reflecting on the past month

The last few weeks at work have been particularly challenging. All of August was challenging.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so stretched and so exhausted in all my working life so far. Operating on not enough sleep, I’m surprised I never had more than one large coffee per day. There were probably one or two days I didn’t have any.

But changes are happening, improvements are being made, and overall I’m still pretty optimistic. Some would say it’s impossible for me to not be optimistic, regardless of the situation or objective outlook. Continue reading

feel free to disagree

I have what most would call a fear of heights. I prefer to call it a fear of falling from great heights, since, if I feel secure and not at risk of falling, I can stand in high places without much anxiety. But I wonder if maybe I’m not afraid of heights or falling at all.

For a long time now, believing that I have this fear, I have at times challenged myself to peer from great heights to places and things far below. For example, if I am in one of those kinds of elevators that have glass walls, I will watch the lower floors as they become more and more distant. If I happen to go to an observation deck or some other high-up balcony or vantage point of a very tall building, I will go right up to the railing and look out. Continue reading

happiness by the hundreds

Ok, so I actually finished the “100 happy days” challenge several weeks ago (over a month ago now) and I’ve been intending to write a post about it, but I guess I just somehow haven’t gotten around to it until now… What I actually wanted to do after the challenge was go through all of my posts – sorry, tweets during those 100 days, and see if there was a recurring theme. Basically, I just wanted to analyse it to see what I tweeted about most. And then I would write a blog entry about it. Yes, I’m a bit of an academic at heart.

This isn’t actually going to be a very thorough analysis, though. (I evidently don’t have time for that!) I pretty much just scrolled through my “100 happy days” tweets and tallied up the theme(s) of each one. The results aren’t actually that surprising.

About a quarter of my posts (I’m giving up on calling them “tweets” because that just doesn’t sound natural to me) were related to food in some way, including at least five that were about cooking. Food was the most common theme, and that was kind of expected because I have to eat every day, and I love food, so it was kind of easy to find “happy” things to post about food.

A lot of posts were also about people – friends, family and colleagues.I wouldn’t say that my social calendar is very full, but when I do go out, it seems that I’ll generally make the most of it.

The final spot on the podium goes to work-related posts. Considering that I spend a great portion of my week at work, this is also not surprising. I also actually like my job, which is something that I’m thankful for. However, to be fair, there might be a bit of bias in this particular statistic because I’d often think about my tweet of the day while coming home from work, so I suppose my thoughts may have naturally focussed on work-related events. Similarly, there were a fair few posts related to my daily commute.

Something else of note, is that there were more home-related posts than ones pertaining to the outdoors (excluding those about the weather or sky). I do consider myself to be a somewhat outdoorsy person, but I can’t deny that I like my home-days.

Anyway, some of you may have noticed that I’m kind of continuing my “happy days” tweets, but not as a daily thing – just for when I remember and/or feel like it. Not sure how long it will last, but I’ll try… Mostly because I don’t include a lot of photos/pictures with my blog posts, so having my Twitter feed on the side kind of helps break up the pages and pages of words here… kind of…

As to whether or not the challenge has changed my life or made me happier: probably not…? I feel like life’s gone back to “normal”, as it was pre-challenge. Perhaps one benefit is that I am more conscious of negative thoughts and will more actively counteract them with positive ones. Well, either way – whether there was direct benefit or not – I do think that it was a worthwhile challenge, so I’m happy I took part and actually made it to 100.

think about it

So I’m now 12 days in to my “100 Happy Days” challenge, and I think I’ve got this figured out. I reckon I’m doing ok with it (it really isn’t that hard to maintain), and I feel like I understand why/how this sort of thing “works” to make people feel better.

What I have noticed is that participating in this challenge has made me spend more time anticipating happiness and recognising happiness. Basically, it just makes me spend more time thinking about happy things. There are days when I kind of know in advance what I’m going to post/tweet for that day (hence the anticipation). Then there are days when it’s getting a bit late in the afternoon/evening and I realise that I haven’t posted anything yet, so I have to reflect and think of something that has made me happy (hence recognising happiness).

And if you have been following my posts/tweets (I’m new to Twitter, so it still feels weird to say I’m “tweeting” stuff…), you may have noticed that the things I choose aren’t really major / life-changing / I’m-going-to-remember-this-forever sort of moments. But I’m actually glad that they’re not. I feel like that reaffirms that happiness can (and should) be an everyday thing.

