Tag Archives: happiness

The Conservatory of the Mind Palace

sherlock__s_mind_palace_by_firelight_12-d4oc1nhWith absolutely no disrespect meant to Benedict Cumberbatch, he doesn’t own the phrase “mind palace”.  Using the method of loci (or going to your mind palace or whatever you want to call it) is a very useful thing to do, especially if you’re like me and your memory is about as reliable as Southern Rail.  I’m currently working on a show at the VAULT Festival, and a lot of the conversations I have with my producer Kate rely upon the idea of a mind palace, because we’ve got so many things to do:

“What was that rehearsal technique I said I wanted to use next week?”
“I don’t know, dear.  Look in your mind palace.”

“We said we were going to email Adam about something.  What on earth was it?”
“Er…I dunno, let me look in my mind palace…I can’t find it.”
“Have you checked the library?”
“Yep.”
“The ballroom?”
“Yep.”
“The cupboard under the stairs?!”

So far, so silly.  But what I am discovering is that, quite apart from being just an excellent memory aide, having a mind palace is a very healthy thing to do for emotional reasons.

For example, people talk about burying their feelings or locking negative thoughts away.  This would be very easy to do in a mind palace, because you could build yourself a cellar or a dungeon or whatever else took your fancy.  However, being the proud architect of a mind palace makes you feel the need to be more creative about these things.  For example, when I come across a particular fear or worry I let it loose in the palace grounds to run around the rose garden and splash in the ornamental fountains.  Mentally ‘releasing’ bad feelings is very helpful, because you can acknowledge their existence in your life without constantly feeling the need to monitor them.  They can really get under your feet if you keep them cooped up all the time.

“Hey Vicki, nice mind palace.  Where’s your fear of commitment got to?”
“Oh, he’s running around on the croquet lawn with my concerns about career trajectory.  They’re having a great time, don’t worry.  Would you like some tea?”

The best room in my mind palace is the conservatory.  It has no strange wicker/fabric combo bits of furniture in it, and it most certainly does not have leaves all over the roof.  It is a quiet, calm room where there is always sunlight streaming in from all angles, and it’s very warm and cosy the whole year round.

The sunlight in this room is a concoction of all of the things that make me happy: memories, people and other bits and pieces of life.  Highlights include the moment in Moulin Rouge when Jim Broadbent runs away screaming “LIKE A VIRGIN!”, my friend Andy’s laugh, the smell of coffee, the Dad’s Army theme tune, cheese jokes, watching Christmas movies with my family and excitement about my best friend’s wedding next year.

The reason why I am talking about these big, small and silly things that make me happy in my mind palace conservatory is that they are a huge part of how I maintain my mental health.  I think mental wellbeing is a very specific thing, and a huge part of why we struggle with it is that we always end up feeling isolated by our own thought processes.

One of the greatest and loveliest things about the show that I’m working on is that we teamed up with mental health charity Mind.  Mind do incredible work for people who struggle with their mental health, and I am so pleased and proud that they promote conversation about what is still a pretty taboo topic.  They effectively knock on the door of everyone’s mind palace to check that they’re ok, and to reassure you that you’re never alone.  Mind palaces exist in neighbourhoods.

So to conclude, dear reader, go and build yourself a mind palace that you would love to live in, and invite people in who will appreciate being there.

Have a stupendous evening.

 

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You Are Not A Casserole

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Hello, you fabulous human being.  How’s this week been for you?  Busy?  Me too.  Put your feet up for a bit.

One of the most enjoyable experiences in life is the overheard conversation snippet.  You know the sort of thing: you’re walking past a couple of friends who are in the middle of an in depth chat, and as you pass you hear one of them say something insane like “…and then the whole thing went bright blue!”  Not knowing the context of a conversation can make for very confusing and amusing listening.

