A Happiness Project

I'm thinking about starting A Happiness Project.

My News Year's Resolution last year was to have a more positive attitude and outlook and to be less judgmental and more open to difference.

I think I definitely went some way towards achieving this goal although it is difficult to measure because I didn't set out with any concrete goal or even resolutions about how I would achieve this achieve. My husband says that he has noticed a difference so something must have worked.

Still, I think that I could try even harder to make more concrete change. The more mindful I am of the change better chance I have of making it permanent, right?

As part of my efforts last year I read quite a few books about minimalism, parenting and enjoying life. One of those books was The Happiness Project by Gretchin Rubin. I actually came across it reading one of Rachael Macy Stafford's books (either Hands Free Mama or Hands Free life, I can't recall which one). Rachael Macy Stafford recommended Gretchin Rubin and I love Ms Stafford's approach to life and parenting, so it seemed like a natural progression to read the Happiness Project next.

This is what GoodReads says about The Happiness Project:

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can help buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference.

From what I could tell, people either really enjoyed this book or they don't.

Initially I wasn't too sure what I would get out of it. This really is the account of one woman's approach to bringing about a subtle but lasting change to her daily life by really getting to know herself, accept herself and to use that knowledge to live a happier life.

How can that help someone else? I actually found that I really identified with Gretchin Rubin. She was a lawyer who not altogether satisfied with her career choice (me!). She had a husband and two kids (me!). More than just these basics, I identified with the ways in which she felt before she started her project. She recognised that she had a great life and she was happy and satisfied with it.. She just felt that she could be getting more out of life by being more intentional about her thoughts and activities in a way that increased her happiness. Not through some massive sea change that isn't practical for most people. Just through small but meaningful changes.

So, now I have read the book and considered her approach and I am now thinking about embarking on my own Happiness Project.

At this stage I am not quite sure what it will look like. I am not sure that I can do the structured month by month approach that Rubin took. I do think that there are certain areas that I would like to make changes that I feel could bring me and my family more happiness. Things like money, togetherness, mindfulness, health.

What I just need to do now is actually sit down and think about what approach I want to take to a Happiness Project, what areas of life I would like to make change in and how to go about it. The reality is that I am not a very creative type so it will very likely look very similar to Rubin's Happiness Project (while covering different areas of my own life obviously).

Change can be a good thing though and I am ready for some. So let's give it a try.

When a small thing became a big thing, I knew I was on the right track

A beautiful day in Sydney

This morning, Rafael woke up next to me in my bed, having crawled into bed with me in the middle of the night while his Daddy was working night shift.

I had already been awake for a little while, listening to little Florence chatting to herself in her cot in the next room.

I was watching Rafael sleep, when all of a sudden he rolled over, opened his eyes, looked at me and announced that it was morning and that it was time to wake up.

(How is it that kids always wake up so totally alert?!)

His next words were "Get up Mummy but don't look at your phone".

I was surprised and to be honest a little upset. In my mind, I hadn't looked at my phone in the morning for months and when I used to he had never said anything to me about it.

In response to my question about when I look at my phone in the morning he said, "to check the weather and I get bored. Don't check the weather".

He's right of course. I do check the weather on my phone every morning, particularly now that it's at that awkward time of year when it's freezing in the morning but it warms up during the day.

My weather check takes 30 seconds, if that, and so I had never really given it much thought.

It struck me that now that I am making a conscious effort not to use my phone in front of him, something as brief as the morning weather check must stand out to him.

It gives me heart in a way.

Whereas once upon a time the first thing I did in the morning was roll over and reach for my phone to check my Facebook account, now I make an effort not to use my phone at all in front of Rafael unless it is for something pressing, like looking up directions or making a necessary phone call. And when I do those things, I always tell him what I am doing.

Now he is my everything when he wakes.

He is who I see first (usually he's up before the baby and my husband).

He is who I hug and kiss first.

He is who I play with first.

So, those 30 seconds checking the weather seem to him like time away from him.

Depending on how we each use our phone, reducing it's use might seem like a big deal or a little deal.

Regardless of how challenging it was to me to stop it's excessive use, it is worth everything to know that my son knows that he is my focus when my day begins.

That's how children come to feel loved.

(I check the weather before I go to bed each night now)

~From my journal 9 May 2016

A Full World

My full world
Today I was playing in the backyard with Rafael. He fell over playing football and grazed his arm on the sandstone. He was very upset but we had a big cuddle and came inside to wash the dirt and blood off and put a really big waterproof bandaid (he calls it a bandage) on it.

