Prioritising Happiness in a Culture that Glorifies Busyness

“I haven’t seen you in SO long! It must have been, what, six months since we said we should catch up?”

“I know, I’ve been sooo busy. You know, juggling the kids, work is insane and, don’t even get me started on the housework.”

“How do you do it all? You. Are. Amazing!”

Sound familiar? It’s the story of our modern society, full of pressure to have it all, do it all, be it all. Success is defined by what we do and what we have. It’s like how full our schedule is, is an indication of how fulfilled our lives are.

Like many families, our household income reduced by half with the arrival of our beautiful daughter. We were still getting by financially and I was surprised that, generally I felt as happy, if not happier than before. The time at home with Everly forced me to re-prioritise my schedule.

Everly needs days where we have no plans, and where we can nap all afternoon together. We take walks around our own garden, noticing the textures of the leaves and literally stopping to smell the roses. I assume the role of chief bubble blower and transform our living room into a rodeo for piggy back rides. She points and declares “moon, moon” marching down the hall toward the window, as if the moon is the most wonderful thing she has ever seen.

At what point do we lose this sense of wonder and amazement at the world? When is it that we trade noticing and giggling at a plump wood pigeon weighing down a branch of a kowhai tree to rushing through life? Where deadlines and start times are what drives our schedules? And where being busy is glorified? We sign up for activities and we say yes to things that aren’t in pursuit of what sets our souls alight. We work to level up in our careers, for more money, and more responsibility – just to become busier.

Money gives people options and there is an amount we need at a minimum to cover our basic needs, I get that. However what I am suggesting, and what I found is there is a point where any increase in money has a negligible impact on our happiness and contentment. Pursuing wealth and power, does not come without a cost.

Take Elon Musk for example, an intellectual genius, and billionaire serial entrepreneur. For 15 years, he worked 100 hours per week? Do the math on how much time is left for sleeping. Where do you fit time in to nurture relationships with people you love and care about on that?

At a more relatable level, I have seen more than one example of people celebrating promotions to top level leadership positions, and their relationships and health deteriorate as quickly as the extra pressure and responsibility was loaded on. The lifestyle is not always sustainable, and what’s the cost of not being able to work for a year to recover from burnout, or the cost of divorce?

Is it really worth it?  What if we start to redefine the measures of success?

Arianna Huffington is the founder of Huffington Post. She is wealthy, and powerful, but in 2007 she suffered a fall that resulted in her waking up in a pool of her own blood in her office. The diagnosis? Sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

In her book “Thrive”, Arianna talks about the power of well-being, our physical and mental health. She talks about wisdom and wonder, the creativity and gratitude inspired by marvelling at art, nature and the activity going on around us. She talks about giving being the ‘shortcut to happiness’.

What would be the impact on our happiness if we prioritised time for more meaningful experiences and deeper connections with people and our surroundings? How can we change?

There are two ways I think we can start to change the conversation.

The first is with ourselves. Look objectively at what you do (including what you chase your kids around doing) and how you spend a typical week. Ask yourself, how can I be less busy? How can I declutter my schedule? Can I reduce and replace some of my living costs so I can spend less time at work and more time on the important things? How can I be less stressed and distracted, be more present and well – both physically and mentally?

We need to change our conversations with others too.

Instead of supporting and encouraging busyness with “Oh I don’t know how you do it all. You. Are Amazing.”  Try “I’m sorry, you sound really overwhelmed. Is there something I can do to help you be less busy? Are all of the things you are doing really necessary?”

Rushing through life, with a jam packed schedule, working 100 hours per week and juggling the pressures of pursuing wealth and power, is not the recipe for happiness. I don’t think it should take having a child to force us into re-prioritising how we spend our time. Let’s change the conversation firstly with ourselves, and then others, and push back on busyness being worn as a badge of honour.

Image credit: Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

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A Morning Routine That Works

For a long time I subscribed to what I thought my weekday morning routine “should” be. The idea that I’d wake up in the morning, sip my lemon water, practice yoga and meditate for half an hour before taking a shower and executing an elaborate skincare regime. I’d pull on the coordinated outfit I’d laid out the night before, prepare and mindfully down a kale-acai-chia instagram worthy breakfast smoothie bowl and start my day feeling like Mary Poppins singing a spoon full of sugar, or in this case Stevia.

