Lior Smith is a good friend of Club Soda. Her insight helped us at the very beginning, deciding what Club Soda was and was not. She generously shared her knowledge and enthusiasm. After a few tricky few months, she started to write down the things she enjoyed. It turned into a list of 365 and she has agreed to share what it has meant with you.
After a tricky few months, I felt sad and anxious, and I realised that I wasn’t enjoying life as much as I could.
I’d learnt a bit about positive psychology at university. Positive psychology is about helping averagely happy people feel happier, as opposed to helping depressed people feel averagely happy. One of the techniques in positive psychology is about focusing on the positive. This could take the form of writing gratitude letters to friends, counting your blessings, or evaluating how your day has been by thinking on the good things that happened. Those three examples are about perception; making more time to do activities you enjoy can also make you feel happier.
In late November last year I decided to get started on a list of 365 activities that I enjoy. The intention was to do one thing a day in 2015. I sat down at my desk with my favourite pen – a bright yellow fountain pen – and got started. Over the following month, I added to the list whenever the mood took me, writing about half a page at a time. I stuck the paper up on my bedroom walls as I went.
I re-read things I’d written occasionally, and realised that in fact, I do many things that I enjoy every day. Reflecting on the list helped me realise that my life is made up of lots and lots of things I enjoy. As time went on, I focused more of my attention on what was going right than what was going wrong in my life. Writing the list changed my perception of my current life by refocusing my attention on the positive activities that were within my power to make happen.
I gave myself permission to spend more time on activities I enjoy, and let myself fully appreciate the pleasure and joy that each activity inspired. The list evolved in my mind from a to-do list to an inspiration list. I look at the list, see something I haven’t done for a while, and plan to do it – then do it, and enjoy it!
Sometimes I would take my list to a cafe, sip an excellent black coffee (that’s something I enjoy!) and blast out 30 more things. I found that on challenging weeks, going to a favourite cafe and getting into that pleasure headspace helped me connect with what I enjoy. Otherwise, at home, I would sometimes just stare at the blank space underneath the last thing I wrote and feel like I’d already written down everything I enjoy.
Once I’d written down that I enjoyed writing the list, I let myself take more time over it, and didn’t try to rush to complete it before the turn of the year. As the list went on, I came up with more complex things that I enjoyed, and mentioned more shared experiences with specific people.
I made friends with someone in a cafe during the project, and I let him read the list. It was surprisingly intimate, so I’m afraid I’m not going to let you read my list! But since this post is for Club Soda, I will tell you that drinking alcohol only came up three times out of 365 – two about flavours of specific drinks, and one about dancing with friends. There are so many other things in life to be enjoyed.
Of course this list hasn’t solved all my problems – I still have issues to deal with. I don’t view my entire life through false rose tinted spectacles. I don’t deny that the bad stuff is bad. The effect of the list is that I am more capable of noticing and appreciating the good stuff when it does come; I am more able to make good stuff happen to me; and overall I am more resilient, so I am actually more able to admit that the bad stuff exists and attempt to deal with it.
I finished the list this morning. I felt that I could keep going. Now that I’m in the practice of articulating activities I enjoy, it’s much easier to identify them. I know now that I will always find new things to enjoy, because it’s about attitude. Perception and focus are skills to hone, and writing a list of 365 things I enjoy helped me to strengthen those skills.
I plan to bind the pages into an inspiration book for myself… and make another one in a few years! I would love to know if anyone else has done something like this, and how you found it – please do share your stories in the comments.