I’m not going to lie, things are tough right now.
Yesterday I felt more drained and flat than I possibly have ever felt before. It wasn’t very nice, but today is a new day and things feel less bleak. This week I feel wrapped in layers of loss. Loss of my dear dad, but also loss of hugging brilliant people, laughing and talking rubbish, sharing good food and drink and the looming loss of Christmas as I know it and hold so dear.
There’s a whole heap of things I’m missing, and this week especially seems harder than last because of the realisation of how important social interaction is to me at this time of year. It’s important year round, but I really do love a Christmas party. I love hosting parties and have had one or two at Christmas every year in recent memory and I love going to them too. It doesn’t need to be big busy affairs, a lunch party with good friends is equally as lovely.
Whilst I know it’s ok to feel sad and take as many moments as I goddamn want to wallow in that pain. I’m also the sort to want to try to alleviate and remedy the situation.
I’ve only recently recognised that I’ve naturally led a life guided by positive psychology. I read about the different aspects thinking “Tick! Tick! … my goodness, I do ALL of these”. I finally have an answer to lovely friends who ask me, “why are you so happy?”.
I regularly take stock and list what I’m grateful for, sometimes that list is just in my head, sometimes written down. I always look for the bright side in things, often with the sound of Eric Idle singing in my head. Cheesy I know, but it’s true. Even in the bleakest moment I can find a bright side and I really try hard to savour positive experiences. To take those moments to really “smell the roses”.
I make things with my hands. Sounds a bit airy fairy, but it really helps in maintaining happiness. When I was doing my MA, I was working at an arts company in the Lakes called Welfare State International. Sue Gill who ran it alongside her husband, said to me “I think you can only be truly happy if you are regularly feeding your head, your heart and your hands”. I have carried that with me ever since, as I fundamentally believe it’s true. If I feel warm in my heart, usually from social interaction with people I love, stimulated in my brain from being curious and learning new things and have experienced the flow and creativity of making, I am pretty content.
So these themes: of gratitude, savouring, flow, making and creativity are all recognised aspects of positive psychology. Whilst they perhaps come easier to me than other people, it doesn’t mean it’s effortless. I make a conscious decision to have a positive mindset and work on it every day.
There’s other aspects of positive psychology I need to work harder on. One is playing to my strengths. I haven’t always been brilliant at that, but am adapting this year. There’s lots of strengths quizzes you can do online. Here’s a free one I think is pretty good. I did it a couple of months ago and it’s really helped me in continuing to build my coaching business. I’d be heading down a dead end if I ignored my strengths and tried to build a business based on what I perhaps think I “should” be doing. Regular readers of this blog will know I’m throwing “should” in the bin.
My top strengths, according to that free quiz, are Humour, Curiosity and Hope. I’d say all very useful for being a coach, working in the arts and generally being happy. Down at the bottom is a little more awkward to be honest about… right at the end is Humility! Ouch. Followed by Self-Regulation and (understandably as an aetheist) Spirituality.
Perhaps it is part of feeling content that I really like myself. I enjoy my own company and as such I have what I’m calling a healthy ego... others may have a different name for it though. So, yeah, humility maybe isn’t my strongest suit. Especially around how funny I think I am with my kids. My 12yo commented recently that my biggest flaw is that I think I’m hilarious when I’m so not. Ha! He’s got a point, but finding myself funny makes me happy.
Just writing this is an excellent reminder to me after the day I had yesterday. I need to read one of the fascinating books I’ve got lying about, I need to arrange more walks with my friends and I need to make something! Yoga, booking a massage and being more playful would help too, but first I’ll go and entertain the 12yo with my Dorothy Parker-esque superb wit…