The other day I was sitting outside a pub with a couple of my lovely girl friends, discussing life, the universe and everything (i.e. boys).  Don’t get me wrong – my friends and I cover many fascinating and intelligent topics of conversation on a regular basis, but even the most sassy and savvy of us occasionally need to rant about the opposite sex.  On this occasion, one of my friends was asking for advice about a guy she thinks she’s dating, but isn’t sure.  Here is an extract from the discussion:

“He’s going to house-sit with me at the weekend, and he took me out for an amazing dinner, and he calls me “his girl”…”
“Well, that sounds promising.”
“Yeah, really promising.”
“But what does it MEAN?!”

And so on and so forth.  Despite being clever, worldly, independent and hopefully fairly likeable young women, my friends and I are still flummoxed by what men’s behaviour “means” more often than we’d like to admit.  We have all – including you, fabulous reader – learned a lot during our short stays on Earth so far, including our strengths, weaknesses and alcohol tolerance levels.  Why then have we not learned something very simple, something that even tiny children understand: that we only get answers by asking questions?

It’s not as easy as all that, I know.  And we’ve talked about this before: the importance of being emotionally honest even though it feels so alien to us, the terror we feel when we have to be frank about what we want, and the excruciating embarrassment we feel about having strong feelings at all.  Needing an answer from someone, whether they’re male or female, has somehow started to mean that we are needy full stop.  Not to the person we’re confused about, necessarily, but definitely in our own heads.  And so we don’t ask; we just stew.

What the conversation boiled down to – if you’ll excuse the appalling pun – is that stewing does nobody any good.  In the heat of our debate about the virtues of honesty and openness, I ended up declaring “YOU ARE NOT A CASSEROLE” to my lovely, confused friend.  At that precise moment an unfortunate young man walked past and gave us a very strange look.  I do not blame him in the slightest.  Context was particularly important there.

But my point stands: we are not casseroles.  We should not leave ourselves to stew in the pressure cookers of uncertainty, waiting for the vegetables of heartbreak and the dumplings of rejection to descend into our lives.  The happiest people I know are not the ones who never get broken up with, rejected or hurt.  They are the ones who save themselves a lot of time by asking questions, finding out what other people want from them and getting on with life in the aftermath, whatever the outcome is.  I know – BELIEVE me, I know – that asking people questions like “how do you see our relationship?” etc. is a daunting prospect, but if we don’t ask we won’t find out.  If we don’t find out, we are wasting our time.

And who on earth has got time to waste?  Not you, that’s for sure.

Growing Pains

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Happy Friday, lovely reader!  How are you?  Shall I stick the kettle on?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we don’t know what we’re doing.  This applies to all aspects of life, including Zumba classes (left step right step turn step jump step trip over your own shoelace step) and the bigger questions like “where is my life going?”, “how do I find happiness?” and “will I ever achieve my goals?”

I had a small meltdown this week about those questions – although it turns out that Zumba is actually a lot of fun, and it’s ok to fudge your way through the trickier moves – and turned to a friend of mine who is in a similar position, i.e. in his mid-twenties with a passionate desire to succeed but no clear idea of how to do so.  When we boiled the issue down to its essentials, we decided that no one knows what they’re doing at our age, and that we’re not really supposed to.  This made me ask another scary question: “when are we supposed to know what we’re doing?”

We have all been brought up to believe that the older, wiser and taller people around us know what is going on: teachers, parents and older siblings have all made it clear to us that they can be trusted to know what they’re doing.  This led us to believe that one day we will know what we’re doing, too.  But when is this elusive day of understanding?  At what age should we be waking up and saying to ourselves, “I’m pretty sure I’ve got the hang of this ‘life’ thing now”?

I have friends my age (or thereabouts) who are teachers, home-owners, paramedics, married, producers, in possession of a pension plan, and even parents.  They are, as far as the world is concerned, sorted.  But internally they worry just as much as people who are unattached, students, renting flats, between jobs or between life ambitions.  In many cases, their external lives have little or no relevance to their internal persona.  My own mother, who has five grown-up children and a life-long teaching career, admits that she doesn’t feel like an adult most of the time.  (I can believe that.  For starters, her ridiculous sense of humour completely belies her actual age.)

So what hope do we have, if our apparently grown-up friends and actually grown-up parents do not think of themselves as sorted, respectable adults?  Are we doomed to feel a bit lost and uncertain for the rest of our lives?

