I know that to make this more click-bait-able the list should be an uneven number, and should have between 9 and 15 entries. But with such post titles as “the post about the chocolate butt plugs” and “Three brunches in three hours – oh god what have I done” in my archive, I don’t need any help making my blog more like click-bait. I also know that at this point I should be leading with a motivational quote about finding happiness inside and telling you to pause for 30 seconds to absorb the quiet. Well, not that I don’t love a Pinterest motivational quote but London ain’t quiet. I mean at the moment there is a plane flying outside, I have Youtube in the background, my phone is beeping and the washing machine is struggling with life … LONDON DOES NOT DO QUIET. And I just ate an entire packet of biscuits and am indescribably sticky. Throw me at a wall and I will stay there for a week.
I made a vow that I would make my posts shorter and more to the point… that is going well.
I’m determined to keep this under 500 words.
First practical tip is one that I heard a million times before but ignored out of laziness and skepticism. People have always said that you should take Vitamin D tablets during the London winter…turns out you should take Vitamin D tablets to get you through the London winter. I think this is my first winter out of 5 that I haven’t felt a downturn of mood at the darkening nights. Yes it could just be a coincidence, a result of where I am in life or the packet of biscuits I just consumed – but seriously this is a total change to how I normally feel during London winter. This is the one I have been taking (click here) and I have NO IDEA WHAT THE 3 STANDS FOR. Three times the amount of D? Don’t we all just want three times the D….
I am 100% unqualified to give any kind of medical advice, so do your research and check with a Doctor if you are worried. All I know is that I think it has made a real difference for me.
Onto number 2 and I have 115 words to do it in.
I woke up on Sunday in a foul mood. Really raging at the world. I had been up late the night before at a wild puzzle party (Read: I did a puzzle) and I think the late night and sleep in just ruined my outlook. Normally I would reach for coffee to solve this, but yesterday I did something a little weird. I cleaned my bathroom. Just the sink and toilet, nothing too crazy, but holy shit it improved my mood. I think it was because no matter what else happened I had accomplished something with my day. So tomorrow pick something little, wholesome and life improving and do it the second you get out of bed.
I had a bit of an epiphany at 5:30am. This was unusual for two reasons, firstly because I don’t normally have epiphanies, I normally sidle up to an idea and casually buy it a drink, and secondly I was voluntarily awake at 5:30am which is unheard of. The epiphany was this: London makes you work hard to be happy.
The reason I was conscious at 5:30am before work on a Wednesday was for brunch. Some may quibble that brunch before the sun has risen is not brunch, but fuck you I am a hobbit and if I call it brunch…its brunch. A friend was leaving London and wanted to go to Duck and Waffle before she left, and at a weeks notice the only booking we could get was at sparrows fart o’clock. We decided to go for it, I mean we were drunk so of course we were up for it at the time.
The day came and I think we were cursing the very name of Duck and Waffle. Tired, groggy and awake before the tube was running this seemed like literally worst idea that anyone had ever had ever. Who in their right mind would wake up three hours early to go to a restaurant – particularly when its still dark out? After the traumatic commute (Londoners are extra weird that early in the morning) we arrived at Duck and Waffle and took the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory lift up to the 40th floor. In that short lift journey everything became amazing.
All of a sudden London was the city you see in the movies. We drank coffee as we watched over London at night. The lights below making it seem like the city was full of possibilities. We ate the namesake dish as the sky started to blush with light. By the time we moved to the bar for champagne London had given us a magical sunrise.
Then the epiphany happened.
This brunch has made me almost speechless with love for London, it just felt so special, but I never would have experienced it if I hadn’t got up at an ungodly hour.
This is exactly what London is like. There are almost limitless incredible experiences to be had, but you have to go out and grab them. Generally these amazing things either require you to be super organised, will mean you have to scrimp and save, find new reserves of courage or just be absolutely exhausting. But they are there and can make you feel like all the shitty and hard bits of London life are worth it.
The danger is that if you don’t make the effort with London it will suck. The far easier option for me would have been to say no to the insane early booking and just not go, or go to a local cafe – but then I would have missed out on seeing London at its best.
This next level London is particularly hard to unlock when you are a baby expat and don’t have any friends here yet. Since you don’t know anyone the easiest option is to sit at home and watch tv – easy but it means you are missing out on your life. So you have two options, grow some balls and see London by yourself or grow some balls and go outside your comfort zone by asking strangers along with you. Either way balls are required.
London makes you work dam hard to find happiness. If you take the easy option you will miss out on the incredible, the magical and the taste of champagne before sunrise. Fuck the easy, it’s time to find the London you see in the movies.
Happiness has been my go-to conversation piece when drunk for about the last month. As soon as I hit that third glass of wine tipping point, whoever I’m out with gets gifted a drunken Runawaykiwi preaching about happiness – apologies to everyone caught up in the ramble. Rather than continue to piss off my friends, I thought I would write something hopefully more coherent on this little old blog of mine.
