I find that one of the most important aspects of keeping my mental sanity is to become aware of what makes me happy and to do my best to include those things in my daily life. It’s important to forget about the idea of happiness as a whole. You can’t be either happy or unhappy, whatever your situation is there are always going to be aspects which make you feel happiness and others which you’d rather change. There is not a single event, action or change that will guarantee happiness, because happiness depends on hundreds of tiny things. We’ve been told that in order to lead a happy life we need a certain number of things, usually marriage, kids, a nice house and money, and even though things are changing in this respect and alternative living options are now widely accepted, the pressure can still be felt.

I think we’re all guilty of thinking “if I had that job I’d be happy”, “if I had a boyfriend/girlfriend I’d be happy”, “if I won the lottery I’d be happy”, “If I graduated I’d be happy”, etc. And many of us have had those things come true only to find that we were wrong; maybe these changes that we thought (or we were told) would make us happy had negative consequences–the job made you anxious, you were unable to find a new job after graduation, the new relationship made you feel insecure, you find that people are nicer to you only because they want money…– maybe we just found that despite the new job, the new love or the new car, we’re still damaged, or maybe those things were not as important as we thought. Somehow, we still insist on putting the whole weight of our happiness on one side of the scales, not stopping to realise that if we do that, whatever’s on that side will be crushed under the weight of our obese expectations.

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Which brings me to my list of 100 things that make me happy, are potentially not damaging to my health and depend only on me. The benefits of keeping a gratitude journal have been talked about all over the place. It’s an exercise that seems to appear in every single book about depression I’ve ever read and it also appears to be recommended by everybody’s therapist. Doing this (almost) every day has helped me to realise what the little things that make me happy are, those things that I sometimes take for granted but can contribute towards making a day “good” rather than “bearable” or “bearable” rather than “nightmarish”.

Identifying these apparently meaningless things and making a conscious effort to include them in my day to day life has proven to be tremendously beneficial to my mental health. In an attempt to be more aware of them I have done what I always do, make a list.

The reason why I wanted to isolate those things which are not damaging to my health is obvious, if something makes me feel happy but it’s also ruining my health its disadvantages will be longer-lasting than its advantages. Following with this reasoning, chocolate is not on the list because it’s not good for me, but baking is because the process of immersing myself in following a recipe isn’t necessarily bad for me, only eating the whole cake within the next 24 hours is.

Isolating those items which depend only on me was even harder and I haven’t totally succeeded. Hanging out with people implies that those people have the time and the energy to hang out with me. However, if I don’t make an effort to hang out with people I can’t expect that they’ll do all the work, so at least half of it does depend on me. Other items depend on having an internet connection, a wide selection of books to choose from, scented candles, hot water, nice socks and other material possessions. I basically don’t know how poor people manage. I have only included things that need items that I usually have in the house or that I can afford. That’s the reason why going on holiday is not on the list (I need free time and quite a lot of money for that) but getting an iced-coffee is (I can spare a euro or two).

Anyway, here it goes.

 

  1. Sitting in the sunshine
  2. Reading (I did get a contracture on my ribs from holding my book in a weird manner, though)
  3. Reading while sitting in the sunshine
  4. Having fresh flowers at home
  5. Getting hugs (from people I love, not unsolicited hugs from strangers)
  6. Giving hugs
  7. Planning trips
  8. That feeling when I tell myself “it’s ok, Andrea, you’ve done enough today” and I make myself a cup of tea, light some candles and grab something to read.
  9. A warm cup of tea
  10. Calling friends and sharing some LOLz
  11. Surprising loved ones with a little something (it can be a gift, mail or a funny photo they haven’t seen for ages)
  12. Listening to music, especially to my playlist “mood: happy”
  13. Putting on PJs and soft socks
  14. Learning new stuff
  15. Baking (if we consider ballooning up until I can roll to places instead of walking not damaging)
  16. Cooking from scratch
  17. Going through photos of happy times.
  18. Putting on perfume
  19. Clean bedsheets
  20. An organised house
  21. Blue, green and pink together
  22. Looking at the sea
  23. Looking at the mountains
  24. Making lists
  25. Crossing things out on to-do lists
  26. Meditating (especially this visualisation technique where you imagine sunshine filling you up and flowing through your body. I smile when I do that)
  27. Re-watching my favourite films for the hundredth time.
  28. Doing something creative
  29. Having goals and being able to track my progress towards said goals
  30. Doing yoga
  31. Getting rid of stuff I don’t need
  32. Hot baths
  33. Making playlists
  34. Thinking about what book I want to read next
  35. Watching/reading/doing things I used to love when I was a child
  36. Going on walks for no reason
  37. Seeing the seasons change
  38. Taking photos
  39. Drawing
  40. Journaling
  41. Re-arranging the stuff in the flat
  42. Looking at paintings my grandfather painted
  43. Being a tourist in my own city
  44. Freshly pressed orange juice
  45. Iced-coffee in the sun
  46. Working out while listening to off with their heads
  47. Writing
  48. Working on my PhD
  49. Crossing out films in my PhD “to-watch” list
  50. Watching comedy
  51. Learning languages
  52. Looking at old travel posters
  53. Looking at beautiful pictures
  54. Surprise visiting/calling my dad
  55. Going through photos on my laptop and organising them
  56. ย Spending time with my mum.
  57. Going on dates with the boy
  58. ย Hanging out with people I feel comfortable around.
  59. The happy feeling I get when I’m totally engrossed in a great (or not-so-great-but-oh-so-addicting) TV series
  60. Eating my fruit and veg
  61. Thinking about previous holidays and reliving them
  62. Listening to music I used to love as a teenager
  63. Looking for new music to listen to
  64. Seeing the sunrise or the sunset
  65. Waking up at a sort of sensible time
  66. Oatmeal with banana and cinnamon
  67. Lentil soup
  68. Asking myself “what would make me happy right now that’s achievable?”
  69. Looking at embarrassing photos of my teenage years
  70. Listening to the sound of rain (Rainymood and the Noisly chrome extension are two of my favourite things on the Internet)
  71. Reading comics
  72. Playing the piano
  73. Taking naps
  74. Giving myself time to breathe
  75. Very long German words
  76. Reading about teenage films
  77. Finding out about new artists/photographers whose work I love
  78. Being warm
  79. Listening to the ocean
  80. ย Looking at photos of waterfalls
  81. Painting my nails in bright colours
  82. Looking at my childhood drawings
  83. Writing my best friends
  84. Sending letters/cards/postcards
  85. Looking for new places to visit
  86. Adding things to my happy book
  87. Being inside when the weather is really miserable and watching it from the window
  88. Being outside when the weather is gorgeous
  89. Putting on cream and feeling nice and clean
  90. Taking a shower
  91. Colouring
  92. The smell of roses and jasmine
  93. The smell of burning wood
  94. Thinking about stupid inside jokes
  95. Watching documentaries
  96. Reading articles about subjects I’m interested in
  97. Telling myself that it’s ok to feel sad sometimes
  98. Telling myself that it’s ok to take a day off from work if things get too intense
  99. Reminding myself that most of my obligations are self-imposed and the world isn’t ending if I don’t do them.
  100. Reminding myself that happiness is not a whole but a combination of these apparently meaningless moments