- Cake = joy
Over the last year, I’ve worked really hard to try to be happier. At the best of times, it’s easy to feel out of control of your own life. To place your locus of control, (the extent to which you believe your direct your destiny) externally; viewing yourself as a puppet of cruel fates. Or to blame other people for the emotions they incite within you.
Yes, sometimes life sucks. Tragedy falls out of the sky and there is nothing you can do to evade it. However, what we can control is how we react, how we process events and how we recover. From examining my life I know that focussing on simple things – like getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising, and spending time with those I love (for me the single most influential contribution towards my mood) – makes a big difference to my overall resilience. But what larger changes could I take to make my life happier?
Scheduling some fun
The idea of scheduling fun seems paradoxical. By definition fun is a spontaneous pleasure, why do you need to build in time to have some fun?
So much of our lives are already scheduled. I work 9-5. I have to sleep eight hours a night otherwise I become the grouch muppet from hell. I need to make time to see my family, HWSNBN, friends and me time. With all these commitments, if I don’t schedule something it will not happen.
An example of how scheduling fun works in my life is my love of writing. I find it enriching to spend my time making up imaginary world’s populated by characters with whom I get to torture (all writers are sadists, I’m looking at you George R R Martin). But if I don’t commit to that from 19.00 every evening I will sit at my computer until I have written 1,000 words, no matter what (if I have a headache/it’s sunny outside/or all I really want to do is watch Jersey Shore, damn you Snooki and your addictive antics!) a month can lapse without me writing a word. Us fancy writer types like to call this the Butt in the Chair method.
There is another example of schedule some fun in action. Dearest reader, let me induct you into the archaic rituals of curry night.
I was not there at the beginning but the principal of Curry Night has remained broadly the same. Every Thursday a group of friends meet at each others houses to celebrate the (almost) end to the week with a takeaway and copious cans of beer.
When I started dating HWSNBN I became initiated into the ranks of the curry night faithful. The first Curry Night I attended: there were cocktails, chinese food, party games and more girls than boys. What fun, thought I! It wasn’t until I attended the next Curry Night that I realised I had been tricked. There was only curry (my least favourite food), beer (bleurgh), no party games instead an episode of a strange TV show called Space Ghost (which was sort of amusing (until we watched it again, and again, and again…), I was the only girl and I knew nothing about Windows operating systems.
Despite this less than auspicious start, for the last seven years I’ve become a semi regular attendee of Curry Night. Ruling out brainwashing, (maybe the enervating discussions of Windows operating systems had a sinister undertone?) there can only be one answer. Curry Night is the brilliant example of scheduling some fun in action. It’s changed slightly over the years. There’s less Space Ghost and more talk of the Budget. In honour of the Dude sometimes beer is replaced with white Russians. Cheapskates like myself eat beforehand or bring their own grub while the faithful stick to their weekly diet of madras. Cats, dogs, and babies have entered the equation. Sometimes Curry Night is so packed people eat on the floor, sometimes it’s just a couple of hardcore members. But at its core Curry Night hasn’t changed from its abiding principle: a weekly commitment to meet up with friends.
Date night: the return
When HWSNBN and I started dating, he was studying at University in Brighton and I was working back home in Surrey. Even though we saw each other every weekend, in the first flush of love that wasn’t enough. So every Wednesday we would take the hour and half journey to visit each other. I’d take the train down, or he would drive up. Our Wednesday date night became the highlight of my week.
We didn’t do anything elaborate (he was a student and I had a crippling book addiction so we were always strapped for cash :)). But I really valued the time we spent together doing silly little things like cooking for each other, going for walks or watching crappy films. After we moved in together two years later we still kept our date night tradition, moving it to Tuesday nights.
However, in recent months date night has begun to lapse. I injured my foot and our date night default activity, walking on the downs and the beach (free, outdoorsy and good for you) was off the menu. Although me and HWSNBN saw each other every day, and drove to and from work together something was missing. We didn’t have each others attention, there was no (ugh, how I hate this word) quality time.
Then we started the weekly pilgrimages to Pevensey to visit the one ring of power. After our visits to the jewellers, and to avoid the rush hour traffic, we’ve do something else afterwards. Whether it was skim stones on the beach, or guard our chips from the feral seagulls, or clambering all over the ruins of Pevensey castle, it was great to spend time together. I hate the term quality time but I can’t think of anything else to describe it.
So, we’re bringing back date night. Because I have the working memory of a gnat and I’m a bit of a list addict (sometimes I even add items to the list just for the thrill of ticking them off!) I’ve created a list of date night activities of things to do in Brighton when you’re a) broke b) outside of the flat:
Dinner out (even if it’s just fish and chips)
Ice cream and a walk, possible paddle by the sea
Swim in the sea (haha, as I write this there is torrential rain pouring down outside)
Fun rides on the Pier
Play on the swings in the park (but with small children we don’t know because that would be odd)
Geocaching (if only I can get over my disappointment at not finding a ring every time)
I’m going to edit this post to add other ideas and tick them off. By making this public commitment here’s hoping I stick to it.
I’ve also been thinking about how to extend the schedule some fun resolution into other areas of my life. I see my Mum regularly. It’s partly because HWSNBN parent’s and my parent’s handily live in the same town now. But I think it’s mainly because before we say goodbye my Mum always asks when am I going to see her next. Before I leave we always put at least one date, sometimes many dates in the diary. Even with my abysmal habit of double-booking people, (sorry mum), having a date in the diary means that I get to see my family regularly. I have the best friends in the world. But as time goes on and people get busier sometimes months can sometimes pass before I see really good friends who live in the same city as me. So what I’m going to try to do when I meet up with people, is coordinate diaries and schedule a date for next time. Because, for me, spending time with the people I love, better than a million cupcakes and less likely to make me look like the side of a bus!
So any tips about how you schedule some fun, or do you prefer to be more spontaneous?