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March - New beginnings

In our pursuit to improve our sense of wellbeing and happiness, we can look forward to March as the month for new beginnings. Despite March being the 3rd month of our year, the early Roman calendar designated it as the start of their New Year.

March is named after Mars, the Roman god of war, as it was the month in which military campaigns started up after winter. Before gaining the reputation of warmonger, Mars was known as the god of agriculture and fertility and was often celebrated along with Ceres, the goddess of grain.

With the month of March comes the energy and advent of spring. For the ancient Romans (just as for us), it represents a time of new growth. From March we are promised longer, lighter days as the clocks go forward (Sunday March 26th) and notice how our surroundings are changing, as trees and flowers start to bloom around us.

As with nature, March can make us feel more energetic, by planting seeds of growth of our own in starting new projects. However in our enthusiasm to shake off winter, our projects can sometimes develop into long, lengthy lists and if they then start to resemble our weekly shopping receipts, we may begin to feel slightly overwhelmed by them.

According to research, most people have around 15 projects on the go at any one time. These can include anything from losing weight, to being a better parent/friend/husband/wife, to running a 5k race.

Ideally our projects bring us pleasure, but all too often they can create frustration and additional anxiety. So in an attempt to optimise our wellbeing and happiness, perhaps we can reappraise the projects we are embarking on.

To start with, it would be useful to identify the origins of our projects and name those that mean the most to us. We could then call these our ‘core projects,’ as these will ultimately affect our wellbeing and happiness.

Next, perhaps we can reflect on our reasoning for choosing each one and in turn ask ourselves, is this project attainable? If not, what is our motivation for doing it? Studies have found that we are likely to be happier if our personal projects are achievable.

Next, ask yourself, how much progress have I made with each one? And how confident am I in completing it? We are particularly happier if our personal projects feel challenging to a degree, but within reach. A sense of achievement in completing a project is essential for us in developing our personal confidence and by doing so we gain a degree of happiness from the challenge in the first place.

Choosing the right projects and approaching each one in the correct way can make our lives much more enjoyable, after all who wants the constant struggle of a project that is not only difficult to complete, but stressful throughout? Studies have found that when we are engaged with personal projects that make us feel miserable, it has a more detrimental effect on our wellbeing than other more obvious issues like poverty.

So perhaps it’s not about doing everything on our list? If we are truly honest with ourselves, maybe we can be more realistic about our project outcomes, after all success in completing any task is always dependent on any number of factors, including mood, motivation, surroundings and of course distraction, so please do bear these issues in mind.

Reviewing our personal projects allows us to identify the ones that we are lacking progress with, or those that are creating us additional stress. We may then consider whether they are worth keeping in the first place, or perhaps we can drop them altogether?

Projects are designed to pull us forward into new possibilities, by stretching the way we think and feel about ourselves. After all, March is the month for new beginnings and growth.

So perhaps we can now learn to choose our projects with a fresh sense of awareness and by knowing why we are doing them in the first place, not only are we more likely to enjoy them, but also improve our sense of happiness and wellbeing at the same time. Now that can’t be a bad thing!

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