Monday, February 14, 2011

THE HAPPINESS CHALLENGE

There has been a lot in the media recently about happiness and how to achieve it. I am a big fan of happiness, everyone I know wants to feel happy. How happy should you be though? There are a load of books, courses and information out there designed to help you to feel happier. If you decide to start on the happiness crusade then what is your measure of success - can you be happy 24/7? If you aren't are you a failure?

I have started this blog to explore my happiness, what impacts on how I feel and to share my experiences. Life is a rollercoaster, you have highs and lows - the trick is to live it, cope with the lows, find ways to make you feel better and then enjoy the good times. I am going to share what works for me and give you some tips to try. I'd also like to hear from you - if you have something that helps you feel happier then pass it on. I intend to be honest about my frustrations, upsets and low points and about how I get over them. I also want to share the highs, what has inspired me and lifted my spirits. This is true life not the glossy 24/7 Happiness promise.

I would like to point out that I am not a Guru, I have studied lots of interesting theories, read loads of books, attended various courses and even got qualifications from some of them. I have lived and experienced some really happy moments and also suffered terrible tragedy. What I know is that life presents lots of challenges, and how we think and react to them influences our levels of happiness. I also believe that we can change how we think and react, learn how to use the good times as fuel to build resilience to cope with the lows.

My Story so far...
I'd like to share my story with you. I am 44, married to Sinclair for 23 years and I have 2 children. Kirsten who is 11 and heading to secondary school this year and Calum who lost his life to meningitis on 12th October 2007 aged 12.
My life changed for ever on that day, all the plans, hopes and dreams that I had for our future disappeared. For those that knew me before Calum's death I think they would have said I was a happy person, talkative, always on the go, trying new things, learning new things - an optimist. I had started my own business in 2006, leaving a well paid HR managers role to take the plunge into the world of managing emotions, stress and depression in particular. Now less than a year later I was plunged into a world of darkness. I think people thought I had gone mad in the days following Calum's death when I would tell people that we would be happy again. I set it as a mission for us as a family, I owed it to Calum - he was such a happy lad. I didn't really know how I would do it back in 2007, didn't know how I could claw my way out of the terrible bleakness that I felt. Losing a child is every parents worst nightmare, many don't find a way out of the blackness.
What I can say now is that there is no one thing that makes it better. No magical cure that suddenly lifts the dark veil and replaces it with glowing sunlight. There are lots of little things that can make life a bit better, and as the colour gradually came back in to my life I was able to use more things to help. Other people were very kind and that made such a difference - you can read more in David Hamilton's book Why Kindness is Good for You.

What I know is that whatever you use to help to begin with has to be simple. I knew that taking exercise would improve my mood but if I couldn't find the energy to get dressed then getting out was beyond me. I did open some essential oils and find them soothing, I opened a book with positive quotes and I looked up. If you are in the depths of despair even these simple things can help to change your thoughts and outlook.

I also want you to know that I acknowledged my feelings, my very wise GP gave me some advice to let go of the emotions. So I did scream and cry (often in the early days and still do some days) but I also decided to write to Calum. I wrote how I was feeling sometimes the tears smudged the ink, I wrote about what was happening, venting my feelings but also keeping a connection with my much loved son. I still write to Calum today but my journals are generally happier with more positive stories and fewer really low days.

I hope that you will join me on my journey. I want you to have hope that if you are feeling low, stressed, depressed, grieving, anxious or just hacked off that you will be able to change that. Everything changes, nothing stays the same for ever, so the negative thoughts and emotions that can grip us and cause us to hold back or even give up will pass. Try something new, a thought, a hope - a smile and they can pass quicker.

Thank you for reading, I plan to post at least once a week. My happiness meter for now is 7 out of 10. I am happy I have started this project that has been in my mind for a few weeks. I can tick one thing off my to do list and the sense of achievement is good.

Take care, be kind to yourselves and one another.
Kim
x
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