A guest post by by Jill Dahl
Have you ever looked at your schedule for the upcoming weekend and cringed?
Two days off of work, and it’s crammed with chores, spillover from work, family duties, and activities that fill you with a sense of dread?
You have organized what you need to do, but is it what you want to do?
I know, I know . . . you need to do these things to be a good spouse, a good parent, a good friend, a good worker—but aren’t you just a little tired of being “good” all the time? Imagine if you could schedule a weekend of things that made you really happy.
Sounds too good to be true? Maybe. For most of us, we have demands from our various roles in life that cannot be ignored, even on the weekends. It's too easy to neglect opportunities for happiness amidst our competing commitments. These missed chances occur because we forget—or may not be conscious of—what truly makes us happy.
The process of writing a list of fun things that make you happy is similar to creating a grocery list, a household projects list, or a goals list. It keeps you on track for what needs to be done. Isn’t your happiness worth some attention and planning (at least as much as your ingredients for Monday’s dinner)?
Let’s take a few minutes to capture, in writing, those small moments of happiness that you can squeeze in without having to ditch your obligations.
Here's how to plan a happy weekend:
Step One: Write Down One Thing That Made You Happy Yesterday
Grab a piece of paper or open a blank document on your screen. Take two minutes to list anything that made you truly happy over the last 24 hours.
If limiting yourself to yesterday is too challenging, try to list things over the past week or two that made you happy. Did you take a moment to watch the sunset? Did you watch a great movie with your significant other while snuggled on the couch (no judgment if your significant other is a pet)?
Keep reflecting until you have at least one thing written down. Go ahead . . . I’ll wait!
Many people performing this exercise start to panic a bit as they rack their brains, trying to come up with even the tiniest scrap of happiness from their recent lives. Maybe this has happened to you.
Does this make you a negative person? Does it confirm you've allowed yourself to be trapped in a cynical mindset, despite all of the self-improvement work you have done over the past few years?
No! Of course not!
We just need to do a bit more digging.
Step Two: Add Any Things That Make You Think, “This is life!”
Go back to the list you started, and write down a few small things that make you feel happy. List something you can do/create/indulge in that brings you joy. These can be relatively commonplace things that could make you stop and say to yourself, “Ahhhh . . . THIS is Life!”
I will share mine in case you get stuck:
- Walking by the ocean (I live close to a beach.)
- Meeting up with a friend over a glass of wine
- A good breakfast (anything that involves biscuits and/or gravy!)
If you are feeling inspired, add several items to your list in this category of everyday joy, but try to aim for at least three. Include at least one solo activity and one low-cost/free activity on your list. The litmus test for whether or not it belongs on your happy weekend list is being able to pause and say to yourself while doing it, “This is life!” (It's totally okay if no one else you know would agree!)
Step Three: Add People Who Love You, Warts and All
As you brainstormed your this-is-life moments, hopefully at least a couple of these moments involved people from your inner circle—those who love you no matter what and know the way you're wired. Connecting to people who embrace you unconditionally is essential to your happiness.
Go back to your list, and write down the names of at least a couple people who love you the most (parent, significant other, sibling, child, friend, niece/nephew, co-worker . . . define your own posse!). Then beside each name write your favorite way to connect with them.
Maybe you love to go for a walk with them, sit down with a coffee and chat, or create something together. The key is to know what makes you happy with those who are closest to you.
You should now have a good start on things that bring you happiness outlined on your list. Well done! It’s time to tackle a major part of your life . . .
Step Four: Add Happy Moments From Your Workday (even if you’re trapped in a job you hate)
If you're fortunate, you can easily think of a couple of activities from your regular workday you genuinely enjoy. However, statistics tell us if you are thrilled with your job, you're in the minority.
So how do you find joy from your job that can translate to your weekend? Start by listing the things in your workday that make you happy, even if it's the most ridiculously tiny thing. Maybe it’s creative writing or designing something on your computer. Or perhaps it's a daily task that gets you out of the building and provides a few minutes of quiet solitude.
Go back to your list and add at least two things connected to your workday. Stay-at-home moms, your days with the kids DO count as workdays — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
Another pat on the back for you! You have made significant progress in mining your everyday life for seemingly insignificant moments so you can turn them into happiness gems.
How to Use Your Brand-New List to Brighten Your Weekend
You have an untapped goldmine of ways to be happy hidden inside your everyday life. You can use your happy list to create moments you want to plan for weekend fun. Ask yourself: how can I recreate this moment? What is it about this moment that made me feel happy? Was it the environment, the people, the action?
Now think about how, when, and where you can apply this list for creating a happy weekend. You may still have obligations and responsibilities, but you can find time for joy by reconnecting to your happiness moments.
Keep your new list with you at all times. Be mindful of moments you encounter that make you happy, and write them down for future weekends.
Are You Ready to Put Happiness on Your Weekend Agenda?
So many things are beyond our control in our lives, but knowing what is meaningful to you is part of the path toward happiness and authenticity.
Your next brave step is taping your list to your bathroom mirror (or save it as your home screen if you used an electronic device). Starting today, I want you to look at your list and ask yourself, “What small thing can I weave into my hectic schedule this weekend?” Then go do it!
Want to gain even more momentum? Grab a friend, ask them to write their own list, and then cheer each other on with your weekend happiness plans. Or better yet, enjoy your happiness lists together.
As the author of your own life story, you can train yourself to create balance, to find joy in simple things, and to make room for happiness even in your busy life.
Jill Dahl is the founder of Secondhand Therapy, an online resource for people just like you, who want support in finding time and practical advice, so you can invest in your emotional wellbeing. Secondhand Therapy will soon be offering an online course designed to be a cornerstone in your emotional health: “Introducing You: A Self-Awareness Bootcamp.”
Special Note: Have you checked out my new book, Building Confidence? If you’re struggling with issues related to low confidence and shyness, I urge you to check out this book and learn the evidence-based skills to boost confidence.