Monday, August 12, 2013

A recipe for happiness?

A few friends of mine have posted this article this week on facebook. It lists 10 simple things you can do to be happier, backed by science. These are:
  1. Exercise more
  2. Sleep more
  3. Move closer to work
  4. Spend time with friends & family
  5. Go outside
  6. Help others
  7. Practise smiling
  8. Plan a trip
  9. Meditate
  10. Practise gratitude
Reading through the article I had a lightbulb moment - I didn't need an article or some scientific research to tell me to do these things - I was already doing them. Every last one! No wonder I'm so bloomin' happy all the time this year!
  1. Exercise more - today I did 3.5 hours of exercise. That is definitely not a normal day, but I think I've got my daily average up to about 1.5 hours a day, with a couple of rest days every now and then (particularly in my super fatigued week before my period)
  2. Sleep more - I'm really making an effort to go to bed earlier and make sure I get enough sleep, particularly on the days that I get up at 5:30 to do Bikram yoga! I try for 8 hours, but according to my sleep app, I average at 7.5, which seems to be enough if I get adequate relaxation time in my day. Valdoxan also helps with this one - I definitely get better quality sleep than I used to.
  3. Move closer to work - I have a 7 minute commute to work (or a 40 min walk that I do once a week). I could only really live closer if I moved in next door, and I think it's good to have a little space between me and work ;). It's good for me to set the goal of one walk to work a week - it reduces the amount of driving I have to do (something I do not enjoy) and I subsequently get 80 minutes of purposeful but extended walking in a week.
  4. Spend time with friends & family - At the moment I am saying yes to pretty much everything (not great for my bank balance, great for my social life). Subsequently I am definitely not lacking in the spending time with friends department. I talk to my parents most days on the phone or via email, and my siblings a little bit less than that. Wish I could see my family more, but phone contact works well too.
  5. Go outside - The 40 minute walk to work, and occasional lunchtime walks at work make up this portion. 
  6. Help others - I tried to volunteer last year when I was really depressed and anxious and I really didn't have it in me. It just added another stressor. So this year I made sure I was really ready before I volunteered. Now I am doing the Scientists in Schools program, and I have to say, it's pretty difficult to walk out of a classroom without a massive smile on your face when 6 kids have just asked for your autographs and you've just got a whole bunch of little minds excited about science!
  7. Practise smiling-  I can't tell you the amount of times this year when I have had a little happy thought and broken out in the silliest, face-wide grin just because I want to grab that happy thought and really experience it. I may look like an idiot, but after the hell I went through last year, I still appreciate every bit of joy I get!
  8. Plan a trip - Masters at Durham in the UK. And lots of little ones over the next little while (as well as short trips to Adelaide, the snow, Melbourne and a big trip overseas earlier this year).
  9. Meditate - I've never done a formal meditation course, but I practice thought challenging, and meditation is built into my yoga practice.
  10. Practise gratitude - Thankful Thursday, my gratitude book at work (where I write 5 things I am grateful for a day when I remember) and I'm planning on writing a bliss list sometime soon (a list of all the little things that give you bliss in every day life-inspired by Radiolab). It's also as simple as questioning my thoughts and finding the positive in the situation - not imagining the very worst outcome. Putting myself in others' shoes is quite helpful too...
I really do feel like I must be getting so boring by saying this all the time, but I really want to just drive home for anyone feeling hopeless at the moment. At this time last year I just wanted to give up. I couldn't see how life could get any better. I sobbed every day (crying doesn't really cover the kind of emotion I was going through) and had zero energy. I was in pain all the time and had spirals of negative thoughts constantly. When I wasn't feeling like I was being slowly ripped to shreds I felt completely numb. I was not good company and could hardly keep myself together in social situations, and hence didn't socialise as much, making the situation worse. I'm really not being melodramatic here. Just ask my parents, best friend or housemates. They will tell you what I was like.

August this year is completely different. I wake up every morning with a zest for life, I can't wait to go to Bikram class, I'm enjoying the challenges that work brings, I'm loving the flexibility and independence I have. I say yes to most things (while being realistic about my limits). I feel strong, I'm more patient, and if something does not go the way that I hoped it would, I can fairly easily make peace with that situation. I do not take that for granted. I don't expect life to be perfect, but somehow it keeps getting better and surprising me with all these amazing things that I have the privilege to experience. The contrast to last year makes it all the more sweet. I pinch myself every day.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

D-day (or P-day?)

Well, it's pretty much here. The day every month where I get to find out if my efforts to beat endometriosis have worked. This month it's not looking good. While I don't have my period yet, I've had some pretty awful cramps/tenderness since last night, and I started getting rumblings on Thursday. Thankfully they are not the worst I've ever had, but they are definitely bad enough that I can't walk and just need to lie here holed up in bed with a hot water bottle and painkillers. I've definitely noticed the fatigue this week too. To be honest I barely have the energy to write this, but my brain is so restless that I'm worried that if I don't have some outlet, I'll get down. (Handy that I have nothing planned this weekend because my trip to Sydney was cancelled due to my friend that I was going to visit being sick.)

I have actually been exercising quite a lot this month (weekly: 2-3 sessions of Bikram yoga, 2-3 runs & a 40 min each way walk to work, along with a one-off weekend of skiing) so I was hopeful that it wouldn't be so bad, but alas, endometriosis seems to have a mind of its own, and even when I do all the things the research says you should do (including taking my supplements and eating well), it doesn't always work. I've definitely found that (after giving myself enough rest and pacing myself) exercise and eating well (inc cutting out wheat and other inflammatory foods) has its benefits for endo - for me I rarely have the random spasms in between periods that I used to get and I only really get severe fatigue on the week preceding my period. My moods are definitely higher and more stable too in general, but this tends to go out the window in the week preceding my period too.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be male (or someone with easy periods) and not have to deal with the mood swings, the fatigue, the blender in your belly. I wonder what would happen if they had to experience what I experience for even one month.
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