The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. Moliere
Time is the greatest gift you can give someone but every now and then, you may notice your partner in your relationship needs to spend some time away from you. It may be space following an argument or it may be that they need to go away on business. So when you’re asked to give someone space that you love to spend your time with, how do you start filling in the blank canvas of your life? This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can maximise your time by yourself – whether it’s for a day, a week, a month, a year or a lifetime.
1. Know what you like
It’s actually quite a challenge to know what you like! Every six months I take one day out to be completely mindful to work out what is making me happy and figure out what I enjoy. In a fast-paced world, it’s very easy to lose track of this. Keep a small notebook and pen handy, and every time something resonates with you, and you feel happy, write it down – so you don’t forget! This is how I figured out what I liked and it gave me a focus point for where to direct my spare time in order to soothe any anxiety about being on my own. My list included: skim strawberry milkshakes, looking over the water and listening to music I can relate to. Notice each thing is something that I can do or have on my own that no one else can influence around me? That’s what you need to find and consider the simplest pleasures.
2. Consider how you’re feeling
Sometimes when you are alone, it’s nice to stop and really consider how you are feeling, particularly if you’re feeling isolated, lonely and as though no one cares. If you aren’t feeling ok, now is the time to consider that and start looking at what you need to do to proactively make yourself feel better. What are you feeling? Angry? Sad? Hungry? Tired? Getting connected with how you are feeling is important to avoid trouble behaviours such as over-indulging and over-spending. Sit in a quiet place and ask yourself how you feel, then ask yourself why until you understand fully what you are feeling and why you are feeling the way you do.
3. Plan your time carefully
Most people have a rough plan when they catch up with their friends as to what they will be doing with their time together – whether it’s going out for drinks or dinner or watching a movie etc. What makes catching up with yourself any different? When taking some time out by yourself, it’s a good idea to plan ahead to avoid too many feelings of isolation – particularly if you’re on your own due to a separation or relationship breakdown. A good thing to do may be to go for a walk or participate in some self-soothing exercising.
4. Soothe yourself
Knowing your favourite self-soothing activities is important so you can soothe any anxiety quickly. These may include: phoning a friend or relative, daydreaming, meditating, taking a bath or shower, helping someone else, crying, shopping, cleaning, go for a drive, going for a long walk somewhere there is nice scenery (e.g. by the beach), listen to music, organise things, write in your diary, plan a party or outing with friends, go to the gym, go to sleep, spend time with your pet, cook, eat, reassess your goals, plan your future, sit in the sun, play a sport with friends, go to a concert or to the theatre, get a massage, play an instrument, read something inspiring (possibly Happiness Weekly), go to stand-up comedy, contact someone from your past, volunteer, write a letter, pick flowers, visit a pet store, watch tv or a movie, go perfume shopping, light a candle, take a bubble bath etc.
5. Work out who you are
When I’m on my own, with a blank canvas before me, the first thing I like to do is figure out who I am and who I have become with the external circumstances around me. I then assess who I want to be – figure out how far off track I have become (or if I’m still on track), decide if I like my current self and consider whether I need to change and if so, what I need to do to change. The best way to entirely enjoy time by yourself is by making the time all about you and spending each moment as present and fully as possible. Just as you wouldn’t interrupt someone if they have requested space, try to avoid letting anyone interrupt your time on your own – this time is important for reassessing and recharging.
You’re always you, and that don’t change, and you’re always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Neil Gaiman
Changing yourself is difficult, not only for you – who has to do it – but it can be a scary time for others around you who also feel uncertainty about the future, particularly partners. Change can mean moving forward and leaving some precious people in the past. This week Happiness Weekly discovers five shameless and unapologetic ways to change yourself … without hurting those around you or leaving them behind!
1. Make the decision final
If you have decided to change, then make the choice and stick to it. It’s when you’re airing between being able to change and not changing that it leads to confusion, and people around you will get impatient and possibly hurt. Generally what happens there is you’ll be on the breaks and all of a sudden you’ll accelerate and take everyone around you by surprise … or give them whiplash!
2. Be open about your change
Be positive and open about the changes you want to make. Resist the temptation to blame your partner, it will only hurt them or cause them to become more anxious about what’s ahead. For example you could say “I want to become more assertive because I think it will make me a happier and more fulfilled person, and I could see it impacting our future in a positive way because I’ll be able to step up a little more”, rather than saying something that could come across as more attacking such as: “I want to be more assertive because I feel like you’ve been controlling me because I’m going along with what you want, when I don’t really want it.” Can you see the subtle distinction?
3. Act with good intentions
Be the change you seek, don’t make your changes out of revenge for someone else. Empower yourself and focus your energies on being positive and encouraging other around you to grow. Don’t push people down to make yourself feel stronger, that kind of power is short lived. If you’re always acting with good intentions, your aura will shine to those around you and they will want to be around you through your changes and support you. However, if you choose to change selfishly and you decide not to take others on the journey with you and don’t communicate it, your aura will do the opposite and cause your loved ones to distance themselves and protect themselves from whatever you have in mind. Generally you become secretive and withdrawn when you choose a selfish change, and it’s this kind of change that will leave you very lonely for a while. It doesn’t mean it’s not fruitful in the end, but it’s certainly the harder path to take and while many psychologists support people making changes on their own (at least for six months), it’s not entirely necessary in all cases.
4. Listen to those around you
Everyone is entitled to an opinion – you can’t control everything. But when you’re amongst a lot of change in your life, and you’re soaring and feeling invincible, it’s hard to remember that. You still need to listen to the people who love you because they’re the ones looking out for you. Listening to each other is a very important part of communication. It’s ok to agree to disagree, or call a time out – but neither should leave the room without explaining they’ll be back or saying the conversation is on hold until you have both calmed down. Generally this kind of tension erupts because change is occurring and the person changing feels great and empowered, but the loved one is feeling very vulnerable and anxious because the communication has altered or isn’t flowing as it usually does – this is another reason to act with good intentions – because then they will feel unconditionally looked after. Also try to keep the communication going between you and don’t assume things or act based on assumptions.
5. Continue to act with integrity
If you always act with integrity and continue being true to yourself, then the core you should remain the same while the changes occur. This will also keep your friends and loved ones around because they feel as though they still know you – you will still be your predictable self, with a few additional features that make you mind-blowingly awesome! If you do decide to push someone away, do it openly and honestly – communicate what is happening and why it is happening, and again, stick to that decision to avoid any hurt or confusion later. There is nothing wrong with road-mapping a change together with your loved ones and going on the journey in partnership, in fact it could be healthy! Some people prefer making changes alone, some people need to make their changes alone, but if you can do it shadowboxing with a partner, it’s not such a lonely or daunting ride.
Communication is 90% of your relationship. Don’t forget to work on it every day!
On Monday, 29 April it was International Make a Wish Day – a day of wish granting for thousands of children with life-threatening medical conditions across 41 countries. Make a Wish grants wishes to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.
The day commemorates the anniversary of when seven-year-old Chris Greicius became a police officer for a day in Phoenix, Arizona on 29 April 1980 – his wish was granted. To celebrate the day, Make-a-Wish affiliates and supporters from all over the world host wish-granting events in their communities and online. For more information, visit their website.