The main problem I’ve found (if it can be considered a problem… maybe more of an inconvenience) is that I can’t (or don’t think it’s a good idea to) post photos of my workplace. And yet I spend 9+ hours there, every day Monday to Friday, and, believe it or not, there are happy moments from time to time – moments which cannot be properly documented and included in my “100 Happy Days” portfolio. But I’m pretty sure I did warn of this from the outset.

So instead of lovely photos of my workplace and the people I work with and the customers I help, you’re just going to be stuck with random pictures created from this random doodling app that I happened to remember was still on my phone. But, don’t worry, I’m trying to limit these (in the same way that I’m trying to limit tweets about food and blue skies).

Just something kind of random (but still related, mind you!) – I was just thinking about this challenge earlier today, and I started wondering if you did the opposite of what this challenge is asking you to do, and you documented things that made you sad/angry/annoyed, whether that would have the opposite effect and make you miserable. I mean, if the premise of this “100 Happy Days” thing is that you become happier by being more aware of happy things, it only stands to reason that it could work the other way, right?

I’m almost tempted to try it… just out of curiosity. Almost.

Furthermore, what would happen if I tried it at the same time as I was doing “100 Happy Days”? Would the positive and negative effects cancel each other out? Would I just go insane from trying to analyse every little thing that happens every day so that I can document things that make me happy and unhappy? (Actually, since it’s going to be (officially) Winter soon, I reckon if I did do an unhappy version, most of the posts/tweets would just be about how torturous it is to have to get up before sunrise, and drag myself out of my warm bed…)

challenge accepted

Keen observers will have noticed that I now have a Twitter feed in the sidebar of my blog. Well, I only just put it there now, so you’d have to have been pretty quick to have seen it before I published this post about it…

Anyway… if you have a look at the second tweet, you’ll notice that I only dug up my Twitter account so that I can do the “100 Happy Days” challenge. I actually only knew about this because my mum happened to be watching … that morning show on Channel Ten… that one after “Wake up”… I really can’t think of the name right now for some reason… Well, it’s not important. Point is that I just heard it mentioned on TV one day.

So I had a read of their website, and convinced myself that I could and should do this (I do like a challenge…) Basically, all you have to do is post a picture of something that made you happy that day, every day for 100 consecutive days. It can be private/anonymous or you can post on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. I could have done this privately, and I did consider it, but I thought that’d make it too easy for me to let it fall by the wayside…

But I don’t use Instagram at all, and although I use Facebook, I rarely post anything there, so they were both out. Then I remembered that I have a Twitter account that I created three or so years ago… and then realised that I can put a Twitter widget on my blog… and, hey presto, here we are!

The website says that 71% of people do not actually complete the full 100 days because they don’t have time or something. That seems like a really high failure rate for something that seems so easy to do.

Well, to be fair, I am a little worried about not making the whole 100 days. What if I forget and accidentally skip a day? Is there a provision to allow for late submission or catch-up posts? Am I allowed to post the same thing more than once? Based on the challenge description, I assume you can, but I’m going to try to make all/most of them different (otherwise you might end up with a whole bunch of tweets about blue skies, running and eating…)

Today being my first day of the challenge (you can nominate any day you like as the start date), I’d also like to add a disclaimer of sorts by saying that I cannot guarantee a photo for every day. I’m usually not big on taking photos of everything, so pulling out my phone and snapping up happy moments doesn’t come naturally to me. And since I don’t intend on changing this, some days may only have text, and some might only have unashamedly amateur drawings instead of actual photos.

calling all book-lovers

The sort of books that I read cover a lot of different genres. I’ve always asserted that I have read and will read just about any genre (as long as it’s still fiction). But then I realised this morning that there are a few genres that I always seem to avoid, including romance (of the particularly soppy/cliched kind), horror (of the particularly gruesome sort) and country/western (no explanation needed, right?).

So, because I seem to have my most brilliant ideas early in the morning (or late at night, or any time I happen to be brushing my teeth), I thought it would be a good idea for me to purposely seek books of these genres that I happen to avoid, and to read at least one book from each of these genres in the coming year.

Would you call this a new year’s resolution? Yeah, I guess you could. Never too late in the year to make one.

The main problem is, in order for this to work (i.e. in order for me to get through an entire book of an avoided genre without feeling like it’s some sort of torture, and without causing me to swear off that genre forever), I have to select books that are actually at the top of their categories. And this is where you, fellow book-lover, come in. I need recommendations.

It can be for a romance, horror or country novel, or just any random genre that you’re particularly passionate about. I used to read a lot of fantasy books, but have sort of drifted away from them in these last few years, so would appreciate a good fantasy novel recommendation, too.

And, you know what, I want to challenge you to read outside your comfort zone, too – even if it is just one book. It could be unexpectedly rewarding.