I've chosen my themes, I've created a monthly resolution chart to help keep track and I'm ready for 2018!
As you may know I am revisiting The Happiness Project for 2018 so over the last few days I've been considering the areas of my life that I want to focus on and trying to translate them into monthly resolutions and tasks which will make a positive change in my life over the next year.
There's no method to figuring this out. It's different for everyone, so I thought I'd show you what I'm focusing on, how I figured that out, and then provide anyone else who want's a go with their own resolution chart so you can plan your own Happiness Project. You can download that now over in the resource library or click the image below.
My Monthly Themes and what they're about
In the past I've done Happiness Projects which followed similar themes to what Gretchen Rubin (the creator of THP) explored through her own Happiness Project but I've also done very focused Happiness Projects, dedicating each month to a specific medium or artistic pursuit, which was also an excellent way to focus on specific skills that I wanted to improve. But you can honestly choose any theme for that month that you like- it just has to mean something to you.
This year I've decided to go back to core self improvement themes and carry on healing myself after some difficult years and give myself the opportunity to start dreaming about what I'd like to do in this new chapter of my life.
Take a look at what I've settled on and then I'll explain my process and give some tips on choosing your own.
- January: Self Care. Since giving birth to my son a few days ago I thought it best to start gently and remember the importance of self care and not overwhelming myself. Tasks include 'Do the Minimum' which means making sure I only commit to doing the very essential tasks but also 'Take time for indulgence' so I can feel good and begin physically healing and returning to normality.
- February: Connecting with Others. February would offer itself as a good time for romance but after months of being anti-social due to an uncomfortable pregnancy I've decided to focus on connecting with others generally. I'll be looking into 'Practising small talk', 'Opening my Home' and 'Witnessing Others'- giving others my attention and time.
- March: Spring Clean. Something I've been itching to do since Christmas Day but unfortunately will have to put off till now. A much needed Spring Clean with our new family member involved. So I will be revisiting 'Konmari', 'Taking Pride in the Results' and regularly giving myself 'Fresh Flowers'.
- April: Body. Hopefully by April my body will be ready for a challenge so I'll be asking myself 'What can my body do?' I've always been a creative or intellectual and over the years I've become curious about what my body is physically capable of doing. How strong am I? How do I like to move? What activities can I take up that will engage my body and mind. It's also a month where I hope to 'Fix what's broken' and have a health overhaul.
- May: Food. Eating and food is one of my big life passions but domestic cookery and dealing with other peoples dietary requirements has killed off a lot of joy in this area for me and I'm hoping to rekindle my relationship with it. Things like 'Cooking for others' and 'Start Fresh' are tasks this month. I really want to push myself to try new recipes and make food a priority again rather then a drag.
- June: Celebrate Myself. June is my birthday month. Last year I didn't have a great time... in fact I cried for most of the day as I was all alone... and that was my fault. If nobody wants to celebrate with you, you celebrate yourself. So for the month of June I'm going to be focusing on giving myself approval and clapping for my own damn self. This month will be about self love and being my own champion.
- July: Nature. Hopefully we'll have good weather this summer but either way I intend to reconnect with the outside world in a variety of ways. I'm hoping to 'Embrace Garden Living' and 'Perfect the Picnic' as well as learn some new foraging skills.
- August: Motherhood: August will be smack bang in the middle of the school summer holidays so I figured it would be a perfect time to hone my parenting skills. Tasks include 'Teach what I want to pass on', 'Memory Making' and 'Practice Selflessness'.
- September: New Skills: Once the summer holidays are over I often find myself itching to get back to my own projects so I'm going to indulge myself with some new skills. My interests cover everything from Art to Languages so this is a HUGE theme which I couldn't break down into specific subjects that I wanted to learn. Instead I will be focusing on setting effective targets, making sure I ask for help and documenting what I do learn.
- October: Marriage & Love: October is the month I got married in, and my husbands birthday, so it's a perfect opportunity to have some fun and work on making myself a better person so I can be a better partner.
- November: Independence: This coming year will be an intense one and I'll be depending a lot on others just to survive, so come November, when things will have hopefully settled, I think i'll be ready to pick up the reigns and start encouraging myself to be more independent again. This will be a challenging month as I have a lot of fear/anxiety in this area- such as going places alone just as 'Lianne' (and not Mum) or driving to new places. But it can only boost my confidence so it's worth doing.
- December: Unplug and go Hermit. I chose this theme based on how I've felt this December and I've decided it would be the perfect time to go Hermit mode and explore living without the distractions of electronic devices. I want to embrace traditional hobbies and activities like board games, reading, talking and reconnect with reality and using my hands a lot more. A big task will be to learn how to 'Lead by Example' and not to expect others to join me when I unplug.
