Most of us today are trying to define what ‘normal’ is. But let’s be honest. This has nothing to do with the ongoing pandemic. The world around us has changed drastically – even before coronavirus struck – but have we kept up with the changes?
We’re probably grateful to the pandemic for allowing us to voice our mental health struggles. Now, why do we need a pandemic to allow us to say, “I’m probably confused?” Maybe because it is suddenly more socially acceptable? And talking about our mental health previously was not? Is this going to change in the near future? Are we still going to address our mental health problems post-pandemic?
Our struggles don’t need to be big or small, but being mindful of where we stand with our mental health is the key. How does one really be mindful about the constantly changing normal? Did we skip this life lesson while chasing our dreams? Probably yes – we might not have prioritised it until it needed our undivided attention. This is where life strategies and techniques come into play.
Do You Believe in Second Chances?
Using this undefined normal to our advantage, let’s recreate a space where we can recognise ourselves and build a routine that isn’t driven by society, but defined by our personality. Let’s stop in our tracks, be mindful, and thank the chance the pandemic has given us to redo our normal from scratch. Does that sound bizarre? Or does that sound ‘normal’?
Being an expat in the UAE means that we all flew away from our nests and landed here to build a second home. We should use this to our advantage to improve ourselves and aim for a more sustainable approach towards personal growth. Now how does one achieve personal growth, especially with all the changes we see around us? Let’s start with re-evaluating the generalised Presuppositions (Beliefs of Excellence) that we have mindlessly adopted in life. We can decode where our struggles lie by using our Modalities (Visual, Auditory, Kinaesthetic, Olfactory, and Gustatory) that are part of each representational system that encode and give meaning to our experiences.
That sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It isn’t something we can achieve overnight, but would we run a marathon with a fractured foot? Or would we take time to nurse it and start walking five steps every day with the goal to eventually run a marathon again. Our mental health works the exact same way. Personal growth won’t happen overnight – it’s something that needs attention. We need to look at our struggles, analyse them, decode them, go in for therapy, and apply new strategies with sustainable growth in order to experience transformation.
What Is NLP Coaching?
NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming and is a personality development tool that is designed to help people in their personal and professional space. The way I describe NLP is that what happens in the brain (Neuro) helps us form an opinion (Linguistic), which is then expressed in our behaviour (Programming). I believe that NLP tools are what we change in our brain via our Modalities, which heals our opinions and changes our behaviour/routine, creating a new normal every time we grow.
What’s the easiest way to start this process? Mindfulness. When we are aware of our senses, we can be aware of what information we would like to put into our brain and form a new opinion, which will eventually enable a new habit/ behaviour. This is a continuous subconscious process that happens in our life on a day-to-day basis, and we are either aware of it or wake up one morning feeling dejected.
This ongoing process of changing what normal means for us can be used in many situations where one feels a void – be it the pandemic, your move to UAE, a break-up, a change of job, moving apartments, or mourning the loss of any form. Change in routine can be used to your advantage to upgrade yourself.
Dubai has normalised the fact that what we consider normal constantly changes. Luckily, being a part of this environment means that we can get through change with a few life strategies, techniques, and guidance. This advice comes from my own life experience in Dubai, being confused in my twenties, and the structure that comes from being a trained Master NLP Practitioner and Mindfulness & Life Coach.
Astrology has been around for two and a half millennia, and traces its roots to the Babylonian Age. This ancient craft was devised by the sages and the seers of those times to consult and strategise on behalf of rulers. Today, the worldwide collective consciousness has shifted from just spirituality to radical technology, social justice, and acceptance of the self through the rise of astrology.
On one memorable trip to New York for a women’s leadership training program, I had the strangest encounter of my life. I met with a psychic who told me something I’d never forget. At that point, I was at my lowest, both emotionally and physically, even though my life seemed perfect from the outside. I was exactly where I’d worked hard to be – at the peak of my journalistic career – and yet I wasn’t happy. When I visited the psychic, she said, “Don’t listen to the voices.” I was startled. “Voices, what voices?” I asked. She replied that I shouldn’t listen to the voices that tell me to kill myself. I had no idea that, at that moment, I’d begun the quest of my life by listening to the guidance of stars instead of those voices.
