Over the last few months I have felt myself gradually overhauling life. I’ve taken on some brilliant ideas which are making me more efficient and leaving me more space to do the things I keep procrastinating over, but which mean a lot to me. Little things that make me work more effectively and make me happier. I will share even more of them another time, I promise.
There is nothing to be unhappy about in my life, quite the opposite, yet it has had an unexplained sense of unhappiness recently. I have been pulling things apart lately to work work out where that sense of dissatisfaction comes from, slowly and surely I am unravelling it. Often the things are very little, and very quickly solvable.
Happiness by Design by Paul Dolan, a behavioural scientist, is a really fascinating read, and has been another pivotal moment in that journey. It makes happiness a really unemotional and practical thing and I like that a lot.
By switching your attention, understanding what makes you happy, and making choices based on greater understanding of what happiness is, you can subtly redesign your environment to be happier.
I love Facebook in many ways, but the app on my phone needed to go. It’s hugely distracting. I will keep up when I really want to, via my laptop, not whenever I find myself bored, or weak willed, phone inexplicably in hand scrolling through an endless stream of other people’s activities, thoughts, beliefs and feelings.
I care deeply about my friends but humans aren’t designed to multi task or take on the thoughts of 700 other people at frequent intervals throughout the day.
At the book’s suggestion, I redesigned my life’s ‘default settings’, I deleted the Facebook app. As Dolan predicted, humans are programmed to go with the easy option and so without the app, the urge to play around aimlessly on my phone faded quickly.
Instead I read the whole of The Guardian via the app, longer articles left my head clearer and my soul more satisfied. Before The Guardian would pop up in my Facebook timeline, I would share something controversial on Facebook and it would set off discussions I just didn’t have the headspace for. Reading a whole newspaper by myself is giving me back a wonderful sense of perspective.
I am listening to Adele’s new album via the Sonos speaker Mr A bought me a year ago. I bought this via the iTunes voucher he gave me for my birthday in May, because he has been telling me for so long that music will make me happier. I finally have the Sonos app and am enjoying making music magically appear from the speakers via my phone.
The book told me that music absolutely does make us happier. Sorry it took a behavioural scientist, and not my husband’s months of hinting, to change my behaviour. Lots of the book is stuff you sort of know, but reading it in this format, backed up by research studies into human behaviour, it all falls incredibly neatly into place and feels very comforting.
Music has been an issue for me for many reasons. When my Mum died all music made me cry and I think as a result I have fallen behind in the digital age.
There’s guilt too, at spending money on ‘stuff’, so I liked Dolan’s suggestion of pre agreed treats. I am going to make the Friday album a thing. On Friday my working week ends with a treat, a new album. Adele is great, but it makes me feel old, the days of wondering about ex lovers and heartbreak are long behind me. Please send suggestions to rebuild my musical life.
I will be on Facebook still, I actually doubt anyone will notice the difference, as half the time I was probably mindlessly scrolling anyway. But I will notice.
Apparently sharing your intentions helps, so if anyone discovers I have reinstalled Facebook on my phone feel free to question me.
Mr A also pondered if colouring books might help me switch off. Which probably means in six months I will be sharing my new colouring book with you. For now though:
‘Why the f**k would I spend my spare time colouring?’ Was my reply.
Apparently mindless tasks are good for helping us to process and make happier decisions. Mr Dolan and Mr A agree on this too.
I am not convinced keeping to the lines is what I need as a rebel. But I am considering crosswords. They seemed to keep my Grandma content and sharp into her 90s.