When Every Day is the Same, and You’re Waiting on that Dream Trip

When Every Day is the Same, and You’re Waiting on that Dream Trip

It’s Mental Health Month here on Puttylike! During the month of November, we’re publishing articles and stories that explore anxiety and depression, ways we’ve reached for new perspectives around mental health, and strategies that helped us to rest and nurture our busy brains.

Here’s today’s mental health inspired article!

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Last year, life was tedious. It was like my own personal Groundhog Day, except I actually got older and I barely learned anything. Each day was the same: I awoke, I worked in my little office, I slept. 

And repeat.

At least, that’s how it felt at the time. Looking through my calendar, I actually did quite a bit. Still, as New Year ticked over I couldn’t help feeling frustrated at how little my life seemed to have developed. I vowed to make a change: this year would involve more living than existing.

In one of those happy coincidences, a friend recommended an app which compiles a video of 1-second-long clips, one from each day. I immediately decided this would be a perfect mini-project. By taking a few seconds out of each day, I’d be encouraged to live a little more. Every day, I’d try to do something a little more interesting than filming my lunch—even if it was just a short walk by the river.

And it’s been a success: I’ve spent this year building a compilation of friends and adventures and happy times and delightful views. (Including, on one less memorable day, a video of the first run of a new washing machine.)

But I’ve also come to a deeper realization about the very structure of life.

Life goes by in a flash

This summer I went on a two-week long dream road trip around Europe, visiting castles, restaurants, and museums in stunning medieval canal-filled cities.

Afterwards, I watched the trip back in my “video compilation of the year.” This dream trip—which I’d spent months building up to—goes by in twelve seconds.

Twelve. Seconds.

One moment you’re looking at videos of my lunch at home, then it’s TRAIN, CASTLE, CANAL, CASTLE, CANAL, BEERS, BOAT and suddenly I’m back home eating lunch again.

The trip is over almost as soon as you’ve realized it’s happening.

But this is normal. These sorts of life-highlights are always short compared to the rest of our time. Whether it’s a dream holiday, the final culmination of a huge project, or a major performance, we inevitably spend way longer building up to big highlights than we spend experiencing them. It’s just the nature of time: life is made up of far more ordinary times than extraordinary ones.

And this is my realization: I spend a lot more effort on planning these extraordinary times than I do on raising the bar for my ordinary days.

Make every day worthwhile

Most days tend to be similar, which means that any improvements I make to my ordinary life add up far more than a short break from everyday life could ever give me. 

Cutting five minutes off my commute, actually taking a proper lunch break, sleeping in a comfier bed, eating a tastier lunch, buying a chair that doesn’t cause backache, or creating a home office that makes me happy every time I step inside… each of these raises my happiness every single day.

Sure, I haven’t exactly transformed my daily life, or solved all the problems of the world, but I’ve added some cool up-lighting to my office and made more of an effort to enjoy lunch on “normal” work days, and that’s made lots of otherwise forgettable days more pleasant as I tackle the endless to-do list.

Don’t skip the trip

Obviously, I’m not saying we should never go on holiday, focus on highlight moments, or save up for special treats. After all, it’s important to have something exciting to look forward to.

But I know I have a tendency to be carried away by these larger dreams, to the point that it’s easy to forget that most of my days aren’t spent experiencing them. Watching this video of my year back made me realize how much better off I’d be if I put some of the effort I spent planning my holiday into improving my everyday reality.

I expect my experience isn’t universal. There are probably people reading this post who might benefit from the opposite message—perhaps it’s time for a long-neglected big treat!

Whether we tend to neglect the everyday, or focus on it to the exclusion of all else, there’s something reassuring about the raw fact that most of our life is made of ordinary days. Somehow, making small improvements sounds like an achievable ambition. I could take a walk in the morning. Meditate for a moment at night. Listen to more music. Eat healthier lunches. (Or more attractive ones for video clips!) 

I’m curious… how could you improve your ordinary days?

Your Turn

Is there anything you could do to improve your day-to-day happiness? Share your ideas with the community in the comments!

