Living my best life and what that means
The popular Instagram hashtag ‘living my best life’ seems to me to sum up the ethos of These Are The Heydays perfectly. Which is why I’ve been using it on my posts on the site for some time now.
But in the last few days I’ve been thinking in more detail exactly what ‘living my best life’ actually means and looks like for me. And whether, and how, that has changed over the years.
This then is what I’ve come up with as the things that I recognise I need in order to be living the best life I can, in the best way I can:
Spending time with the people I love
It goes without saying - I hope! - that top of that list are my gorgeous girls and their fabulous husbands, but I’m immensely lucky that the the rest of the list is a long one, encompassing my lovely partner, the other members of my large family, and a wonderful network of friends, who between them provide me with a dependable supply of company, affection and support.
(I would add that I also relish meeting new people, whether socially, at work, or, more recently, through the virtual network of social media. )
It’s a bonus that that kind of face-to-face social interaction turns out to be the most important ingredient in living longer, as this fascinating Ted talk by psychologist Susan Pinker explains
That said, one of the things that is much newer to my living well checklist is
Having time to myself
I grew up with three siblings in a noisy, busy, happy home. I’ve always loved being with people (see above), but in recent years, and especially since my late husband and I separated (some time after the girls had moved into their own homes) and then he died, I’ve also come to realise that I’m not only much better at being by myself than I thought, it’s actually, to my great surprise, something I enjoy.
I definitely wouldn’t want to be alone all, or even a lot of, the time, but when I am, I enjoy the freedom to do what I want, when I want - whether that’s going out or being at home. I like the headspace it gives me to work or just think. I like being able to eat cereal for dinner if that’s what I fancy. And most surprising of all to me, is that from time to time, I like travelling alone, discovering somewhere new, or revisiting a familiar destination, entirely at my own pace and agenda.
Which brings me to my next living well necessities
Travelling and having adventures
Maybe I shouldn’t lump those together, because whilst travelling is always an adventure of some kind, it’s perfectly possible to have adventures without travelling. Either way, they’re both rocket fuel for me, and my living well list would be incomplete without them.
A glance at the Have Adventures section of this site will give you a flavour of some of the travels I’ve had, from the far flung like Belize and Vietnam, to closer-to-home destinations like Rye and the Cotswolds, and the adventures, from hot air ballooning, to tree climbing, to being a Bake Off contestant (sort of) I’ve enjoyed.
I don’t remotely take for granted how lucky I am to have been able to have all those experiences, but I also understand that without adventures and travels to look forward to and experience, my sense of living well and therefore feeling happy, is heavily compromised. So as long as I am fit and able, I will continue to cram in as much travel and adventure as I possibly can.
And that’s another perfect cue for the next element on the list (I don’t just throw these things together you know!)
Staying fit and healthy
I don’t think this one needs much explanation, or that it’ll come as a surprise to anyone who follows These Are The Heydays on Facebook and Instagram and particularly #motherofthebridemonday and now the #feelbettertogether challenges.
But as someone who’s always been sporty and pretty fit, I’m very (and sometimes literally painfully) aware of the the sort of exercise I can, and can’t, do as my body ages. I also understand that if I don’t enjoy whatever exercise I do, I’ll never stick with it, so finding keep-fit activities that I relish is key.
And with that whole ageing, post-menopausal, body thing in mind, I’m also much more attentive (admittedly, sometimes over-anxiously so) to doing what I can to keep myself as healthy as I can. Which I can confirm means not googling random symptoms in the middle of the night (or, any time, come to that).
Having a sense of purpose
Aside from the constant of motherhood, for the longest time that purpose came from my career as a journalist and magazine editor. But in what I’ve come to understand as one of life’s inevitable (if not always easy) transition phases, that has changed enormously in the past 12 months.
Now that I’m freelance for the first time in nearly 30 years, and have the time to focus on this passion project I’ve nurtured in my head for so long, These Are The Heydays has become one of the key drivers to my sense of purpose.
Purpose for me also comes from constantly learning - whether that’s working out how to make a YouTube video (you can see how that’s going here), trying out a new recipe, or having a go at some sort of new exercise.
There’s another whole post in why having purpose, and how you define your place in the world matters, and why it’s been proved to be another contributor to living a longer life, so look out for that in the future. But for the moment, I’ll leave it at that.
Giving myself credit
And by that I mean being a lot more gentle with myself about who and what I am. I’ve wasted far too much time and emotional energy over the years beating myself up for my perceived inadequacies, in relation to everything from my appearance to my achievements. It’s taken countless hours of counselling conversations - with professionals, family and friends - for me to stop comparing myself (unfavourably obviously) to other people. I wouldn’t say the work is done, far from it, but progress, especially in the last couple of years, has been heartening.
It turns out that recognising that I have the resilience to survive terrible trauma and heartbreak, cope with change (whether chosen or forced on me) and handle uncertainty, and emerge, battered but still standing, whilst learning to appreciate that being vulnerable doesn’t mean being weak, makes all the difference to being able to live my life in the best way I can.
What would be on your best life list?
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