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The importance of the little things

25 May 2015 | Kate Libby

Flower Growing In Road

How I learnt to see happiness in the midst of a crisis - by Kate Libby

The past 18 months of my life have been somewhat fraught.

Actually, "somewhat fraught" is an understatement; total cataclysmic nightmare might be more accurate. The beginning of this steep downwards curve was falling ill with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a relatively rare autonomic disorder, that effects blood pressure and heart rate - making me physically exhausted while creating huge mental barriers through lack of oxygen flow to the brain.

The next pitfalls, as I tumbled down the mountain of despair, were... having to move back in with my parents because I couldn't take care of myself anymore; steaming through the end of my sick pay allowance (8 days, by the way, is rather inadequate when you've just been diagnosed with a chronic illness); losing my London flat when I could no longer afford the rent; repeatedly failing to meet the recovery goals my neurologist had anticipated; losing my job after 9 months off sick; the death of beloved nan; and, just 3 weeks ago, an ugly, messy breakup, followed two days later by collapsing and having a seizure during hospital testing.

Marvellous!

But yet, I am not unhappy. Although I'm not always dancing on table tops, cup-brimming-over-with-mirth happy, I'm definitely not miserable.

Against the backdrop of these difficulties I have learnt to appreciate the little things in life. My wonderful relationship with my parents, the chance to sit and watch the world go by of an afternoon (something my hectic London schedule would never previously have allowed for), and sometimes simply the ability to function.

I would never have anticipated the jubilation my first trip out to the supermarket would bring, after a period of being housebound and so dizzyingly confused my family were afraid to leave me unsupervised. I'm 24, by the way, not 6.

I'm still working on coming to terms with all the changes that have occurred in my life, yet I aim to maintain my happiness by reframing how I look at things.

As Action for Happiness writes, "When we focus on what we lack, we find we never have enough. When we're thankful for what we aleady have, we discover we have so much more". It's so easy to forget to be thankful for even the seemingly mundane parts of your day that are little considered until they're taken away.

Little Things 1  Little Things 3

One of the actions advocated by Action for Happiness is to take the time each day to list three good things you are grateful for. For me, this has been such an important exercise in not allowing the big bad things to overwhelm and engulf the little good things.

As the adage goes "it's the little things" that bring us joy day to day - and to take five minutes to mindfully bring your attention to these things can act as a kind of safety net in times when happiness feels like the last thing on your mind, and bottom of your priorities.

Not only will this make life seem a little easier, as Gretchen Rubin explores in her wonderful book The Happiness Project (read it, you won't regret it), but happiness actually makes you more relaxed and resilient, so much more able to deal with a crisis.

Sometimes finding the time in your day to set aside for the pursuit of happiness may seem impossible, but once you've found it, it is always, always worthwhile.

 

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About Kate Libby

Kate used to work in marketing, but is now a sometimes writer, aiming to raise awareness of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and invisible illness. You can find her on Twitter @KateVLibby

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