The Key to Happiness

Happiness. The thing that we all strive for, dream about, search for and yet, for many of us, it is elusive – why? Most of us have periods of happiness in our lives but they are often over-shadowed by misery caused by events in the past or worries about the future. I am not going to say ‘live in the moment’, even though it’s excellent advice, because, for most people it’s impossible

Happiness. The thing that we all strive for, dream about, search for and yet, for many of us, it is elusive – why? Most of us have periods of happiness in our lives but they are often over-shadowed by misery caused by events in the past or worries about the future. I am not going to say ‘live in the moment’, even though it’s excellent advice, because, for most people it’s impossible. We are a product of our memories (which live in the past) and our hopes, dreams and fears (which reside in the future for the most part.) What I am going to say is that happiness is something that needs to be worked at….

If you’ve ever learned to play the piano – you didn’t get to the end of the first lesson being able to play a concerto, you didn’t learn the alphabet and then were able to write a dissertation on War and Peace. Rather, you practiced, doing the same thing over and over again until whatever it was you were learning came to you naturally.  Do you remember how hard it was the first time you tried to write your name? Do you even think about it now? It seems to me that the same logic applies to being happy. This is only my opinion but it’s based on the things that I’ve learned over the last few years.

After I lost my husband I grieved and that’s perfectly natural but it was also what I focused on. I needed to cry, to find ways to let out the emotion that was crippling me so I listened to sad music, watched sad films, read sad stories – you get the picture. After a couple of years I found that I wanted to be happy but, each time I was, I was plagued by guilt – how could I be happy when my husband was dead – so I reverted back into a state of depression…..which then became the norm, a safe place if you will. Essentially, I was comfortable with being depressed.

The trouble with depression is that it’s so easily reinforced. We find a moment’s happiness but then tell ourselves ‘ something will come along to screw it up, I just know it’ and guess what? It does. Then we tell ourselves that we were right (everyone loves to be right) and obviously that means we don’t deserve to be happy or that, even if we find happiness, something will come along to ruin it. What we have on our hands then is a self-fulfilling prophesy and those are buggers to deal with!

I was trapped in this circle for years and then I started to get pissed off with it. My husband’s death had taught me that life is short and we only get one crack at it so I started to look at ways of breaking this incredibly destructive cycle. I began to search for inspiration on YouTube of all places and, because I was looking for it, I found it. There are meditations which will calm you mind and body, there are TED talks which explain our thought processes and what we can do to change them, there are yoga practices, we have Tony Robbins and Brene Brown, Sadhguru and Ajahn Brahm. In short, there is all the material we need to kick start our minds out of depression and into happiness.

So why isn’t everyone happy? Because it isn’t easy to change years of mental and emotional programming. There is comfort in the familiar, there is a certain self-indulgence in misery and our memories, good and bad stay with us. However, being comfortable generally means not moving and, if we don’t move, what’s going to change? Self-indulgence isn’t a bad thing unless we over-indulge – think half a pound of chocolate and a full tub of ice-cream! As for our memories, we can’t erase them but what we can do is change the way that we feel about them, the emotions that we attach to them. I will always feel sad when I think of the last days of my husband’s life but I have attached a very strong feeling of gratitude and love to the fifteen years we spent together before those last few days and, now, that’s what I try and concentrate on but it takes work.

It’s easy, when you’re feeling down, to lie on the sofa and watch TV – it’s hard to get up and go for a walk.

It’s easy to listen to The World’s saddest love songs and cry for a lost love – it’s hard to put on a Madness album and dance around the living room

It’s easy to talk about negative feelings and listen while others do it – it’s hard to put on a set of headphones and follow a guided meditation

Funny thing is, however hard they might be at the start, like everything else, over time, they get easier. What we tell ourselves has a direct effect on our experiences whether they be positive or negative. I’ve realised that we have the ability to create our own narrative and constantly referring to misery, sadness, loss, grief, pain in our words, our writing and our thoughts serves only to reinforce those feelings. Being happy is like anything else – it can be learned but it takes time and effort and I have decided it’s worth the effort. So, am I happy every minute of every day? No, but I’m working on it and life is getting so much easier in the process!

Have an awesome Sunday one and all :O)

Lisa x

Innocence

Where are my wellies?

I want  splish splash

In giant puddles

Funny game

Where are my wellies?