Then we went back outside to keep playing.

At first he said that he wanted to keep playing but shortly thereafter he very gravely informed me that we needed to go to the house of some friends of ours to play on their grass. I explained that our friends were at work.

What about Tia and Tata’s house?” he asked (his Aunt and Grandfather). I gently explained that they were at work too.

Can Daddy come home from work?” he asked. I told him that most of our grown up friends and family worked during the week but that I am home to look after him and his sister and I can play with him.

At this, Rafael had a little break down. My sensitive little boy who looks for new friends no matter where we go, started crying big wet tears. As he gulped in big mouthfuls of air between sobs he said, “but my world will be empty” and began to cry even harder.

But my world will be empty.

It was a heartbreaking moment but at the same time it was an eye opening moment. A hopeful moment. A comforting moment. A teaching moment.

In that one sentence, my son showed me his heart.

His world is made up of the people that he loves.


I was able to take him onto my knee, cuddle him and whisper into his ear that no matter where our family and friends are they love him very much and that as long as they love him and he loves them, his world will always be full. A teaching moment.

I don’t really know to what extent he understood my meaning but he did start to calm down. Slowly he started to calm down and he gave me a quiet “oh” which looked and sounded like relief.

It comforts me to think that he gets his sense of place in the world from the people that he loves.

It gives me hope that his foundation seems rooted in people rather than things, regardless of the fact that my previous distraction could easily have given him a different idea.

It makes me feel grateful that I have started to live a less distracted life. That I didn’t have my phone in my hand while we were playing. That I wasn’t reading a book or just waiting for our game to end so that I could get back to the housework.

I was outside playing with Rafael. I was in the moment, focused on him and because of that I got to have a special moment with my son and to understand something about him and how he sees his place in the world. How lucky I am to have had that moment and to have made the most of it for both of us. 

Written on 15 April 2016

Happiness is....

Rafael moving his toothbrush so that it hangs right between mine and my husband's and saying "now we can be all together here too".

Eliminating Facebook

We all know it. Technology distracts us from what's important. We use it anyway, telling ourselves all sorts of things to make it alright.

For me, my biggest distraction was Facebook. My use of Facebook had become compulsive. It was like an itch that had to be scratched. I was constantly checking my phone. Even when I'd checked it only just before. I would get excited if there was even one new notification and if there was a new notification then I felt compelled to check it immediately. 

I checked Facebook while I was playing with Rafael. I checked Facebook while I was eating breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. I checked it while Rafael was in the bath. I checked it while watching television, doing the groceries, waiting at swimming lessons, standing in a line. 

I was on Facebook while we 'played' in this cubby
I would spend ages just scrolling through my feed, stopping to read something here, stopping to laugh at something there. 

When I actually stopped to think about what I was doing, what I thought about was what I wasn't doing.

I wasn't acting on my son's requests to play with him, because I was distracted by Facebook. 

I wasn't watching him show me his new bath trick, because I was distracted by Facebook.

I wasn't watching him learn to swim, because I was distracted by Facebook. 

Sometimes Rafael would even ask me to put my phone down and I would reply "in a minute".

Once, he hid my phone from me right before we were leaving, delaying us by 30 minutes while I frantically searched everywhere (it was under a pillow, in his rocket tent, in the family room) and I still didn't recognise what he was trying to tell me. 

Increasingly, though, I was coming to realise that Facebook was distracting me in a way that wasn't right. I knew that I was using my phone more than I should be and that it was interfering with my time with Rafael but I didn't really have the courage to do anything about it for a long time. 

Then one day, something clicked and I uninstalled Facebook from my phone. 

And it was the beginning of something great.

Happiness is......

Happiness is....

dancing around the living room to Jimmy Giggle singing "Five steps to bed", my husband carrying four year old Rafael, myself carrying the baby Florence and Rafael reaching his arms out to enclose us all in a "four way hug" as we dance together.

A little reminder about being present

Rafael and Florence holding hands in the living room
No matter how hard we try, we can’t always be present in the moment all the time.

The mind wanders. We’re human.

My mind wanders a lot. It always has. Controlling its wandering is, and probably always be, a challenge for me.

It is so easy to start thinking about the groceries, the dishes that need doing or the laundry that needs folding. Even just day dreaming about that nap that it would be lovely to take.

And that’s ok. Sometimes I need to remind myself that it is natural for the mind to wander.

But every now and again I am sent a little reminder about how important it is to try to remain present in the moment, particularly in those moments that I am spending time with my children.