case this rock climbing malarky doesn’t work out.

Be consciously grateful

The last part of my strategy is to make time to appreciate all I have. I used to keep a notebook, and at the end of each day, jot down the things I was grateful for that day. I stopped doing it when I reached the end of the notebook, but I’ve picked that up again, in a fashion.

I have a five-year journal that allows me to write just 1-2 sentences for each day. I recap on what I’ve done as well as noting what I’m grateful for in that moment. I also tell the people around me what I appreciate them for during the day. I think that’s important.

These little moments I spend reminding myself of the wonderful things in my life and the mindfulness I’m cultivating will help to turn my mindset outwards, sending out nothing but good vibes.

WOO-WOO!! I know but the science backs it up and that’s good enough for me.

So, am I happier?

Well, it’s just the beginning, but I do think it’s important enough to keep at it. All these things working together are helping me to be more calm, more present, more appreciative and more joyful, and I hope it will ripple out, like the effect of a stone thrown into a pond.

I also hope that my brain will have the breathing space it needs to let awesomely creative ideas simmer and bubble away.

So, I’d love to know, do you actively work on your well-being and happiness (or contentment and joy)? If so, how?


22 Responses

  1. Nice post, Belinda, with so much of it ringing true. (I’m not a doctor either – love that wake-up call.) Last year I made the switch from Blackberry to iPhone. I didn’t attach my email to the iPhone. That’s been a blessing in so many ways and I leave my phone in my office when I’m not working. The only notices I have for social networking is on Facebook and I almost exclusively use that for family and friends. If I get a notice, it’s a happy event.

    I’m working this year on getting more sleep and taking time to be creative. Note I said ‘taking’ and not ‘finding’.

    1. Thanks Sarah. I really appreciate your comment.

      And I definitely hear you on the idea of taking time not making time. Someone recently asked how I make time to blog and I explained that I block out time in my calendar. When I make time in that way, it’s there waiting for me. If I try and ‘find time’, I never do. Sounds easy but it’s the action that makes it awesome.

      I still try and take one day a month for creativity. Even if it’s just an hour or afternoon walking through a gallery or garden, I can feel ze little grey cells springing into life.

      (That was my Poirot impression btw).

  2. Sounds like you’ve got it sorted Belinda! I’m incredibly grateful I’ve never been particularly attached to my phone so separation anxiety’s never a problem for me. However, I did hear you loud and clear when it came to the ‘to-do’ list. I’ve finally learned to keep the daily list ‘doable’, so that things get done, I have a sense of achievement, and I don’t overwhelm myself. BTW- I’m really loving these introspective posts, I’ve done a few myself & love the feeling of shrugging off the weight running your own business can sometimes create.

  3. This is very relevant to work and copy writing, though it may feel like a tenuous link. So much of the working game is done in your head, against yourself. When we work for ourselves, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, anxious, depressed with negative comparisons and let down with feelings of ‘not good enough’. Working long hours can only be sustained, for most of us, for a finite period before we crash. Having the emotional resilience, confidence, tenacity, perspective, enthusiasm and energy is essential if we’re going to do the best we can. So happiness and wellbeing are essential to working life.

  4. Thank you for sharing Belinda. I hear you loud and clear especially you reflections on meditation and getting some fresh air. It is about taking the time to meditate not matter how long the to do list. I am still working on it being a daily practice. Thanks for the gentle nudge. x

  5. Great post and I love that some of the other people who have commented are also women working from home – in isolation and juggling the demands of parenthood and a business. Nice to see you being so open about personal issues and that you are keen to share your thoughts

    1. Thanks Donna – thanks for leaving your thoughts!

      Being so open is a bit of a new thing and I blogging challenge I was given. It’s quite liberating though – to let people see some of the chinks in the armour (so to speak). But for this one, I really wanted to share this idea that working on wellbeing is just as important as working on your business and taking time to smell the roses is critical.

      Otherwise we get to end of another year and say, Gosh time goes so quickly doesn’t it?

      A day off a fortnight is a fantastic idea and as you say, even just a change of scenery is enough to give your brain some healthy breathing space. I try and take one day a month where I go out and do something to inspire myself. Sometimes it’s just visiting a nice garden, sometimes it’s a gallery but I try and give myself some creative soul food. I haven’t done it for a little while actually and I’m think I’m about due!