Fast forward to six years later, I am now a certified Applied Astrologer through the Debra Silverman School. I discovered myself, my potential, possibilities, and ultimately my soul’s journey. All the clients that I work with come to me with burning questions about their lives. They find themselves confused and torn amidst the internet’s takeover of astrology. They may have their entire astrological chart on an app, but they seek deeper knowledge about the cosmic imprint of their soul.
Astrology, Then and Now
The earliest known astrological illustrations were found 20,000 years ago. Some of the most striking ones include over 600 carvings found in France, which have the same symbols for the 12 zodiac constellations that astrologers still use today. Many cultures of the time believed that planets were forces of nature or representatives of the divine that shaped the life of every individual on earth. Whatever pattern constellated in the heavens, the study of it was always conjugated and never abstract. It was considered a necessity with life-and-death implications that required understanding the divine and mystical.
Before the advent of science, everything was connected to nature and its signs, climate, calamities, disasters, new comets, and eclipses. In the age of information, all major publications throughout the globe have a dedicated astrologer penning horoscope columns daily. The first one was published in 1930 by Sunday Express. While it was Ptolemy, an astronomer and mathematician who introduced ‘natal’ astrology, today, its sister science astronomy has split away from it, pushing many cynics to call astrology a pseudoscience. Regardless of the opposition and disbelief in the science of astronomy, questions about the millennial’s place in the universe are often comforted by astrological memes. And somehow, in this process, we feel connected to the community and end up feeling like an unique individual – a one in a billion.
Astrology, a Healing Art
Astrology as a healing art has come a long way from the Sun Sign Astrology found in newspapers and websites to a certified astrologer today, who studies a snapshot of the sky at the moment of your first breath – just like how they used to in the old times. The exact position and placements in the sky will let them have a look into the map of your soul. Just like how all psychotherapists do not work with you the same way, each astrologer looks at your chart differently.
The position of all the planets will reveal the nature of your life, almost like a neutral mirror. The map can guide you towards your true purpose. The natal chart works like an anchor for me as an astrologist, while I solidify a client’s unique qualities, challenges, possibilities to the future, as well as opportunities so that I can assist and guide them to truly live the life they were born to live.
Each planet is like a member of our counsel – almost like a spirit guide – that’s watching over us. Our lives are full of mystery and magic, and astrology as a healing art works best with time and layering of information. So, yes, grasping all there is to your life in a single session might be a far-fetched idea. Astrology is a symbolic language that appeals to both our conscious and subconscious mind.
Astrology Seeds to Sow
This healing art can speak to you when you need it most. It can actualise your destiny, and you can live out the potential of your entire being. It will illuminate the archetypes that you are living and the lessons that you are being taught. It can let you channel all energies to blend and translate into your life. Each sign within us and the planet where it plays out is the seed that we actualise and grow as we take care of it.
A story in The New York Times talked about how psychotherapists have now started learning astrology to understand their clients. Many shared that numerous clients were now using astrology as a reference point in their lives. Another article reported that venture capitalists were now investing in zodiac-focused start-ups as, according to them, astrology is having a cultural moment. I believe these factors indicate that with its rise as a constructive navigating tool for people from all walks of life, the whole debate about astrology being a pseudoscience is slowly dying out.
Transformation through Astrology
I use Applied Astrology as a healing art almost as much as an energy healing work. I practise it as a strong starting point for each client’s work with me. The natal chart acts as a roadmap into the transformation to make each puzzle of their lives finally make sense. This healing process is not for the faint-hearted and those interested in future predictions. Applied astrology requires us to comprehend where we are in our lives and to put in work for ourselves.
I create a sacred space for those who are committed, introspective, contemplative, and curious about moving into their lives with ultimate power. The tools of astrology – the planets, the positions and placements, the mystery of the skies – must be held in utmost respect for their power. There should be an understanding and awareness that it takes time to understand what these influencing factors are trying to communicate to us and what they are capable of in our lives.
