Tag Archives: compassion

Good Cheer

The other day, I was listening to a show on Hay House Radio. The topic was the importance of having your own personal cheerleaders – friends who will rally around during the tough times and cheer you on to succeed.

One of the women referred to a time she was speaking at an event. She asked the audience: “Who here has someone they can call when something goes wrong?” Everyone immediately raised their hands.

Then she posed a different question: “And who has someone they ring up when something really great happens?” A few hands went up slowly.

Interestingly, people seemed reluctant to share good news with their nearest and dearest. I wondered about this.

I imagined asking the audience to explain their hesitation. They would probably confess to not wanting to brag. Some would worry that their happy news would make others feel miserable about their own lives. Others wouldn’t want to invite envy or begrudgery.

And a few people would be afraid of “jinxing” it – admitting that things were going well would put a curse on it and cause everything to come crashing down around them. And they’d all suffer terribly and die an excruciating death. Or something equally calamitous.

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weheartit.com

Why does it seem more acceptable to regale others with our misfortunes than with our achievements? As children, we were warned not to get too big for our boots. Who does (s)he think (s)he is? was an oft-heard phrase describing anyone who dared to exhibit a dirty word called confidence.

Thankfully, I now think for myself and I’ve decided to work on my confidence and look for the best that life has to offer. I hope that the people around me wish me the best. And I wish them the best too.

There is actually enough good stuff to go around, despite what the superstitious old wives told us. One person’s success doesn’t guarantee somebody else’s failure. It doesn’t work that way. Believe in abundance and you’ll be rewarded with it.

The older I get, the less patience I have for people who wallow in negativity. Of course, we’re all entitled to a shoulder to lean on during the challenging times. We all need someone to vent to.

But there comes a point when you’ve got to change the record. Stop complaining and start brainstorming.

What you focus upon multiplies. That’s why I like to spend time with positive people. That’s why I give daily gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life.

And that’s why, when I heard this discussion on Hay House Radio, I was instantly able to think of a friend who I can contact as soon as something amazing happens. I can gush and glow, boast and bow, and do a little self-congratulatory dance in front of this friend because she’s the type of person who genuinely loves when good things happen.

And she’s not just a fair-weather friend. When I told her about a funeral I was attending yesterday, she instantly offered to accompany me. Her mere presence beside me in the car as we drove towards the church was enough to make me feel secure.

And guess what? I’m going to brag just a little more. I’m lucky to have other friends and family members who I can go to with my happy-clappy tales and with my woe-is-me soliloquies. And I know that I’m that go-to person for lots of people too.

Do you have a personal cheerleader for when something fabulous happens in your life? Do you have someone to call upon when you’re feeling overwhelmed? And are you that special someone for anybody? In both circumstances?

Do you concentrate more on the feel-good or are you a victim to negativity? Remember, wherever you put your energy is where the energy will go. Think about it…

fitnessandhealthspot.com

fitnessandhealthspot.com

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For a Reason

Three things I’m taking away from my Life Coaching session this morning:

1. I’m going to work with the “negative” voice that regularly pipes up with annoying statements like: “You’re not good enough.” 

I’m going to coach this voice. I’ll listen to it and be there with it and ask it how it feels to believe such a statement.

I understand that it’s there for a reason. It’s actually there for my good as it’s showing me what I need to look at in order to heal. And so I give it, I give myself, compassion.

2. I’m not going to make assumptions or take things personally (And even if I do, I’ll be aware that I’m doing it).

I can’t know why anyone does or doesn’t do something. I don’t know what’s going on in their heads or what issues they have in their lives.

3. I’m going to stop focussing on all the things I can’t do and all the things I’m not.

Instead, I concentrate on my uniqueness and on the wonderful talents that I’m bringing to the world around me. We’re all different. There’s beauty in that.

And a fourth one that didn’t arise from the coaching session but that has made itself known to me in a more obvious manner than ever before:

It’s all unfolding perfectly.

I simply have to get out of my head and drop into my heart. Let go of control. Release fear. Relax.

I am present. I am open. I trust. And I realise that everything I need is provided for me. I allow, accept and give gratitude.

Sometimes, what comes isn’t how I would have imagined it. It may even hurt as I attempt to resist it.

But the learning and growth that emerges from what does come makes me realise that everything happens for a reason. And the incredible people and gifts that appear are better than anything I ever could have planned.

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favim.com

Basic Human Needs

Last night, I read Marianne Power’s most recent post on the six basic human needs. Yes, it may seem like I’ve become obsessed with this woman and maybe I have. But not in a lesbian way. In an admiring, respecting, fellow-blogger-and-self-help-enthusiast way.

