Please take a deep breath and make your self a cup of tea and come sit quietly with me as we run through today’s Top 5.

This weeks theme is all about being happy – taking the time to relax, have a peaceful moment and move forward in a graceful, positive manner. Sound impossible? Feels like it sometimes. And I don’t mean just putting on your “happy face” and repeating that “everything’s wonderful” and shoving the bad nasty feelings aside, I want to be calm, cool, serene even. Cooler than a tropical island holiday – tropical islands have sticky sand that gets in places you don’t want it to be, pestering flies, sunburn and hangovers. In fact, tropical island holidays are just the same as putting on your happy face, with a big credit card bill at the end of it all.

So I’m working towards a lifelong chillax. Yes I am. Will you join me?

Here’s what inspired me this week to make a few changes in my life to increase the happy and relaxed me and decrease the emotional, stressed, fragile and self-sabotaging me.

(Well, baby steps people. I have not fully evolved into a goddess yet. Please do not expect such a startling transformation so soon. I also have a weekend of excessive drinking planned*, but I will try not to make this ‘a diet starts tomorrow’ sort of situation.)

1. Gwen Bell of Big Love in a Small World blog fame wrote an interesting article entitled “Are you your Biggest Competitor? 3 simple ways to relax right now“.What she says about stress and learning to relax makes a lot of sense to me and it also makes for very reassuring reading. Feeling like you don’t live up to expectations (whether they’re placed on you by yourself, your friends/family or society) takes an awful toll on your emotional well being and ability to relax and be happy.

She also speaks about yoga. There is a yoga class at my gym which I have been thinking about taking for some time. (I do think a lot don’t I?!) Do you practice yoga? Do you think it helps relax you? I guess I worry about being the fattest most uncoordinated person in the class, but then that’s just self sabotaging thinking isn’t it?

2. Whole & Happy is a new blog that my lovely friend Alex has just started. She’s on a truly courageous journey practicing healthy, happy, harmonious habits for a healthy, happy, harmonious planet. Pretty inspirational. I certainly embrace the philosophy that making a better ‘you’ requires making a better planet too. I’m not as brave as her (sugar free?! ARGH!) but it’s good food for thought, that’s for sure.

3. Living without Money – is an article about another courageous women who has willingly lived without money for 13 years now. She gave away everything she owns. It’s a scary but inspirational read which makes these 5 small decluttering projects seem like a piece of cake! I’m not planning to live without money or possessions but I would like to make living in my one bedroom apartment with a boy and a cat a little bit more roomy. I’ll always have sentimental attachments to some items but I don’t want to feel defined by my stuff, or worry about what I don’t have.

I’ve made a start – I just donated 2 enormous bags full of clothes to Vinnies, which my groaning shelves have thanked me for. Next plan is to tackle the bookcase. But don’t worry – I’ll let you all know what’s up for grabs before I donate them.

4. Remembering that there is a world outside of ‘me’ – take a look at some of these awesome images from the National Geographic 2009 International Photography contest and tell me the world isn’t an amazing place! I should get out more. Out of my office.

5. Make something. And please note – I did not specify finishing said project, just to keep making. Keeping my hands busy seems to be the best way for my mind to relax sometimes. Thoughts about the day and things that are stressing me out all seem to melt away when I’m focusing on a nice crafty project.

I’m finding that mastering the crochet hook is ever so relaxing. I can’t crochet and pay attention to the TV, so that cuts down on my mindless television watching, which is a plus. I’m also getting a kick out of making really tasty food from scratch. Extra satisfying to eat. And of course, folding paper cranes, the ultimate time out for me. My collection of security paper cranes is growing and growing thanks to lots of lovely people donating the envelopes their bills come in!

If you can finish your project then good for you. But don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t wielded instant results. Just keep at it. Next step – give it away, spread the love and start over. That’s the happy part!

Well, that’s my plan anyway. What do you think? Got any tips for relaxing and being happy? What works best for you?

* Decided to excessively drink ORGANIC wine and cider this weekend. That will alleviate all guilt, surely.

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