      Thanks again for sharing 🙂

  6. Another great article! I recently realised I was getting trapped by my to do list, and spending too much time on the day to day tasks, that whilst being satisfying when they were ticked off the list, were distracting me from the big ticket stuff that were potential game changers. I changed the list to have one column for each game changing topic/initiative and the many tasks that contribute to them underneath these, so I know I am always spending time working on the harder, but more significant stuff. Whilst the list contains everything that needs doing (so I don’t forget stuff!) I put the days tasks in bold so I can easily ignore the rest and recently started only bolding about 3/4 of a days work rather than a full days work. I find it much more motivating to regularly ‘finish’ the list and it doesn’t stress me out when the ‘urgent’ stuff comes in during the day.

    1. Thanks Ross!

      I call that productive procrastination. You’re ticking things off and that feels great but you’re not really accomplishing the things that matter. I do it aaaaaall the time.

      I like the way you’re using formatting to help keep you focused. And reminding yourself that you’re working on a game changer – that’s smart! I set Friday aside for game changing stuff (no client billable work) and that works well for me.

      But not choking your day out with bolded tasks is a really good idea. Good for mental health and stress levels because stuff always crops up!

      Thanks for sharing your process here. It’s definitely food for thought.

  7. All of this completely resonates Bill. I think mindfulness is key, and I’m also trying really hard to get into the habit.

    Alongside that, I’m also trying to structure my breaks around stuff that’s not computer related. I mean, I spend my working life in front of a computer, and then when I take a break, I spend it reading articles or browsing the internet, or whatever. In front of the same stupid computer! So I’m making a conscious effort to step away from the work space when I need a break, and find something else to do.

    1. And it sounds like we’ve got the same idea about integrating regular meditation into our day. It’s funny how sometimes, you’ve just got to try something at the right time for it to stick. So far so good!

      I’m doing the same with my breaks. Have you heard of the Pomodoro Technique? It’s focusing on a task for 25mins (no interruptions) then taking a 5minute break. But a 5minute break *away* from what you’re doing.

      I often spend that 5minute break checking emails or social media and it never feels like a break. Funny about that! So as part of all this, I’m also making the conscious effort to step awaaaaay from the computer. It’s only 5minutes but my brain thanks me! Then I schedule a pomodoro (25mins) for email and social media a bit later in the day, when I’ve had my turbo productivity sessions.

      I think when you make the conscious effort, it becomes habit and then you’re cooking with rocket fuel.

      Keep me posted on how you go with it and thanks for sharing!

  8. Great article! Thank you! My tip is kindness. I do a random act of kindness every week. It makes me and at least another person smile! (52weeks52acts)

    1. Oh that’s a lovely addition Magali. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a few random compliments from strangers recently and have been paying them on where possible. It’s a win win.

  9. Love the seagulls, btw 🙂

    Realising you can Increase the income from the clients you have, rather than trying to increase your number of clients and charge the same, is a BIG Happiness creator.

    Overloading lists is a common fault. So, I list less and tick more Dones.

    Fresh air is excellent creator, motivator and soother. I often go for walks in the countryside where I live. It’s spring here, moving into summer soon, and there’s nothing like watching nature growing to lighten the load and refuel.

    Discovering if you’re happier often comes some way further a long the road, often inadvertently, when you look back and realise: “Oh Yeah! I’m happy!”


      Raising your rate and working with fewer clients is a GREAT tip for wellbeing but I always cringe at raising my rates. I know I’m not alone.

      Finding joy in your surroundings is something I always try and do. Some people miss so much of the world by only staring at their feet as they steam roll through life. Tis why I love living in places that have strong seasonal changes. Look up. Smell the flowers. Do a happiness check. All good for soul.

      Thanks for leaving your thoughts and your tips Tom.

  10. I can so relate. With children, businesses, home and tech….we always seem to put ourselves last.
    But we must fill our own cups, and to do that, I’ll include laughter – doing something outrageously fun, that takes away the edge and have me laughing till my belly hurts or I cry. Whatever that is – watching a favourite comedian (if not live, at least on you tube – my go to is Laura Clery & Kitty Flannigan). Or, a dance class. I nearly convinced some friends into a burlesque class, but they second thought it and bailed. Were going to try hip-hop. Again, just for a good laugh! In saying this, its taken me years to process ‘happiness’ and just how to attain it, when life is simply, just so full on.

    1. Such great advice Leticia. I love it. I’m finding the physical nature of rock climbing is really great… I’m moving, I’m mindful, I’m getting stronger. And it’s great ME-time.

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