Anyway, I found Marianne’s post really interesting. Marianne is regurgitating self-improvement guru Tony Robbins’ work and I, in turn, am regurgitating Marianne’s work. But we’re all putting our own spin, experience and insights into it.

So here’s my take on Marianne Power’s take on Tony Robbins’ take on the six basic human needs. First of all, let me give you the six basic human needs, in Marianne’s words:

“Need 1: Certainty/Comfort
Our need to feel in control and secure.
Need 2: Uncertainty/Variety
Our need for variety, surprises.
Need 3: Significance
We all need to feel important, special, unique, or needed – some of us get a feeling of significance from our work, some do it by having a flash car or by getting a thousand Twitter followers. You can get significance by having more or bigger problems than anybody else (moi) and criminals get it by the attention they get for their crimes.
Need 4: Love & Connection
We all need love but many of us are terrified of it and settle for connection, through our romantic relationships, friendships, our pets, walking through nature.
Need 5: Growth
If you’re not growing, you’re dying – whether that’s growing your business, your relationships, your education etc.
Need 6: Contribution
‘Life’s not about me; it’s about we,’ says Tony, who reckons that giving is what life’s all about.”

Marianne suggests (or maybe it was Tony Robbins who suggested it but I can’t keep up) asking yourself the following question:

OUT OF THE SIX HUMAN NEEDS WHICH TWO HAVE YOU BEEN VALUING THE MOST?

For me, Significance has definitely been one of my biggest needs. I want to feel special and I get that feeling by writing this blog, taking selfies, getting likes on Facebook, doing well in school and college, and having men fancy me. I like to be liked. I love to be loved. And I want other people to think I’m nice, pretty, talented, funny and desirable.

Love and Connection is also high on my list of priorities. I don’t feel comfortable unless I’m connecting. I achieve this connection by communicating with others, meditating, and communing with nature. I seek connection through affection, intimacy and even technology. And through all this connection, what I’m really hoping to experience is love. Pure, beautiful, all-encompassing, unconditional love.

The next question is: WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF VALUING THOSE NEEDS?

The consequences I face are feelings of sadness, loneliness, rejection and depression when I delude myself that I’m alone, insignificant and unloved. I don’t deal well with criticism. And rejection is almost physical in its ability to wound me (hopefully not for much longer as I’m participating in this Rejection Therapy game).

In order to protect myself from the shadow side of significance, love and connection, I withdraw. I shut down. Or I try to be perfect because I convince myself that no one will love me otherwise.

Now, ask yourself: WHAT WOULD BE YOUR TOP TWO NEEDS NOW FOR YOUR LIFE TO TRANSFORM? 

For my life to transform, I have to prioritise Growth. Growth keeps you moving, learning, improving and evolving.

When I stop being so hard on myself, I can acknowledge that I actually am growing in all areas of my life. I’m attending courses, seeing a Life Coach, reading, making progress in my career, and changing the way I relate with life, other people and, most importantly, myself.

I also choose to focus on Contribution. Significance brings up a competitive streak in me. It’s all about being better, smarter and prettier. The need for significance fuels a striving to be more popular, more talented, more successful, more loved.

But life isn’t meant to be a competition. We’re all in this together. To be really spiritual about it, we’re all one.

Once I understand that, I want to cooperate and collaborate rather than compete. I want to help and share and give.

Tony Robbins says that Growth and Contribution are the needs that make you happy and fulfilled. He calls them Spiritual Needs, while the first four are the Needs of the Personality.

I actually felt chuffed that I’d got it “right”. There I go racing back to my need for Significance. But I’m aware of my tendencies now and the reasons behind them. I’m learning. There’s growth in that. And I’m sharing all of this with you guys. So I’m contributing.

Random image of my friend and I dancing on a mountaintop

Random image of my friend and I dancing on a mountaintop

Now to go off on a completely different tangent, today I remembered Marianne’s challenge to smile at strangers. I thought: That’s easy. I’m always smiling at strangers. 

Until I walked past an attractive man on a bridge this morning. I considered smiling at him but he was scowling. Cool, handsome scowling but scowling nonetheless.

I realised that smiling at strangers isn’t easy at all. I found it hard to look at this man, let alone smile at him.

I’d love to tell you that I felt the fear and smiled anyway. But I didn’t. I bottled it. But I did look at him, which is more than I’d have done before. Baby steps.