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Could you use some multipotentialite-friendly support as the holidays approach?

This time of year can be really stressful and difficult for people. It’s common to feel depressed or anxious around the holidays. We also often end up spending time with family members who might not be 100% supportive of our multipotentiality… So we’re doing something special in the Puttytribe to help. It’s called Slow Down December: a month of collaborative self-care.

Throughout the month, we’ll be running workshops and discussions on topics like anxiety, art/creativity therapy, and mindfulness, all from a multipotentialite perspective. There will also be weekly check-ins in the forum, live group meditations and light activities like making our own comfort boxes. Slow Down December is an invitation to, well, slow down and care for yourself—and to do it alongside your multipotentialite family.

To take part in Slow Down December, sign up for the Puttytribe waitlist, and join us when we open the doors on December 1 (or if you’re already a Puttytribe member, just show up!):

neil_2017_2Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a hilarious and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a novel set in the prelife. He also spends his time on humorous talks about mental health, standup comedy, physics, computer programming, and everything from music, video games, languages and pub quizzes. He struggles to answer the question “so, what do you do?” and is worried that the honest answer is probably “procrastinate.” He would like it if you said hello at enhughesiasm.com.

9 Comments

  1. Nghia says:

    Fantastic article that really gets me thinking!

  2. Henriette says:

    So sorry I missed the opportunity to maybe star in your one second of Rotterdam :-). And of course to meet you IRL.

    I like the concept of making every day a little better instead of going for the big things. The coming months I have the opportunity to look at my life and circumstances through the eyes of a loved one (as he has taken up temporary residence in my flat). His attitude towards life is almost opposite to mine, so I borrow some of his upbeat outlook, and he is not even missing that bit. And doesn’t seem to mind my occasional grumpyness.
    So while he’s around, I’ll take all I can get, so I can get through the months that I know that he will be 900 km away.

  3. Taishi says:

    Very good text Neil.

    Could you tell us the name of the app that compiles the video? Thanks.

    • Ilene says:

      Thank you for sharing! This is a good reminder for me, as I plan and (perhaps overly) focus on my 30th bday trips next year. :-)

      Is the app you used “1SE” (1 Second Everyday)?

      • Neil Hughes says:

        Oh yay! Must be an awesome trip if you’re so excited already :D There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to a big thing, of course – and if being excited every day is making your life better, then that’s ideal! I guess the issue is when we focus entirely on life in the future that we forget to also enjoy the present. Or we think we can’t enjoy the present until we have x, y, or z. Really hope you have a great trip! (And yes, that’s the app :D)

  4. Brie says:

    I am working on this now. I am always coming up with new business ideas and trying to plan the next big fun thing. I do my best to stay in the moment especially for my kids but it is hard. I am a planner and an idea person and cant stop myself.
    Day to day, I take my pup for longer walks, spend more screen free time with my kids and enjoy the cooler weather coming our way outside. Dont forget to check out the starry nights and take deep breaths.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      Absolutely! It’s hard to remember to live in and enjoy the present, but time with kids, pets and nature definitely helps, as there’s no way to enjoy those WITHOUT being in the moment :D

  5. Marie-Louise Penny says:

    I enjoyed every minute of your article Neil. Make everyday worthwhile like you say to enjoy the ordinary times rather than the big build up to the extraordinary times. I’ve started to wear nail varnish when Im not at work (nightshift nurse) it just brightens my day. I bought some board games to play with my sons to pass an hour or 2 instead of hardly seeing them gaming away in their bedrooms. On Wednesday I’ve introduced “treat your mum” night and they cook my tea (frozen pizza, half cooked pasta) we’re getting there and you know what, they tell me all sorts when we’re washing up, side by side. It is the small tweaks here and there that make life more joyous isn’t it? Thank you for sharing that Neil.

    • Neil Hughes says:

      That’s fantastic! Absolutely – little things that bring joy every day can’t solve all our problems, but they can certainly make life more enjoyable :) thank you so much for sharing!

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