• Emily Powell

10 Days of Happiness - part 2

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Last week, I gave you an insight into my 10 days of happiness journey with some illustrations I’ve been working on, and now it’s time for the second instalment!

The program is led by Action for Happiness, a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. It’s designed to help us explore the many different things that can, and do, make us happy every day to help inspire people to live more positively, especially after all that 2020 has put us through!

I get so much joy from drawing, so it seemed like a perfect fit for me to follow the 10 days through illustration and draw my inspiration from the daily prompts. Read on to see how the rest of the program panned out for me…

Happiness day 5 - Learn new things

This has been one of my favourites and again, features very similar themes to some of the images I’ve drawn for NHS projects in the past.

I am a bit of a book worm and I love reading; I tend to read novels for fun, but I am always on the hunt for interesting articles on self-development, leadership, mental wellbeing and other subjects that interest me. The posts that I look for on Twitter and LinkedIn are ones that link short articles on interesting topics that I can read in bed with my cup of tea before I get up to face the day.

There’s a saying; ‘every day is a school day’ and I find it’s so very true. We learn new things all the time, whether seeking them out in books and courses, or just in casual conversation! I believe that the natural urge to learn is something we never lose, and it can bring a lot of pleasure to your life.

The learn French cassettes I’ve drawn were inspired by our neighbour and friend who is a retired teacher and was recently searching for learn French with Michel Thomas, her love of learning has never waned even now she’s a lady of leisure.

When I was at school, I learned the clarinet and the fl

ute, and my daughter was having flute lessons at school until the start of the lockdown. Learning to play an instrument when I was young, and the pleasure that I get from hearing my daughter play (and having a little go myself every now and then) is very uplifting – just writing it down makes me want to go and have a play!

Learning new words has been something that we’ve had fun with at work in our team, finding old or interesting words – we would get points for using the word of the week in context, in a meeting or conversation with colleagues outside of our team, and with at least one witness from the team to verify. Give it a go at work or with friends and family; it’s a brilliant way to encourage more diverse and fun language into your day!

The part of the picture about learning new words was partly inspired by this, but also by a tweet from @thesailorsgirl who shared a picture of words her father had written down (and the words I used are from this)...

“this is how my father taught himself to read, never went to school but in his 20s onboard his ships, with a torch, dictionary and newspaper he worked his way through the English language. A habit he never stopped, this list is from when he was 80 plus. Words are power.”

Happiness day 6 – Find things to look forward to

Even though the world has turned upside down and it’s hard to plan too far ahead right now, when I thought about this for a while I found there are still plenty of things to look forward to. Our experiences through lockdown have forced all of us to shift perspective and start looking at our lives in a different way. Maybe we can’t go out for dinner as easily, but we can have picnics in the park. Maybe we can’t visit our relatives as we would have done, but we can have a video call or quiz nights. And maybe we can’t book an overseas holiday at the moment without the potential worry of quarantine when we get back, but we can still find lots of things to do as a family and enjoy our time together.

I fact, I’ve found time with my family and neighbours even more special because we’re challenging our routines and trying new activities and that in itself has been lots of fun.

When I think ahead I’m looking forward to so many things; the next instalment in a book series that I have been reading, getting to watch a new film release at home, getting back to the beach sometime, having drinks with friends, a holiday in the garden and a family picnic. These are all special to me and all things that I put on my ‘looking forward to’ list.

Happiness day 7 – Find ways to bounce back

Now this was a bit more of a tough one. It feels like we’re having to bounce back multiple times a day at the moment doesn’t it?! It might seem like a long time ago that we were riding the emotional rollercoaster of daily updates from Boris, announcements of school closures and trying to manage while our routines and days were turned upside down, but that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten.

For me and so many others I speak to it’s still a challenge, with some days feeling good and others overwhelming. We all deal with these difficult emotions in different ways and it’s so important to look after yourself and protect your own happiness and wellbeing if you think things are getting tough.

