I work from home, only have two children and am fine with our house being clean-ish but chaotic. I should have hours to spend as I please. Time to spend on activities to revitalise, refresh and rejuvenate me.
Except I didn’t. I spent very little time doing anything which brought just me any joy. All my focus was on other people. All my joy was derived from the happiness of others.
I know that I’m not alone in this. My friends, sisters and the equally exasperated women I encounter are all saying the same thing “we never get any time for ourselves”.
But we do. An Oxford University study has shown that we have lost some leisure time since the 1970’s. But we’ve only lost 2.46 hours a week. Leaving us with 113 glorious hours of free time. So why are 81% of women reporting that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope?
An operation on my ankle, and a period bed bound, gave me an insight as to why this might be. With instructions from the doctor to rest, I was relieved of all household and childcare duties. I worked from bed but the rest of my time was my own. I was miserable.
I had no idea what to do to spark joy. I watched hours of Netflix, convincing myself that an opportunity to watch all of the box sets was a great thing. It wasn’t.
Being stuck in bed wasn’t the problem. I was so disconnected from what brought me pleasure. I had no idea how to spend my time when all I had to do was please myself.
I brainstormed all the things that I could do to make me happy and started seeking joy.
I wrote letters to friends and family, delayed gratification but the flurry of post in return was joyous. I read, 9 books in 3 weeks. I wrote lists, journal entries and even a couple of short stories. I phoned people, not text, actual conversations. In short, I did things that I claim I don’t have time for when I’m on my feet.
It was heavenly.
Of course, I had to get back out of bed. I wasn’t dreading it. An idea was starting to form. It isn’t about the time devoted to pleasure it’s about maximising the pleasure in whatever time you have.
It’s easy to prioritise the needs of everyone else and much harder to take control and say “I need”. So start small.
I set my alarm 5 minutes earlier. This way I have time to disguise the dark circles under my eyes and apply an eyeliner flick and some mascara. It brings me great pleasure to feel pulled together and not see a wisened old crone every time I pass a reflective surface.
I’ve stopped talking the dog on our ordinary, boring route and now factor in an extra 30 minutes so that I can get to the woods or beach where walking him is an absolute pleasure.
I bought my husband fancy headphones. It was a completely selfish gift to give me peace while he watches tv of an evening. I spend those blissfully quiet, child free hours reading.
I grab myself a take away coffee at the supermarket. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable the weekly shop is when I’m adequately caffeinated.
I haven’t managed to add a 25th hour to the day. But these wee nuggets of genuine, completely selfish, joy make my days. And as with anything the more you go looking for joy the more you find.