Shortly after I spent ten days at a silent retreat, I read a brilliant quote on Twitter:
“It is not necessary to meditate for one hour a day,” it said – “unless you are too busy; then you should meditate for two hours.”
I thought that was perfect, and to this day whenever I catch myself making excuses not to do something (you know, like, several times a day), that line runs through my head.
After all, we all perform many little tasks mindlessly every day, without even questioning whether we have time for them. Brushing our teeth; showering and/or washing our hair; for some of us, exercising; Instagramming our breakfasts… In a world where we are increasingly prioritising productivity, certain daily non-work rituals still squeeze their way into the schedule.
I am as much of a fan of ticking items off a to-do list as the next person. But every so often I get carried away by my own whirlwind until I come crashing down in some unfamiliar land, slightly dazed, with no idea how to get back to a place where I can just stop and breathe.
I’m sure we’ve all been there, and we have all known what we needed to focus on: sleeping a little more or a little better, eating more home-cooked meals more of the time, prioritising exercise or creative hobbies… But it’s those exact times when dedicating more time to any of these seems the least possible.
So I start with my happiness habits. These are little things that anyone can do, starting anytime, that cost no money and very little time or energy. Hopefully they get the ball rolling towards a more peaceful life balance – and if not, each individual tip is just as beneficial in its own right! Try them and see…
1. Screens stay out of the bed. I know rules are meant to be broken… just not this one. The blue light from our electronic devices suppresses the release of melatonin, and stops us from feeling sleepy. That’s without even considering how long our phones, tablets and laptops can keep us distracted for! My phone gets switched off and left in the living room, and I really notice the difference in how much sooner I turn the light out and how quickly I fall asleep.
2. Moisturise. I have taken to rubbing a little coconut oil into my hands and feet as I get into bed. It gives me a few moments to thank those over-worked and under-appreciated parts of my body, but it also raises the barrier between the day’s work and the night’s rest. Plus, I can’t use a touch-screen with oily hands, should I have been tempted…
3. Smoothie. I used to be really good at cooking a big batch of something on a Sunday evening for my weekday meals, but now that my schedule is less predictable I find it harder to motivate myself to spend a couple of hours cooking at the end of my weekend. I’ve found that although I usually have enough food with me for the day in snacks like nuts, fresh and dried fruit, and energy bars, they just don’t feel as satisfying as a filling, multi-ingredient meal. Blending up a smoothie in the morning is super quick and easy, especially with a NutriNinja or equivalent as you can throw everything in, leave it to do its thing for a minute while you get ready, then just screw the sippy lid on and go!
4. Unclutter. I love the idea of a distraction-free iPhone, but you know what – sometimes I like a bit of a distraction. What I don’t like, is a multitude of notifications poking me incessantly; if I glance at my phone to see more that a couple of items that need to be dealt with, it really makes me feel twitchy. So I had a good sort-out of what I need and what I enjoy using on my phone, creating a much more streamlined and peaceful home screen and user experience.
My three steps to a more peaceful smartphone
- Delete apps you don’t use. I also moved all the default apps I never use but can’t delete to a separate folder, on my second screen.
- Move apps you use occasionally to the second screen. I dislike Facebook intensely so I deleted the app, but I kept the Messenger app on the second screen as there are a view people I stay in touch with exclusively through Facebook.
- Turn off notifications for anything non-urgent. I like to respond to calls, voicemails, texts and emails in a timely manner, so I have kept those notifications on. But social media is rarely urgent, so I have turned all of those notifications off, so I only check up on them when I want to.
These small changes have made a huge difference to how much I rely on my phone, and how deeply I get sucked in once I’m on it.
[And yes, you’ll notice my background picture is my “When Life Gives You Lemons” photo from above… it reminds me to stop and appreciate beauty.]
5. Break the cycle. This is undoubtedly easier said than done! It involves trying, wherever possible, to break the cycle of frustration and aggressiveness. Anyone who has used London public transport will know how quickly things can escalate when two egos clash. My little trick is to smile at whoever is behaving in the most brash, frustrating, and inconsiderate way. It helps dissolve my ego, and removes tension for others to push against. You have to try it to believe it!
So there you have it. My first five baby steps on the road to better sleep, better nourishment, and more peace in my day-to-day. I’d love for you to give any of them a go and let me know how you get on!
More importantly, tell me: what are your go-to happiness habits?