The secret to daily happiness

Last week was a very happy week.  For what feels like the first time in a long time (I'm thinking 2 years), I had 2 happy children, happy on the same day, at the same time, the same minutes, they were pee-your-pants-laughing-happy, day after day.

"We are only as happy as our unhappiest child" 

is a phrase that has run over and over in my head for the past 2 years.  They are so good at tagging in and out of happiness.  It's as if there is an unspoken agreement between them that both can't be peaking in joy simultaneously.   Ok maybe I'm exaggerating, of course they have been happy on weekends and in the summer holidays, but during the daily course of life (school), until they started at Lemania International School, it was a day to day struggle for them to see any positives in their wee existence.    
I am, naturally, a very happy person.  I love a challenge, and can usually see positivity in a tricky situation.  But when you become a parent you are no longer in control of many areas of your life, including your emotions.  Every cell in your body is programmed to be in line with theirs.  Well at least that's how mine operates.    And this is life, isn't it.   

I said to my daughter last week, the reason we have these very challenging periods in our life is so we can be happy with mediocrity.  We can be happy with what is not in our life. We can be happy that we wake up without a headache, nausea or stomach pain.   We can be happy our legs aren't aching so much we can't sleep.  Then we can be happy with what we do have. We can be happy that we have the energy to walk in fresh air to school.  We can be happy we have teachers who encourage us to think differently and ask questions.  We can be happy we have peers who find it easier to speak kindly than cruelly. 

Feeling gratitude is, like mindfulness, everywhere you turn these days.  And rightly so.  When we feel gratitude, actually take the time to visualise something we are very grateful for, we lower our heart rate, our blood pressure, decrease cortisol production, increase serotonin, feel present, and, as it says on the tin, feel grateful.   The more we practice it the less we live in a state of 'I'll be happy when....."  Instead we can be happy all the time because we are eternally grateful for small things.  We eliminate fear and unhappiness during those moments of appreciation. It’s impossible to feel fear and gratitude at the same time.

So, without any further ado, I gift you an additional tool to feeling happiness when it is illusive.  Music.  Here is  'Sian's Happy playlist".  I put this on when I am walking to collect the kids from school, walking to work, vacuuming, cleaning the loo, sometimes I bust it out in the middle of a vinyasa flow class. 

I don't expect you to love it as much as I do, because these are songs that trigger endorphins in me.   I associate them with people, occasions, places, smells, happiness.   Make your own happy playlist,  fill it with cheese, it doesn't have to be 'cool' it just has to make your soul sing. 

In the immortal words of Mahatma Gandhi

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”




Love like you've never loved this Christmas

Grief is a terrible beast.  It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Yesterday I was wrapping my still warm Christmas cake in newspaper and my Nana, who has wrapped our Christmas cakes in newspaper for as long as I can remember, just filled my soul.   All I could think of was all the years I have spent with her at Christmas, and her relief last year when I took over making the Christmas Cakes for the family.     I remember watching her nervously as she took her first bite, worried it wouldn’t cut the mustard, but she closed her eyes and hummed in pleasure.  I passed.    3 years ago I gave her a present that wasn’t really a present for her, it was for me.  It was an empty recipe book for her to record her recipes.  For me.  

My mum and dad built her a new house on her 1/4 acre of land 10 years ago (when she was 90) as we all decided it was time she had an inside toilet.  But she still did all her baking in the old house as she ‘knew that oven’.   Her lunches and baking were legendary.  It was always scones when I was young, then when my children were born she moved to apple pies.  As soon as we’d arrive at the house they’d run to her and ask for their apple pies.   She always had a beautifully laid table of food with finely cut lettuce, pickled cucumber, and tomatoes, homemade mustard (for you Siany) all set on her finest dinner set.  When we ate with Nana it was an unspoken lesson on how to eat; Chew your food 30 times, eat slowly, breath, enjoy every mouthful, enjoy the company.   I think of her every time I sit down to eat and try to practice her art of eating, and indeed am passing it onto my clients.    She then moved onto banana cake, which I used to pass off as my own at any opportunity (should I feel guilty?).  She used to pop them into the plastic bags her NZ herald came in, and then suggest I used them to put the nappies in. 

There is so much we can learn from our elders, we can learn practicalities of life, because honestly, they do know best, they’ve been here for the longest.   We can also learn dignity, we can learn to not sweat the small stuff, we can learn to forgive and move on, we can learn to be our true, honest selves, because lets face it, most people at age 100 are their true selves.  They’ve realised who they are, and really what means the most to them.  And this, it seems to me, is love. The greater lesson we can learn from our elders is unconditional love.   Love is what makes this world go around, whether it’s the love you feel for a newborn, or whether it’s love in the form of grief that fills your heart with both pleasure at memories, and pain at the hole they have left.   

My nana only left me 2 months ago so my grief is still raw, overwhelming, sudden, physically painful.  I try to cry in private now as I could see the kids starting to get worried at the amount of tears I seemed to be shedding.    Often I cry as I am walking back up the ski slope to my house after delivery the children to school, which is a pretty impressive act as I’m usually struggling to breath given the gradient.   I cry when I see my daughter in Nana’s nighty (they were the same height). I cried when I chopped the end off my finger last week and thought of all her injuries over the years and how brave she was.  I know crying is part of a process so when they need to come, I let the tears fall.   I know the more I cry the easier it will be to move on.   

I have been listening to a lot of Deepak Chopra lately, and I am clinging onto his theory on death “The key to the conquest of death is to discover your true self. Your true self is not in form. Your true self is formless. Your true self is inconceivable. When we connect with our true self, which is in the field of infinite possibilities, infinite creativity, infinite synchronistic correlation, where the power of intention resides, then we are liberated from the fear of the unknown because the so-called unknown has become known to us.”

This time of year can be so difficult, whether it’s near the anniversary of losing someone, or whether their presence is missed as you gather with others   I’m no Deepak Chopra, but I firmly believe that the more we give to people, the more our soul is filled, and the more satisfied with life we feel.  We don’t desire more, because we have enough when we give.  And I don’t mean tangible giving, I mean giving time, giving love, listening with your whole being to what someone is saying.  This is the biggest gift we can give in this world where no-one has time to really listen.  And if you still have a grandparent alive, visit them, sit with them, ask them questions, rub their feet, hold their hands, and make sure they know how much they mean to you.