Another realisation I had on that bridge is that it’s easy to smile at strangers when they’re already smiling. Handsome, scowling men don’t invite smiles. But smiley, kind-faced people do. So I think we should all smile more.

And to waffle on for just a little longer, after last night’s post on wanting men to beat down my door (metaphorically of course), I received a random text from a man I went on a date with once. This “putting it out there to the Universe” stuff might actually work.

So, here goes… Are you listening, Universe? I would like a successful career that I love and that helps others to be all that they can be. I would like an abundant, happy life filled with peace, love, fun, laughter, beauty, friendship, enjoyment and adventure.

While I’m at it, I would like to be financially secure, own a great house, and go on lots of amazing holidays around the world. I would like health, wealth and well-being for myself and all my friends and family and the whole wide world.

And if you’re still listening Universe, I would like to get swept off my feet by (and have a healthy, wonderful relationship with) an older, available but equally smouldering version of Zayn Malik.

Even if he is scowling.

Even if he is scowling.

Image of Zayn Malik: http://www.heatworld.com

Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

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favim.com

Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

busaff.com

busaff.com

I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

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favim.com

The Fear

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over my lifetime is fear. Over the past few days, I’ve examined this fear and I’ve discovered that it has many, many layers.

There is fear of making mistakes. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of getting into trouble. Fear of criticism, disapproval and rejection. Fear of my own feelings. Even fear of happiness in case it were to disappear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being talented enough, competent enough, confident enough, pretty enough, slim enough, and the list goes on…

Fear of losing hope. And fear of having hope because I’m bound to destroy it.

As I shower this morning, I realise what’s really lurking behind all this fear. It’s fear of being found out. Found out to be stupid, incapable, ugly, unlovable.

And so this fear has prevented me from going for jobs, moving abroad, writing a book, staying in relationships, opening up to friends, and telling people that I like them. In short, fear has stopped me from putting myself out there.

Once I make this discovery, I can logic it. What is it about stepping out that I’m so afraid of? That people will discover that I’m human? Scared? Imperfect?

Aren’t these the things that I love and admire in other people? Don’t we feel more connected with other human beings when we realise that we’re all the same? Real and brave and frightened?

If I can accept others for how they are, why do I resist doing the same for myself? Why are my standards and expectations for myself so ridiculously high? Is it because I don’t like myself enough or is it because I like myself so much that I want to be the best that I can be? Interesting because this desire is actually blocking me from doing just that.

Over the Christmas, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Once I delved into the first chapter, I was hooked. Marianne speaks about being paralysed with terror. She writes:

“You’d think we have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.”

This really resonated with me. I forget that other people feel fear too. Everybody does. We just don’t hear about it all that much. We think that other people just get on with it. They do and they grow and they succeed.

And I compare myself unfavourably with the whole human race. I neglect to focus on my own courage and achievements, which are many.

I dismiss my own journey and instead listen to the family members and neighbours as they comment on So-and-so’s flourishing business and Thingymajig’s promotion and new home and Yer-one-down-the-road’s wonderful partner and family.

“They’re doing so well”, they gush. And I hate myself a little more. I see other people’s highlight reels on Facebook and I wince in self-judgement.

Last night, I lay in bed reading Oprah Winfrey’s lovely book What I Know For Sure when I had an Aha moment. Oprah speaks about her fear of seeming arrogant. She writes:

“In some ways, even my weight was my apology to the world – my way of saying, ‘See, I really don’t think I’m better than you.'”

When I was younger, I was teased for being “posh” and using big words. I was also teased for having a rather large bosom for a 13-year-old. And I was beaten up because a girl’s boyfriend fancied me.

After those experiences, I was careful with my language and I tried not to appear full of myself. I changed the way I behaved depending on the group of people I was with. I didn’t flirt. And I made sure not to do anything too different so that I could avoid unwanted attention.

When other people were miserable, I downplayed my contentment and instead broadcast my difficulties. You see, I’d say. I’m not a threat. So you can like me.

Now that I understand where all this fear comes from, I have a choice. I choose to no longer allow fear to immobilise me. I want to take risks and move forwards and flourish. And I understand that I do love myself. I’ve just been confused about how to show myself this love.

From now on, I’ll love myself when I have the courage to shine. I’ll love myself when I’m gasping with fear. I’ll love myself when I do. And I’ll love myself when I am.

The trick is to understand that we all feel fear. Our bravery lies in our ability to push forth anyway. In Oprah Winfrey’s words:

“Sometimes moving on terrified me. But it always taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway.”