The short answer is: yes.  The long answer is: yes, but that is actually a very, very good thing.  When we have everything that we want in life, we stop looking for anything else.  We stop pursuing new ambitions, pushing ourselves to achieve and chasing after our goals.  Not knowing what we’re doing is scary, but it also motivates us to keep looking, and to keep finding things to learn about and enjoy in the world around us.  Essentially, happiness and feeling ‘sorted’ is fine, but it doesn’t open your mind or make you grow.  Uncertainty, ambition and passion make you keep going.

It almost doesn’t matter whether we find the elusive feeling of knowing what we’re doing.  As long as we keep looking for it, we will be learning new skills, travelling to new places, meeting new people and trying to be the best possible versions of ourselves.  Pursuing that feeling is what shapes your attitudes and makes you a fascinating person, and if you really think about it, being interesting is much more important than being a ‘proper grown-up’.

Right, kettle’s boiled now.  Could you grab the milk out of the fridge, please?

“Find a happy place, find a happy place!!”

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Good morrow, fair reader!  How fares the world with thee today?

Ahem.  Anyway, today I’d like to talk to you about happy places, and the different forms they take.  We all have literal locations that we love, but we also have mental go-to places that put us in a better mood.  Here are a few examples of the best happy places.  I hope that you have at least one of each of these:

The Happy Place of the Past
Isn’t it weird that when someone asks you to think of a song, every tune you’ve ever heard goes straight out of your head?  It’s the same when we’re asked to remember a time we felt truly happy.  That’s not to say that we’ve never been happy, but that the pressure of recollecting our bliss on demand is a little too much to deal with.  When we are at leisure to consider, we can all think of a period in our lives that brought us real joy.  Whether it’s a childhood era, an irresponsible summer in adolescence or an eye-opening travel experience, each of us has a memory that can bring back a lot of warm, fuzzy feelings.

The Happy Place that’s a Person
Sentimentality alert – our loved ones are also our happy places.  Whether it’s a partner, a family member or a best friend, the right person can immediately transport you away from your woes and worries into a place that only you two know about.  When we talk about real love, isn’t that what we actually mean?  The people we love don’t have to be perfect, or entirely compatible with our every personality aspect, or even physically present – they just have to represent a safe and happy place. Keane know what I’m talking about.

The Happy Place that Never Lets You Down
Some places make us happy time after time.  Lots of my friends have theatres that they always enjoy visiting, or pubs that always deliver a great night out.  Especially when we feel lost in general, or when life is confusing and annoying us, it’s a great thing to know that there is somewhere we can go that will always make us feel better.  If you’re stuck for ideas (and you happen to be in Richmond), I would like to recommend The Farmery, which I have visited three times in the last week.  I’m not even a tiny bit embarrassed about that.  Their frozen yoghurt is seriously tasty.

The Happy Place that’s a Good Old-Fashioned Metaphor
Whether it’s a memory, an idea or a vague daydream, we all have a handy bit of our brain that allows us to transcend the humdrum and the horrible.  We might not like to publicly admit the exact nature of our personal happy place, but it’s very healthy and helpful for us to have them.  Heck, have more than one.  Have as many as you like.  As long as you daydream in moderation, there is no limit to the places your mind can take you.

The Happy Place that’s Yet to Come
This might be a literal location – for example, I really want to visit Egypt one day – or it might be an ambition that you hold dear.  Either way, the best days of your life might not be ahead of you (although I sincerely hope that they are), but there is definitely happiness of some kind waiting for us one day.  If we keep working towards what we want and where we want to be, we can take comfort from the fact that we will always be moving closer to another, exciting happy place.

Have a glorious Wednesday.  May the place you are in be extremely happy.

4 Things We Shouldn’t Photograph

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Good morning, lovely reader!  How was your weekend?

One of my favourite things about my generation is that in twenty (ish) years, we will be able to tell our children anything they want to know about what our lives were like when we were their age.  Social media has become a sort of personal encyclopaedia of each user’s life: all of our memories, friendships, photographs and Buzzfeed quiz results are mere clicks away.

