The Key(s) To Happiness
Sometimes don't you just wish you could unlock the key to happiness?
I was lying in bed one night thinking, surely it's not that hard to be happy? I was struggling to sleep and thinking 'if only I could sleep, that's all I need to be happy'. In that moment it was very simple, sleep=happy. But knowing what will make you happy isn't always so easy.
So many people in the world today are unhappy in some shape or form, and obviously it's only normal to be unhappy some of the time. But surely it's not right to be in a perpetual state of unhappiness? So how can we escape this cycle of unhappiness?
Well, in my moments of insomnia I came up with the key to happiness. And it's more simple, but simultaneously more difficult, than you may think. Now, hear me out. I'm not claiming these things will mean you are always happy, but I do think if you can achieve a good balance of these things you will be more likely to be happy. I believe that being generally happy/having a healthy brain isn't as complicated as it's made out to be.
*With yesterday being National Suicide Prevention day, I just want to say that I am just spouting nonsense in this post, and if you are really struggling, please seek professional help and speak to someone. There is no easy route to happiness. You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123 if you need immediate help.*
And be this clear - *I am not qualified to give this kind of advice and am not a psychologist. If you do have a diagnosed mental health condition then really don't listen to me and continue on your treatment path.*
Now on with the key to happiness!
In no particular order:
I cannot stress enough how much we need sleep. It's well known that poor sleep can lead to poor mental health, and visa versa (see this page on Mind's website to read more). So, the first key to happiness in my book is to get enough quality sleep every night. Quality sleep means in a comfy space, with no distractions, for at least 8 hours, and sober. I am someone who really needs sleep, and that sounds obvious but some people only need a few hours sleep to feel re-energised. Even for people who only need 5/6 hours to 'survive' - shouldn't we be striving for more than survival? Humans need sleep for body and mind recovery, it's one of the most important parts of your day, so should be higher up in our priority lists.
Eating healthily, while letting yourself have your indulgences that bring you joy, will significantly aid your happiness. There's a reason they say 'eat your 5 a day'. Eating a balanced diet with all the essential vitamins and minerals is not just beneficial for your physical health, but eating your greens will help boost your mental health. Again, eating unhealthily and poor mental health is a vicious cycle for many people, the poorer your mental health, the more inclined you'll be to make poor dietary choices. But we need to think of food as something that fuels both our body and our mind. And this includes drinking lots of water - keep your brain and you body hydrated and happy.
I say 'movement' rather than 'exercise' intentionally, as it doesn't have to be a workout but simply moving around to get the juices flowing. Moving every day is so beneficial for your mental health and essential for the mind and body's happiness. Walking, stretching, dancing, yoga, swimming, weight lifting, it's about waking up every part of your body and doing with it what it was designed and built to do. Move how you feel comfortable and in a way that suits you. Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things because you never know when you'll discover the perfect way of moving for you.
I added in this one as a bit of an afterthought, but for me this is as important as the others. It means making the time to love yourself, but also making time for the ones you love. Spending time with your family, friends, partner. Is it possible to be happy without love? Love comes in all shapes and sizes, and doesn't have to be romantic or sexual. It can be love for your pet, or for a hobby. But you need to give yourself time to enjoy the love around you and to experience and enact on it. Exert love whenever you can and you are sure to be filled with more joy.
So, this is my theory. If you have just these 4 things in life you have the key to happiness. Of course it's way more complicated than that, but my 2am brain suddenly believed life really is as simple as I have put above.
In my experience, if I can get a good balance of the things above, I am so much happier than if I let one of them lapse. But you could also simply summarise these 4 keys to happiness as 'self-care', except not the bubble-bath, face-mask kind of self-care. Actual self care. In today's crazy fast paced modern world, where we're expected to be achieving things all the time, expected to utilise every minute of every day - striking the perfect balance of work, diet, exercise, hobbies, socialising, housework, posting perfect social media posts, having babies/looking after kids and more - actually being happy/keeping sane seems like an impossibility. Everyone pretends to be living the perfect life online, keeping constantly busy and constantly achieving something, meanwhile forgetting to take time to look after ourselves, listen to our body and just breathe. I know I preach this a lot (read my blog about living for the present) but it's only because I so often wish the world would slow down and I could stop expecting so much of myself.
Lockdown has taught many of us that slowing down isn't as bad as it's made out to be, but since lockdown has eased many of us have been busier than ever. I have enjoyed being busy again, but I'm already missing all the time I had to myself in lockdown, so am trying to ensure I keep a healthy balance of self-care alongside all the things I'm up to. Sometimes that means saying 'no' to social events, to an extra drink, making more time for exercise and to cook a good meal - and not living at 100 miles per hour.
May it also be said, that the problem with society is that achieving a fine balance of these things isn't always possible. Not everyone has access to safe shelter, a comfortable bed every night, the privilege of routine, the funds for nutritious and sufficient food. More needs to be done to improve the lives of everybody and ensure everybody has access to things like food and shelter, but unfortunately that's just not the way of the world at the moment. No wonder the world is so unhappy.
Anyway, thank you for reading, and I hope you all manage to get some good rest this week, eat well and look after yourselves.
Have a happy weekend!
P.S. This year I am taking part of the 500km Virtual Runner challenge, running/swimming/cycling 500k over the year, as well as taking on lots of random challenges each month! This is all in support of Sarcoma UK, the national sarcoma charity that funds vital research and support for patients and their families affected by the rare cancer. If you want to support me, then you can donate whatever you can through this link. Even £1 would be greatly appreciated, and you can donate completely anonymously!! Thank you!