Hey team, time for my second Happiness Project update and this time my focus was on creativity. I have always liked painting but have had no opportunity for it since I moved to London.

Previously I have done large scale abstracts in acrylic – there is no better way to express yourself then throwing paint on a canvas in your backyard. But for reasons of space, mess and economy that isn’t an option while flatting in London. I don’t have the patience for serious acrylic or oil painting so I decided to give small scale watercolour a go.

With a budget of £20 off I went to an art shop – for that I got two paint brushes, 8 tubes of colour (sample below) and one pad of postcard paper. This last item was crucial because it stopped me treating my art as precious. This Project was about spending mindful time making art, not about spending hours worrying about perfection. And with postcard paper it means that I can send them to friends across the globe, the double rainbow of Happiness.

A sample of my paintings are below. None are original ideas (that would be asking for WAY too much), instead I started a watercolour board on Pinterest. If you want to compare and contrast with the originals check out the board here.

In terms of Happiness this was a 110% success. I love the mindfulness principles that this activity encourages, and because watercolours are such a simple set up I can easily play for an hour or so after work. I have since purchased more paper so that I can keep going – I feel like this is the piece of the puzzle that I didn’t know was missing.

xx

My eight colours:

Watercolour colour samples

The back of the watercolour postcards:

Watercolour Postcards

Yes, I still consider Pluto to be a planet:

p1

Yum?:

p3

You can tell I am still on the ‘no sugar’ mission:

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I want to try more birds as this one just isn’t fluffy enough for me:

p5

My favourite watercolours are all abstract, but when I try it it just looks like ass:

p6

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Onto the second part of my first mission – the magical land of nod.

Sleep

The plan with sleep was lights put by 10:30pm. Simple right?

Starting this while sick was an unbelievably stupid plan. Yes I went to bed early, but I was awake half the night with a stuffy nose and coughing a lung up. So despite all my good efforts was still tired and cranky in the morning. Not increasing happiness in the slightest.

If we ignore the days when I was plague ridden, this still felt like an impossible task. My natural sleep rhythm is to go to sleep at about 1:30am. However I also need 8 hours of sleep to not be a cranky pants the next day. Two facts that are completely irreconcilable with normal working hours.

Hence the trying to get to bed at a reasonable time.

Where did my plan fail I hear you ask. Two points. First is my belief that the point I decide to to go bed is the time I actually to to bed. It took me far too many nights to understand that I need about 20minutes to pack my lunch for the next day, brush my teeth, check twitter – you know, the important things. Without taking this into account I was always late for my bedtime deadline. Once I took this into account things went a little smoother.

Second point of massive crumbling failure was my storytelling brain. I don’t know what your brains do when trying to go to sleep, but mine tells stories. Don’t worry, it is nothing original. My thoughts are consumed with useless blockbuster reimaginings of things that I have read – generally with a simple plot difference. Best example I can give is Harry Potter if Harry et al were smart enough to use cellphones and email to stay in touch and organise the resistance – like Voldemort was ever going to take the time to figure out the T’s&C’s of a cellphone contract.

Interesting avenue of thought, but completely counterproductive when trying to go to sleep. I still haven’t figured out a solution for this. When the lights go out, my imagination switches on.

Even with the brain hiccup, actually getting into bed earlier means that I go to sleep earlier. Which in turn means I am a MUCH nicer person the following day (I.e. less Tube Rage).

Unless I move to a country that operates on my 1:30am schedule, I think this is going to be something that I struggle with my entire life. But I know that it increases my Happiness, so without a doubt it is worth persevering with.

Next up in my Happiness project is technology and creativity – stay tuned.

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My fist mission for happiness was tackling my addiction to sugar and the three year old inside of me that just doesn’t want to go to bed.

Sugar

Sugar and I are best friends. Actually, scratch that. Sugar and I are in a codependent abusive relationship. The main culprit is the sugar I have in my tea and coffee. I drink a motherload of tea during the day (a minimum of 5cups) and always treat myself to a cup of coffee. I have a teaspoon of sugar (when I say teaspoon I actually mean a teaspoon and a bit) in every cup.

Now 6 teaspoons is the exact amount recommended as a daily intake for American women. A few things to note about this:

1) I am not American
2) this is the MINIMUM amount of sugar I consume in a day, not including the candy (I will come to this in a bit) or sugars in fruit, wine, peanut butter etc
3) I’m pretty sure this is a limit rather than a ‘you need to have at least…’
4) that amount of sugar is not ideal

The second major culprit is candy/confectionary/lollies/sweets (just eliminate depending on our country of origin). I got the feeling that I was thoughtlessly eating a bundle of lollies without even pausing for thought. Turns out I was right.

