Getting out of your head: finding peace in the small stuff

A woman peers out from behind a tree in a woodland with a bluebell carpet. Text over the top in white reads: Getting out of your head: Finding peace in the small stuff, A blog post by The Maydays Rhiannon Vivian

By Rhiannon Vivian

Being happy is a weird one isn’t it? What with the human condition, the state of the world, and that person who barged into you in Tesco yesterday. Not to mention that awkward unjust conversation from 2006 your subconscious has decided to ruminate today. AND it’s raining. Almost constantly.

The thing is, I think finding joy or even contentment, peace, or calm in the small stuff is where it’s at (mental health issues aside of course. And after our basic needs of home/food/warmth are met). We’re all so conditioned to be chasing the next Big Happy (big wave to capitalism here) that we find it impossible to love the wonder of everyday stuff. The ‘now’ stuff. It’s always tainted by rush, expectation, or over-analysis. Also, we’re conditioned fairly early on that our outward successes are SURE to lead to eternal and ongoing happiness. How we’re perceived by others (hopefully with envy or admiration) is so very much where that elusive happiness is supposed to be, right? 

Well, we’ve been sold a dummy. It’s taken me a while to realise that. The good news is, while reconditioning your mind is a big job – it’s not impossible. And that’s coming from someone who has a natural inclination towards melancholy (plus anxiety amongst other things). You’re not too old either. That’s just another trap. I’m getting older too. Time isn’t linear, and we are all aliens! We’re totally capable of creating new neural pathways. 

The way I see it, humans tend to only realise that the small stuff is actually the big stuff, when the shit hits the fan. When you’re terribly ill all you want is to feel better. You crave normality. You don’t crave a highfalutin party on a yacht and some medals. When I was in the desperate years of my insomnia, all I wanted was 8 hours of deep sleep, so when I woke up, my tummy no longer hurt, my head no longer felt crushed, and I could walk about without feeling sick, dizzy, and depressed. Normal, ordinary, and functional is actually incredible, epic, and wonderful and you’d miss it terribly if it was gone. 

 

When a good friend of mine got very sick indeed, he grieved not for all the exotic places he’d no longer see, or parties he’d not be at, or awards he’d not win. He grieved for all the incredible music in the world he hadn’t yet listened to and wouldn’t have time to, all the books that would go unread, all the beautiful art unseen, all the glorious nature he wouldn’t get to experience, and all the people he would miss. The ‘small’ stuff may seem humble. But it is everything. It’s the very heart of being a human.

I feel like this ‘bottom line’ (and of course, I speak from a very privileged position from the outset – being currently healthy, housed, safe, and not on the breadline) is the very thing to be accessed on those days where you feel bleak. Days where you feel not enough. Like a failure. Like everyone is out to get you. Because I assure you, you absolutely are enough, you’re not a failure, you are definitely loved, you’re likely (and unknowingly) somebody’s hero, and no one is out to get you. Unless of course, there’s a bounty on your head (in which case shit, I am really sorry). 

To that end, here’s some of the small stuff in my life, that I actually consider the big stuff (huge in fact – VAST) and way more important than fancy parties, status, wealth, accolades, promotions, and all other examples of internalised capitalism that really hurt and mess us up.

A woman on a rope swing in some woods

 

Rhiannon’s Small Stuff Big Stuff Bingo

  • Checking in with my family near and far, every morning. If everyone is doing alright, I am over the moon. We are all healthy today and live to see another beautiful morning. Health is wealth. No doubt about it. My loves are my world.
  • That I have woken up today and feel well. This is in two parts. a) I woke up. This means I slept. Which means my insomnia is in check for another day. Yay! b) I feel well. See above. Health is wealth.
  • My body functions and I can do shit with it (and I can shit!) I can take myself on a walk. I can smell the ground after it rains (so important, especially as my smell vanished during covid and it made me feel so sad and claustrophobic). I am self sufficient, self reliant (for now) and I can dance to any music I want to in my kitchen with my cat. 
  • My coffee machine may leak, but it produces amazing coffee. It tastes great. And I get out of bed for it every day. That and a bagel. YUM. I can afford to eat? I f**kin blessed as f***.
  • Pun games / improv games / absurd conversations with my husband and the resulting laughter (also distracting my husband with weird dances in the supermarket).
  • That I can sing along to whatever I want in my kitchen or car and it’s cathartic as hell. Music is soul food. It’s epic. I hear it, I feel it, it moves me. Good lord isn’t that bloody brilliant. On that note (lol) I love odd time signatures, and music that doesn’t go where you expect. It’s the best discovery, and can fascinate, change me, and delight me all at once. I love to improvise music. Harmonise with it. I must do it more. I don’t care who hears. 
  • Animals are the cutest. My cat lies with me, purrs into my pillow and grooms my eyebrows. She’s crazy, rude, loving, funny, and empathetic. Pets are as pure and wholesome as it gets.
  • The sun on my face. Or standing near an open fire – heat is glorious. It relaxes my bones, muscles, and makes me smile. Heatwaves – not so much. But we’ll leave global warming for another blog.
  • Nature is soothing. Doesn’t matter if it’s raining. Trees, flowers, forests, hills, mountains, views, vistas, streams, the sea, lakes. Growing plants. Growing veg. The blissful peace of a garden. It’s scientifically proven that nature heals the body and mind. Contact with soil releases serotonin in our brains, trees release phytoncides – natural killer cells which protect us from disease. We know this. We’re just encouraged to see ourselves as divorced from or separate to nature. We are the very same. This is why it’s so lovely to be in. What bliss and luck to experience it (Tory govt if you could stop allowing water companies to pump raw sewage into the sea, that’d be ace).
  • Wiki-wells (YouTube wells / Insta holes / obscure corners of Reddit – delete as appropriate) – finding something that leads me to another thing, and before long I am an armchair expert in something very random. I adore this digital thread pull. My latest wiki-well journey has taken me on a tour of the life of jazz genius, Vince Guaraldi. Previous wells have seen me learning about: New York subway cars of the 80s, why some visual memories feel edible, Cajun culture, flying pickets; and the insane highway code of 1960s UK motorways. You’re welcome.
  • I love big clumpy boots. They make me feel like a comic book hero. I stomp in puddles willingly. I feel like a super-goth. I smile. 
  • Doing stuff simply because it’s fun or relaxing. No purpose. And certainly not to try and be ‘the best’ at it. Like making my own scents, painting, doing handstands, doing improv, writing this blog. 
  • And some of the best of the rest (because I could go on and on): enjoying trinkets, favourite mugs, decorating a room, Welsh slang, a freshly hoovered carpet, saying the same thing at the same time as an old friend, crows that are also fairy lights, bats, hot baths, stones that glitter, fossils, paintings, patterns, chocolate buttons, history, sun catchers, glowing tealights, feet in the sea, singing through a head mic, the smell of books, gazing into the glow of a fire, trying new tea, ghost stories, castles, crafting, seeing your fave YouTuber just uploaded, pulling up potatoes, familiar podcasts, low milky winter sun, magic shops, the sound of rain as you fall asleep, woodsmoke, a surprise compliment, a sentimental Christmas ornament, a smell that takes you back in time, allowing yourself to be moved to tears by something cute, nostalgic, or wonderous …

 

Your turn now. You’ve got this. 

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