More than happy

There’s a lot of talk about happy.

Discussions about positive psychology are often connected with this word, Gillian Rubenstein discusses it in her book (well as she might, given the book is called ‘The Happiness Project’). And there’s a lot of hearty debate amongst researchers about how to define it.

I don’t like it.

It feels like a lazy word for me, a word that bundles up lots of states and tries to put them under one big marquee with its own banner at the entrance.

I rarely feel like ‘happy’ is a useful descriptor when I’m navigating my own life.

I notice that times I feel ebullient and optimistic, light like a balloon, and full of possibility.

Soemtimes I feel excited about an event or a yearning or looking forward to.

Sometimes I feel particularly rested and well nourished and I notice how grounded, gracious and settled I feel in this state.

Sometimes I feel poetic sweetness around me, and notice tiny flecks of beauty scattered about.

In relationships I sometimes feel aware of how warm, appreciative, connected and content I feel.

Sormtimes I feel playful and creative impulse, humour and movement all flow through me, and I laugh more readily, ape around and make jokes.

Sometimes I feel relieved, when something hard is done with, or stress waters subside after a big downpour of challenges.

Sometimes I feel tender, like sad and moved and sweet all at once.

Sometimes I feel held and seen and safe, so that even feeling ‘bad’ feelings feels OK.

Sometimes I get satisfaction from having done something, I get a thrill of adventure, sometimes a sense of satisfaction or a glow of a value being enacted.

So, it’s not that I don’t like being happy, feeling happy, or using the word happy but just that there is so much more nuance to feeling good, feeling well.

In art therapy we use metaphor and imagery to explore and express how we feel. It’s not always black and white – we see mirrored back in our images that we can be experiencing a mix of feelings at any given time. We might also look to our bodies for tension or sensations, and use this to help us sense into how we feel emotionally about an issue.

What does happy and its many friends feel like to you?

Painting is easier than we think

In our Women’s Wellbeing Group last week we put paint to paper. First with a warm up process of exploring colour and the movement of paint on the page, and then depicting ourselves as a tree. Participants, even those who don’t ‘normally’ paint, found that when the pressure to create something to please others is removed, the act of self expression was both enjoyable and simple. The feeling of paint on the page. The delight in colours. The gentle movement of brush in hand.

It reminded me of all those rules we sometimes create for ourselves about our creative expression are not helpful. How many of us have said ‘I’ll paint… *when* I have done some classes and know what I’m doing / when I have a whole day with no other plans / when I have a clear and mapped out project that I’m working in for some purpose…’.

If you long to paint…try getting out from under all the rules and conditions. Try clearing half an hour, use whatever paints you have and see what comes out. Use cardboard, old paper, bits of wood or cheap canvases. Put on music you love and remind yourself it’s just a brief half an hour to play and explore. You might surprise yourself – not just at the marks on the page, but also the sense of joy and freedom you tap in to.



To experience art making in a low pressure environment with supportive friendly people try one of my Sydney workshops, including the next round of Women’s Wellbeing Workshops as mentioned above. Details for weekday evening, weekday morning, and Saturday events are listed HERE.