I want  splish splash

In giant puddles

Funny game

Hold my hand

Fast skip with me

Please to the swings

Higher, higher, hold tight

Touch you little birdie

Can you see me

Fly with you?

What’s for tea?

Chips and beans for me

And for afters cake

Not little piece?

I’ve been good

Today.

Sleepy now

No! Not going to bed yet

A little bit longer

To remember

Innocence

 

 

Motorbikes, Mountains and Toilets…

Have you ever had one of those days that was practically perfect? When everything in the Universe just came together to keep a smile on your face from morning ’till night? We love those days as they’re happening and the memories stay with us for years. I had one  yesterday, 12 hours of fun, sun and enjoyment with only one teeny, tiny fly in the ointment…..

Have you ever had one of those days that was practically perfect? When everything in the Universe just came together to keep a smile on your face from morning ’till night? We love those days as they’re happening and the memories stay with us for years. I had one  yesterday, 12 hours of fun, sun and enjoyment with only one teeny, tiny fly in the ointment…..

After a very satisfactory Pilates class which was, unusually, practically pain free, I ran around in the shower for 30 seconds (I was running late) and threw on my biking gear. My best friend turned up with his Cagiva Raptor (such a fun bike) and we set off to meet a couple of  other friends in some place that I’d never heard of and now can’t remember the name of. Running late was not much of an issue as Will rides fast….really fast, so the trip started with a fair amount of adrenaline coursing through my body….

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We hooked up with our friends at a cafe in the middle of a tiny village in the mountains. We ordered drinks, took off our jackets and basked in the 20+ degree sunshine; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! Fortunately for me, my brain was having one of those days when it had decided to understand French and I not only followed the conversation but contributed a fair bit too, which is, in itself, unusual. We had decided to lunch at a small restaurant which sat at the top of endless flights of winding stairs. As is often the case in tiny French villages, it was closed; there were people eating but apparently they were all family…..

After admiring the breathtaking views and the beautiful tranquility of the place (the only sound to be heard was the faint rumbling of tummies; it was almost 2pm), we headed back down the stairs and to the cafe where we’d had our drinks. Fortified by huge sandwiches (half a french loaf stuffed with everything the cafe owner had to hand) we carried on chatting and laughing in the warm autumn sunshine. After about 5 minutes it was 3pm and our friends asked us if we wanted to see a house that they were thinking of buying. Yes indeed!

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We were already in the mountains but the route that they took us on to get to this house went up…and up…and up via a series of bends of the kind that bikers dream about. The view, when we finally arrived literally left me speechless! The photos that I took can in no way do it justice, it was jaw-dropping, stunning! The house they were hoping to buy was ancient and tumbled down with grape vines, laced through the higgledy, piggledy architecture; it would need so much work but I could understand why they were so enamoured..

“Imagine waking up to this view every morning” said my friend. I could.

Anyway, we all parted company as one of them had to do a school run and we hit the open road again; it continued upwards. I have no idea how high up we were but my mind was blown time and time again by the views. We stopped several times to take pictures, including one of me perched on a small wall which was the only thing between the road and a sheer drop of many, many hundreds of metres. As many of you know I’m not keen on heights so this was another adrenaline rush and something that gave me a real boost in the self-confidence department.

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Our final stop was in a forest. A gentle wind had started to blow causing the red, gold and brown leaves to gently swirl around us; I felt intoxicated by it all (admittedly that could have been down to the altitude) and completely, totally happy. That was until I realised that I really needed a wee……the coffee, orange juice and apple juice I’d had at lunchtime had all decided to arrive in my bladder at the same moment and it was ringing alarm bells. The thought then struck me that we were miles from anywhere….gulp!

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I told my friend that we needed to go as I really needed to go and he suggested that I pee in the forest. There are many things that I will do, I’ll try most things at least once but peeing outdoors is not one of them. The ensuing eyerolls and manic hopping from one foot to the other persuaded him that finding a cafe would be a good idea and, happily, he knew of one not far away….

It was closed. Bugger!

Now, when you’re in a car, you can cross your legs and distract your bladder with a few well chosen tunes; both are impossible on the back of a motorbike. My friend rode like the wind as my mind and bladder joined forces to torture me for a good 20 minutes as we searched for a building with a toilet; by this point I was prepared to bribe or even beg homeowners. Just as I’d reached the point when I thought my bladder would burst we arrived in a village….in Italy.

