So, apparently the 20th of March is the United Nations International Day of Happiness. A campaign co-ordinated by Action for Happiness, this day is designed to help persons all over the world reclaim their happiness from the fake commercial images that we are bombarded with. There are countless books, online seminars and blogs about happiness, what it is and how we can find it. And here in China, this is one of the questions that we are asked the most. People want to know how we always seem to be happy, and how they can emulate a similar happiness. Which seems a bit weird to me, to be honest. I don’t see myself as a particularly ‘happy’ person. I like frowning, I love throwing tantrums and my bitch resting face inherited from my mother is a point of pride for me. I roll my eyes at those people who seem incessantly bright and bubbly and full of sugar-inspired bounce. And yet it is true that I love my life, I love what I do and I aim to put 150% enthusiasm into whatever I do. Even if I am tired and grumpy when I am teaching, I want to create a good space for my student(s) so I make a conscious decision to focus more on my teaching than on my bad mood. It doesn’t make my bad mood disappear. My bad mood is generally still there underneath! I just make a choice as to what is more important to me in the moment.
Happiness to me isn’t that fake veneer where you ALWAYS have to be smiling. I believe that true happiness comes with embracing all moods and facial expressions. Sometimes you NEED to sulk, to be grumpy and to just run away from the world. Your sanity and happiness actually requires that sometimes you take some time out to just be bleurgh, usually in your trackpants with bed hair. Happiness for me is also very much about being authentic and honest, not just with myself but also with others around me. I have learned over the years that I need to be authentic in order to be happy. The more I love you, the more honest I will be with you. This is integral to my happiness. Honesty and authenticity are pretty high on my list of things that I value, and they are VERY important to my happiness. If I find myself associating with anyone who discourages honesty and authenticity, then it affects my happiness in a detrimental way. And so I feel the need to remove myself from that persons’ company. This may be the way they work, and that’s totally ok for them. It’s just not ok for me and so I take action to do what is best for me. After all, I am of no use to the ones I love if I don’t take care of myself first! I find happiness in knowing that I am working hard to be the best I can be for my loved ones.
And everyone has a different version of happiness and how to achieve it. Our culture and the country that we grew up in has a HUGE influence on our happiness and what makes us happy. Being in China has really driven this home to me. It’s not just a different language here, it’s a completely different way of thinking. Certain factors, that I don’t even consider, are very important to many Chinese people. Like face, family pressure and societal expectations. And factors that I think are crucial to happiness, like being authentic, being independent and having choices, aren’t even on their radar! And if I have learned anything living here in China, it’s that neither version of happiness is right or wrong. We simply have different building blocks that we were given by our upbringing, culture, country and language. Which is really true for all of us, just the difference is very stark and obvious between my building blocks and that of most Chinese I meet! And I do think that we can all learn from the various versions of happiness that everyone has. No matter where you are in your journey to happiness, there is always something you can learn from another person, and always something that another person can learn from you.
Mum has always been the example of happiness that I have learned the most from. When we were kids, she always put 200% into whatever she did and as we got older and she learned more about happiness, she began taking better care of herself, learning how to be more honest with herself and how to balance that with honesty with those around her. I watched her learn and grow, and I learned and grew from her example. I watched her make mistakes and I watched her pick herself up and carry on. She was always open and honest with us about the mistakes she made. I think the biggest thing I learned from my Mum is that being imperfect and making mistakes is all part of the journey and nothing to hide or be ashamed of. And then she moved to China! Which was a huge deal. So many people told her not to. Certain people in her life didn’t want her to and she copped a fair amount of criticism for it. Still does. And despite that, she followed her heart and was true to her authentic self because this is her version of happiness, the challenge and the opportunities that come with being WAY outside of her comfort zone. She was the one who taught me that happiness isn’t a destination or achievement. It’s a journey, a constant work in progress. One that she is still living. Obviously people other than just me can see it, because so many people here in China have been asking her what her secret is!
With this in mind, we are holding a very special event this Sunday from 2pm until 5pm. An Afternoon of Happiness, sponsored by my Mum’s company, Enjoy International, and a wonderful Melbourne style cafe that we discovered recently (good coffee is another VERY GOOD reason to be happy!), Ink Coffee. If you’re reading this and you happen to be in Nanjing, GET IN TOUCH WITH US and get your bum to this event! It’s going to be an awesome, uplifting opportunity to learn something new at a new little haunt that you probably haven’t been before and a chance to network with people who are interested in similar things. Like happiness.
Yes this is a shameless plug for this event we’re running. Because I believe in it. I believe that there are so many people out there who would work so blinkin’ hard to be happy if they could just find the right direction to head in. That and I really do think that my mother has something special to offer on this subject. Don’t tell her that though.
If you’re on WeChat, connect with us and I can send you the Seven Day Series that we have just finished publishing on WeChat as a lead up to this event. And more will be going out during this week, as we count down to the International Day of Happiness. What better thing to shout from the rooftops than how we want to help people be happy?!?!?!