Yeah, I was kidding myself. Even trying to do half of a strict morning routine like this set me up for failure. One aspect of it would go awry and that would be the end of it. Kind of like when you’re on a diet and you eat one Tim Tam, then three have disappeared, then you think stuff it, I may as well eat the whole packet. Yeah, that’s me too.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been listening to The Thrive Global podcast where Arianna Huffington interviews high profile people such as Jennifer Aniston, Brandon Stanton and Tim Ferriss about their relationships with technology and their morning routines. It got me thinking about mine and how well it’s working for me at the moment, here it is.

As I have mentioned a couple of times in previous posts, I charge my phone in the kitchen overnight so it’s no longer the first thing I turn to when I wake up and I don’t pick it up until the end of my morning routine so I have no distractions. I have reinstated the hideously outdated Transonic digital clock that I’ve had since I was 15. How I still own it I’ll never know but I can tell the time when I’m on mum duty through the night and if I need to set a morning alarm, it does that too. How very functional.

My recurring alarm, that sounds a lot like a tiny human crying, goes off any time from 4.30am but my day officially starts around 7.30am. Everly is normally awake and snuggled beside me in our bed by then.

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I like to take her out by the front window around this time to wave goodbye to Dave as he pulls out the drive and heads to work. If she’s still sleeping soundly, I’ll leave her where she is.

The first thing I do once I’ve put Evie down to play is fill the jug and flick it on. While it’s boiling, I’ll pop into the bedroom and make the bed. There’s something about a made up bedroom that starts my day on a good note. Next up is my least favourite chore, unpacking and reloading the dishwasher. I’m a bit awol about there being dishes on the bench and it actually only takes 5 minutes to do but still. Always happy when that part’s done. Next I’ll give the benches a bit of a wipe down and clean our black glass dining table if the cats have been tap dancing with their dirty paws over it, particularly if it’s been a rainy morning outside.

Once the bed and the dishes are sorted, I might throw a load of washing on just to be one step ahead on that front or I like to include one “odd job” as part of my housekeeping routine in the mornings. You know, those jobs you don’t do every day but need to be done. I might run the vacuum over or wash the floors. I might organise an untidy draw or sort Evie’s clothes and retire those she has grown out of to storage.

All in all, the lame chores are done within an hour and Evie is generally starting to get grouchy and ready for another sleep. I might spend the next half hour or so settling her back down and then I have a “who knows how long” window of time to myself for breakfast, a cup of tea and my gratitude journal.

For breakfast it’ll be bacon, two poached eggs and a piece of rye toast or a banana, berry, chia and greek yoghurt smoothie or Scotch Oats porridge with brown sugar and milk (you need this porridge in your life if you haven’t tried it!). Over breakfast, I do actually try to eat mindfully, it certainly helps not having my phone in hand and if it’s a nice day, the sun streams onto our front porch so I might go and sit out there in the quiet and notice what’s happening “in the moment” (still in my PJs mind you, it only gets awkward when morning walkers or joggers are out in force).

Despite my collection of beautiful china tea cups, I tend to make a cup of Dilmah English Breakfast tea in one of three of my favourite mugs. It wasn’t really intentional but you know how you have your go-to’s. I love these black, gold and white Elle mugs!

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After breakfast, while I finish my cup of tea, I make note of 3 things I am grateful for that day in my migoals journal. I try not to overthink it, one morning sitting on the porch the sun was beaming gently on my face and the breeze was warm and comfortable, so the first thing I was grateful for was the sun and warm breeze. I don’t try to be too creative or original. Sometime’s it’s something nice Dave said to me, or how lucky we are to snuggle Everly. By starting my day with a brief exercise practising a “glass half full” mindset, I find it sets the tone for my attitude tackling the rest of my day.

Once my tea cup is empty and I’ve completed my gratitude journal, I give myself permission to check my phone. Generally Evie is awake by now and needs to be fed so I’ll catch up on and reply to missed messages while I feed her. I guess if I was working instead of being a SAHM, this time slot, albeit earlier, would be the equivalent of my morning commute to work.

For me, this is the end of my regular morning routine. I’ve left out getting dressed, showering and exercising as these things happen in their own sweet time because #mumlife. The change that has had the biggest impact on my productivity and mindfulness is resisting picking up my phone for the hour and a half or so after I wake up. It gives me the headspace to dictate the way my day starts before becoming consumed in what is happening online.

I’m almost through a “30 minutes a day for 30 days” experiment to get my exercise back on track so perhaps I’ll pen a post about that sometime. I also think I’m going to introduce warm lemon water into my routine afterall, for the detoxification benefits and all of that. We’ll see, one thing at a time.

Is there something you have made part of your morning routine that works really well for you? I’d love to start a conversation, leave a comment below.

Featured image by David Mao on Unsplash