I particularly love being able to share photographs on social media, but for some reason I cannot get on with apps like Instagram – I just want a photo.  Why must everything be square and made sepia?  Photography really propels people around social media sites, catching people’s attention and storing their significant moments.  This is a marvellous and brilliant thing (although if I see any more images of flipping meals, which are always captioned with something horrendous like “baked beans for dinner lol I well love this particular type of phaseolus vulgaris innit #bakedbeans #Heinz4lyf #yolo”, I will probably scream).  Having said that, I think that there are some moments in life which are better left unphotographed – amazing, beautiful moments, but moments which should be allowed to go unrecorded.

1) Gigs
Let’s get this one out of the way nice and early: why do people record videos and take photos all the way through concerts?  LISTEN TO THE FLIPPING MUSIC OR GO HOME AND PUT ON THE ALBUM.  Of course it’s nice to have something to remember the gig by, but the photographs never come out how you want them to, and the videos are always rubbish.  Put your smartphone away and just enjoy the experience.  Maybe have a bit of a boogie as well.

2) Pyrotechnics
I was at a friend’s birthday party this weekend, which was a mini camping trip in a beautiful woodland half an hour outside South London.  We had bunting, a barbecue and a flipping great time.  We also had a camp fire, which is one of my favourite things in the world.  Although when you look around a camp fire or a firework display the faces of your companions seem warmly lit, photos of these joyful communal experiences never show as much clarity or illumination as you remember from the moment itself.  Best just to sit back and join in with the “ooh”s and “aah”s, then.

3) Split Seconds
Don’t you just love it when something hilarious or ridiculous happens without any warning?  Moments of sheer joy between friends, loved ones and strangers can be lifelong fond memories.  It would be great if we could relive them over and over again in HD quality, but inevitably we find ourselves saying “Oh, I wish I had recorded that!” and being left with just our memory of the event.  It does seem a shame, but then if we went around recording everything all the time, just in case something funny happened, we wouldn’t be properly engaging with the world around us.  Bizarrely, we would end up looking so hard for these moments that we’d end up missing them completely.

4) Anticipation
You can photograph a moment of happiness, or love, or success.  But we all know that sometimes the anticipation is even better than the event we are waiting for, and you can’t capture anticipation in an image.  You can’t visually explain that second just before you kiss someone for the first time, or the moment just before your team scores a winning goal.  Anticipation is very visceral as an experience: we feel it in strange physiological (as well as cognitive) ways, and it’s something that we should definitely just experience without trying to catch forever.  By its nature, after all, anticipation is fleeting (and hopefully followed by awesomeness).

Have a genuinely stupendous Monday.

Take Care of Yourself

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Hello and happy Friday to you, you gorgeous human being!

Yesterday my house mate Ash and I pootled off to Elstree for our second recording of Pointless, and while I’m not allowed to say very much about it specifically, I can tell you that we had a lovely time and that everyone we met was very nice, if a tad confused by us.  Let me explain.

When we were on our way to the bus stop at stupid o’clock yesterday morning, Ash suggested pausing at our local Tesco to get a couple of diet cokes.  The buy one get one free offer being what it was, we ended up filling her suitcase with twelve cans of the stuff.  While this seemed perfectly reasonable to us, it did make us look like we were carrying a mini bar around.  Whenever one of us said “could you pass me a diet coke please, love?” and the other one opened our case of caffeinated treasure, the looks on people’s faces were priceless.  One might argue that Ash and I have a slight problem…

I am about to make an incredibly hypocritical statement, but bear with me, because it comes with the best intentions: we all need to take better care of ourselves.  Ash and I both drink water, eat vegetables and exercise, but we are also (clearly) addicted to a very unhealthy beverage.  A lot of my friends who work hard are making leaps and bounds professionally, but health-wise they are running themselves into the ground.  This worries me.  The Irish grandmother bit of my brain bursts into tears when people  I love tell me that they don’t have time to eat proper meals.

