What makes you happy?

Results of the crafty girls afternoon? Not one stitch of knitting. No sleeves on cardigan, which is not such a surprise as said cardigan has yet to be washed and blocked, and have the ends sewn in. Instead WoollyDaze Too and other friend were put to work picking raspberries, which they took home with them along with cherries, lettuce, courgettes and eggs. There’s a fairly simple equation around here: visitors bring cake, and take stuff from the garden home. Usually in the middle there is some sort of farm work to be done, often involving waving arms at the sheep. Leading to the oft repeated phrase, ‘There’s no such thing as a free meal’.

I’m just pleased that I didn’t have to deal with one batch of raspberries and cherries. I need to strip the raspberry bushes again this evening – it really is relentless at the moment. I’m considering putting up a PYO sign in the village. And the last two batches of jam haven’t been a success (they haven’t set) which means we have quite enough yogurt and pudding jam for this year, thank you very much. After four sets of visitors in four days, we do at least have plenty of cake.

Our first visitors last week included four month old twins. Much wanted and dearly loved, they are still exhausting work for their parents. We had enough experienced mothers around to be able to whisk the children away and send the new parents to bed for a much deserved sleep. I remember how difficult the first few months were, and I can’t imagine doing it with two babies. Respect.

The Happiness Project

Which leads me in a slightly circular way to what I really want to talk about this post. I’ve recently read a book that I think most people would benefit from reading. It’s called ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin. It’s about how you can make yourself happier within the life you already lead. I started looking at this idea a few years ago when I bought a few books on positive psychology. The idea is that much of psychology looks at what is wrong with people, but this branch concentrates on what would make us feel more fulfilled and happier. After reading that children don’t make you happy (I was pregnant with my son at the time) I carefully placed the book to one side and got on with life.

The thing that’s different about this book is that Gretchen Rubin has done the reading for you, and split it down into month-by-month bite-sized bits and she’s tried them all herself and reports back how they worked for her. Now, I’m not saying that we should embrace her approach wholeheartedly, but I suspect that everybody could take at least a couple of useful ideas from what she has tried. I wouldn’t like to say that this book is reason why WoollyDaze Too and I actually got around to setting up the blog that we’d been talking about for a while, but it was a kick in the right direction.

I’m working on my 12 personal commandments. So far I have:

  1. Listen to the inner Mary (i.e. Portas, the one who tells you what’s what and doesn’t fudge her words)
  2. Make memories
  3. Eat well
  4. Make things
  5. Small things done regularly make a difference
  6. Write a daily ‘happy’ sentence
  7. Enjoy the moment
  8. …?

One thing Gretchen Rubin tackles in the very first month is sleep. I find it the most fundamental thing about being ‘happy’. If I’m feeling tired I can’t seem to summon up the energy to be nice to those I love, to do anything exciting or even to be enthusiastic. And that’s where there’s an anomoly between the first few months of a child’s life, which is supposed to feel wonderful, and the fact that you are so sleep deprived that really it’s just survival. I remember somebody saying to me that you reach the stage where you think ‘that child is crying, somebody should go to him/her’ and then ‘oh, that’s my child, I guess I’d better get up then’.

But get through the first few months and you suddenly find yourself with a lovely bundle of mop haired energy that is mostly a delight and occasionally a trial. I disagee with the assertion that children don’t make you happy. My husband and I feel very blessed.

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