:: Blogtober is a blogging challenge whereby bloggers are encouraged to post every day for the month of October. My post topics have been taken from suggestions by friends and family. In general, expect my posts to be shorter, more random and of inconsistent quality! ::
This post was inspired by Ben, and also by my friend Pippa who wanted to know what made me happy.
Ben has been thinking a lot about positive psychology, recently. There is a long, long list of qualities that I love about him, but the one I marvel at most often is his capacity to work at continually improving himself. He does not do this selfishly. He seeks, always, to understand the people, places and systems that surround him. And then he uses that knowledge to improve his relationships with people, and the projects and work he is involved in. We, his lucky family, and his friends, feel the benefit of this daily.
Ben has a first class degree in neuroscience, a fine understanding of global financial markets, a forensic knowledge of the biopharma and life sciences industry, and a surplus of creative talents. So, when I spotted books with titles like "How to be Happy", and when the likes of Oprah and Cheryl Sandberg start peppering our conversations, I raise an eyebrow. We are...an evidence-based kind of a family and pop psychology does not typically sit comfortably with us. Ben is the first to point out how a psychological principle has been watered down, or the research over-extrapolated, or correlation confused with causation. But, of course, "pop psychology" is not an exclusively pejorative term, it also includes scientifically-valid, psychological knowledge which is accessible to the general populace. It's easy to forget that amidst the polluted tide of left brain/right brain processes, cosmic ordering and other nonsense that washes around the internet.
Life is messy and complicated and ours feels particularly so, sometimes. We do keep our perspective and people who work with us to support Spike, say that we seem relaxed, which I am glad for. But it is sometimes, often, a projection. There are regular spells where we have our heads down and we are just fire-fighting. I rarely feel truly unhappy, but I often feel very stressed and it can be difficult to enjoy the ride when things are like that.
And so, Ben has been thinking about mental strength and positive psychology. Oprah and Cheryl have written and spoken a lot about gratitude and the role it can play in reducing stress, building social support and expanding social networks, and increasing reports of positive emotions, and it seems there is sturdy research behind it. Cultivating habits of gratitude can make you happier and more mentally resilient.
I find it fascinating that something that feels so essential, like human happiness, is as measurable as a pulse. We're just predictable bags of bones and goo. But isn't that reassuring?! I think so. And so, I am buying in. It feels good to be proactive about one's mental state, and so this blog is about what I was thankful for today.
* My favourite trousers (those ones up there ↑) were clean and ironed. These are essentially pyjamas that I can wear out of the house. LOVE them.
* The coffee 'thing' was clean this morning. The filter holder, I mean. I do not enjoy cleaning out coffee sludge at 6.15am and just sometimes, I am smart enough to clean it out the night before. Today was one of those days.
* Spike was not irritable today. He has had a run of being really quite crochety, but he was quite chipper this morning.
* When I opened the front door this morning, it was pouring with rain and the scent of sweet ozone swept into the hall. Oscar commented on it, and I got to tell him my favourite word, "petrichor". I explained that the word comes from "petra" meaning stone, and "ichor", the fluid which flows like blood in the veins of gods. This went down exactly as well as I hoped. I love his enthusiasm for words.
* Spike wanted his iPad in the car and managed to lift his heavy school bag, undo the zip and find the device. Things like this, which require bilateral coordination, are something he struggles with, but he did it! He was so happy with himself and I was pleased for him.
* Spike has been wanting to take pictures this week and today, in the car, he said "Look, Mummy! That bus stop is laughing! I need to take a picture." And so it was(!)
* On the school run this morning, the unfailingly grumpy street cleaner (fair play, mate) kindly indicated that I need to move back a little to be inside the lines of my parking bay.
* I received an exceptionally nice Twitter comment about one of my blog posts. Thank you to anyone who has said something nice about the blog. I've had some really supportive and encouraging feedback, and it means a lot. I'm finding writing very therapeutic and rewarding, but it's lovely to know that others sometimes find it interesting, or amusing, or diverting.
* This lovely, unexpected hit of violet.
* I met my friend Anna for coffee. She is an old/new friend. We studied interior design at Chelsea College of Art together nearly a decade ago, but did not really connect until recently when we discovered we were near neighbours. We are mothers now and share many interests. Anna is opening a cafe, Kale & Honey, virtually opposite the end of my road. Discussing the interior design, the coffee and the menu has been like brain food. Our meetings are an easy, simple pleasure. I'm sure I'll post about Anna and her lovely cafe again. It's going to be fabulous.
* I finished drafting the damn EHCP paperwork. It will need tweaks and revisions, but it's basically all there.
* I was reminded, for the nth time how brilliant, lovely, thoughtful and talented Spike's ABA tutors are. They are incredibly professional, but the clear affection and commitment they show to our boy...I couldn't ask for more.
* A flock of green parrots swooped over my car. I know they are considered a pest and an environmental problem but, come on! They're a cheerful crew on a drizzly day.
* We had nice family time after school today, well, as nice as it can be with Ben away. We've all been a bit out-of-sorts over the last couple of days, and I am still a bit frazzled. So we watched a movie, had a cheaty dinner (pasta and pizza). I chatted with Spike while he designed trains and helped Oscar with a little light dress-up (school uniform / sequinned leotard / Roman helmet) and face-painting.