I ran as fast as my boots would carry me, almost knocking over ancient locals in my mad dash for the toilet which was, extremely fortunately for all concerned, unoccupied. Oh my God! the relief! With an empty bladder and all previous good humour restored we sat at the cafe for a while and chatted about happier things.

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I have absolutely no sense of direction as you know, so I’m not quite sure how we ended up in Italy but we did and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the quaint little town as I sipped hot chocolate. We’d ridden and chatted for so long that the sun was beginning to go down so we decided to ride back to France and have dinner which was absolutely delicious. So, after going out for lunch at mid-day, I finally got back home at around 9.30 last night; I really love my life sometimes :O)

Have you ever had a day like that? It might not seem that special to anyone else but, for you, it was pretty much perfect? If you have please share it with me, I’d love to hear from you.

Lisa x

 

Tough Decisions…..

Morning chaps, how are we all today? If you’ve got a minute I could really use your advice with something because I just cannot decide what to do. To explain, I’ve been living alone for more than 4 years now and, to be honest, I feel pretty lonely some of the time. Yesterday, a friend came up with a solution that would also involve helping others at the same time. Should be easy to say ‘yes’ shouldn’t it but…….

Morning chaps, how are we all today? If you’ve got a minute I could really use your advice with something because I just cannot decide what to do. To explain, I’ve been living alone for more than 4 years now and, to be honest, I feel pretty lonely some of the time. Yesterday, a friend came up with a solution that would also involve helping others at the same time. Should be easy to say ‘yes’ shouldn’t it but…….

Her idea was for me to take on the training of a guide dog puppy, you know, those adorable bundles of fluff that eat your furniture and capture your heart? As soon as she said it I broke into the biggest smile and my instant answer was ‘yes!!!!! I want a puppy!!!’ As she’s not one to let the grass grow under her feet, she whisked me off to the local Guide Dog Centre and we had a long chat with the lady in charge. She was lovely and explained everything to me; they would pay for the food and vets bills and the dog would live with me in my apartment. Once a month we would attend training classes at the centre and I would be expected to walk the dog twice a day, instill discipline and give  it bucket loads of affection….

This is where things started to get tricky because I know myself well. The affection would be no problem as I am desperate to have something to love; I have friends and family of course but no real outlet for the love that just seems to sit inside my chest in a huge leaden lump. Relationships with people are tricky and complex but animals love unconditionally and I crave that simplicity of feeling.

The exercise would certainly be easy as I am happy to walk for miles and I can’t help thinking that a puppy would be more fun than my i-phone which is what I usually have for company. The other upside of training a guide dog is that, unlike other dogs, they can go anywhere with you so, basically, we could do everything together….

The problem would definitely be the discipline side of things – saying no when the little tyke wants to sleep on the bed with me (not allowed) or curl up on the sofa next to me in the evening (not allowed) or wants to pick the choicest tidbits from my plate (definitely not allowed). I would have to concentrate on the dog’s training because, after all, he would be doing a job and that won’t be possible if I allow him to do whatever he feels like.

These thoughts were all hurtling through my mind at a rate of knots when, all of a sudden, they all crashed to a standstill to make room for a new one which entered the arena with all guns blazing…….

“you’re going to have to say goodbye”

Although, it had been mentioned a few minutes before I hadn’t really cottoned on to the significance of something the boss lady had said: ‘the training is for one year’. So, after living with, walking, training, playing and loving an animal for one year it would be taken away to live with someone else. That someone would need this dog, would be reliant on it, would deserve it……

 

I would love to be able to help someone in that way, this is such a very good cause! I love dogs and would just adore to have one around, even though I know it could chew its way through most of my possessions BUT I don’t know that I could say goodbye. I’ve done that too many times in the last few years and I don’t know that I could cope with it again.

So, here’s my question: Is the love that I’ll share for one year worth the pain of saying goodbye? I honestly don’t know so I’d really appreciate any advice that you have to offer

Lisa

x

 

Time to Put on My Big Girl Panties…

One foot in, then the other and hoist! Hard! You know that your mental health is not what it should be when you start wishing that you were a fictional TV lawyer and your comfort zone feels like a prison; well, I say ‘ENOUGH!’ Sorry to yell like that but I need to be shouting this from the rooftops because I am getting on my own last nerve at the moment. When you don’t like your own company, you know it’s time for a change…