What is victim mentality? The word ‘victim’ is thrown about a lot these days, but most people aren’t aware of how and when it should be used, and do not understand the impact it creates in our lives. Here, we’re going to delve into who a victim is to reduce all this confusion.
A victim, in this context, is a person who is at the receiving end of a bad incident or emotion when it comes to mental health. Not everyone is a victim till they allow themselves to be. You would have likely seen people give advice to take responsibility for our actions, no matter what the situation is. But most of us don’t know how to do it and what impact it can have.
How is this related to victim mentality? Consider this. Have you noticed that your life is circling the same path over and over again? Why is someone else always around you to trigger certain emotions – be it happiness or sadness? Why can’t you have a peaceful mind? Why is happiness always a short-term thing for you? If you have been thinking in this direction, congratulations! You are now one step closer to identifying the victim mentality in you and finding an answer to the problems that have been with you all your life.
How can victim mentality take over your entire life?
Let’s start with an example of victim mentality and how it turns into a cycle. If a friend hurts you and you are upset about it, you are now feeling sad because of someone else’s actions. This can cause you to feel like you were the victim of that incident. With the rise of this feeling, you are now giving your power to someone else. It’s like allowing them to be a trigger in your life. You give the other person the power to control your life.
Being a trigger, they can control your unconscious mind and make you think, do, or act as they like. By giving the conscious mind and thinking power away, you are entering a very scary path where this process repeat and become a pattern. It means that you’ll come across similar people who will trigger you and make you sad because that’s all that you know and are familiar with.
This is where you need to take responsibility for your actions. You have to tell yourself that you cannot react to another person and you must maintain control of your conscious mind. Now that we have decoded victim mentality, the same thinking can be applied to happiness, too. If you start relying on others for your happiness or the outside environment to make you happy, you are letting yourself be dependent on it – and not learning to be truly happy.
Whether it’s creating a cycle of sadness or depending externally for happiness, these habits can make life very difficult, very quickly. You cannot find long-term happiness or peace within yourself with such an approach as you’re letting yourself be a mere puppet. So what’s the solution? Believe that just as outside factors can control you, you can control the outside world, too.
If you can let your inner self control you – including your sadness, happiness, and all other emotions – then you will feel that the people around you cannot actually control your mood, especially with such intensity. You might still be sad or happy because of others, but they are no longer in control, and you know how to make yourself feel better.
How can you make yourself feel in control?
Changing your attitude is not going to happen overnight. You’ll have to undertake a lot of learning, unlearning, decoding, and adopting new habits while dropping older ones. All of this effort will help you in personal development and identifying a path that you can follow. Once these things align in your life, they become what many call coincidences and opportunities – though in reality, they are simply the results of your effort.
You have to realise that you are the power centre in this change. If you give your power away as a result of victim mentality, you’ll lose everything. In comparison, if you learn to control it, you can manipulate how you feel, what happens in your life, and how things align in your life – all of it will be in your control. The condition to gaining this power is to let go of victim mentality.
Therapy is one way to approach this as it helps you analyse your behaviour and thinking patterns and gives you the tools and techniques to change and decode them. You have to fight the situation. Let the conscious mind take control and utilise its creative and logical parts to make you believe that you deserve a really happy life – and before you know it, you’ll create it.
Having been on a journey with meditation, I can hands down say that it’s a life-changing experience! I turned to meditation when I had nothing else left. My first experiences of ‘trying’ to meditate were around seven years ago. I had been living in Dubai for a year and fancied going on a yoga retreat in Sri Lanka. I’m a very talkative person, and I met a woman just like myself at the retreat. We both struggled to take meditation seriously and confessed that we simply couldn’t switch off, sit still, and control the thousands of thoughts racing in our minds. When I asked for advice, all I was told was that it was about the breath. Unable to progress any further, I ended up giving up.
Several years later, I found myself in Thailand after a breakdown and turned to meditation again. This time, I trained myself to meditate and the results spoke for themselves! The thing to remember here is that the brain is a muscle, and it needs training like any other muscle. The more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. I started with five minutes and now meditate, without fail, at least six days a week for a minimum of 20 minutes. I assure my coaching clients that if I can do it, anyone can – after all, I have always been someone who can’t sit still, someone who’s always on the move.