I know that it’s difficult when you’re frantically busy, but I really, really want you (yes, YOU specifically) to look after yourself.  I have a few very good reasons for this:

  • You will get ill.  It’s just a fact.  Whether it’s a cold or full-blown influenza, you cannot eat badly (or not enough) for long without your body throwing a hissy fit about it.  Pay attention to your body, because you need it to get you places and house your brain and stuff.
  • You will feel like hell.  It’s bizarre how quickly our minds and bodies shut down when we’re not getting enough nutrients, but think about it: we all get grumpy when we’re hungry.  Mood swings are your brain’s way of telling you to eat a sandwich.
  • You are needed.  The majority of people who read this blog know me personally, so to you lovely people: I NEED YOU.  If you are not healthy and happy then the Irish grandmother in my head will be very upset, and you don’t want that.  (She’s very loud when she’s upset, and she’s been known to force-feed people.)  To those of you whom I don’t have the pleasure of being acquainted with: the people in your life need you.  They want you to be happy and they need you to take care of yourself, because there are no spare copies of you lying around.  You are unique and important, and if you scupper yourself health-wise then the people you love will be hurt.

Bearing that in mind, I hope that you eat a balanced, nutritious and delicious lunch.  Treat yourself to some cake or something, as well.  It is Friday, after all.

Gloria Gaynor is Rooting For You

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Good morning!  How are you doing?  I hope you’ve got nice plans for your weekend.

For those of you who read this blog regularly (ish), you may be wondering why I haven’t yet written a post about what it was like recording Pointless.  There is a very good reason for this, and it’s a very serious, grown-up, intellectual reason: um…we haven’t been to the studio yet.  Due to numbers and other unpredictable things, we’ve had our studio dates postponed for a couple of weeks, but we are assured that this is a good sign and that the production team don’t usually bother providing people with alternative dates.  So that’s nice.

The other potential problem is that my house mate has an acting job in Salisbury that week, so she might not be able to attend one of our new studio dates.  I really hope that there’s a solution to the clash, but if not, we might not be going on Pointless after all.  Sniff.  It’s fine..all this revision for nothing…hours wasted on Sporcle…poring over QI books late into the night…but it’s fine.  I will survive, as per the wishes of Gloria Gaynor.

In general, human beings are capable of surviving all sorts of things: bereavement, break-ups, Soho on a Friday night.  Some things are more difficult to survive than others, but you are more than capable of coming out of an emotionally draining situation with your head held high.  Here are a few things that I think you should do to secure your survival in any emotional hardship:

1) Look at the long term

So difficult to do, especially if you are very angry or upset, but picturing yourself in a few years’ time can be really helpful when you’re trying to recover from a nasty situation.  For example, in a few years’ time you will be completely over your break-up.  In the future you might run into your ex from time to time.  Everybody wants to ‘win’ a break-up by being physically fitter, more successful and preferably going out with someone better-looking than the ex.  If you want to ‘win’ this break-up, it’s better to go to the gym than stay in bed eating ice-cream, even though it’s what you really want to do right now.  Put down the spoon.

2) Talk to nice people

Well, obviously.  Talking to nasty people is no fun at all.  What I mean is, it’s ok to be struggling with something and want to discuss it, whether you want practical advice or need a bit of a vent.  Choose your confidant wisely and make sure that you know what you want from the exchange.  I’ve made the mistake before of going to one of my clear-thinking, super-practical friends with a problem.  I just wanted a bit of a moan, and he sent me away with a colour-coded to do list and a Gantt chart.

3) Be kind to yourself

This covers all sorts of things: eat healthily, sleep at proper times, drink lots of water.  I know it sounds boring and mumsy-ish, but there’s a reason why people say weird things like “at least you’ve got your health”.  Having your health is important because it sets you up to cope with everything else in life.  And seriously, put down the ice-cream and go to the gym.  You’re not winning this break-up yet!

4) Use it

As those of you who read my blog post about The Hard Man the other day will know, I firmly believe the best thing to do in a bad situation is find a way to use it to your advantage.  Sometimes that’s not possible straight away, but if you’re looking for silver linings they don’t come any shinier than discovering a way to make a crisis into a success.  For example, losing my job didn’t feel like such a good thing at the time, but now I’m deliriously happy because I get to write all day every day.  Sure, a regular income would be lovely, but I’m doing what makes me happy, which is so much more important.

