Finding sunshine in a cloudy life - Mental Health

With or without New Year’s resolutions, change is inevitable

Here I sit at my desk, wondering what to write this week.  I have started over several times and I’m dissatisfied with each thing I have managed to produce.  I feel compelled to write something about New Years resolutions, and yet every time I have started on that topic, it has come off completely inauthenticYou see, I don’t set resolutions.  I’m not sure I have ever set resolutions.  I understand the concept of starting fresh with an entire calendar year ahead, but I believe that if a person wants to make a change, they should start on it as soon as they decide it needs changing.  That might be 1 January, (insert year here), but given the number of days in the year, it is vastly more likely to be a different day entirely.

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Change comes into our lives with or without a conscious choice to allow it, and I believe that more often it comes incrementally than suddenly.  Every day we are on this earth, we change in some way – even if only that we become more entrenched in the patterns of life as we have been living it. 

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Will Durant (often attributed to Aristotle, but that’s another topic entirely)

Big, sweeping changes or gestures are impressive and can even inspire lasting change, but in the end, it is our habits that win or lose the prize.  If you’re not ready to change your habits, then you’re not ready to change your weight, or your diet, or your finances, or anything at all. 

I recently went to a lovely Meetup where the topic of discussion was the article Why your environment is the biggest factor in changing your life, written by Melissa Chu.  The timing of this topic was serendipitous for me, as I have been increasingly frustrated by my environment.

If you know me, or have read many of my posts (specifically the happiness hack post), you will already be aware of the fact that I am not a naturally tidy person. Big changes in my routine seem to escalate the amount of mess in my house and simultaneously diminish my ability to think clearly enough to deal with it. When that happens, I tend to go down the rabbit hole of low self-worth, overthinking, and anxiety.

These big changes are things such as:
Late August, 2018 – changing my direction in my professional life from creating jewelry to blogging
Early October, 2018 – Flying out to visit a friend I hadn’t seen in a great many years
Mid-November, 2018 – surgery
Late November- now – holidays

Little by little (incrementally, one might say) clutter and chaos took over my environment. It didn’t grow mountainous, as my husband and I would take a weekend day and set a lot of it to rights. Even with our efforts, the clutter crept creepily and sneakily into being. Without being aware of why, I was becoming more irritable, less focused, more anxious, and less satisfied with the wonderful life I have. Shortly before the Meetup showed up in my inbox, I realized I needed to make a change in the way I lived my life. I needed to change my habits.

At this Meetup, I was fortunate enough to be able to talk about my particular environment and what changes I wanted to make and we batted around some ideas as a group. What about hiring a professional on a one-time or continuing basis? Maybe an organizer? The most useful idea to me was lowering my standards from where they were (a currently unachievable goal of a pristine home) to something I don’t consider ideal but would still be better than perpetual failure. While this will ultimately make a difference in my overall happiness, I needed to find something in the physical world to change as well.

I know I am not alone in that if something isn’t easy, it won’t happen regularly. That means when we do want to make changes our my lives, we have to make it as easy as possible to do what we want and/or as difficult as possible not to do what we don’t want. As I tried to get out or put away things in the kitchen, I was frequently finding myself not only frustrated, but actually angry. I set my sights on making the kitchen easier to maintain.

As is so often the case, this was easier said than done. It ended up entailing a major overhaul of how our cabinets, drawers, and pantry were set up. We have lived in this house for 13 and a half years and have never done a major overhaul of the layout of the cabinets. In fact, one of our cabinets held our everyday dishes in an rather awkward place. When we moved here, it was the best place for our elementary school aged children to reach them. Both of those boys now tower over me, so I think it’s a safe bet that having them on the bottom shelf of a lower cabinet is no longer necessary.

We took pretty much everything out of the cabinets and pantry so I could see what we had. Talk about chaos! We ended up finding a LOT of things that were either duplicates, expired, or things that have become obsolete in our lives. I would never have believed it possible, but we actually have some empty spaces in our cupboards! As a bonus, I finally (I hope) figured out a way to use our awkwardly deep pantry shelves.

In the example I have shared with you, I (with a good deal of help from my spouse) made a sweeping change in the kitchen. We haven’t put the very finishing touches on it, but even so it feels much easier to maintain. From here, time will tell if it is easier enough to make that maintenance a habit. If so, I will have made a change in my life that will not only benefit me by reducing my anger, anxiety, and negative self-talk, but will also benefit everyone in the household.

Because we humans don’t live in complete isolation, change happens to all of us, each and every day. If you find the beginning of the day, or the beginning of the week, month, or year an auspicious day to make a change you desire, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. If you are struck with inspiration to start at 12:28 on the seventeenth of May, that’s good, too. Ultimately, what matters is being aware of what habits have led up to the situation you wish to change, how you can change your environment to be more in line with the situation you desire, and what habits you will need to form for continued success.

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.

Albert Einstein

Whether you set resolutions this year, planned to but haven’t gotten around to it yet, or don’t believe in setting them, I hope you are aware of the changes around and within you, and are conscious about the direction they lead you.

It is my wish that 2019 brings you great joy. Brightest blessings, Sunny

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