I’ve experienced it before… the nameless entity which would leave me breathless and nauseous after nursery drop off, fretting following conversations with friends and drained after social occasions. Before this, I had a brief and intense dance with postnatal depression, and before that years of feeling, well, not quite right. Always nameless, always there, and never explained… Anxiety.
It was only when my eldest son developed debilitating anxiety at 9 years old, that I finally named it, squared up to it and took it on.
His experience motivated me to DO something, ANYTHING to help him… And what began as a trip through the murky depths of ‘what went wrong’, and ‘what did I do?’ soon became a journey into his, and my happiness.
I came across ‘happiness’ as a tool for a better life when someone suggested I watch ‘The Happy Secret to Better Work’, a Ted Talk by Shawn Achor. (Definitely worth a watch.) In it Shawn talks about 5 scientifically proven ways we can consciously improve our performance at work through increased happiness. Gratitude, kindness, meditation, exercise, and writing a journal about your daily good, can raise your happiness ‘set point’ and lead to improvements across different aspects of life!
This caught my attention. Although not specifically about anxiety, the concept gave us a new direction… Rather than being bogged down in what went wrong, we started to focus on what was going right. Instead of only learning to manage the symptoms of anxiety, (important, but not the only work to do) we saw a bigger picture. We essentially turned our back on anxiety, and through diligence and working together, focused on happiness, and have barely looked back.
Almost 3 years on, it feels like ancient history.
Our journey to happiness went a bit like this…
The very first thing we noticed was a restored sense of empowerment, the feeling we could help him, and more importantly, that he could help himself. We began with gratitude, and looking at the positives each day. Initially this acted as a distraction, and helped to nip full on anxiety attacks in the bud. It also gave him a focus at bedtime, and helped him settle on difficult nights. Acting in kindness towards his brother, friends, neighbours, and his parents really helped him to not think about his worries as much, and gave him a sense of pride. We meditated in the mornings, went walking on the beach, and looked at homemade flash cards at bedtime each night. We tried anything we could to raise his happiness, and gradually we saw our little boy come back.
Personally, this journey found me crying, laughing, despairing, and jumping for joy. It has been my biggest challenge personally, and our biggest as a family. The fact we stood next to each other and did it together (this wasn’t always easy), means we have ended up closer as a family on the other side. Our silver lining!
I wrote Everyday Happy as my way of giving back, and helping those who may be travelling down the same road. It is a practical tool… a call to action… with the aim to empower people to lift themselves (and help their children) out of anxiety.
My mission? To change the world, one smile at a time.
I originally wrote this post for Edinburgh Gossip Girls online Magazine here!