2017 – My Year of Happiness

22 Jan

Disclaimer: I have not read Alex Lemon’s book “Happy”as the picture might suggest…

….but I have decided that 2017 is my year of happiness. It already is and I have every intention to continue on the same track – not that previous years weren’t also happy and not that I intend to stop on 31.12.2017, but I want to live this year with a special attention to happiness. Because happiness takes attention. Even when things are easy, everything is in flow and happiness is all around, it can go unnoticed. And especially when things aren’t easy, light and wonderful, it takes effort to get back to a state of happiness. Which is where practice comes in handy.

I am a firm believer that the only instance in my life that determines whether or not I am happy is myself. Other people or things can’t make me happy – it’s all up to me (and mostly what goes on inside my head). That comes with great possibility and also with great responsibility. But I would be plain crazy if I was to shy away from that, because, well, it’s about me and my life. And I would always chose being happy over being unhappy. Of course there are days or periods that are neutral, sad, stressed or whatever, but every day still holds the potential to create at least one happy moment. And especially when long-term happiness goals are hard to grasp, specify, visualise or even understand, the best thing to do is to make sure that most steps in our day-to-day are good steps. Because these steps will, one by one, lead us in the right direction.

Do I have an expectation about what life will or should look like on 31.12.2017? No. There is no “This is how I am going to measure the success of this”. Success is the process itself.

So what does this mean now? Well, I have made the decision to pay more attention to happiness, which was the very important first step. And the moment I push this blog post online it will be on record, serve as a reminder and I can be held accountable, by myself and others.

On the subject of accountability: For a while now, I have been thinking of creating a group that’s all about setting and sticking to goals – like Weight Watchers or AA – and I have gone ahead and set one up – see here. The first meeting is next week and if you happen to live in Berlin and this is a subject that is of interest to you – come and join us. Why is this relevant in this context? Because I am doing something I have been meaning to do for a while – and going ahead, making the first step and ACTUALLY DOING IT, is something that makes me happy. This group is all about helping each other share hacks, habits, ideas and strategies and to hold each other accountable to realise dreams big and small which we do in order to create happiness  (I am really struggling to think of a reason why somebody would want to realise a goal that is not ultimately about happiness) – and being a facilitator for something like that is a really great feeling. Yes there is a selfish element to that – setting this group up is contributing to my own happiness – but I have no problem being selfish.

So, this group is part of my own strategy. What else? Why would I call January 2017 a happy month? Other than cognitively making that decision, I am also actively doing things that make me happy. And knowing that I do them, that I actively look after myself, is really quite nice and I would encourage everybody to have a bit of a check-in to see if you can actively name things you do for your own happiness. This can of course also include doing things for others, but should result in you feeling happy too.

I am (re)listing my Acts of Happiness also as a reminder to myself to not drop the habit of doing them and as a future help for me in case I need a little happiness boost and can’t think of something to do. I could of course group them together in a more elegant way, but since “Sources of Happiness” can be an abstract concept for some people, I am staying on a very concrete level. They may seem trivial, but that’s exactly the point. Even if below somewhere I listed “hedgehog”. If I find happiness in seeing a hedgehog, that’s a million times better than not finding happiness in a spiritual encounter.

  • Playing the piano on a regular basis – I have done this since December already and have already learned 3 new songs. Lovely way for me to relax and re-energise.
  • Spotify – When I am not actively playing, I currently have music playing all the time. Not that this is a surprise discovery but living life with a melody is wonderful.
  • Singing – gee, more music?! I love singing. And there are some lovely playlists on Spotify (especially the Covers Unplugged one) that really work for me. And since there are enough time slots when I have my flat to myself, I indulge, sing along and create my own little La La Land – I am actually singing while writing this article.
  • New ritual  – I have created a nice little daily 10 minute ritual where I connect with and appreciate all the good things in my life. The setting for this could be straight out of a Bridget Jones movie, but I just don’t care!
  • Laughing – just today I went to a Boot Camp class at my gym and the instructor was so ridiculous that I collapsed and had a little laughing fit. Really good for my inner abs!!
  • Going out – like going to a concert at the nearby planetarium, taking an impromptu overnight trip, going to the gym, discovering new places in my neighbourhood, drinking cocktails with people. I can’t handle too much activity, but so far the balance between quiet time and activity time has been great, largely thanks to more active stuff.
  • People – again, the balance between me-only-time and me-and-others-time has been great and I have been getting better at scheduling time with others to make sure it really happens.
  • Reaching out – In the past 3 weeks I have already had some very rich and interesting conversations with some people which were partly a continuation from conversations started in 2016 and partly brand new, and all were a result of me pushing myself a little out of my ordinary day-to-day (making that phone call, publishing that article etc.). I would have never known where this would lead me, but all has been really good. So I will do more of that, not because I have to, but because I want to.
  • New challenge – I have committed to an excruciating physical challenge at the end of May. This will require constant training, a lot of willpower and pain. I can’t wait to wake up on the day after knowing I’ve done it! The person I am doing this with is also greatly contributing to my current level of happiness – and oh my, he has NO IDEA of just how grumpy I can get when exercising!! (I have promised him a footnote in the next (this) blog post. I don’t think I can do footnotes, so this will have to suffice…)   
  • Fasting week – Ever since I was 14 I’ve been curious about spending some time (like 4 weeks or so) in a convent. This has now evolved into an interest in doing a Fasting & Hiking week and I have identified the right one – still need to find the best date, but really, really looking forward to it already!
  • Decluttering – 3 bags went to charity again today. Big sigh of relief.
  • Small home improvements – I like changing things in my home but I can’t quite afford (or decide on) big ones so I am making small adjustments all the time. With pretty big happiness effects.

I could probably list 5 more, but instead I will finish this post with a link to this article (in German) about Harvard’s Shawn Anchor  who is asking whether “being successful in order to be happy” should not be reversed to “being happy in order to be successful” which I find a really interesting thought.

Picture credit: Unsplash via Pexels (CC0)

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