Mindfulness, exercise, teeny tiny tweaks – and are we happier?
Five months in, I thought it would be a good point to step back and take stock of how the Happiness Club is going. What’s working well, what could help us make more of it, and of course, are we happier??
We have just had our 4th Happiness Club meet, on the theme of ‘mindfulness’. It is a theme I am passionate about, having gone on a 10-day silent meditation at the age of 18 with another club member. In fact it was such an interesting discussion, I wanted more, and although we’ve made our mindfulness commitment (mine is to eat mindfully, which I have only remembered to do once so far), I had a sense that we are going quite fast through these themes now, almost too fast!...
I thought it would be a good point to step back and take stock of how the club is going. What’s working well, what could help us make more of it, and of course, are we happier??
We’re still at it!
The first thing is that I’m so so grateful and impressed by my club members, who keep on coming, keep reading up in advance and following up with commitments after. My biggest worry was that people would start to fall away after the initial excitement. That hasn’t happened so far.
Two things help. The first is that members are pretty local so that distance isn't a challenge. We have stuck to Friday evenings as that was agreed to be most convenient – and now that we have found our groove as a group, our meetings are more punctual, meaning people can go on and have a Friday evening after too.
The other, interestingly, is that we have 3 couples in the group. This does make for some funny moments but overall has created more glue in the group – if one can’t attend, the other does, and there are some unique insights that come out from talking about these themes with your partner. For example, my husband pointed out that I mindlessly use my phone(!), but on the bright side I know that ideas from the club definitely make their way into our outside conversation.
So what is working well?
The group includes friends from school and university. We became friends learning together – it is nice to be on a journey together again. I love having a regular opportunity to share ideas and progress and see them more frequently than we were otherwise managing.
The themes are wonderful. We are exploring and engaging in happiness from such a range of practical perspectives. We enjoy reading out the article and discussing the questions.
One of the most revealing types of question makes us aware of our default behaviours before we make new commitments. E.g. with exercise, ‘what are your exercise saboteurs?’ With mindfulness, ‘what thoughts do you find yourself regularly dwelling on and how do they make you feel?’… It is important to have this awareness before signing up to change things.
My inner coach wants to spend more time exploring these! The discussions are so rich, but to avoid running completely over, I feel I have to sometimes cut them short. And as life keeps on hurtling along, it can feel like you’ve just got going on one commitment, and then the next one is around the corner. Which is why I wanted to take stock.
What’s different about my life 5 months into the club?
The tweaks that have made the biggest impact on me so far are:
1.Thinking kind thoughts on the tube (giving + connecting) – because it elevates me out of my own little world & shifts my perspective (bit.ly/1CUbARO)
2.Recognizing how much I love exercising with others (connecting + exercising) - and so not always expecting myself to manage it alone
3.Still the gratitude journal – which for a while was put aside with all these other new ideas – but has been restored now.
I like these especially because they take things I do anyway and make me do them differently. E.g. I’ve always kept some sort of a to-do list diary, but the gratitude journal is a much better version of this.
The one I haven’t got going on yet but really want to is:
4.Eating mindfully and limiting mindless phone use. I’ve not worked out the detail yet. And without the detail it won’t happen!
If I could do nothing else but embed and even expand these tweaks for the rest of the year, I would be over the moon. I want to refer to this list for future themes to see if I can expand these rather than just adding on more commitments. As someone who is good at starting things, the victory is in sticking to them.
Am I happier?
I’m going to ask the rest of the club this too. I know I am, but I can’t tell you how much is due to other factors. Three things I do know:
1.Methodically exploring the building blocks that make us happy – and learning that a combination of these does it has made me less fixed on ‘needing’ any particular thing to be happy.
2.It has raised my awareness of the ‘hidden happiness’ lurking in all these daily activities we have explored through the club. My levels of daily delight are higher.
3.Having a happiness lens rather than a ‘self improvement’ lens, especially in a club full of high achievers, has taken off the pressure off life a bit. E.g. in the exercise theme, one member shared that they had always thought of exercise as a ‘keep thin’ tool and therefore a chore, rather than something with the power to make them happier.
How nice to tweak things because they’ll make us happier rather than just because they’ll make us ‘better’?