One of the podcasts I particularly enjoy is The Good Life Unravelled by Elizabeth Dhokia. The premise of the podcast is exactly that – unravelling and unpacking the question of ‘What makes a good life?’ with a variety of interesting, creative people. Each episode explores people’s passions and projects but they are also directly posed that question, and I’ve often wondered what I would answer, especially as to me it’s so deeply personal to each individual.
The other day whilst listening to the podcast, I decided to get my journal out and put some thoughts around the same question. Obviously my life is about to change in a very significant way, and it feels like a good opportunity to be intentional about the things in my life, and the way I’m living. (Recognising of course that a very large portion of my life is about to be taken up with a newborn baby!) Here is my list:
- Spending time outdoors and in nature
- Having a home that is calming and feels like a ‘haven’
- Having a network of friends and family that listen, support and inspire (and providing the same for them)
- Learning and growing on a regular basis
- Making time for peace and slowing down, and cultivating a spiritual practice
- Opportunities to travel, enjoy warm weather and experience other cultures
- Eating good food
- Finding your ‘dharma’ or calling and being able to spend time pursuing this and being of service
Whilst not an exhaustive list, these feel like all of the crucial components to me and it’s interesting to see the elements that sprung to mind immediately. Maybe because the weather has been so terrible and I’ve been particularly missing it, but my first visualisation when pondering the concept of ‘a good life’ was of pottering in the garden, or walking in the woods and listening to the birds singing. I love that quote by Margaret Atwood – “In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” For me, it conjures images of going camping and hugging a steaming cup of tea with bacon sizzling in the frying pan over a stove, of swimming in rivers or paddling in the sea, and of long, warm days that result in salty hair and freckly noses.
Being able to switch off and connect with nature and the outdoors is an absolutely essential part of a good life for me and I really notice when I haven’t had enough fresh air – it’s one of the reasons I love having a dog as it gets you out every day. It does feel like so many of the things on my list are the ‘simple things’ – comforting, home-cooked food, dog snuggles, quality time with friends and family, an afternoon spent with a good book, a long bath, the perfect cup of tea, a walk in the forest, fresh flowers, a lazy Sunday afternoon. It’s reassuring that I don’t dream of private jets, designer handbags and expensive jewellery and that the things on my list are achievable by being intentional about what I prioritise and how I spend my time. Saying that, this list probably doesn’t reflect what I spend my money on, as I didn’t think of access to a litany of skincare products and shoes! Given this list it would be more effective to allocate spending on creating an enjoyable outdoor space, days out and weekends away, books and classes, and nourishing food.
One useful outcome of drafting this list is that it will help keep me anchored towards building a life that ‘feels good’. When I think about it, the days when I feel less grounded are days when my house feels cluttered and un-peaceful, I haven’t had time outdoors, I’ve eaten crappy convenience food, everything is moving quickly and I haven’t had time to decompress, or I’ve done things that don’t feel purposeful or of worth.
It’s difficult sometimes to stay true to what feels good for you and not be tempted to align with what others are striving to in their own personal pursuits of ‘a good life’. Particularly when social media is often quick to highlight other people’s versions of success, achievement and happiness. But I’d really encourage you to ponder this question yourself, it’s certainly been illuminating for me – and I’d love to hear your key ingredients for a good life. (And do listen to the podcast – I particularly enjoyed the recent episode with Alice Vincent on ‘Rewilding A Life’).