Daily habits and rituals are crucial for a happy, fulfilled life. In my line of work, I interact closely with women who want to learn how to be confident leaders. From my experience, everyone wants to learn the skills to be a great leader, but it’s the inner work that makes us shine – I call this the inner hustle. We live in a culture that rewards hustling, hard work, and long hours to be successful. This is an outdated system that leads to burnout, stress, and ultimately feeling unfulfilled. But there is much more to life than hustling!
I believe the new way is the conscious way – doing less and attracting more. It’s all about being in flow and alignment. We often feel that unless we are pushing and controlling, we aren’t productive or successful. I’ve found that when I am in this state, I make mistakes, have the wrong vibe, and end up doing more damage than good. It is only when you’re in the right space that you can attract the right people at the right time – and it all stems from feeling good.
When I work with women, I often see the same patterns, so I start by delving deep into how they spend their mornings. You can set your day up for success with the right habits and rituals. More often than not, we jump out of bed, rush to get ready, swig a coffee, and leave for the office. “I just don’t have time,” women say to me. We have to carve out time specifically for our morning habits and rituals to be successful. I can assure you the results will be outstanding if you do so. It’s the small, daily steps that lead to big breakthroughs. Meditation results in you feeling happy, calm, and in sync, and contributes to your overall wellness.
Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual or ‘woo woo’ either – there is lots of scientific research to back up its benefits. When we meditate, we access what is known as Alpha brainwaves, which ignites creativity, inspiration, solutions, and problem-solving. There have been countless times when I have meditated and come up with ideas for my work right after. The fact is that 95% of life is created from the subconscious mind, and we can access it through meditation.
Meditation also reduces stress, gives clarity, increases focus, and promotes happiness. It is normal for thoughts to keep entering our minds as we meditate. The key is to get into the present moment, the space where we aren’t thinking of anything at all. This takes practice and the easiest way is to count your breath. Two thoughts can’t co-exist, so by counting, you are present. Here are my three tips for fruitful meditation.
Tip 1: Daily habits and rituals can be life-changing.
Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier each day and start with an inspiring podcast. Go to YouTube and look up ‘guided meditation videos’, especially ones that focus on positive energy. Pick one you like the sound of, lie back, and listen. I prefer to lie flat, though some people like to sit up. There is no right or wrong way, so do what works for you.
Tip 2: Count your breathing.
Count 1-2-3-4 as you inhale and 1-2-3-4 as you exhale. Remember to be patient with it. It’s called meditation practice as it takes practice – so stick with it. After some time, you’ll notice that you can do it for longer and longer.
Tip 3: Implement this daily, along with a gratitude journal.
We all have things to be grateful for. Every day, start with, ‘I am so grateful for…’ Combine these two things to elevate your vibration or mood. There have been times when I have woken up irritable and groggy, only to feel like I had another 10 hours of sleep after meditation.
How often do we really focus on the power of our thoughts when manifesting? We see daily reminders on social media, new age documentaries, and guided meditations, but do we really take the time to understand what it means and how it can affect us?
If we really understood the power of the mind, we would place far more importance on being aware of the texture of our thoughts on a daily basis. This practice starts with mindfulness. It means being aware of the mind within the mind and observing the part of us that allows these thoughts to churn and revolve unconsciously and continuously.
New neurobiological research has proposed that we have over 6,000 thoughts per day, and a staggering 95% of these thoughts are the same ones we had the day before. Out of this 95%, 80% of these repetitive thoughts are actually negative in nature. So what does this mean for us? This finding teaches us a lot about the essence of the amygdala, the part of the brain that is biologically programmed to keep us safe. We must understand that this part of the brain is not capable of judgment and rationale. It only understands one thing: that which is familiar is what has kept us alive thus far.
So, if these thoughts and behaviours have kept me alive this far, it makes sense to ensure that this consistency and repetitiveness continues to ensure lifelong safety. This is exactly why people find it very difficult to remove themselves from their comfort zone. The resistance is in-built! According to the law of attraction, if such a large number of our thoughts are inherently negative, then we will keep attracting the same situations that reinforce these negative thoughts, keeping us in a firm loop of manifesting the same things we are trying to change. So how do we change this process, and what role does gratitude play in it?