One foot in, then the other and hoist! Hard! You know that your mental health is not what it should be when you start wishing that you were a fictional TV lawyer and your comfort zone feels like a prison; well, I say ‘ENOUGH!’ Sorry to yell like that but I need to be shouting this from the rooftops because I am getting on my own last nerve at the moment. When you don’t like your own company, you know it’s time for a change…

Instead of writing about the negative shit that I’ve been feeling lately (which I am sure contributes to the miseries), I am going to use this post to kick myself up the arse until I am back at the fork in the road again and can start walking on the path that leads to happiness. Here goes:

FearThe only thing that stops you having the life you want is fear and what is fear? It’s nothing more than a chemical reaction to the pictures that your imagination creates. That’s the equivalent of being scared by a movie for God’s sake! The really daft thing about it is that you don’t even have to watch the movie, you’ve written the script and chosen the images so change them! You are not Mystic Meg, you have no idea what the future will bring: essentially, you are scared of something which does not yet exist…….

The headaches, tiredness, tension in your shoulders? All caused by stress and stress is nothing more than worrying about something that may or may not happen. How will that serve you? Life will throw things at you, both good and bad, deal with them head on. Don’t waste time analysing and over-thinking because that will change diddly squat; it’s your actions that matter.

The fluttering in your stomach, heart beating faster? Those are the physical manifestations of fear BUT they are also the physical manifestations of excitement; you get EXACTLY those feelings when you’re having the time of your life on a jet ski or a motorbike; accept them as such. You are not scared of meeting new people or having new experiences, you are excited by it!

mind-reader-i-am-notIf you meet someone new and they don’t like you,  so what? It doesn’t mean that you are not fundamentally likeable, it’s just that you haven’t made a good connection with another human being. Why worry about it, there are another 7.5 billion other humans out there, go and make a connection with one of them. Anyway, why do you worry so much about what other people might think? You can’t know because you’re not a mind reader, you just imagine their thoughts based on your own negative self image. All this low self-esteem nonsense doesn’t come from other people, it comes from you; you don’t think you’re worth it, you don’t really like yourself so why should anyone else? Well, you know what? You are all you’re going to get, there isn’t another you on standby so focus on the good stuff….(this is the hard bit, deep breath)………

You are kind, intelligent, funny, compassionate, loyal and sincere. You have a beautiful smile. You are affectionate. You are loveable. You were loved by the most wonderful man in the World because you are worth loving. You are generous. You have an infectious laugh. You’re a good writer. You are honest. For all these reasons and more, you deserve to be happy; let yourself be happy Lisa…..

If you try something new you might not like it………..and? What’s worse – trying something new and not enjoying it or sitting around, feeling miserable and waiting for someone else to hand you a happy life on a plate? It doesn’t work like that Lisa, the only person who can change the way that you’re feeling at the moment is you! Stop hiding behind the excuses ‘I’m shy’, ‘I don’t have any self-confidence’, ‘I’m grieving’ because they are just that, they are things you tell yourself to justify your fears.

At the root of all of it, the fear of people leaving you because loss is what started all this in the first place. Think about this logically: if you don’t get close to anyone because you’re scared you’ll end up alone aren’t you creating a self-fulfilling prophesy? You push people away and hide from the World – that’s called being alone and it’s your choice but it’s not what you want so STOP IT!! Open up, be vulnerable, be yourself, love other people and let them love you, yes they may leave but they may not and, at the very least, you can enjoy the time that you spend with them NOW.

AcceptHere’s a final reminder before I kick your backside out the front door and into a better life: You don’t do regret, you never have because you can’t see any point in it. You can’t change the past, you did what you did and said what you said and that’s that.  So here’s my question for you: do you want to get to the end of your life, which could be in 20 years time or in the next 5 minutes, and think ‘I wish I had’? No? Didn’t think so……

This post was prompted by 3 things:

A comment from my lovely friend Tom

A comment from my best friend Will

A comment from the voice in my head (stop being so fucking miserable, in case you were wondering).

The desire to change my life, for the better, stemmed from words; they have such power don’t they? It’s just a case of knowing which ones to listen to….

I’m going to enjoy my day to day and I hope that you do the same :O)

Lisa x

 

 

 

Got to be Perfect?

In our desperate attempts to be perfect, we ignore all the wonderful things about ourselves and focus our attention on our flaws, the things to be improved. If we put all this energy into recognising what is good in us, what is beautiful, wouldn’t we naturally find perfect happiness?

