Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog post. Excuse my absence, but I just haven’t felt inspired to write much. That’s been the theme for the better half of the last 18 months.
However, today I got the itch to write, so I’m capitalizing on this feeling. And the reason why I feel inspired to write might have a lot to do with the exact topic of this post.
A few weeks back I started speaking to a therapist. So far, so good. One thing that seems to connect the various complaints in my life come back to what she called “sustained happiness.”
What is Sustained Happiness?
Basically, sustained happiness means creating daily practices in your life that sustain the feelings of joy and happiness we experience when big events occur, like getting a promotion or going on vacation, but instead of experiencing them as fleeting moments, sustained happiness is about taking those feelings and making them last.
That was a mouthful, but I hope you get the gist. Getting a promotion or going on vacation is certainly joyful, but oftentimes we can feel like those things will cure us of the bad or unhappy feelings that make up the rest of our days. Guess what? They don’t. They’re moments to be celebrated, but they’re fleeting.
What I want to talk about today is five habits I’ve started to incorporate in my everyday life to sustain happiness. I’m no expert yet, and a few of them are still in the beginning stages, but I’m hopeful. They can’t hurt, right?
1. Gratitude Lists
I’m sure you’ve all heard the praises of writing down or saying aloud what you’re grateful for each day. I know I’ve seen it repeated over and over on Instagram, but it’s never something I’ve practiced.
During last week’s call, my therapist suggested I write down three things I’m grateful for each morning and each night. Small or large, each token of gratitude counts.
Although I can sometimes get into a negative headspace and tend to not like many people around me, I do always try and find a positive spin or nugget from a situation. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. A gratitude list falls perfectly in line with that mindset.
I started writing down what I’m grateful for each morning a few days ago and so far it’s something I’ve enjoyed making a priority. Iced coffee has topped the list every time.
2. Getting Up Earlier
Okay, before you roll your eyes, hear me out. As someone who has loathed mornings my whole life, I can honestly say I’m starting to see the hype.
Each night for the past few weeks I’ve set my alarm for 7:30 am the next morning. Woof. That might sound late to some of you, but since working from home for over a year now, I haven’t woken up that early for hardly anything. It hasn’t been easy, and some morning 7:30 turns into 8, but dammit I’m trying my best.
Don’t get it twisted, though. I’m not doing anything super productive. Mornings are and have never been a productive time of day for me. Rather, I’m using this time to properly wake up and have a little uninterrupted time to myself before crawling out of bed straight to a waiting laptop and list of demands.
So far I’m absolutely loving it. Most mornings I’ll get up and make my coffee slowly, not quickly. Watch an episode of a show I want to catch up on, or read a few chapters of a book in my yearly attempt to read more. I try my best not to check Slack or social media, but some people can’t help themselves from wanting to talk that early in the morning. Since it doesn’t translate over text, I have some anger in the latter half of that sentence.
3. Weekly Therapy
As I mentioned, I’ve started therapy. This time around I’m trying to stick to it rather than quit. Therapy is hard. Some days I leave feeling worse than before and some days I don’t want to get off the phone.
I’m not going to get too personal about the details on why I started therapy, but my goal is to improve my overall self-confidence and happiness. Sounds a little flowery, but I’m determined to decrease the amount of negative daily thoughts I have about myself and improve the way I communicate in my relationship.
It’s been a lot to sift through and I know there’s much more work ahead. If you’re contemplating therapy and have the means to do so, try it. It’s nice to have an unbiased third-party to hear you out and bring to light practices you may have never tried.
4. Acts of Kindness
We’re human, which means we often do things for selfish gains. Not to say that that’s always a bad thing. It can be a really great thing too.
My therapist asked me when was the last time I was kind purely for the sake of someone else without regard for how it would benefit me. I actually had a recent answer. She explained that random acts of kindness like the example I cited are a great way to build sustained happiness.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in our heads and daily lives and forget about doing something for others. But when the opportunity strikes, I’m trying to take advantage. This one is something I want to put more on the front burner, however it needs to be genuine. Not something to tick off a daily task list.
Try it out and see how it makes you feel at the end of the day or week.
5. Working On My Relationships
This one is another heavy lift. I definitely fall into the camp of sometimes treating my partner worse than any other relationship in my life. Why? Because I’m the most comfortable with him, so I let my guard down. Normally, that’s a great thing, but sometimes it manifests into communication that’s not respectful or patient.
Improving my communication and intention with not only my partner, but my friends and family, is something I really want to put emphasis on going forward. I’ve got a tight circle around me and I want to continue nurturing those relationships.
That can look like many things to different people, potentially determined from your love language. For me, that looks like setting time to check in with people and quality time. I try and put my phone away when I’m hanging one-on-one with friends and family. With my partner, I’m trying to listen more before reacting.
How are you actively working on improving the relationships in your life?
I don’t know it all. No one does. I don’t even know if practicing these things on a daily basis will improve my goal of sustained happiness or if it’s feasible to practice all of them every day. But I’m willing to try.
There’s so much noise in this world that we can’t control, but knowing that there’s practices in place to control how you react to the world is encouraging. If you’re also on a journey to improve your overall mental well-being, I’d love to know how in the comments below.