Making the Family Happy and Thinking Outside the Box

I’m a firm believer that family is a big part of your personal happiness. ‘No man is an island’ is how the famous quote goes. And I think that’s certainly true.

But the only way for your family to keep you happy is for you to keep them happy. It’s a two-way exchange. So the first thing I think you have to do is to give them gifts. But not the gifts you might think of.

Nobody is going to remember the time when you bought them the latest iPhone. What they will remember is the gift of experience.

The gift of experience can be anything from a day on the coast to a trip down to London. It doesn’t have to cost half as much as you think to create those great memories. Not only will they have a great time, you’ll have a great time too. Both you and your family will value each other more.

Now it’s time for what makes everyone the happiest. It’s a great revelation in the age we live in today. Are you ready?

Talk to them.

I know, it’s an incredible revelation in a time where everyone appears to be glued to one screen or another. I can’t underline how valuable just sitting down to talk is. This is why in my house I make sure that everyone sits down for dinner at the table and no phones/tablets are allowed.

You don’t really have to be talking about anything that important. But socialising is great for happiness. Look online and you’ll find a multitude of studies backing this up. Keeping people happy is about being able to socialise with them in some meaningful way.

If your only interaction is “what’s the football score?”, it’ll soon be like you haven’t spoke for seven years. Make a real effort to go further than that.

I could ramble on about this for hours, but I believe that the last thing you need to do is to recognise what’s important to everyone within your family.

Simply taking an interest in the things that matter most to each person, and not trampling over it, is a big step. It sends a message that you really care.

Now I’m not saying that I’m wild about my son and his video games. I’m also not wild about my daughter’s obsession with wanting to become a hair stylist. But that doesn’t matter. I still talk to them about it and make an effort to take interest.

We all have things we care about and don’t care about. Just stop thinking about yourself for one second. Sometimes the only thing we share in common with our families is that we’re family. Don’t let that stop you from letting them know you care about what they do, though.

Good News: Expandable Kids’ Clothing is Now a Thing

Anyone who has kids knows how expensive the whole shebang can be. One of the most expensive times is when they’re babies because you buy them some clothes and three months later they’re already too big for them. I know my wallet still hasn’t managed to get over the shock of it all.

That’s why I was delighted to read today that expandable clothing for kids is now a thing. The Petit Pli stretches according to the wearer. It’s synthetic and completely waterproof. It was designed by Ryan Mario Yasin from the Royal College of Arts. Even more impressive is the fact he was still completing his Masters when he did it.

For most people, this is just a convenience for them. But for poorer families it is a real revolution. For up to three years, the Petit Pli doesn’t need to be replaced for a new child in the family. If you’re really watching the pennies, this is something you need.

Unlike so many other new items, these clothes aren’t expensive. You will not find these in the premium range.

I hope that these become the norm over the next few years. I’m sure that new styles are going to come out soon and there will be something for everyone.

And there’s no reason why this concept can’t be expanded to everyone later on. For example, if you’re what we would call ‘festively plump’, you wouldn’t need to keep buying new clothes every time yet another burger goes down your throat. I wouldn’t need to keep poking new holes into my belt.

The possibilities really are endless.

So we’re talking about this idea now, but we’ve seen so many other ideas come and go. There’s no need to get carried away by it just yet.

According to the article I read, Yasin has already got off to a great start. He managed to make it as a finalist in the 2017 James Dyson Awards (he’s the vacuum guy if you don’t know). And he beat out 2,000 other entries to make it that far in the competition.

So far he’s managed to earn $2,500 for just making the final. But if he wins the whole competition he would get $40,000 to launch his new idea.

It might not sound much if you want to launch an international revolution in clothing. However, the benefit of making it this far for expandable clothing for kids is the fact that Yasin is garnering that important exposure.

There’s no doubt that international investors are following the results of competitions like these carefully. After all, snapping up an idea before it gets big is the best way to make a killing.

I’m not sure I’m going to be seeing too many of these products in the next year or two, but I’m optimistic that this is the future of clothing. Whether it’s just about convenience or saving money, there’s going to be a lot of happy people when these hit the shelves.

What I’m Doing to Make My Christmas a Happier One

You would be forgiven for thinking that it was mere days away from Christmas Day if you looked at the average high street in the UK. But alas, it’s still November and we’re still quite far away from the big day.

But I’ve already started thinking about Christmas Day (damn you, Starbucks, and your festive cups) and I thought back to previous Christmas Days. There’s the usual array of expensive presents, reruns of old comedy shows, and the traditional family punch-up.

What disappointed me was that not all of these Christmas years were particularly happy ones. Now I’m not interested in blaming anyone for that. What I am interested in is making this Christmas a happy one. Call me old fashioned, I know.

So am I trying to do differently this year?

I’m not refusing to buy presents so, as a family, we can rediscover the true meaning of Christmas. I’m not crazy and I’m not THAT cheap. What I’m doing this year is leaving.

That’s right, I’m taking the whole family and we’re getting away from the usual Christmas setting.

Some people will tell you that if you’re not happy somewhere you need to change your environment. To avoid some of the downsides of previous festive seasons, I’m taking that advice to heart and we’re going somewhere else.

