Tag Archives: City

Happiness Project

3 Nov

“I am not happy”, the thought that we all dread came to me earlier this week. I realised that I am no longer happy in the city to which I moved ten months ago, I am no longer happy with my lifestyle and I am no longer taking pleasure in my every day life.

I feel a loss of energy, a loss of interest and a loss of motivation. I don’t remember the last time that I sung in the shower. It’s been months since I blasted out my favourite music and danced alone in the living room. And don’t ask me what I look forward to when I wake up in the morning, because I simply don’t have an answer.

It’s tragic, it’s heart breaking, but most of all, it’s very confusing.

Figuring out why we are not happy is a very difficult thing. Figuring out what to do to make ourselves happy is even harder.

Even if we find out why we are not happy, there could be things about certain situations that we simply cannot change. We cannot always move away if we’re unhappy with the place in which we live, we cannot always leave our job if we know that it is making us stressed, we cannot always heal ourselves if we are unwell, we cannot change the people around us if they are bringing negativity into our lives.

So what can we do if we realise that we are unhappy?

For the moment, I am not going to leave my current city, I am not going to change my job and I am not (and cannot) transport my best friends to my city. All I can do is to change a few things in my every day life, which could give me energy, inspiration and joy.

My happiness project for the next month is as follows:

1) Go for a walk every day.

Promenade

2) Wake up at the same time every day (apart from Sundays, of course).

3) Go to bed before midnight, or preferably at 11pm.

4) Find a music teacher and practice the guitar every day.

girl guitarist

5) Read a fairytale.

6) Buy myself something pretty to wear.

7) Go to see a classical music concert.

8 ) Do some sport every day. Dancing, yoga, aerobics, jogging, stretching, walking with heavy shopping bags…

9) Do something that I am scared of (call to ask for a job opportunity, enter a competition, apply for a course, book a trip away, start writing a novel)

10) Go to one new social event a week – alone.

11) Write one story or poem a week.

12) Set an evening every week for personal pampering.  Beauty treatments, meditation, learning how to do a new hair style, taking a bath, listening to music with eyes closed…

13) Try a new recipe every week.

14) Buy a juice making machine, and drink fresh fruit juice at least three times a week.

15)  Go to a new place in the city every week.

16) Edit any of the above points if they start making me unhappy.

17) Create a blog-report on each week of the happiness-project.

 

My happiness project starts today – I have five minutes to get myself ready for bed in time for my curfew!

***

What activities would you put on your own happiness-project list?

What Gets You up in the Morning?

5 Oct

Waking up in London is easy. From 5am I hear the delivery and rubbish trucks moaning in the streets. From 6.30am buses open and close their screeching doors every fifteen minutes outside my window. From 7.30am the hum of cars at the cross-roads signals that the city is awake. Millions of people are already preparing for a day of action and decision, of learning and discovery, of fulfilment and happiness. By 8am I bury my half-open eyes into the warm pillow, relishing the smell of sleep and sweet dreams. I know that in the neighbourhood someone has already done a morning work-out, had a fresh fruit juice, read the paper, got their kids ready for school, prepared lunch for the family, and is on the way to work, looking fresh and full of energy.

“I gotta get moving,” I mumble to myself, stretching in bed and reaching for my diary. “How many things are programmed for today?”

Waking up in the South of France is a challenge for the unprepared. Heck, even the locals seem to have a hard time making out of bed on time for work. Shutters keep out the sunlight, making the body insensitive to the time of day. Living in suburbia, my morning alarm is a rooster calling out from a neighbouring house. Birds tell each other their dreams and I listen, lulled back to sleep by their songs. The elderly gentleman in the house opposite is no doubt walking around his garden, checking what changes the night brought on his crops. The cats are stretching on their fences, wary of getting their paws wet on the shimmering morning dew. The sun, like a ripe grapefruit, is peeking out to check that the world is ready for him. My plants are shivering in the shade; the warmth won’t get to them until the afternoon.

The alarm rings for the third time. “I should get up,” I think to myself, seeing the sunlight creep in under the door “Or else I’ll miss the cool smell of morning air, the shadows cast on the kitchen walls by the rising sun, the rare stillness of the trees, and the silence that falls upon the whole of nature in the early hours of day”. I open the shutters eagerly and a smile spreads across my face. “Good morning to you too, Mother Nature!”

London vs. South of France

23 May

In my birth city, it is 15 °C; in the city I grew up in it is 20 °C; in my new city it is 28 °C. The weather is not the only difference between London, where I spent 15 years, and the Southern French city where I live now. The geographical distance between these two places isn’t spectacular, but the lifestyle is noticeably different.

The most obvious difference:

1) London: 8 million inhabitants. My new town: 200, 000 inhabitants.

London From Above

London - 8 million inhabitants

Amusing differences:

2) London: you’re lucky if you meet a British person in the city. My new town: I stand out for having a foreign accent.

3) London: everyone has an Oyster card. My new town: everyone (apart from me) has a car.

The differences that a Londoner, who is used to having anything/everything at any time, is finding hard to get used to:

4) London: the nearest grocery store was three minutes away from my house. My new town: the nearest grocery store is a twenty-minute walk away; add ten extra minutes if it’s a particularly hot day.

5) London: within a ten-minute walk from my house I had: a grocery store; 3 gyms (including swimming

Cat lying down in garden

My new neighbours

pools, dance/yoga/martial classes); 3 libraries; a dozen restaurants, bars and cafes; 3 bookshops; a park; several hotels; a museum; clothes shops, banks, etc. etc. My new town: within a ten-minute walk from my house I have: a football pitch, a small park, a post office, an organic food store…and hedgehogs, cats and owls.

