When the New Year isn’t the fresh start you’d hoped for

Finding happy moments every day—even when life sucks

It is fair to say that 2016 has not got off to the start I had hoped for.

Every new year comes with so much hope and the chance of a fresh start. Sadly though, over the Christmas period, my wife, Rachel, ended up with shingles.

It’s brutal.

Rachel has been off work the whole of the year to-date and is still feeling wiped out by the virus.

She has had a lot of pain due to the way the virus attacks nerves and has been home and bed-bound for three weeks now.

The other side-affect of all this is that I’ve been doing a lot more with looking after our two girls and generally keeping our household functioning (while not feeling one hundred percent well myself).

So I may not have shingles, but I’m pretty shattered too! Especially as our girls have decided to take it in turns each night to guarantee no chance of unbroken sleep. How do they know?!

If this was a one-off health issue, it would probably feel less of a big deal. But on top of Eloise’s ongoing 22q related health issues (see here & here), and Rachel’s Grave’s disease, it’s all felt overwhelming.

We could have so done with a straightforward start to the year. Life has a way sometimes of knowing what you need and sending you the exact opposite!

At times like this, I have to work hard at remaining positive and maintaining perspective. On the whole, this is something I would say I’m pretty good at. But it’s definitely a moment of life right now where looking for the positives and seeing the bigger picture is a more intentional choice I’m having to make.

Something I’ve found helpful has been writing down in my journal at the end of each day what my happiest moment was. I got the idea from Elizabeth Gilbert who keeps a daily happiness jar. Writing about it she said:

I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and I think it might be the most important spiritual practice in my life. You will be amazed by what you learn about where small moments of happiness are to be found in your life. You will be amazed to discover that moments of happiness can be found even in episodes of sorrow.

I’ve only been doing it for fourteen days, but I am already appreciating the benefits. It is a healthy practice for me to have to find at least one small moment of happiness even if my day has felt mostly shit.

My happy moments have ranged from enjoying ten minutes on the bus getting lost in a book, to times of fun with my two daughters, and — yesterday’s — getting out of the house with Rachel for the first time and going to the cinema. (We saw Joy — it was great!)

Our minds find it easy to focus on the negatives. We rarely have to choose to make our mind ponder on what is wrong in life! But as a result, we have to work hard to counteract that sometimes. And I’ve been finding this practice of making sure I spend at least a few moments each day identifying what was a happy moment to be extremely helpful.

What practices do you find helpful when you need to work especially hard at staying positive and keeping a healthy perspective on life?

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