It's a hard business, this happiness lark. It takes effort. To change one's perspective to have a positive go-to-place, takes time and trying. But it does work.
To make it work better, I have done two things. I've added one thing to my life, and taken one thing away. The thing I've added - meditation. Every goal map I've created in the last 2 years has had meditation on it somewhere. I've known its a major thing that I need, but I haven't found the way. I've always been too busy, not enough time, other things more important. So I've just never got round to it. And on the odd occasions I have done it, I've found it a bit boring. Its easy to get into a big mental fight with yourself, trying to shut yourself up. And boy is that exhausting!.
So anyway, a couple of weeks ago Charlie invited me to sit with him in the morning. I did. And while we sat, we sang songs, prayers. To the Buddha of Compassion. We just sit, cross-legged on the floor, hold a photocopy of the words in our hands, and sing together. To a soundtrack on i-Tunes.
It's lovely. It's peaceful. It makes me think about who I want to be that day. To work out how I am feeling - whether I can deal with the day easily or whether I have wobbles in my emotional spectrum. It's time to remember what I am doing and who I am being. And then I sing beautiful words about love and compassion and the amazing world in which we're living. And 20 minutes later I am ready to face the day.
Now I'm not saying that its for everyone. I'm not preaching Buddhism or religion or anything like that. I'm saying I've found something that works for me. That allows me to slow down and figure out what's going on with me first thing in the morning in my own private space and time. So that when I have to deal with others I don't get emotionally hijacked. I've tried writing morning pages. I've tried talking it out in the mornings. And I've found that sitting singing about happy things makes me remember to be happy for the rest of the day.
The second big change I've made is to remove something from my life. I've stopped drinking alcohol. Did you hear me - I said I'VE STOPPED DRINKING ALCOHOL. Again its something I've been thinking about doing for a fair while, but I've never been brave enough. I use alcohol as a protection against the world. When I have to meet new people, when I have to reveal myself, when I am unsure how to behave, when I want false bonhommie, when I'm bored and don't know what to do with myself, then I drink.
The purpose of my happiness project is to make me comfortable and happy in every situation. I figure that to do that properly I shouldn't hide behind artificial stimulants - I have to face the situations that usually I run from and deal with them with grace, positivity and happiness. So I've stopped drinking.
And actually its working very well. I have been to a couple of events - dinners and suchlike social occasions, where everyone else has drunk and I haven't. And I've been quite happy - they can get quietly sozzled and I can have as much fun as I want while remaining completely in control and able to manage my emotions.
I still get a craving every so often - after a long lunchtime dog walk when I'm just salivating for a cold beer. When Emma leaves to go to the airport and I want to sink into a bottle of red to cope with the boredom of being on my own. When my Dad offers me a G&T at 5pm in the afternoon. But I know why I don't want it, I know how much better I'll feel in the morning, and I know that the deep satisfaction and dare I say pride (or maybe that should be increase in self-esteem) I get from truly enjoying a situation sober greatly outweighs the immediate release I get from a glass or three of cheap poison.
So there we have it - one in, one out. Its working so far. Happiness levels rising.