• Emily Powell

10 Days of Happiness in Pictures

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Recently I’ve really enjoyed carrying out the 10 days of happiness program, and I’ve now got a collection of drawings that really represent what makes others happy and what makes me happy in different ways.

I’ve found that drawing is always driven by emotion whether it’s for a client, a team or just for myself. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting your own feelings onto paper, it may be illustrating a process someone is going through to get clarity and understanding, or creating a treasured memory for a loved one.

Whatever the motivation, this program has been a brilliant prompt for exploring how happiness can be brought into so many situations, and I wanted to share my experience and drawings with you all. There is something personal behind some of the images; friends who’ve inspired me, ideas that have been promoted by reading, and others that link to projects I’ve worked on, but they have all been an absolute joy to create.

Action for Happiness is a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society, bringing people together and helping them take practical action for a happier life, drawing on the latest scientific research.

One of the charity’s projects is a free online coaching program called 10 Days of Happiness, and the clue’s in the name! It guides you through a series of daily actions designed to inspire happier living, specifically designed for the challenging times we’ve all been faced with during the Covid19 pandemic.

Happiness day one – Do good, feel good

Our lives are so busy that sometimes it’s hard to stop and consider the small ways we do good things for ourselves and others. I found that when I really thought about it, there are a great many very small actions that I do without thinking, but that undoubtedly do good for others, and make me feel good too.

One of my enduringly happy memories as a child was that my mum read to my sister and I throughout our childhood, from Roald Dahl and JRR Tolkien to Terry Pratchett, and I longed for my own children to be old enough for me to read some of my childhood favourites to them. Now that they are, I love to cuddle up with them, read a story and create our own happy memories together.

In the pandemic, we have been sharing online grocery orders with our next door neighbours who have grown to be close friends since we moved in eight years ago, and we’re now in the habit of texting each other when we’re placing and order or off to Aldi or Home Bargains to see if there’s anything we can get for each other.

With so many ways to communicate, writing letters has become a dying art, but it’s another thing that I have fond memories of as a child, and just a small piece of paper can bring such happiness with it. We were always encouraged to write letters to our aunties and uncles and grandparents, and I used to take such pleasure in writing letters on airmail paper for my aunties who moved to America and those lovely stationary boxes with writing paper and matching envelopes. We had a family friend who travelled as an aid worker to places such as Cambodia and Sudan, who used to write to us about their travels. We would wait for the letters to arrive with eager anticipation and devour them when they arrived. I’m sure the letters that we wrote back were very domestic by comparison!

I love a cup of tea first thing in the morning. Years ago my mum made us a cuppa every morning to get us up, and now my husband and I take it in turns to make a brew (tea for me, coffee for him) each morning. A task you might do without thinking each day, but still a welcome and heart-warming a gesture of kindness.

Happiness day two – Connect with people who matter to you

Early on in the pandemic, I set up a family WhatsApp group for my extended family and although we haven’t been able to see each other in person, it has been so lovely to share family photos, silly picture quizzes and the like, that I feel much closer to them because we’ve been connecting much more often that we were before.

I was also invited to another WhatsApp group called ‘staying positive’ by Beth, a friend I have worked with previously, which included lots of old colleagues and some others. In her first message she wrote, “add whoever you want to this group, we are all going to feel sad, scared and lost especially with being isolated from each other, together let’s keep each other positive and connected.” It seems like a small act but it has meant a lot to me being part of this group and staying in touch with people experiencing the same challenges. The group has helped me through some days that have felt really tough and kept us all connected.

Another way I feel closer to people is within our small community of neighbours. We live in a little cul-de-sac within our road, and our 10 families have gotten to know each other better and shared some amazing moments over the last few months. It started with the clap for carers where we would join together in the street every week and has evolved into a beautiful community spirit. We all decorated the fronts of our houses with bunting for VE day, I drew a big union jack on the road with my children, and we all spent the day in our front gardens, enjoying BBQ food, picnics, and afternoon tea. We all stood for the two minutes silence, which I marked at the beginning and the end with a hunting horn, and later I played the last post on my daughter’s flute. We stayed out until late that night, wrapped up in our blankets to listen to the Queen’s speech together, and bonding with each other despite the social distance. We couldn’t hug or stand together but we felt closer nonetheless.

Even after the clap for carers came to an end, we continued enjoying each other’s company with a quiz each Thursday evening where we all sat at the front of our houses round the turning circle and took it in turns to be quiz masters, even in the rain! This connection is something that I am incredibly grateful for and crosses through the generations. We celebrated five lockdown birthdays, including an 18th birthday and a 90th, and these milestones have all formed part of our beautiful memories of what has otherwise been a tough time.

Happiness day three – Get active!

The pictures for this day were inspired by family and friends. I had already used up some of my visual ideas for moving your body on the ‘be kind’ graphics I created for Solent NHS Trust, and ‘be active’ graphics I created for the Southern Heath NHS Foundation Trust mental health 5-a-day poster, so I was keen to come up with something a bit different.

My mum and I both have identical mint green Victoria Pendleton bikes, which was the inspiration for the image of the girl on the bike. Going for bike rides with my mum is another enduringly positive memory from my childhood and my son has recently learned to ride his bike without stabilisers, so I can’t wait for us to all go out together on family bike rides once he’s a bit more steady!

We are lucky to have an allotment within easy walking distance of our house and it’s my husband’s happy place. He often disappears to the allotment in the evening to do some digging and water the plants, he comes home muddy and worn out and thoroughly satisfied with his latest crop of home grown fruit and veg, hence the wellies, plant pots, watering can and gardening tools.

The rollerboots were inspired by a friend and colleague at work who reignited her love of rollerskating during lockdown, dusting off her skates and taking them for a spin. Getting active really can happen in any way you choose!

Happiness day four – Be present

Being present is something I’ve thought a lot about. It presents a real challenge for so many of us, and the truth is that it isn’t always easy to be present in a moment or an activity when there is so much in our minds to distract us. I had explored the idea within the mental health projects I worked on for the NHS and it can mean different things to different people depending on how they manage to be present.

Although not easy to achieve, being present is incredibly beneficial to help calm your mind, truly enjoy the conversation or activity you are engaged in, and to really connect with the people you are with. I’ve found this especially with my children, who have an amazing ability to devote themselves entirely to something they enjoy without any worries for emails, shopping lists, what’s for dinner or who last took the bins out. Watch a child carry out even the smallest of tasks and their focus in amazing, and we should all aspire to be a bit more like them in my opinion!

When it came to drawing for day four, I was inspired by a lovely quote from the animated film Kung Fu Panda, of all things, which is clever and beautiful; ‘yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present’.

After four days you can already see ow much reflection I’d done on my own happiness and what makes me happy, as well as those around me. This is proof that the ten-day program is a success in helping you identify your happiness and seek it out. Drawing certainly makes me very happy, so that in itself was a joy.

In my next blog I’ll be working through the rest of my 10 days of happiness journey, so stay tuned!

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