3 Things I Did Every Day For A Month That Made Me A Happier Person
The night of September 30, I stayed in with a headache. As I tried to work on some blog posts, I got distracted, and clicked away from my WordPress tab. My screen opened to the page of a gorgeous trench coat I’d seen in a tailored online ad and clicked on. I remembered I’d already made my trench coat purchase, though, so I closed the tab, and stretched out on my bed. I’d been feeling tightness in new-to-me areas, because I’d traded running for spinning over the summer, and gave up yoga and Pilates altogether because of this thing called “lack of time.” (More like lack of desire to make time for it, if I’m being honest.) I made a mental note to do yoga the next day, conveniently ignoring the fact that I’d been telling myself that every day for months without actually doing any yoga.
In the space of about half an hour, I’d written nothing, fantasized about spending money that I shouldn’t be spending on something I didn’t even need, and acknowledged that I needed to move my body more in different ways, but didn’t do a thing about it. Left unchecked, that half an hour would’ve grown to span my entire night. That would not do.
I’m generally a happy person. Life is kind to me, for the most part, and I would describe myself as very fortunate. But like any other human being, I can find myself discontent — more discontent than I should be, given everything I’ve got going for me. Some soul searching has led me to discover that a lot of the reasons for my discontent are that I’m not making the time or effort required to address or resolve the issues that are nagging at me. Put another way: they are all fixable, BY ME, if only I bothered to fix them.
Because I am motivated by challenges and deadlines, I decided to make October the month where I’d do three things every day to challenge, stretch, and discipline myself. If I didn’t start working on cultivating daily habits now, I never would. And so, I decided to focus on writing, yoga, and saving money.
I would challenge myself to write every day to reform a habit I lost a long time ago. I would stretch my body into various yoga poses to regain flexibility and ease the tension in my muscles. I would discipline myself to spend my money mindfully and not impulsively, instilling restraint that will be most useful when the season of gift giving and holiday sales comes around.
So I did just that.
Coincidentally, right around the end of September, I discovered the concept of morning pages, which is when you write three pages first thing in the morning on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter what you write. It’s not even journaling, technically speaking. It’s more like a brain dump. Getting your stream of consciousness out on paper. Writing whatever’s on your mind with the utter freedom of that knowing no one else will read it.
I had an unused Moleskine that I decided to use for my morning pages. I kept it next to my bed, because I knew that if I wasn’t able to reach for my Moleskine first thing in the morning, I’d get sidetracked, and forget about my morning pages. At first, my hand cramped up from filling three pages in half an hour or so. I shifted from topic to topic so fast, if I went back and read what I wrote, I’d probably get mental whiplash from how quickly and often I changed subjects.
But about a week into October, I found my groove. I discovered that I actually really, really liked the whole morning pages concept and how it challenged me to write every day. I began to look forward to getting up half an hour earlier than usual to write. My hand stopped cramping up. My thoughts flowed more clearly. My mind felt more at ease. And by the end of the month, I’d filled up the better part of my Moleskine.
The last time I did yoga daily, I did Adriene’s Yoga Camp. It was back in February, and I loved it, and I rocked it. So why mess up a good thing? I decided to complete Yoga Camp again, and hope that doing her videos every day for the month of October would help me create a long-lasting home yoga practice. As much as I’d love to go to a studio regularly, I can’t justify the expensive price tag for a pack of classes, or a monthly pass, when I know I have a free alternative at home.
The first few days were hard. My wrists were sore even from cat cow pose, which I’ve done millions of times before, and ohmygod, my least comfortable pose was downward dog, which I’ve never really been a fan of (unpopular yogi opinion, I know). But around Day 3, my wrists no longer hurt. By Day 12, I noticed that I was able to intuit how to connect my breath to movement rather than rely on Adriene’s cues. By Day 21, downward dog was a pose I felt comfortable enough to hang out in, rather than wish it wasn’t part of the practice.
And the last day? Well, by the last day, I was able to do my own 45-minute home practice without any guidance from Adriene. That’s how the last day of Yoga Camp is set up, actually. She does her own practice in the video, but there are no audio cues and she welcomes you to do your own thing. So I did just that, and it was great.
I spent zero dollars on unnecessary purchases in October. That is HUGE for me, as sad as it sounds. It’s not that I wasn’t tempted, either. My inbox was no less bombarded by promo emails or discount codes; my desire to browse my favorite shopping websites online was not diminished. But I was determined to be more disciplined with my money in October. I resisted the urge to upgrade my cold weather outfits, or add to my collection of purses, or bring home a fancy kitchen gadget. I have no needs in my home, or my wardrobe, or my life that can be filled with the swipe of a credit card for an impulse buy.
Did I spend any money in October? Of course. I bought yarn for a knitting project I expect to keep me occupied for the better part of November. I bought a round of drinks when my friend and I went out to happy hour. I bought a cheap bouquet of fresh flowers to brighten up my apartment. These are all purchases I’m happy I made and would make again if I had the choice. The creative in me is thrilled to have another project to work on, I had a great time catching up with a friend for an evening, and my apartment looks great.
But I didn’t spend money on impulse buys, or things I didn’t have a use for in my life. There was no complicated calculus, or robbing from Peter to pay Paul involved with paying any of the month’s bills in full. I also learned that there is a huge correlation between how much I want to shop or buy something and how bored I am. When I am busy busy busy, I am far more likely to spend much less money. It doesn’t matter if “busy” means I’m working long hours in the office, or am trying to disconnect from my phone when I am spending quality time with people important to me. Either way, if I’m actively engaged in something, chances are, I’m not about to click “purchase” and add another bag or pair of shoes to my life.
Not to be too predictable, but I hope to continue these habits into November and beyond. I want to continue writing my morning pages, and doing yoga every day, and being intentional about how I spend my money. As cliché as it sounds, doing those three things every day in October made me a happier person. I was no longer too complacent or whining to myself about things I wasn’t willing to change; I was actually doing them, and experiencing the immense benefits of doing so. It’s amazing what a little bit of challenging, stretching, and disciplining can do for improving one’s quality of life.
Amanda prefers heels to flats, wine to beer, planes to trains, and cake to ice cream. She blogs at musicalpoem.me.
Image via Unsplash