five keys to happiness

Carillo Beach, Costa Rica. Happy days!

Carillo Beach, Costa Rica. Happy days!

It’s 04:30 on a dark autumn morning. All is still as I lie feeding our littlest one who is now almost eight weeks old. I feel happy, I’m wondering why? Yesterday evening I felt stressed and exhausted. The last few weeks have been draining, with difficulties feeding our littlest one and a lot of crying by our one-year old who wonders why Mummy is so occupied. Yet, I feel warmly content and I’m wondering why…

Ronald Siegal, Professor of psychology at Harvard Medical school, believes that we may not have evolved to be happy all of the time. But he has some good news.

He explains that there are five paths to happiness, and that by using our strengths- our skills and knowledge- we can generate experiences of happiness every day.

So this is how you do it:

1. Engaging virtues in our daily lives. Putting it plainly this is our sense of wisdom, curiosity, justice, and compassion for others. For me, just now, that means enjoying my unique role as a mother providing love, food, and care for our children. And it’s going better than the first time round. Also, doing some online continued learning, keeping up to-date and staying in touch with my medical peers means I’m still curious about medicine, maintaining my knowledge and feeling in control of my career.

2. Expressing gratitude for what you have on a regular basis to ourselves and to other people. Every day I’m so thankful for my family near and far, for my neighbours and friends and for the beautiful country we live in.

3. Savouring every moment and slowing down to enjoy the scenery. In the middle of the night I listen to the warm cooing of our little one, like a baby bird. She dozes off with a gentle smile. Bliss.

Taking time to be still… High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. I did look up to enjoy the scenery!

Taking time to be still… High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. I did look up to enjoy the scenery!

4. Engagement or flow.  Being in the moment or zone (closely related to number 3). I’m not always ‘in-the-flow’. I catch my self rushing the dishes or putting things away. Slowing down adds only a few minutes and I feel much more relaxed.

5. Living life meaningfully e.g.helping others or the environment. It’s easy to forget about this one. Gratitude, living in-the-moment and using our strengths together are not enough. The reward for helping others is great and yes, sometimes people are grumpy and refuse help but more often it is welcomed with a kind heart.

Practicing mindfulness or meditation for just 5-10 minutes a day is a lovely way to reconnect with your life and assess your happiness level. Being intentional about it, like brushing your teeth, helps build it in to one’s day.

You can play and download useful meditations by Prof. Siegal here. Enjoy and thanks for reading!