I wish I could take everyone to the Swiss Alps or some fantastical festive town in Lapland, but I lack the funds for that. So we’re literally going an hour away to the coast. We’re going self-catering and we’re going to enjoy our Christmas in a cottage overlooking the sea.

I’ve learned that if you want to be happier you need to temper your expectations. I’m going into this not knowing if it will be the answer I’ve been looking for or that it won’t be a complete disaster. I’m just taking it as it comes. The family are all excited about it when I revealed it just a few days ago.

Not saying that this is going to become our Christmas tradition, but I think a break away from the usual will do a lot to reinvigorate everyone’s Christmas spirit.

I think this is something everyone can do in life, and should aim to do. If you think the grass may be greener on the other side, do it.

Where will you be spending Christmas Day this year?

Is Pessimism Bad for You (And What to Do About It)?

Optimists versus pessimists is a battle as old as time itself. Is it better to be always positive or always negative? Both sides have their compelling arguments.

Lately, I read an article from The Guardian entitled Is Pessimism Really Bad for You and, once again, I heard the same usual arguments. Now I’ve written before about why I started Farley in Writing. I wanted to be a less angry, miserable person. And this blog is the perfect outlet.

But is pessimism so bad that it’s hazardous to your health?

I can’t give a concrete answer to that. What I do know is that from many years of being a pessimist it sucks.

You’re angry most of the time and it takes a lot to get you to really feel happiness. Some say that you’re more of a realist, but I don’t think you can’t be a realistic and be an optimist at the same time.

I think we need to get away from the idea that the only way to be an optimist is to be happy all the time. Yes, I say that I’m an optimist now. But do I still get angry about things? Of course I do. Do I feel like there’s no way out of a bad situation? Sometimes.

But the difference between an optimist and everyone else is that I still get on with my day. Look, I can watch the news and hear about Trump grabbing someone’s arse or I can look at the confusing Brexit process the UK’s going through right now and I could slam my fists on the table about it. However, ultimately, I can do nothing about it.

I’m a normal guy and I know what I can do and what I can’t do. I can’t change the US president tomorrow and I can’t suddenly resolve this Brexit conundrum. So I don’t beat myself up about it. It doesn’t mean I don’t care, but I refuse to let it dominate my life.

And maybe if I was a pessimist it would grind me down and it would cause me some health problems. I’ve seen enough studies that say pessimists are at a greater risk of having a heart attack.

Whether it’s true or not, I’m going to leave that to science.

That’s much too pessimistic, though, (see what I did there?!) it’s time to talk about how you can make the transition from miserable pessimistic to cautiously optimistic.

I tried a few times to be happier in my life. One of the big lessons I discovered is that it’s not tied to your life circumstances. I’ve been pessimistic after I’ve received promotions, had great holidays, and when I’ve been near clinically depressed.

Repeat after me. It’s not about where you are in life.

What I find worked for me was asking one simple question after anything that happens: “But does it REALLY matter?”

It’s a simple yet disarming question. No matter how bad the situation is I ask myself this question. So your team lost a game of football? It doesn’t really matter after a few minutes. It doesn’t impact your life, and if it does it’s not going to put you in a doorway that smells of urine at four in the morning on a cold November night.

Putting things into perspective has completely changed my outlook on life in general. It almost makes you look silly that your bus was late and you turned it into a depressing thought about the state of public services that lasts the whole day. And yet that’s the mind of the pessimist.

Does this mean you have to become insufferably happy?

I hope not, otherwise I’m failing at it. Just between you and me, a miserable sod is just as annoying as someone who never seems to be anything but in a constant state of joy.

Like with anything in life, there has to be a balance. It’s not easy to achieve and I won’t sit here and say that I’ve come close to reaching that right balance yet.

But what I can say is that balance is something we should all aspire to reach every day!

Good News: The Trains are Not Going to Be Quite as Awful

When it comes to optimism, it’s hard to be optimistic if you take a train in the UK. Let’s be realistic for a moment – they’re awful.

But I was browsing around and I finally found some good train-related news. No, the Chinese are not about to take over and make them good. National Rail is putting its hand in its pocket and looking down the back of the sofa to finally invest in the trains. The railway upgrades are expected to cost National Rail £50 billion.

The good news is that we’re finally going to see less disruption, better trains, and maybe even faster trains in time. The bad news is we’re probably going to be paying for it with incredibly high price rises.

At least National Rail has seen sense and is going to do the bulk of this work during the Christmas period. It’ll be nice and quiet and nobody has to worry about getting to work. Although it sounds bad, this isn’t going to be the day where the whole rail network is going to shut down.

National Rail has done well by us this time and has arranged the work to really minimise disruption. I always tried to remain optimistic about National Rail and I’m cautious about them following through on that. But we’ll have to wait until next year for us to find out whether it was all worth it.

In all honesty, these upgrades are much needed and they may deliver that better service we’ve been waiting for. Just remember that although 95% of the network is going to be fine, it’s always wise to plan ahead.

The day you don’t plan ahead is the day your train is two hours late!