In our desperate attempts to be perfect, we ignore all the wonderful things about ourselves and focus our attention on our flaws, the things to be improved. If we put all this energy into recognising what is good in us, what is beautiful, wouldn’t we naturally find perfect happiness?

Just a thought……….

Lisa x

There Must be More…..

to life than this. Have you ever thought that, when you were having a bad day, when nothing seemed to be going your way? Maybe you felt at the end of your tether, that life just seems to be an endless slog, every day the same with nothing ever getting any better?

to life than this. Have you ever thought that, when you were having a bad day, when nothing seemed to be going your way? Maybe you felt at the end of your tether, that life just seems to be an endless slog, every day the same with nothing ever getting any better?

I have felt like that more times than I care to count over the last few years but recently I’ve woken up to something – there isn’t more than life, there is only how you view it. It sounds horribly cliched to say it but many of the problems that we have in life are caused by focusing on what we don’t have, rather than what we do have. In looking for complex solutions, we often miss the simple things that could give us pleasure if we would but notice them:

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Mother Nature is always waving her arms at us and saying ‘look!’. She creates beautiful things for us every day, despite the fact that we often do our best to ruin them
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We can’t always have a stunning view but we can always find something to make us smile if we look hard enough…
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We can enjoy the time that we spend with our friends and family: the people that we love and who love us
solitude
But there is pleasure to be found in quiet solitude….
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There will be time for adventure, for adrenaline rushes and wild excitement…
Contemplation
Equally, we can take pleasure from the moments when our hearts and minds are still and quiet…
Baby
There is beauty in the young…. 
old ladies
There is beauty in the old……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

animals
There is beauty in the animal world….
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And a simple flower can be the most beautiful of all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, the next time you think ‘there must be more to life than this’, just remember that there isn’t and then just think ‘isn’t it wonderful!’

Lisa

x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you Don’t Like it, Don’t do It!

How many of you remember Tommy Cooper? He used to tell this joke about going to the doctor and saying “My arm really hurts when I do this”; the doctor’s replies “Well don’t do it then”. Not a particularly funny joke but really great advice don’t you think? How much of your life do you spend doing things you don’t like? Maybe you hate your job, you’re unhappy in your relationship, don’t like the way you look? If so, I have a question for you – why do you keep doing things you don’t enjoy?

How many of you remember Tommy Cooper? He used to tell this joke about going to the doctor and saying “My arm really hurts when I do this”; the doctor’s replies “Well don’t do it then”. Not a particularly funny joke but really great advice don’t you think? How much of your life do you spend doing things you don’t like? Maybe you hate your job, you’re unhappy in your relationship, don’t like the way you look? If so, I have a question for you – why do you keep doing things you don’t enjoy?

Responsibility?

Sure, you can’t just give up work, for instance, you have to eat, but why do a job that you hate? You could argue that you have a family to look after and your job pays the bills but do you think that the people who love you really want to see you unhappy when you set out for work and stressed when you get home? What’s to stop you finding another job or even re-training in order to do something completely different; something that you might actually love?

selfishThe same applies to relationships, you may feel a sense of responsibility towards your partner, perhaps you’ve been together for a long time and you know that you’ll hurt them if you end things. You may feel that they need you and you stay out of a sense of guilt but is that what you would want from a relationship? Would you want someone to stay with you purely out of loyalty or pity? I would guess that the answer would be no so why do you stay? Why not break away and give yourself and your partner a chance at real happiness?

When it comes to the way we feel about ourselves it’s often because we don’t take responsibility that we have negative feelings. We feel fat and hate the way that we look in the mirror but we don’t do anything about it even though we know that we are capable. We know that we would feel less down if we got up off the couch and went out for a walk but we stay in front of the TV wallowing in misery and hoping that someone will do something to make us feel better.

Is it really irresponsible to want to enjoy our lives? Is it wrong to want to do things that make us feel good? Make us happy? If the answer is no then why do we spend so much time doing things we hate? Do we feel that other people will think we’re selfish or self-indulgent if we pursue only the things that give us pleasure? Maybe but who is living our life? Who has no choice but to live it? Us or them?

Personally, what I am aiming for is to get to the end of my life and not have as my last thought:

“I wish I had…………..”

What about you? Do you do things you hate? My advice would be ‘stop doing it’ but maybe you feel that you can’t…….

Please let me know, I’d love to hear from you

Lisa x