In many ways this post would be better written at the end of the year, when I hope to have my life ‘more together.’ But then again, what would that even look like? Is it just a myth that happiness is something we achieve when everything in our life finally looks the way we’ve been thinking it should? A stable home, a good (read: outwardly impressive) job, maybe a relationship?
You see, my situation is this: I live in London but am currently between tenancies, reticent to rush into another contract before I’ve really decided what I want. Without a fixed abode, major parts of your life become more fluid – it makes you question what really makes you happy. Should I move to the vegan haven of Hackney or find peace in Putney? Perhaps I should just move back to Amsterdam, where I lived for 6 months and found the most happiness I’ve ever experienced? How happy does my job make me? Maybe I should satiate my millennial desires for a sabbatical 3 years into my career and escape to Bali for a couple of months, a real ‘Eat Pray Love’ moment.
In many ways I’ve felt like pulling out that vital piece in the game of Jenga has led to other things falling apart. As a long-standing fan of self-deprecating humour (something I have actually worked hard to quash, but that’s for another blog post), it’s been incredibly easy to weave a ‘lol my life is a mess’ narrative. But the reality is, I would have been creating such an image for others, because as stressful as the situation is, it’s also incredibly exciting – I have the opportunity to re-build something that is even more fulfilling than before. It’s forcing me to take control of my own happiness, which is, after all, a consequence of focussed and consistent effort rather than happenstance.
And while I have no doubt that I will eventually manifest what I want, or need, it’s resisting that temptation to believe that I need to wait for certain things to fall into place to be happy. Rather than looking to ‘fix’ the big things, I have found that I can derive a lot of energy from the small moments of my day, namely, when I’m choosing those moments in alignment with my values. This, of course, requires a certain level of self-reflection, because you first need to understand what is really important to you. For me, being able to minimise the negative impact my lifestyle has on the environment gives me a lot of confidence.
To take a small example, even my morning coffee routine can make me feel more connected, with myself, the earth and others. If not making coffee at home, I’ll walk the extra minute to go to an independent café rather than a chain, I’ll take my reusable cup rather than taking a disposable one (and set a rule that I’ll deny myself the coffee if I’ve forgotten the cup), and I’ll make conversation with the barista even if I don’t feel like it. Whilst this might sound forced, it’s a bit like those ‘symbiotic’ relationships I recall learning in GCSE biology (how is that 10 years ago?!); it may require more energy from you, but you also get a lot more from it. I remember and remind myself what I really believe in, rather than feeling swept up in the morning commute and the self-indulgent rhetoric of being too busy or stressed. Similarly, switching to zero-waste shopping (having succumbed to the desire to invest in a few large ‘Instagrammable’ Kilner jars – definitely not necessary, old peanut butter jars work just fine) has made me feel quite empowered. Even my skincare routine, which is now all vegan, cruelty-free and significantly less plastic-heavy than before (thanks in large to my discovery of Disciple) is a twice-daily reminder of what’s important to me. Using products that I know promote my own values, led by a strong female team, makes me feel like I’m doing more than a simple morning routine – I’m championing what I believe in.
Unsurprisingly, I’m not the first to have reflected on this – Mahatma Ghandi famously stated that ‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony’, and academics have labelled the discomfort that arises from the disjuncture between your beliefs and behaviours as ‘cognitive dissonance’. Whilst my inner nerd could wax lyrical about the psychology of cognitive dissonance, it suffices to say this; in pursuing activities and purchases that support my values I feel more confident and more secure. I have a greater sense of self, and a greater awareness of where happiness for me really resides. I’ll focus on these micro-moments, and the big life shifts may just look after themselves. Watch this space.