If I was hungry I reached for chocolate. If I was sleepy I reached for chocolate. If I was blogging I reached for chocolate. I could go on, but essentially I was just grabbing chocolate whenever I walked past the cupboard regardless of if I actually wanted it or not.

So, what happened?

It killed me not having sugar in my hot drinks. I just prefer the taste of tea when it is sweetened. And as for coffee – if it is good I love it without sugar, if it is bad sugar covered up a multitude of sins. So my Happiness a project means I no longer go to two coffee shops within walking distance of work because their coffee is utter rubbish.

The candy was a little easier. I packed away all the Christmas treats and only had a 80% proof block of dark chocolate in the pantry. So if I felt like candy I first asked if I was thirsty/hungry/lonely/sleepy/bored and if the answer was no to all of them, I had a bit of dark chocolate. It completely broke cycle for me and meant I was only eating it if I consciously wanted it.

I thought that this was going to be the part of my project that I just stuck with for the minimum amount of time – particularly because of the heartache of non-sweetened tea. But… It has done AMAZING things for my skin. Seriously. My skin has completely changed for the better and is clearer than ever. I am going to continue with the no sugar buzz for another month or so to see if the skin is a fluke.

Newly perfect skin? A completely unintended happiness boost.

One of the first steps of my Happiness Project is no sugar. It is killing me softly.

To try and trick my brain into thinking it was fine and dandy I decided to make banana ice-cream. Healthy and delicious.

If you have not heard of this trick, you can thank me with cash and Amazon vouchers.

Take a banana or two and put them in the freezer. Wait until they are rock solid. Take the skin off and throw it/them in a blender. At first it will just bash them up, but as the blender starts to warm them it will turn into the creamiest ice-cream. Just from bananas. For reals.

The internet tells me that I can also add honey, walnuts, nutella and other goodness. But (referring to the earlier mention of no sugar) I just went for the plain banana.

P.s. this is fantastic for bananas that are going brown – reduce food waste, reduce your waistline and a tasty snack all in one.

Banana Ice Cream

 

Banana Ice Cream

 

Banana Ice Cream

 

Banana Ice Cream

Ship in a bottle

Rather frighteningly it is now 2013 and I am almost 25. When I was younger I assumed that by this point I would have a long term boyfriend, be at the top of a towering career pyramid, be living in London and be drafting my Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Currently only one of those is true (although I am expecting my peace prize nomination any day now).

I am not unhappy about my life right now – in fact being a single blogger in London with enough money to feed myself and a steady job is pretty awesome. But even though I am happy overall, and I live a life full of privilege and equality, day to day its not all sunshine and rainbows.

I am of the generation that concentrates on milestones rather than journeys. In my head I will be happy when I finally take that trip to India, or get the perfect job, or sell more pendants (shameless plug, build a bridge).

Not only are the milestones not the answer to happiness, but thinking that way contributes to a massive portion of negativity e.g. Life now is not as good in comparison with these shining milestones.

So what is a runawaykiwi to do? The answer isn’t for me to make drastic New Years resolutions about losing weight, new jobs, boyfriends and travel – because these are bandaids over my actual day to day state of mind.

Thankfully there is an answer and it comes in the form of a Happiness Project. If you have not read the book , get amongst it. The author Gretchen Rubin had all hallmarks of happiness – the loving family, dream creative job and nice house – and yet she wasn’t happy. So she started her Happiness Project which month by month tackled an area she was dissatisfied with. Some were little things like getting to bed early and keeping the house tidy, where others were bigger like writing a novel. All things which could make her happy.

Thus I take my inspiration where I can get it, and I have started my own. I have written a list of things which I think contribute to my happiness, and will be tackling them over the next year.

First up is two things which I already know change my mood drastically – sleep and sugar. For two weeks (only two to hard core evaluate and then I can keep going if I like) I will be lights out by 10pm and no sugar or candy.

This could be a challenge.

My Happiness Challenge is not about dramatic 2013 resolutions which will die a quiet death in February. This is the year of being happy, of finding out my triggers and living life to enjoy everyday not jut the milestones.

Stay tuned for my first HP update in a couple of weeks.

xx