I’m not quite sure if it is social media, the stage in life I’m in (late 20’s for anyone asking) or the language of modern marketing imprinting itself on my brain; at the moment we only speak in bests and worsts. It’s no longer ok to be just simply happy, now you need to be living in a constant state of ecstasy or alternatively be a tight ball of misery in order to fit in with the crowd.
I am really happy at the moment. God writing that felt like declaring a political statement. It’s not that I am an overnight Zoella, have been promoted to CEO or am suddenly getting married; I’m just getting enough sleep, have been doing some fun London stuff, drinking a lot of coffee and have actually managed to catch up with my friends. Not earth shattering, but I’m smiling and content. And yet this happiness is quite simply not something you hear about very often. It is partially because you are sensitive to others emotions and don’t want to rub happiness in the face of someone who is struggling, but it is mostly because stressed is the new normal.
The biggest issue I have with this best/worst mentality is that it is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Think back to the last time someone asked how you were, I would put money on your reply going something along the lines of “I’m so stressed and/or tired/shattered”…and it might be have been true. The problem is the more you say it, the more you reduce your emotional rainbow down to those two negative emotions, and after a while you don’t even bother to think about how you actually feel, you automatically go straight to stressed. You begin to forget that stressed and tired are just temporary states of being, you forget that they do not identify you.
I listened to this being discussed on the Being Boss podcast and their suggestion was to add a positive twist to the end of your automatic reaction; change “I’m so stressed” to “I’m busy but loving it”. I’m not sure that works for every situation, sometimes you are just stressed to all hell. But identifying the bigger picture really can work. This week in particular it’s too reductionist to say “I’m stressed”, instead it could be “I’m so excited for Christmas and I want to get all this work finished before the break”. It’s not “I’m stressed” its “I’ve got a big project and its taking up a lot of my energy”. Or hell, it’s not “I’m stressed” it could even be “I’m great”. Turns out just like complaining about teachers and homework made you cool in high school, being stressed makes you fit in at work.
The Pinterest impact can’t be overlooked either. Now I love a motivational quote, I pin quotes most days and have them all over the walls in my room. The danger is if they stop being little nuggets of lovely and actually start making you feel bad about your life, as if you are not doing it right unless EVERYTHING IS MAGICAL ALL THE TIME.
The funny thing about happiness is that, just like all emotions, it’s on a spectrum. Happiness runs from the tiny things like that first sip of coffee, through the middle ground of planning world domination with friends over wine, right up to the highs of finally having wanderlust satisfied – or my personal highlight this year of seeing my sister marry the love of her life, a moment so happy that it was in another emotion universe entirely. With all the Pinterest-beautiful quotes floating round, I get the impression that it’s only ‘happiness’ if it falls in the top 10% of the spectrum.
You are selling your happiness so so short if you can’t bask in the tiny happy moments that dot your day. That top 10% of social media approved happiness means that apparently 90% of your life is unhappy. That’s just terrifying.
I’m not sure if this post is any better than the wine ramble, but I think what I am trying to say is that this is your life, every second of it is a moment that you won’t get back. Don’t sell yourself short by falling into stressed/tired automatic-reaction trap, or feeling like your little moments of happiness aren’t big enough to count and enjoy. Wake up and think “I get to do this, I can try again and might even find some happy today”, and if that is too hippy dippy for you just remember that today you can buy a coffee and treasure that first sip. The emotions you are feeling are delightfully temporary, the fact that you are amazing is a constant that you need to keep in your heart every day.
Christmas is going to be a hard time for a lot of you reading this, either because you are an expat away from home or you might be home with your family…but your family is a bit cray. Forget that its not THE BEST CHRISTMAS OF ALL TIME, forget for a moment that being unhappy is cool and just enjoy those little moments. Use the silly jumper, the mulled wine and a surprise ‘Merry Christmas’ from a colleague you didn’t think knew you existed to get you through.
So, after all that I have to ask…what makes you happy?
I tend to think either in the short or long term – medium term, now that is tricky. Tricky and important.
With no medium term plan I found myself obsessing about the future. Would I buy a house? Would I go back to New Zealand? Would I travel more?
I am very happy in London and plan to be here for a fair few years – so all those questions were just pointless and destructive because no conclusions could be reached.
To divert my attention from this silly path, I found myself a medium term.
I booked theatre tickets, I tracked when art exhibitions were going to be on, I found events to go to, and an unexpected holiday in May found its way in there.
All of these are little things, but they have made a huge impact on my Happiness. Yes my long term goals & questions are still there, but my medium term is so interesting and exciting that I don’t obsess over the big questions any more.
And all it took was putting a calendar on my wall.