Writing about happiness

Life lesson number two: What you do every day really does matter

what you do every day matters

How many times have you wished your life away - longing for that trip of a lifetime or racing through the days of advent so you can crack open the cheeseboard - only to find that neither the cheese nor the trip quite lived up to expectations? 

Sound familiar? We all do it. We all think tomorrow will be better, brighter and somehow more brilliant than today. But, the problem will living for 'the highlights' is that the it doesn't take much (sunburn, a leg full of bites, mouldy cheese - and not the good kind) for them to be downgraded.

I know it all too well and I still do it. Our wedding is still one day in the future around which there is so much expectation (at least in my head). So when I get injured exploring the streets of Copenhagen in flip flops, I don't think 'oh well, better rest up until it gets better' I immediately think 'oh no, how will I run the marathon next April?'. 

Expectation causes anxiety. And, the more there is, the further there is to fall.

Don't worry, the wedding is still on (seems my bum muscles aren't actually doing anything to support my legs). And I don't for one minute think we shouldn't pack our diaries with lots of mini adventures (how easy it is to rush through the week and wonder what you have to show for it). After all, part of the beauty of having things in the diary is the fact you have lots of things to look forward to (and that in itself is a brilliant emotion). 

This one injury has, however, reminded me of the importance of not only getting a hobby that isn't intrinsically linked to my health but also making sure I focus on the little details that make every day beautiful - not just one day far in the future. 

Anything can and will happen. The secret is to be ready for when it does and have tactics to find happiness in the things you can control. The best bit about my brighter life list, which I will discuss in a future post, isn't the big stuff (the trip that requires years of saving or the ticket that's hard to come by). I love entries like 'making crumpets' and 'homemade lemonade' and the ones friends recommended to me when I wasn't well such as 'reread your favourite book'  and 'play alongside a child for the day'. 

What do they all have in common? They are the things you can just get up and do (appreciating you might need things like lemons or an amenable child). They are life's quick wins and every list needs a good chunk of these (as long as you are using them for good and not to distract you from a bigger and far harder challenge, which you know will make you happier in the long run). 

But they shouldn't just be on a list either. I find making routine tasks more fun and enjoyable gives me something to smile about with minimum effort. I only use my favourite face products because of the way it makes my face feel. I have a bright blue bottle on my desk that keeps water ice cool for hours, so I drink more of it. Every time I put my contact lenses in I remind myself of how brilliant it is to be able to see detail even at the edges of my vision. And, even the weekly shop is easier to face now we are working our way through national dishes from the countries of the world each weekend (still on A and there is a lot of meat and potato which is a tad bit heavy for summer nights). 

If the routine is fun, just imagine what those extra details will do to your happiness levels.

So I challenge you to keep planning those adventures, while never losing sight of the fact that they are only part of the story. Wide smiles for wonderful moments are great, but so too are the smiles you get from eating French toast with banana jam, seeing the morning dew, working at home in your pyjamas (I tend to avoid Skype), breaking the seal on a new tube of your favourite hand cream, running along the Thames listening to inspiring podcasts (ok, I appreciate this may not sound fun to 80% of the population, but the other 20% will know exactly what I mean). 

Don't dream of a better tomorrow. Act today. Enjoy.

Why I've decided to live from 'This Day Forward'

When my boyfriend Duncan proposed to me after 13 years together, I never thought I'd have to run 26.2miles to pick up the wedding ring. 

But then, being diagnosed with breast cancer at 32 wasn't exactly part of the life plan either.

Back in 2013, I was a girlfriend who wanted to be fiancée and start ticking off those landmark events that life tells us will make us happy. I thought life's big events were designed to balance out the many meaningless days and blur of busy to which we all are subjected.

Big events, however, do not a life make. When you're bald, weak and trapped in a chemo chair with toxic drugs coursing through your veins, you can't dream about one day in the future. You dream about the small things you can control - the smile that made you smile; the scent of a candle you'd saved for best; the sunshine on your face. 

Memories are for making every day, not once in a while.

Throughout treatment, I never feared death. What I feared was that I would rush back to my old ways and forget to live. 

If I was to remember the little things, I needed to make sure I was reminded of them every day. This Day Forward covers the stories and the strategies for success that have helped - and continue to help - me see all that is beautiful in the world. I hope that by sharing the things that make me smile, you'll find a way to add a bit of happiness to your day. 

This Day Forward is a name that works for me on two levels. Today is the only day you know you have. It's the only one you can control. It's the only one that matters. You have 24 hours to make it meaningful. You have 24 hours to bank a bit of happiness to carry with you for those moments that will try to knock you off course.

It's never too late to get started. You just have to start. 

And then, of course, there's the wedding that's been on hold for three years (and that famous vow: 'from this day forward'). When you try to make every day special, it's hard to look too far ahead. So, we have decided to get married in a way that celebrates the moments we find meaningful. That's why we're getting married at 7.30am on the famous Cutty Sark, before running the London Marathon (Duncan loves running and I started during chemo, which for someone with a hip full of metal from previous surgeries is no mean feat). That's why we're having a thank you party back onboard the ship to remind all our loved ones to make time for adventures and to live a life with purpose. And that's why we're trekking a part of the Great Wall of China for our honeymoon.

Charity, health, happiness, kindness, achievement, love and friendship - each and every day, not once in a while. That's what matters, and that's what This Day Forward is all about. 

In my 20s, I thought I'd be married with children by 30. Now, in my 30s, I see happiness in every page of my gratitude diary, in every smile from friends and family, in every moment that reminds me of all that is good in the world. 

Happiness is hard won... but rarely forgotten. 



Snap happy: There is blue sky beyond those clouds

A course in mindfulness has changed the way I think about flying. It hasn't made the airplane food any tastier (unfortunately) or the terminal chairs any comfier. 

But, every time I travel above this carpet of clouds, I am reminded of something my brilliant teacher once said.

Think of happiness as a blue sky and thoughts as clouds. The blue sky is always there, but sometimes you have to travel through the clouds to find it. Clouds are but moments in time that pass. 

It's a rainy day at home but, right now, here in the sky, the sun is shining. I know that even on the cloudiest day, there will always be a way back to the sunshine. 

May you find you own piece of sunshine today.

To find out more about my thoughts on mindfulness read my 10 mindfulness tips for making you better at business