6) London: shops are open from early morning until late at night every day of the week, including Bank Holidays. My new town: shops are closed at lunchtime, on Sundays and any other time they choose.

7) London: life never stops. My new town: everything stops between mid-June and September, when everyone goes on holiday. Students leave the city, all evening classes are cancelled and the sun drives the only remaining people into the coolness of their homes.

8 ) London: it would take weeks to count the number of galleries and theatres in the city. My new town: I can count them on one hand.

And the differences that a Londoner is greatly appreciating:

My new city centre

9) London: the buildings reach up to 253 m, soon to be 310 m with the completion of the Shard London Bridge tower, the tallest in the European Union. My new town: buildings are mostly around five-storeys, with a lot of houses in my area being bungalows or two-floor homes. Apartment blocks vary from two to six storeys, with only a handful of tower blocks on the edge of the city.

10) Following the point above – London: we appreciate nature through a square meter of sky directly above us. My new town: a 360° view of the sky!

11) London: you’re lucky if you get eye contact from…anyone, really. My new town: passers by not only look you in the eye, they actually smile at you.

12) London: you haven’t even put your change into your purse, but the check-out assistant at the supermarket is already screaming “Next!”. My new town: the check-out assistant makes a comment on the delicious food you bought, says thank you and wishes you a nice day.

13) London: with double-glazing and closed windows I could hear the incessant noise of traffic, fire brigades/ambulances/police cars, drunk people singing in the night, bus doors opening and closing, cars beeping, delivery

A cycling route in the area

trucks unloading, garbage men cleaning the streets. My new town: I can hear birds and the wind, and sometimes a rodent rustling in the bushes.

14) London: ride a bike at your own risk. My new town: ride a bike at your own pleasure.

15) London: after two years of living in the same place, I had no idea who lived in the flat opposite me. My new town: I know four of our neighbours; two of them helped us out during our move, the third gave us DIY advice, and the fourth invited us for drinks at their place on several occasions.

16) London: if you blow your nose after a tube journey, don’t be surprised if your handkerchief turns black. My new town: during the first few weeks here, I got lightheaded after every walk, because of the high quantity of oxygen in the area.

17) London: silence is golden in public transport. My new town: communication is appreciated and even encouraged.

18) London: complaining about the weather, the public transport, the tourists, the parking wardens, the queues and the prices is a daily practice. My new town: the weather is nice, everyone owns their own car, tourists are far and few, parking is permitted pretty much anywhere, there are no queues and prices are reasonable. No wonder everyone always has a smile on their face.

~

Every place has its advantages and inconveniences, and it is always an enriching experience to explore the rhythm, the rules and the visions of a life that is different to our own.

More about this change is lifestyle to come soon…

Think Locally

18 Jan

We don’t necessarily need to move to a different city or different country in order to change our lifestyle: sometimes, all we need to do is change our current habits and a whole new world will open itself up. For those of us living in the city, one thing that could have a colossal effect on our lifestyle is simply choosing ‘to go local’.

In a cosmopolitan capital like London, we are constantly taught to think globally. We are encouraged to expand our vision of the world so widely that we are always aware of what is going on across the globe. Yet despite having such a good knowledge of the larger picture, Londoners  often don’t have a clue about what is happening in their own neighbourhood. We put so much importance on the big things, that the small things seem insignificant.

As a student, all of my activities took place in central London. I would go into town for lessons, for coffee with friends, for shopping, for a walk, for dance class, for language class, for bars and clubs and all evening events. The only time I spent in my area was to come back home to sleep! It seemed like central London contained the world, and I yearned to discover bigger things than my calm residential area could ever offer. Or so it seemed.

For the past four months I have, voluntarily but subconsciously, been keeping my movements very local. And I was amazed to recognise the effects of this choice. I am calmer and more sure of myself; I have discovered my natural routine, in which I have more free time than before; I have saved money and drastically reduced my consumption. Simply spending more time in a more peaceful area of the city has remarkably slowed down my pace of life, and this in turn has given my body time to rest, my mind silence to quieten and my soul space to breathe. I feel more stable, more comfortable, more together. Empty streets, calm movements and disengagement from time have helped me rediscover my individuality.

Regaining a sense of individuality is probably one of the best things that being actively present in the local community has given me. I no longer feel like just another face in a mass of people on the tube, just another employee on the way to work, just another consumer being carried in a crowd. I am an individual who makes a noticeable contribution to the things around her. Working in the bookshop I give honest recommendations, I can put a smile on someone’s face or engage in an interesting conversation. I have got to know the sales girls at the local food store by face, and our exchange is the warmer for our small acquaintance. I always share a joke and have a chat with the guys in the local wine shop. I often recognise the people who pass me on the street, from having met or known them at some point during my time in the neighbourhood.

In the capital we are always being encouraged to make a difference, to do something good for the world, to ‘think big’. But in order to have any grasp at all of the bigger picture, we must understand the small pieces that hold it together. It is by making a constant positive contribution to the things that are closest to us that we will be able to move on to bigger things. As the proverb goes: charity begins at home. If we learn to live lovingly and peacefully with the people and things in our vicinity, then the rest of the world won’t seem like such a big challenge. If we take notice and make a contribution to what is available locally, we will not only make positive changes to our own lives but touch the lives of many others far more deeply than if we were trying to save the entire world. Our most precious things are at our fingertips.