You might have seen a touching and humorous animation, I Had a Black Dog, doing the rounds. This was the very honest creation of advertising consultant, best-selling author, illustrator and depression sufferer Matthew Johnstone, and his candid take on living and working through depression has since won him worldwide acclaim.
Johnstone will be taking part in the Happiness and Its Causes Conference in Sydney early this year, and here he gives us some sage advice on getting more happiness into our working lives.
I’ve done talks to most facets of society and I’ve come to realise that we all like to differentiate ourselves by what we do, where we live, the colour of our skin, our faith, how much money we earn and so forth. But in the end we all crave the same things: we all desire to be loved, to have meaningful relationships, to do work that we enjoy, to find meaning and purpose in what we do, to have good physical health and probably most importantly, to have peace of mind.
I am a big fan and user of technology but I can also see how it has changed the way we interact. A lot of the devices that we’ve become so dependent on were designed to simplify our lives, but in many ways the opposite has now happened.
When we’re constantly checking emails, texts, Facebook, tweets, Instagram, playing Angry Birds, etc etc, there’s no real down time, there’s no time to gaze out the window, to daydream, to be – god forbid – bored. Apparently every time we get some sort of technological alert it makes us release a small quantity of the stress hormone cortisol. This dripping tap is an accelerant for anxiety, insomnia and depression.
I saw a poster once that said, ‘Life was simpler when Apples and Blackberries were just fruit’. We’ve become so connected that we’ve become disconnected.
Doing something you really dislike and spending a lot of time doing it. Work is such a major part of our lives, so why not try and make it about something you’re passionate about or interested in? Obviously it’s not easy to sidestep into a new and improved vocation but every day we can make an incremental step towards fulfilling this goal, whether it’s by enrolling in a course, doing some research, finding a mentor, talking to someone in the field and so forth. Think of it as driving a car at night; you may not be able to see beyond the headlights but you know that if you’re patient and careful, you’ll get to your destination eventually.
There’s a saying, ‘You never lie on your death bed wishing you’d worked harder’. Make time for yourself and for others. Make a regular effort to get home on time. Turn your phone off more often. When you get home, take a breath and consciously leave any work troubles outside the front door.
Perhaps start with looking at your digital life and maybe switching those alerts off your devices. The best medication for a busy mind is meditation and mindfulness – so if your soul aches, take a moment.
Invest time in relationships that mean something to you; in the end, you get back what you put in. Think of those who are important to you as a wonderful garden that needs constant care, consideration and the odd weeding.
Give some of your time to helping others; make 2014 less about you and more about others. When we give of our heart, our time and our money, we receive in so many different and wonderful ways.
Practise gratitude – say thanks for the unexpected cup of tea, the drawing from a child, the cloud that didn’t rain on your washing. Small thanks add up.
Eat well, sleep well, think well, and exercise your mind and your body.
Yes, no and maybe. Whatever you’re doing, do the best that you can do. I remember my mother saying about housework, ‘if you pretend that you’re really enjoying doing it, you can find pleasure in anything’. And while you’re doing that, really think about where you want to be in three, five and 10 years’ time. If there’s one thing uncertainty hates, it’s a plan for a better future.
If you have the career blues then maybe it's time to take a step towards greater professional happiness with one of our online courses.
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