5) Aim for happiness

Don’t aim for survival.  Aim for the top.  Work towards your biggest goals, your most cherished ambitions and your ideal situations.  If you don’t quite make it you will at least have tried, and you’ll be somewhere between happy and surviving.  If you aim for survival and you fail, where the heck does that leave you?

The other thing about being happy is that it’s the best possible revenge against someone who treated you badly.  Most importantly, you deserve to be happy.  You’re lovely.  Gloria Gaynor and I are rooting for you.

Have a splendid Thursday!

Wise Words, Walt

Good morning, reader!  How was your weekend?

Today ‘s blog is about some unexpected sources of wisdom: Disney characters.  Those of you who have read this post will already know that I reckon Disney heroes are actually pretty similar to modern men, but the relevance to contemporary (and indeed real) life doesn’t end there.  Disney movies are, in general, liberally sprinkled with cute quotations and heart-warming characters.  Since Frozen came out at the end of last year, I have been asked the question “do you wanna build a snowman?”  dozens of times, and fans of Despicable Me will be very familiar with the cry “IT’S SO FLUFFY I’M GONNA DIE!!”  These are both lovely and amusing, but they don’t really mean anything if you haven’t seen the films.

However, there are some quotations from Disney movies which, when taken slightly out of context, are very good advice for those of us who are not animated and/or living in an enchanted castle.  Here are my favourites:

1) “I’m afraid being famous isn’t the same as being a true hero.” – Zeus, Hercules

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YES.  Tell that to every reality television star who thinks that their very  existence warrants an enormous pay cheque and unquestioning adoration from the public.  Particularly in a day and age when you can become famous for doing nothing except stand on a stage in front of Simon Cowell and do something – anything – atrociously, people should remember that being famous doesn’t make you superior to anyone else.  In many cases, the people who get fame and fortune don’t deserve it.  Do you remember when J. K. Rowling made the news for donating so much of her wealth to charity that she lost her billionaire status?  That’s a wonderful thing for her to have done, BUT it should be the norm, not newsworthy.

2) “Maleficent doesn’t know anything about love, or kindness, or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I don’t think she’s really very happy.” – Fauna, Sleeping Beauty

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It is easy to dismiss people who seem a bit moody/miserable/prone to casting evil spells as simply bad human beings, but it’s worth stopping to think about why they are that way inclined.  Happy people don’t hate the world around them, and even though it’s not an easy thing to do, it’s probably a good idea to try to relate to them.  Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes (especially when you don’t like them very much) can be a massive eye-opener.

3) “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” – Emperor, Mulan

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If you can achieve success, happiness and other lovely things without really having to struggle for them, they are not devalued as such, but they are less satisfying.  It’s a very British thing to begrudge people a public school education, because we think that they have been handed the tools to obtain their ambitions without having to earn them.  We love the rags-to-riches stories of poor people making their dreams come true, and we went crazy for the Paralympics because the athletes were achieving greatness from a disadvantaged starting position.  It’s not a bad thing to respect people who can make lemonade out of lemons (although I would have gone for a lemon drizzle cake, myself), but the important thing is to remember to apply it to your own life when necessary.  Making successes out of failures and opportunities out of crises, however small they might be, is a good way to grow.  Or bloom, as His Excellency would have it.

4) “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.” – Rafiki, The Lion King

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It’s one of the most universal experiences known to humanity: the involuntary groan and uncomfortable squirm when you remember something embarrassing you did months or even years ago.  These memories can come back to bite you when you are falling asleep, walking along perfectly happily or operating heavy machinery (which is obviously not ideal for safety reasons as well as emotional ones).  Like most people, I get pretty bogged down by those unhappy thoughts, and usually fairly indignant: WHY did I just remember that?  What the hell does my brain think it’s doing?!  It’s a very uncomfortable process, but for the sake of our sanity we should probably try to look at the memory, work out why we behaved the way we did, and go about fixing the problem.  The other thing is (and I owe a huge thank you to friends of mine who have reiterated this next bit for me), the chances of anyone else remembering the incident with as much displeasure as you do is unlikely.  You remember it so vividly because you’re still beating yourself up about it, but anyone else who was there won’t have thought about it nearly as much, if at all.  Think about it: do you lie awake at night thinking about embarrassing things your loved ones have done, and despising them?  Of course not.  So logically, they’re not going to be doing the same thing about your misdemeanours.

