Of all the times to be inspired to write a post, usually posting to Instagram doesn’t do it for me. In fact, honestly, Instagram frustrates the hell out of me but I’m addicted. I hate it and want to delete it half the time, but I love watching my friends’ stories and laughing at @brosbeingbasic. But as a blogger, Instagram is the fuel on the fire of all my internalised feelings of inadequacy.
But today was different. I posted a picture just now of myself in Sydney. Sipping on a cocktail in front of the iconic Opera House, laughing at something Mr. W. has said. And I look genuinely happy. In fact, just looking at that photo now makes me happy. And as I started to write a caption – about being happy – I decided: yes. That’s what I want more of.
Just be happy.
Is it that simple? I don’t know. Probably not. Yet according to a very quick google search, a lot of people seem to think it’s possible to simply choose to be happy. So okay, I think it’s probably a bit more complicated than that. But why not give it a go?
When I was posting on Instagram this morning, my thoughts went to last night. As we were driving home, the sun was setting and the sky went this dusty shade of purple. Then the moon started to rise, and it was full. As I watched the moon, my whole body felt this powerful happiness, and I remembered all the other times I’ve looked at a rising full moon and felt the same. I guess a rising full moon is one of those things for me… something that may seem inconsequential to a lot of people, but that fills me with wonder. I want more of that feeling.
I’m going to have a whole lot going on in 2019. Quite frankly, I get a bit stressed even now, just thinking about how I’ll cope next year. If 2018 taught me anything, it’s that I need to work harder at managing my stress levels. Perhaps the art of “choosing to be happy” is just a nicer way of saying “learn how to handle your shit”. In which case, yes, it is a bit more complicated than just one simple choice. Here’s what I think needs to happen.
Writing a Thesis
I’ve been accepted into the Psychology Honours program for 2019. For non-Australian readers, this is the one-year program done after undergraduate studies in which you write a thesis. I need to graduate from this program, with a mark most likely in the 80s, to gain entry into the Masters program for Psychology (which is essential to being registered as a Psychologist). So, there’s a lot riding on this year of study.
From chatting with others who’ve completed this year, it sounds pretty tough. The workload is high and a lot of people find the stress of it just gets on top of them. I already found that to be the case this year, so managing my time is going to be key. Making sure I’m really on top of things, and really knuckling down on the study (more than I did this year). I had to cram pretty hard this year because I let things slide. It doesn’t feel good come exam time.
The biggest tips I’ve heard so far:
- get your thesis literature review and methods section done
early,because the discussion at the end can take aaaaages.
- ask your thesis supervisor to help you set a whole bunch of deadlines, so you know what needs to be done and when, and it’s not a mad rush at the end
- work out early in the year, when you have a bit more time, which grad programs you want to apply for and make sure you’re across all the deadlines for these
- take detailed notes in class and go over them as soon as possible to make sure you’ve really understood them – it will make exam revision so much easier if you actually know the content
So it’s not as simple as just choosing not to be stressed. It’s about implementing a whole bunch of strategies to alleviate the stress.
I’m just as guilty as everyone else of daydreaming about travel… this easy, fun, extraordinary way of being endlessly happy and at one with the world.
Travel can be hard. From the itinerary planning to getting to the airport before dawn, meticulous packing lists and ALWAYS forgetting something… Not to mention that for me travel involves two small children in tow.
It’s quite likely that a lot of the travel I do next year will be without the kids. We’re at that stage where all of our friends are getting engaged, married or having babies (we were keen beans who got in early). Thanks to the South Australian brain drain many of our best buds are interstate, so we’ll likely be criss-crossing the country a bit to celebrate various milestones. If we’re lucky, we’ll top the year off with a very quick trip to South Asia.
Travel brings with it a big financial cost. Sure some of it can be mitigated, but it certainly means being tight throughout the year. Making sacrifices. I think that’s part of the dialogue that’s sometimes missing in the travel influencer space. But I’m here to say: budgets are tricky. We work hard to afford our travel and sometimes we overdo it. For us, on one income as I’m back at school, it might mean not ordering takeout or declining a social invitation. In the grand scheme of things these little luxuries might not be a big deal… but when you’ve had a hard day and just want to order Uber Eats, it can be a real challenge.