Each month I'll try to remember to introduce the new theme and discuss what I'm hoping to achieve in more detail and then round up how that month went. I'm not expecting to succeed at everything but I'm hoping to learn a lot and hopefully boost my happiness overall. If I were to Quantify my current level of happiness I don't think I could rate it out of ten or anything like that but I do know i'd like to achieve the following:
- Feel more connected to family and friends
- Be more grateful and content
- Laugh more
- Increase my threshold for snapping and be less responsive to things that irritate me
- Relax more and feel it in my body
- Listen more
- Grow in confidence and self awareness
- Find a sense of security and optimism
- Give my children a firm foundation for their own adulthood
- Feel like I've achieved something for myself using my brain and my abilities. (be more then a wife/mum)
Come December 2018 I will reflect on those points and see if anything has changed, improved or whether I've learnt anything about them.
How to pick your own themes and resolutions
- Make a list of areas in your life that you'd like to work on. Often we have ones that jump out immediately- you know where it hurts most, and they're often good starting points. Consider how the following areas feel to you right now: Career, Skills, Education, Finance, Love, Family, Friends, Physical, Health, Spiritual, Fun, Recreation, Giving, Community, Home, Legacy and what things you'd like to improve or the ways in which you could be happier.
- You could break those bigger themes into smaller ones if you find you really need to dedicate more time to each thing. Perhaps for three months you'd really prefer to focus on your finances? Maybe one month could be Savings, another Debt control and another Making money?
- You might have more of a syllabus then a variety of themes, so maybe for a whole year you want to focus on your health so each monthly theme would relate to that like: Diet, Exercise, Mental Health, Check-Ups, Strength, Relaxation etc. That's another way you can approach a Happiness Project.
- Make a list of things that make you happy and unhappy. Sounds obvious right but it's really that simple. What's bugged you today? What do you wish for? What do you want by the end of the year? Examine yourself and your feelings throughout the week and note when you feel lowest and when you feel good. Do you always feel guilty for going to bed late? Looking at your phone during dinner? Does going for a walk each day boost your energy levels? Do you feel extra sassy when you wear your hot pink lipstick rather then the nude? Do you have a doctors appointment lurking over you? A place you dream of visiting? A career change you want to make? What can you work on this year?
- Find actionable steps based on the things that make you happy/unhappy and decide which steps you're going to tackle this year. You don't have to attempt everything this year. And if you're struggling to find ideas, research the problem and look for advice. If you want to tackle your anxiety have a look at current techniques or talk to experts and look for small steps you can take towards finding happiness. If you want to quit sugar, buy a book on it and examine what needs to be done to achieve that. Once you take those first steps often new doors begin to open. Who knows how much your tasks will evolve beyond their initial considerations.
- You often have to guess first what's making you happy/unhappy, test it out, learn from it and then tweak your happiness project to reflect on what you've learnt. You might think for instance that practising yoga will make you happy so you spend a month dedicated to that, only to find it didn't make you happier- you in fact just liked the idea of you liking it (a common issue- people often punish themselves for not enjoying something others enjoy and THP helps us let go of things we secretly don't want for ourselves). From there you can plan your next step because understand yourself better.
- Stick to completing 5 big tasks for the month. Don't worry about micro managing and detailing every little thing you hope to achieve that month. That generally happens organically. For instance, in my month of Food one of my resolutions is to 'Make Food I enjoy' but I don't list what those foods are or when I'm going to make them. The tasks are umbrella targets to aim for and within them you will achieve many smaller things.
- Don't be afraid to chop and change things around based on the time of year or personal requirements. In fact take inspiration from the time of year and commitments you have. Would you like to travel more? Book that in when you've saved for it or when the weather is good. Hoping to read more? Start early on in the year and then you can create a monthly reading list to compliment that task. Some things often naturally follow on from each other. For instance I wanted to focus on Spring Cleaning when I'd be cooped up indoors rather then the height of summer.
- Remember none of this is concrete. It's a learning experience and as you do the Happiness Project you'll realise that some things don't contribute to your happiness and you'll want to add in other tasks or adapt them. That's a good thing and needs to be embraced rather then ignored. Be prepared to edit.
- Look at other peoples bucket lists, happiness projects or prompts. I find this useful as I'm reminded of things I'd forgotten about but would like to include.
- Make sure you've got a balance of challenges and rewards. It's easy to get stuck focusing on painful areas rather then letting yourself have a bit of fun too, but that's SO important to avoid. Heal yourself with things you'd love to do as well as challenge yourself to make changes that might frighten you or be painful.
- Once you've got a list of 12 themes and some ideas on what you could do each month begin putting them into your template. Shuffle things around and create a month that has a mix of big challenges and baby steps. Give yourself too much and you will fail. Make it boring and you probably won't even attempt it.
- Find a quote that reflects on the theme that month. I found this really helped define what my goal was for the month.
- Explain to yourself in detail what this months goal is and how it's going to make you happier. This can be very insightful and I've scrapped themes when I couldn't answer that question. If it's not going to make you happier- why are you doing it? If you get ripped abs but you're still miserable what's the point? Find a new theme that truly contributes to your life.