5) “Life’s not a spectator sport. If watching is all you’re gonna do, then you’re gonna watch your life go by without you.” – Laverne, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

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Get involved.  Go and talk to that attractive person at the bar.  Take up a hobby.  Go on adventures.  If you don’t ask you don’t get, and you lose one hundred percent of the Monopoly games you don’t play.  Sure, you might end up embarrassing yourself some more, but we’ve already covered how to cope with that.

And last but not least:

6) “Some people are worth melting for.” – Olaf, Frozen

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Some, not all.  Use your common sense.

Have a spectacular day, everyone.

All the Small Things

Good afternoon, lovely reader!  I hope you’re enjoying your weekend so far.

Today’s blog starts with some wise words from a fairly well-known American dude by the name of Abraham Lincoln: “Folks are generally about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

I usually have very little patience with trite little sayings like that, but I am (begrudgingly) forced to admit that Abe might have a point.  Obviously there are enormous, life-defining factors that shape a person’s happiness: upbringing, career, love life and so on.  But there is a spectacular amount of joy to be taken from the tiniest things in life, and I think we should pay closer attention to them.  They might not fix all of our problems or make us wealthier/more attractive/more talented, but these tiny injections of joy can add up to generally higher happiness levels.

Here are some of my favourite examples:

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1) When the Tubes Align
There are many reasons to get cross with the London Underground, but there are also several things to love about it.  Firstly, have you ever arrived on a platform exactly as your train pulls in to the station?  It’s like you SUMMONED THE TRAIN.  Also, standing in just the right spot so that the doors open precisely in front of you.  That’s a win right there.

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2) Overheard Conversations
The sensation of overhearing a snippet of someone else’s conversation as they walk past in the opposite direction is always entertaining, because they’re out of context and you can have fun imagining how on earth the chatter went in that direction.  For example , I overheard a girl on the phone to someone the other day, and as I walked past her I heard this: “So I turn to him and go ‘no’, and he goes, ‘what about the sausages?’ and I’m like…”  I will never find out what she replied to this unfortunate chap, but imagining it amused me for several minutes afterwards.

3) Childish Food
This morning my house mate and I went to Asda and we found THIS:2014-03-01 12.34.35

Behold: the inexplicably red elixir of my childhood!  I haven’t had this for about fifteen years, and I am daintily sipping a glass of it as I type.  As an adult I shouldn’t still enjoy drinking an undoubtedly mental numbers of additives, but I do.  A lot of our childhood pleasures were simple and attainable, and there is nothing wrong with revisiting some of them as a grumpy grown up.

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4) Anthem for Doomed Youth
Speaking of nostalgia, going back and listening to those songs that you and your friends loved as teenagers is an incredibly simple way to make yourself happy, even if it’s just for a few minutes.  As you may have gathered from the title of this blog, my generation’s anthem is probably the aforementioned Blink 182 song, although other contenders include Song 2 by Blur and Last Train Home by Lost Prophets (well, this is awkward…let’s move on).

5) New Friends
Stumbling across an episode of Friends that you’ve never seen before is THE DREAM.  It’s such a tiny thing, but on some fundamental level it reminds us that there is still mystery and adventure in the world, and that even stories you think are long-since over can still surprise you.  I might be reading slightly too much into it, but the point stands that something routine – and let’s be honest, Friends has been on television non-stop for over a decade – can still bring you unexpected joy.

I hope that you’re having a deliriously happy Saturday.  If you’re not, other contenders for the top 5 list included blowing bubbles and watching popcorn pop, so give those a try.