Jackie Scully blog

Happiness hacks #9: Make it easy

January is the month for good intentions. 

Question is, which of those those 'good-idea-at-the-time' presents will make it through? Will your brand new juicer see more than one carrot? Will your new running trainers actually leave the house? Has the wearable you vowed would make you smash your daily steps target made its way out of the packaging? 

I confess, even though my running trainers and wearable are in constant use, I do have a juicer in hibernation from about 2010 (taking 30 mins to dismantle, clean the pulp off its million bits and reassemble was a bit too much for the morning routine).

The juicer haunts me to this day and it is the reason my partner joked with me when I requested a cheap exercise bike this Christmas to help me get to our wedding marathon start line (which you can read all about here in case you missed it) in one piece. 

To show my commitment, I decided that if we are going to get a bike, it would have to be impossible not to use. 

So, it's now a trip hazard in the living room. You basically have to mount it just to get in.

Why so obstructive you ask? If I've learned anything in my 35 years it is that if you want people people to do something, you have to make it easy to do. 

I understand the beauty of order (as you will have read in a previous post). But I also understand the beauty of convenience. I know right now, if I make a nice home for it, or pack it away when it's not in use, it will gather dust in some forgotten corner - and my legs won't get any stronger.

Everything should have its place, but if there is a chance you might find an excuse instead of finding an item, that place has to be visible and, as is the case with the bike, conveniently inconvenient. 

I am certainly not alone in my thinking. I was listening to a Ted Radio Hour (love these) podcast this morning all about nudging. A behavioural economist was discussing the fact that pension contributions have increased significantly just by asking people to opt out rather than in. 

After all, the easy route (the one that doesn't involve excessive form filling), will always win. 

Another was discussing something called 'the last mile'. He talks about breakthrough vaccines that don't saves lives they could because people do not know or choose to use them. 

You don't become the world's ice cream maker by having the world's best maker on your counter. You have to use it. (The getting good part, of course, is entirely in your hands.) 

We none of us want appliances and gadgets clogging up our cupboards and our lives, so I think we owe it to ourselves to find a way to make what we have work for us.

So, liberate those cupboards, get those gadgets on display, make ice cream in your ice cream maker, get in a stew over your slow cooker and wear your wearable to bed.

If there's a will, there really is a way! 

Oh, and never buy a really complicated juicer, even if it claims to core and slice your apple. There is no position in the kitchen that would make this more convenient. 

Let's turn good intentions into brilliant habits that make it through the year! 

Happiness hacks #8: Put everything in its place

If there’s is something more exciting than festive ham, mulled wine, carols and great company at Christmas it’s the annual sort. 

By sort, I don’t just mean the light-touch shove-it-in-a-drawer type sort that constitutes cleaning for the other 11 months of the year. 

By sort, I mean the emptying of drawers and the reordering of cupboards that are one jar away from spilling out onto the floor.

I mean that kind of sort that sends a message to the world that you are ready for the new year. 

Sorting is the perfect hack to go with Life lesson number seven: Life is too short to save anything for best. How many times have you tucked something at the back of a cupboard, only to find that when you discover it again years later it is either out of date or the wrong size? 

I used to think I was one of those people who liked cleaning. But, what I have come to learn is that I like order (which will amuse many of my colleagues) and to know that everything I want to use has a home of its own that makes it easy for me to use it. The jam jar at the bottom of a stack of four, won’t get used. But, don’t stack them at all and give them space on the cupboard base and you’ll find your toast has many more flavours to play with. 

So, whatever you’re doing this new year, why not carve out some time to stop those plates balancing precariously, those spices going stale and those jumpers getting forgotten? Who knows? You might actually enjoy it. 

I should add, that doesn’t mean a deep cleanse of every drawer. Gretchen Rubin (of Happiness Project fame) has two great tips: 1) have a messy drawer for the bits that don’t have a proper home and 2) keep one shelf empty so you always feel you have room to expand! 

One tip I want to add is to try and develop the habit of taking one thing from a room when you move to another (that is out of place). We even have a stair basket to carry lost items up the stairs and keep the clutter at bay. 

