Even though we expend effort on being happier, it’s expected that we will encounter set-backs. Some may be major such as a death of a loved one and some may be fairly minor. Since we are only human, we can expect our emotions to dip at these times.
Yesterday I had a bad day. Quite a few things went wrong and I had to do the final piece of work that I hate in order to hand over everything while on medical leave. All of them dragged me down. What was interesting, however, is that by the end of the day I didn't feel terrible. Even though I had an altercation with my six-year-old, there was no shouting or taking it out on her. If I had a day like that a few months back, I would have been unable to shake my irritation and that would have negatively impacted the people around me.
During the day, just after something bad happened, I found myself mulling it over again and again. I actually found myself saying ‘Stop!’ in order to halt the rumination. I thought it a good idea to watch something very funny on TV and I laughed heartily. I also remember thinking that this will not matter next week so I should just let it go.
And the interesting part is that I only realised I was taking steps to mitigate the unhappiness at the end of the day, not really while it was happening. It seems that I've been programming myself to be happier and it was quite natural for me to take measures to not let things get me down.
We must be clear that any happiness-enhancing strategies need to be practised regularly, just like exercise. You can’t expect to remain fit six months after quitting exercise and the same applies with happiness. It takes commitment and practice and if you’re like me, you might need to set yourself reminders or a roster.
People cautioned me with my self-care roster that I developed, telling me I’m putting too much strain on myself with expectations etc. It can also become overly routine so the roster needs to vary things and introduce different strategies at different times. I think I know my limitations at the moment. I know that I can only accommodate five outings a week. I am building that in and will ramp things up as I have more energy. I only plan four weeks in advance in order to learn and refine and to adjust as my health improves.
I’m conscious of the fact that my self-care roster is easy to maintain now that I’m at home, recovering. It will be a much bigger challenge once I’m back at work and I’ll have to make appropriate adjustments. When training for big races, I set up a training plan with scheduled rest days and cross training. I monitor actuals against planned training and check it every day. I know that I’m disciplined and it fits my style. In the same way, I think I can keep up a happiness regimen as I have no doubt that I’m a happier (and healthier) person than a few months ago.