I love a long walk in the countryside where I can enjoy some fresh air and freedom from the stresses of work and home life, letting the dog charge about and explore, jump in as many puddles as she can find, run through every patch of bramble and get covered in sticky buds. I find a walk really invigorating and it can totally change my mindset if i need to lift my mood.

Sometimes time alone can be the answer, to enjoy some quiet and delve into a book or your favourite TV series for a while. If you really need an energy boost, put your favourite song on loud and enjoy a few minutes of dancing in the kitchen – that’s always a great way to release some endorphins! I watched a few silly videos through lockdown of people linking together different songs and acting out to them. One in particular made me laugh so much I created a Spotify playlist of the songs and danced around to them with my daughter!

When I came to a drawing for day seven it was hard to think of what I could use to visualise bouncing back, but the girl from day three came back around to rescue me with her space hopper and inspiring quotes! She’s definitely bouncing back!

Happiness day 8 – Notice what you’re grateful for

This was also one of my favourites, because no matter how tough things get there are always things to be grateful for when you start to think. In fact, I’m also grateful that I have so many wonderful things to draw for this challenge!

There’s a popular habit I’ve seen people talk about before in making a daily gratitude list, writing down three things each night that you are grateful for. This can be absolutely anything at all and is intended to help you develop a more positive outlook through actively identifying the great things you have in your life.

It might be something nice that happened to you today, or perhaps something nice that you did for someone else. It might be that you had a conversation with a relative and you’re grateful for that relationship, maybe you’re simply grateful for the roof over your head and food on your table. Maybe you’re grateful that some clever person created chocolate! I know I am!

It doesn’t matter what you put on your list but it’s a great exercise and really heart-warming to note all the lovely people and things you have in your life to be grateful for. I had no problem filling up my page with pictures of things I’m grateful for, and there was still more that I couldn’t fit on the page.

Happiness day 9 – Be kind to yourself

Being kind to yourself is a huge part of mental wellness, because so often we spend all our time and energy looking after the people and leave nothing for ourselves. Some great advice is to treat yourself as you would your best friend, and you deserve it! There is a Buddhist saying that tell us, “you yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

So what does it look like to be kind to yourself? Whatever you want it to! What works for others might not work for you so try some different things before you settle on something that brings a bit of peace and happiness when you’re finding life hard. Cuddle up to watch a film, go for a walk, or sit in the garden and spend some time enjoying the fresh air on your face and the sounds of the birds in the trees.

One of the graphics I created for the Solent NHS Trust mental health awareness week campaign was titled ‘be your own best friend’. This is exactly as that good advice told us, because it’s hard to keep being there for others if we’re not looking after ourselves first. So, for day nine my girl from days three and seven returns again doing one of my favourite things – having a long soak in a hot bath, with bubbles, candles and relaxing music. Bliss!

Happiness day 10 – Be part of something bigger

This prompt was another difficult one to draw, but I am really pleased with the concept of the jigsaw earth. Being part of something that feels worthwhile was one of my main reasons for taking a job in the NHS, because I feel like the effort that I put in at work contributes to something more than shareholder value in a private company. I also feel like I’ve had an amazing opportunity in creating graphics for NHS organisations to help them share service user voices. I’ve worked with people who have lived with experiences of physical and mental health problems, heard them share their stories and worked together to create illustrations that visualise what they feel, and every time it feels like a true privilege.

So, there you have it; my journey completing the ten days of happiness program, and it’s been such an enjoyable ten days! Not only have I been working creatively to come up with a series of illustrations to share my experiences for each day, but I’ve also been able to reflect on different parts of my life and my childhood, exploring all the different things that make me truly happy.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through each day’s reflections, seeing my drawings and perhaps even being inspired to try the challenge yourself!

If you’d like to find out more about my work or you’re interested in working with me, drop me a line at thomkatillustrations@gmail.com

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