The importance of the little things
25 May 2015 | Kate Libby
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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