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

I Am

I get angry and irritable. I criticise myself and others. I complain. I get depressed and cynical. I lose hope. I cry. I have unkind thoughts. Fear blocks me. I envy others their good fortune. I gossip. I need. I desire. I try to control. I resist what is.

I love. I share. I feel empathy and compassion. I give. I help. I donate. I listen and understand. I open my heart. I feel joy. I appreciate beauty. I am affectionate. I meditate. I laugh. I am present.

Which list is nicer? Should I feel pride about one and shame over the other? Is one list worse or better than the other? Is one good and the other bad? Is either list more or less human? Does any of it define who I am?

Do I dislike myself when I dip into the ingredients of the first list? Is there such a thing as a negative emotion? And should I attempt to dismiss it as soon as it arises? Or do I allow? Welcome? Embrace?

It is what it is. And I am everything. Good and bad. Darkness and light. Ugly and beautiful. Tears and smiles.

It all moves through me. I unhook, detach and observe. I peel off the layers and labels and I see that I am human and more than that. I am indescribable. I cannot be named.

I feel and experience. I judge and then I remember not to judge. And it ebbs and flows and ebbs once again.

40.media.tumblr.com

40.media.tumblr.com

Happy

Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary called Happy. This film explores what makes people happy. It was a welcome reminder of what happiness really is and all the ways we can work on and maintain happiness in our lives.

Interestingly, our genetic makeup determines 50 per cent of our happiness. Some of us are just born happier! Circumstance (where we live, our job, life events) only contributes 10 per cent towards our happiness. So we have a whole 40 per cent to work with. We have the power to boost our own happiness. It’s a personal choice. And one well worth making.

So because it’s always good to be reminded of how to be happy, and especially coming up to Christmas, I’m going to share a few of the best ways to promote happiness.

1. Gratitude: Recalling all the things you’re grateful for really makes you appreciate all you have. I’m currently keeping a 30-day gratitude journal where I write 10 things each day that I’m grateful for and the reasons why. Afterwards, I read them aloud. So by day 30, I’ll have 300 wonderful things to read. I’m only on Day 6 but already I’m feeling the change in my mood and my energy. And it’s making me more aware of the abundance of things I have to be grateful for as I go about my days.

2. Compassion: Caring for others is guaranteed to make you feel good too. Try completing a random act of kindness. Give a stranger a free parking ticket, donate clothes to the homeless or volunteer to work with the ill or the elderly. Helping others unites you with your fellow man. Doing meaningful things with your time fills you with a sense of purpose and pride. Another way of bringing compassion into your life is to do a Loving-Kindness meditation where you focus on sending love and kindness to yourself and to others. This form of meditation has even been known to help with depression.

3. Flow: Do things that bring you into a state of flow. When you’re in flow, you’re totally in tune with what you’re doing. You’re present. Time stands still. For some people, this could be painting or playing piano. It could be scuba diving or upcycling, surfing or sewing. Uncover your passion, get your creative juices bubbling and enter the flow.

4. Dopamine: Dopamine is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In simple terms, it’s a feel-good chemical. We release this chemical when we perform rewarding activities like eating and having sex. However as we age, this hormone is produced less and less. The good news is that the more we show our bodies that we need this chemical, the more our bodies will continue to make it. It’s like a muscle that gets bigger the more we exercise it. Aerobic activity is great for stimulating dopamine release. Interestingly, if we work out in novel ways, even more dopamine is released. So instead of your usual jog, sign up for The Color Run. Rather than hitting the gym, go rock climbing or white water rafting. Replace walking around the estates with a hike to a spectacular location.

5. Mix it Up: Following on from the previous tip, another way to prevent yourself from sliding into monotony is to change things around. Take an alternate route when you’re walking your dog. Try out a different café. Attempt a fresh recipe from that book that’s been collecting dust ever since you received it three Christmasses ago. Join an adventure club. Attend a Meetup outing and make new friends. Travel to a destination on the opposite side of the map. After watching Happy, Bhutan is now on my bucket-list. Bhutan is a place located on the slopes of the Himalayas that officially uses Gross National Happiness as an indicator to measure quality of life in holistic and psychological terms. Now that’s my kinda country!

As you can see from the list above, the road to happiness is simple. And it’s free. In fact, once our basic needs are met, money does very little to increase happiness.

Happiness is sharing a meal with your loved ones. Happiness is laughing over a latte with friends. Happiness is being present with your children. Happiness is being astonished by the beauty of nature and the miracle of life. Happiness is when you realise  just how rich you really are.