Enjoy! 

Happiness hacks #6: Look up

There's a beautiful scene in the film About Time, where the main character spends the day enjoying every moment rather than racing through each one. 

He looks up at the law courts to admire the architecture. He looks up at the coffee shop barista to show her he cares. He looks up to his friend in a meeting to give him confidence. 

He looks up because he realises that looking up is a gift we can unwrap every day.

Try it today. Look up, live and take it all in. A world of technicolour awaits.

Happiness hacks #5: Carry loose change for that charity bucket

A charity bucket collection taught me a big lesson about kindness.

Earlier this year, I stood in a Breast Cancer Haven T-shirt on a cold evening outside a London tube station shaking a bucket and I watched as people hurried by and looked the other way. 

My bucket was light, but my heart heavy at the thought that people with their fine suits and pristine handbags were so busy rushing to get through the barriers that they had forgotten how important a little bit of kindness can be. 

Standing there, invisible to the steady stream of commuters, was more uncomfortable than delivering a charity speech to a crowd of more than 7,000 festival goers. And that was scary! 

Ask me if I would do it again, however, and I would say absolutely. This has nothing to do with the awkward glances and rolling eyes and everything to do with the Big Issue seller who came to ask me the reason I was standing there. 

He listened to my story. He told me his story. And then, completely unprompted, he emptied the entire contents of his pockets into my bucket. I nearly wept. Friends have since suggested that I should have stopped him. But, for those who understand the happiness that comes with giving, I wasn't going to be the one to deprive him of his moment. 

After my shift had finished, I went to find the seller to thank him again and buy a Big Issue out of my own money in return. He was gone. 

I wrote to the Big Issue to pass on my thanks. Without a name, we couldn't identify him. I have passed that station most days since. I have never seen him again. 

I hope that one day I will be able to return the favour - although, in many ways, I am not sure he would want me to. 

Until that day, I will continue to pay that generosity forward.

I, too, have put my head down and scurried past undetected when faced with a charity bucket collection. Not any more. 

Because of his act of kindness, I carry a pot of change with me everywhere I go. 

This is not just to support the charity asking, but to acknowledge the selfless act of the bucket collector, a symbol of kindness in a society that all too often chooses to look the other way. 

Now, seeing a collector, puts a spring in my step.

I hope that, by carrying a bit of small change in your pocket, it will do the same for you.

Life lesson number six: Say yes unless you really really should say no

It's not every day you post your Lycra running bra to a celebrity, so that she can sew it in to the running wedding dress she's making for you so you can run a marathon. 

But, today was one of those days.

I confess, three years ago, I could never have imagined writing that sentence, let alone living the life behind those words. 

But, when something challenges your life, you really do begin to think about what that life is all about. 

It's easy to say no. It's easy to stick with the routine that sits you firmly in your comfort zone. It's easy to think that tomorrow will be a better day. But, the truth is, today is the only day that matters.

Of course, saying yes to everything is not the answer (unless you wish to feel constantly guilty and never able to relax). But, saying yes to things that might push you, that might take you in different directions and encourage you to meet new people is a yes worth saying!

That little word has had a huge impact on my life these last three years. I have spent quality time with friends (rather than worrying about the laundry). I have appeared on the TV. I have met my MP to talk about breast cancer and the absence of data collection. I have seen the sun set over parts of the world I never thought I'd see. I have won an award for me (not my work). I have made crumpets. I have found my voice and the things that make me smile. 

So, when the amazing charity Willow said Frankie Seaman (professional figure skater and Dancing on Ice star) would like to chat to me about my running wedding dress plans, I said yes. 

And, when that same charity asked me to stand on a stage at a ball and tell hundreds of people about how they helped give me back my smile at a time when my body had other ideas, I said yes too. 

I live a life in technicolour because of the decisions I have made. The good 'yeses' not the ones I almost feel obliged to take. 

And, the great thing is, so can you. 

My house isn't clean, but then having a clean house is not something I'd be proud to put on my gravestone. 

All I know is, I am ready to walk through the right doors as they open.