I consider myself a pretty happy person. While I am affected by seasonal and circumstantial depression and anxiety, I have a tremendous amount love, passion, security and joy in all areas of my life. I have gone to the absolute depth of depression, but I’ve also experienced and enjoyed enormous joy and celebration. I truly believe that shifting my consciousness towards gratitude has played a large part in my recovery from some of the darker elements in my life. But I often find myself struggling with a vague sense of lack. Okay, sometimes it’s a pretty strong sense of lack that pushes its way towards sadness and then paralysis…
Recently, I woke up from a haze and found myself sitting on my couch watching way too much TV. I began to wait for something to change. I told myself that something would eventually happen to inspire me and give me back my energy, reignite my passion, or soothe the existential questions I burdened myself with. But I was doing nothing to precipitate that much longed for change: I expected it to happen on its own and that I would be the lucky recipient of happiness and success and abundance with no effort whatsoever.
And then I got sick. Like, really sick. For 2 months. And all of the things that I took for granted and didn’t do because I was too busy being in a funk became things I could only dream of doing. With the element of choice removed, I realized that I had been making awful choices for myself and that I needed to change the way I was living. I realized that happiness wasn’t going to just fall into my lap. I had to become the architect of my own life. But how?
This series will take you on my journey towards living a happy and truly full life. I encourage everyone to join me. Each article will focus on something new, and then end with what I plan for the following week. We can all do it together, share our stories, and offer support.
Week One Happiness Challenge: A Clean Home is a Happy Home
I had to groan, and then agree, with Gretchen Ruben’s method when she made the first month of her “Happiness Project” all about cleaning up and decluttering. A tidy and well-intentioned space allows for clearer thought, less distraction and an overall feeling of wellbeing. While going through all of my closets and cabinets, I made the decision that everything I own should be something I want and something I will use. It actually feels amazing and freeing to know everything you have is something that you need, and that you have everything you need. I believe that that is the true definition of abundance.
As a lifelong hater of cleaning and a passionate lover of “stuff”, this was a very difficult undertaking for me. I used to console myself by saying that clutter was an expression of my artistic qualities, and I do believe that there is some truth to that, but I now think that a messy space inhibits creativity and productivity. It turns out that a clean space doesn’t diminish creativity, but actually enhances it and encourages its expression…
I often tell my yoga students while they are holding a pose they feel challenged in, to smile anyways and try to understand/distill what they’re feeling. It often goes beyond the physical sensation and is inclusive of more internal, personal elements. The same applies to any sort of resistance – it’s worth figuring out why you are averse to certain things. Sometimes it’s a preferential thing, but other times there is a deeper answer looming, and you can make a life-shifting discovery that sets you on a new, more rewarding journey.
So while I cleaned, I meditated. I observed in a non-judgmental way, and I made progress in understanding the root of my relationship with cleaning. I noticed how it made me feel and where I felt it. I deconstructed both the act and the reaction and tried to make sense of it. For me, cleaning falls under the “self care” category, and it’s something I just don’t love to do. But it’s also something that I have to do, and in order to live a full life, self care needs to become a priority.
Since organizing and downsizing, I’ve noticed that I’m a lot more productive and happy in that productivity. My anxiety levels have diminished, I feel much more grounded and focused and I’m sleeping better, too! I am writing more, and in a special place I’ve carved out specific to writing. I am practicing more yoga in my home studio, and not setting my drishti on a pile of unfolded laundry makes it feel like a more complete, peaceful practice. I feel like I have a lot more space in my life for the things that I want to do, which is so interesting because my schedule hasn’t opened up at all. In fact, I have recently taken on more clients, and I am attributing this to being less distracted by my “to do” list and more focused on my “dream big” list!
Am I happier because I organized my house or because I’m paying more attention to my personal happiness and making it a priority? I don’t know the definitive answer to that, but I suspect it’s a bit of both, and that both are worth undertaking. If you have any insights on how staying organized has improved your life, please leave them in the comments section.
Because of my cleaning epiphany, I am making next week all about self care. I encourage you to take a look at your life and to determine how you can be more loving to yourself – physically, emotionally and intellectually.