I say all of this to make the point that the ordinary person can’t just flit around from country to country, being boundlessly happy. It’s not a simple choice of “I love travel. Travel makes me happy. I travel a lot, and I am happy”. It is indeed a series of choices one makes, which may actually lead to inconvenience and, dare I say it, unhappiness in the short term. It’s a question of priorities, not a choice to be happy.
Okay, here’s where I might come into some luck… my husband runs a bath bomb factory. Actually they do all sorts – candles, reed diffusers… lots of treats. When he brings home samples I consider it my due for having his back over the years when he was at the paper bag factory (snooze fest!). According to #selfcare on Instagram the secret to making yourself feel good is…
Wait, what?! Yeah I scrolled through and it’s basically shopping wish lists.
Sometimes there are pics of girls going to the gym or admitting they have flab on their bellies but mostly it’s underwhelming. Shoutout to the chick who posted a pic of herself in the bath, saying that people who take candlelit baths are “QUEENS”. I rate that. That’s the one thing I will probably do when giving myself “self-care”.
Okay well if Instagram isn’t going to tell me how to practice self-care, then who is? Am I going to have to define this for myself?!
In 2019 I promise to:
- go to the gym several times a week (I refuse to define a set number because it really depends on the week but I think three out of seven days is probably a good minimum).
- take a candlelit bath once a week (because I am a “QUEEN”), maybe even with a free (stolen?) bath bomb.
- eat more healthily, not because I don’t love myself but because I do, and I want my awesome body to run more efficiently. I want it to absolutely smash 2019, not break down halfway through. This might involve me wasting five hours scrolling through meal prep ideas on Pinterest.
- THIS ONE’S THE KICKER: I promise to
utilisewhatever psychological resources are available to me. At a bare minimum this is some good therapy worksheets but more importantly the uni counsellor(free! experienced! free!) and my actual therapist.
Shout out to therapists (I will hopefully be one of you in a couple of years) – you the real MVPs. Also sidenote: if anyone’s reading this and thinking ??? let me tell you this. You would go to your doctor for a check-up or if you’re just not sure about something, so why not a therapist? Time to end the bullshit idea that only super damaged people seek therapy. Everyone, and I mean everyone, could deal with a psychological tune up every once in a while.
Anyway, I’m starting to sense a pattern. That
Well here’s the real kicker folks. I am terrible at this. I very rarely say no when someone asks me to do something. In fact, I will quite often offer off my own back. It’s like I think it’ll make people like me more. Spoiler: it won’t. Small things are fine, but going out of my way for big things that have a detrimental effect on study, downtime, or family time are big no-nos for me in 2019.
Saying “no” doesn’t just have to be for when people need favours done though. Sometimes people just drain you. They might, for whatever reason, not treat you the way you deserve to be treated. They might make you feel shit, or they might take but not give, or steal your joy… or in some way just demonstrate they’re not that into you. In 2019, I’m saying a big mental “NO!” to this kind of thing.
Sometimes opportunities arise that sound really wonderful. But we can’t say yes to everything. I do sometimes jump into things without doing my due diligence, thinking “but it’s such a great opportunity!” But I don’t stop to consider whether the opportunity actually aligns with my goals. I want to be better about this. I’ve heard it referred to as “shiny object syndrome” before – we get distracted that someone might want us for a grad program, a job, a news feature, whatever… and we don’t consider whether it’s actually what we want or need.
I think being happy is about choosing to be so but also choosing to not be unhappy. About choosing to say no to scenarios that would cause unhappiness… And replacing those events or interactions with happiness-inducing alternatives.
A four-point happiness plan
So. There it is. I’ve made a choice to be happy. Great! But it’s sooooo not that simple. In being true to that choice, I need to make a plan.
In 2019 I will:
- study hard and implement the sound advice I’ve received
- keep travelling, but try to minimise the financial and time pressures this causes
- look after my body, but also my mind; and
- say no to things (people/opportunities) that don’t align with my goals or leave me feeling happy and healthy
Okay, so “tribe” (looooolll) what do you think is missing from this list? I want to hear any and every tip you have in your arsenal for being a happier person. Hit me with it!
Love this post? Do me a favour and share it!