Making small changes to make life better sounds easy. When I became ill in 2015, we had to make changes to our lifestyle for practical reasons. Although we were forced to make some changes, the results are delightful. You can find out more about us here. Here are the main changes we made to be living a happier life.
We no longer run two cars.
There are two sides to this, I no longer have the independence that I did. I can’t just jump into the car and go out without taking Mr J into consideration, but I also don’t make unnecessary journeys. Travel is now more considered and we combine tasks into one journey. This is better for our wallet and the environment.
We eat differently.
I now eat gluten free and Mr J certainly eats less gluten, but enjoys homemade bread occasionally. I cook from scratch and cook fresh foods whenever possible and am conscious of what is in each ingredient. There are foods that I give a wide berth because they make me feel rotten. And there are foods that I have a reaction to, so I avoid them altogether. I cook more food than we need for one meal and freeze the extra portions. This means that on the days that I do not feel up to cooking, Mr J can quickly find something for us in the freezer.
We rarely eat out. Going out to eat used to be a regular activity for us. Now I am often too tired to sit in a restaurant. Finding food that is gluten free and also avoids all the other things that I react to is very difficult. Therefore it’s simpler, safer and definitely cheaper to eat at home.
One of the most impactful changes to make life better, was to slow down. Not in a ‘come to a grinding halt’ way although this does happen to me on a regular basis, but we have stopped rushing everywhere. We are taking time to appreciate what we are doing, where we are and how lucky we are to be where we are. If we have to be somewhere at a certain time we give ourselves more time to get there. There is less pressure and less stress to the journey. By taking time to appreciate more, I find great pleasure in so many things that I used to take for granted.
This was forced on me rather than being an active choice. To begin with I really struggled with having to sit or lie still for long periods. Feeling desperately ill for 5 months took its toll and I was exhausted by the very nature of the illness, but as I learnt to slow down, I also learnt to take proper rests. This doesn’t mean a quick sit down with a cuppa, it means lying down completely. It doesn’t just mean resting my body, but also my mind. I guess it’s like meditating, I’ve learnt to rest my mind from the busy racing thoughts and to just enjoy the moment of calm and quiet. As one of the changes to make life better, this is a lovely one because the rest is often more refreshing than sleep.
This isn’t a plan to do more, but an action plan for the things that I want to do. I organise in my daily routine. I need to be careful not to take on too much at any one time. So Mr J and I have lists and plans of how we are going to tackle tasks. I learnt how much (or little) that I can do in a day and adjust my expectations accordingly.
So for example, if I want to spend a chunk of the morning outside in our fruit and vegetable garden, I know that our main meal for the day will need to be at lunchtime. I will have run out of energy by early afternoon and won’t be able to cook an evening meal. That’s when the home-cooked frozen meals are so useful. I know that if we want to go shopping for food or anything else that I need to do it as early as possible in the day. I am surprised by how much can be done in a short space of time when I plan carefully.
Mental changes to make our lives better
Value my friends.
I don’t go out as much as I used to, so I don’t socialise as much as I did. However I’ve also come to value my friends in a way that I didn’t before. When I saw lots of people on a regular basis I ‘knew’ lots of folks without really knowing many of them. My circle of friends and acquaintances has diminished, but the quality of the friendships that I do have has grown exponentially.
Consider the impact of my actions.
Because I am more aware of how everything impacts on my health, I am also more aware of how my actions impact on others and the world around me. On a physical level I am more conscious of the waste of energy, the type of chemicals and type and source of the food that we are using, and I am more aware of how my behaviour may impact on others, on their physical health or emotional wellbeing.
As a result of these changes – the slowing down, valuing friendships, my circumstances and my health, by being more considered and considerate I find pleasure in so many more things. And I find more reasons to be grateful and to celebrate. I don’t mean a ‘let’s throw a party’ kind of celebration, sometimes it’s a very quiet, personal acknowledgement and sometimes it’s a share it with Mr J or my family and friends moment. The more I celebrate, the more I find to be thankful for and that’s a very pleasing circle of thought.
As a result of slowing down, planning more and considering my actions more I take more time to listen to others and to myself and actually hear what is being said. The positive result is that I am gaining better understanding all the time and this in turn is making me more patient. Patience with others and with myself and this, I think, can only be a good thing.
I appreciate more.
I say thank you more often. And I appreciate the help, care and love that is offered and given. Hand in hand with this better appreciation and all the other changes that are taking place, I feel better able to respond appropriately and to give more to those around me. And that in itself is a real pleasure.
From the negativity of being ill, we made some changes and are now living a happier life.
Originally published 8th January 2016, adapted and updated 6th December 2020.
Grounded, A Gardener’s Journey to Abundance and Self-Sufficiency by Liz Zorab. (This is an affiliate link, if you purchase via this link I will earn a commission). Grounded tells the story of transforming a field to an abundant edible landscape while also transforming Liz’s life.
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