I used to think I was happy with this great buzzing social life of mine. Out meeting great people most nights of the week. But the hangovers that followed were more than just the physical effects.
There was the shame that I had drunk too much again. Then the realisation that although my memory of part of the evening was of a great time, I never quite remembered the conversations I had. Did getting pissed really make me happy?
I knew deep down that the cycle of disappointment with myself, followed by a drink to ‘cheer myself up’ was doing me no good. I have shared these feelings in this week's Evening Standard. It is the scariest thing I have ever done.
Owning rather than drowning my emotions was a key step for me. So here are a few things that inspired me.
1. Finding out it was time with friends that made me happy, not the drinking.
Paul Dolan, an all round expert on happiness (boffin at LSE and a Government advisor) says trying to think yourself into a cheery mood is not the whole story - you need to redesign your life and pay attention to things that make you happy, give you a real sense of purpose. You can self-nudge and re-organise your life "in ways so that you can go with the grain of your human nature and be happier without having to think too hard about it".
- Scribble down the things that make you excited, happy, and energised that are not drink. It could be the conversations you have with specific people on a night out, or things you have done with your weekend.
- Discover ways you can engineer more of these things into your life. Could it be getting a date in the diary to see a mate now, instead of meeting at the pub? Or pick up an activity you have always wanted to do?
- Reward yourself with time to reflect on the things that made you happy today. And the things that didn't. Making your 'happy" list longer will give you ideas to redesign your life.
2. Getting my head in the right place took practice
Andy Hix, the Club Soda mindfulness expert, is convinced it is all about owning our own happiness. No one else will do it for you. “I find that a regular meditation practise reminds me of what really matters for my happiness, and right now, I feel pretty good!”
Giving yourself just 10 minutes to sit quietly and reflect can help. Or you could join Andy and other Club Soda members at our mindfulness nights throughout January. You can book on joinclubsoda.co.uk
3. I swam instead ...
... and slept. I certainly rewarded myself with sleep, and instead of reaching for the bottle of sugary alcohol to pep me up I took a 20 minute snooze. But to be a bit more social, I joined a swimming club, and set myself a goal of going every week.
This is why I have set up the Gym on joinclubsoda.co.uk, to share my exercise goals, which in will turn stop me thinking about a large glass of GnT!