Grieving is shit. Watching the coolest person in my world, my Dad, die a cruel death completely broke me. Seeing this strong man, his mind still sharp enough to beat The Chaser, succumb to cancer was too much to comprehend. This wasn’t in the plan – I haven’t had kids yet, he hasn’t walked me down the aisle. My little brothers need him to tell them off when they get drunk the first time. The Warriors hadn’t won the grand final.
I looked at happy Katie before I lost Dad and I didn’t think I could be that kind of happy again. It got low, real low. Heart-stabbing flashbacks tormented me every minute of each day but I kept the “I’m handling this” face on at work. I absolutely was not handling it.
The turning point was when I thought, stuff you cancer. You’ve taken Dad and Granddad and broken our family, asshole. You’re not taking me too [thank you Lucy Hone]. So I leaped down many rabbit holes and started trying things that supposedly make you happy. Imagine Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore trying a positive intention and you’ll understand my cynicism. So trust me when I say that these are tested and proven to work – for me at least. And for the doubters out there, it might settle you to know that my mind favours logic and science. I’ve spared you the research but know that each tip is based on academic studies, psychology and neurological research. I’ll link some good reads and listens at the end.
Give me the happiness now please:
Try one or all of them and let the good vibes roll!
- Wake up and set your intention for the day before you check your phone. Something like “I’m a shining ray of sunshine, Head Positivity Unicorn and I’m going to nail that report!” works for me. Doing it in the first 5 mins of waking tricks that sleepy, subconcious part of your brain into believing it and hey presto, you’re galloping into your work like the happy unicorn you are.
- Open your curtains and say out loud “thank you! Gee I love living here and that cloud looks awesome!”(or similar enthusiastic grateful comment). Gratefulness is a powerful happiness creator! If yelling isn’t your thing, write it down and read in a months time for a little reminder of your cool life. Key: different thing every day.
- This one is hard but it works. Look at yourself in the mirror and say “I love you. You are friggen awesome and you’re great at what you do.” As J Cole says, “love yourself girl, or nobody will.“
- Do a mindfulness meditation some time before you get to work. I like Aura for some 3 min calm or Sip and Om for a soothing walking meditation – no closed eyes or crossed legs needed! There’s even this driving meditation! You’ll arrive calm and ready.
- Lift your head up and connect with real humans. Use people’s names! Smile at people even if they’re not! Ask about THEM. Resist the urge to sink into your phone and enjoy the people around you.
- Smile stupidly. In a sea of blank faces, you’ll shine like a beam of light. Soon, your brain catches up and you feel it too. People tend to smile back when they see one and that tops up the happy tank. Use this as soon as you feel negativeness creep in – Negativity Combat move: SMILE!
- Reset the tone on ‘down buzz’ attitudes e.g Monday! Coolest day of the week because I have the whole week to get my stuff done AND I get to see my work friends again. Mondays are awesome! Also, I love rain. It wakes me up and means my veges will grow and it’s sweet being cozy in bed in rain. Woohoo!
- Make it your mission to make someone’s day, every day. Verbalise kind thoughts like how beautiful someone’s dress is, or how talented you think they are. Or how nice it would be to offer someone looking for a seat your one. Just do it! You’ll be surprised at how many opportunities there are when your eyes are open to it. Pro tip: You don’t even need to gram it, the knowledge alone is better than 100 likes. I liken it to being a good ninja.
- Change your password to something that makes you smile or giggle.
- If your happy is fading, walk around the block and release it. Better still, do any kind of exercise. Try a walking meditation if you really want some zen. Exercise also tops up good hormones, strengthens your memory AND increases creativity – killing loads of birds with one happy stone here!
- Spend the last 5 mins of your day sending a thank you message to someone and copy in their manager if at work. You could’ve just turned a rough day around for them or at the very least pulled at the corners of their mouth. My motto: kind thought, tell them as soon as I think of it. Happy beam just got bigger.
- Everyone is trying, everyone has a battle. Most people do things a certain way because its the best way they know. Their pressures and experiences add their perspective to it. The happy bit is finding the context, seeing through their eyes and understanding their ‘why’. Empathy is a powerful thing fam!
- Cry when you feel it or it will come back as something much worse. When I feel that heaviness or the tears prickling my eyes, I find a spot and treat it as Dad wanting to stop in for a chat. So I cry, have a chat, tell him if he had any power he would sort that Trump out and sadness is released and I feel better. My ex could tell you what pent up tears manifests as and it’s not wonderful. So, put on a tear jerker if you need, feel it and move on. So. Much. Better. Can supply a playlist of saddest movie moments if you need.
- If you have more than you need, give what’s left over. Volunteer, donate or advocate for things that ignite something in you and bring a tribe with you when you do. Not only is it full of good feels but it makes your heated argument over fonts earlier in the day seem a whole lot smaller. This sort of thing is great to gram/snap/tweet not for your own virtual back-pat but to encourage others to do it too. Amplify the love!
- Treat everything as a lesson. By constantly asking myself what I can learn from a person or situation, I can usually see the positive. For example: I’m grateful I was running late, missed dinner and stumbled on a lonely dive bar to eat. It meant I sat next to a neuroscientist and asked every burning question I ever dreamed. True story.
- Take new paths and disengage autopilot. Jump out of bed the wrong way, have a 17 minute meeting, try a different type of tea. Through this I’ve discovered the coolest little spots and tracks that I’ve always wondered where they led. I’ve seen things through new eyes and it boosts creativity by taking the brain out of auto-pilot. Woot!
So, there’s a not-so-succinct list of things that have given me a deeper happiness. Being happy is a deliberate choice I make and work on every day. I still have shitty days but there are more happy ones now. Share it and grow the happiness. I think Culture of Good’s Ryan McCarty said it best: When you’re passionate about something, it’s contagious. So sneeze on everyone!
Try these little happy-makers and tell me what works. Share if you think it will help someone, sneeze it everywhere if you really want!
Reads and listens:
What Abi Taught Us – Lucy Hone writes of grieving with resilience after the loss of her daugher. AMAZING book for grief – buy it
The brain-changing effects of exercise – Wendy Suzuki, Neuroscientist (science, see!)
The happy secret to better work – Shawn Ancor, psychologist
Why are we happy – Dan Gilbert, pyschologist and happiness expert
The science behind mindfulness – HuffPost
Walking boosts creativity -Marily Oppezzo, behavioral and learning scientist
Headspace app is great for mindfulness beginners. Not only is the guy’s British accent strangely reassuring – it helps you understand what you’re doing.