Allow me to answer this through a personal story.
It was about 4pm and I was traipsing through the sand as I took my regular afternoon walk right by the ocean. The day was bright and clear, and the sun’s heat was at that perfect balance between warming my skin and casting a beautiful orange glow. At that point, I had been consciously choosing my thoughts and emotions, tapping into abundance and reconnecting with my true self by relearning my purpose, my power, and my desires. In one way, it was a relearning. And in another way, it was a seamless unlearning of all of my programmes so that I could allow space to find my true essence of being.
I was feeling appreciative, hopeful, and grateful. And funnily enough, when I wrote about it in my journal that night, I accidentally wrote ‘gratefuel’. That was not a coincidence! It was just a subtle reminder from a universal source that gratitude is what fuels our manifestations and successes in life. That day, I felt so good during my long walk along the beach while I was breezing through my gratitude list.
I remember thinking, “Thank you for this beautiful day. Thank you for the water, for where I live. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for the moon…” And as I acknowledged the moon, I realised that it hadn’t even come up yet. It was nearing sunset, but it was not quite there. Then I thought, “I was a bit early there, but oh well. I’ll be thankful for the moon since it will be out soon anyway.” I stretched out my arms, turned my face to the sky in happiness and peace, and what did I see? A perfect silhouette of the moon.
Let us never forget that universal energy has a way of making things abundantly clear to us when we cannot see it ourselves. This was just one way that the universe was able to demonstrate to me one of the greatest truths when it comes to manifestation: allow your desires into the present-day experience by being grateful for them now. This goes against the workings of our brain, which is wired to think negatively, but the awareness of that is your power.
You are always in control and you can always shift your thoughts. The trick is to become mindful of them through practice. Mindfulness is a muscle – when used right, it grows and strengthens every day. The more you practise, the less you will find yourself immersed in repetitive, negative thoughts and the quicker you’ll be able to shift to a new thought, emotion, frequency of energy, or a new possibility and way of living.
There is a common idea stating that if you desire something, it is because you are meant to have it. Desire becomes the indicator of possibility and likelihood. Whether you actually end up receiving it is down to you, your choices, and the ability to follow intuitive guidance. But it is already yours. It is there, waiting for you to claim it. I tend to ascribe to this philosophy on the basis that time isn’t linear, so the past, present, and future are really happening at the same time. Therefore, when we are grateful for something that hasn’t happened yet, we aren’t just living out a false fantasy and tricking our brains into it. We truly are being grateful for something we already have!
When we invite gratitude, joy, pleasure, and ease into our minds, we can see it and experience it in our lives. When I expressed my gratitude for the moon, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. I knew that it would show up at some point. At that moment, it was a completely relaxed certainty for me. There was no angst, doubt, or worry about whether or not the moon was going to come out. There was no impatience around it.
I could feel grateful for it now while enjoying the benefits of the last few hours of the sun until it arrived. There was no impatience for when it would happen because that thought becomes redundant when you trust universal timing. When you combine this with relaxation and complete faith, you will see the unfolding of this metaphysical law in action. It works for attracting our life partner, money, clarity – and really anything we can dream up!
The truth of the matter is, nothing and no one can get in the way of our manifestations except us. We create the experiences, circumstances, and relationships we want by staying in alignment by consciously choosing our thoughts and, by association, our emotions. When we choose to think through the lens of gratitude, we will feel grateful, thereby attracting more into our lives to be grateful about. In fact, make this your lifelong philosophy and you’ll never run out of things to be grateful for. If we choose to focus on what we lack, we will feel frustrated and therefore find more things we ‘lack’ in our lives to be frustrated about.
This is how the law works, and you have full control of it to utilise this law to your benefit. Ultimately, we deserve to live loving, prosperous, and purposeful lives. Creating is fun and the journey should feel good. When you give thanks for a little, you end up finding a whole lot more, so whenever you feel challenged by the concept of believing something before you can physically see it, take my experience as your own and just picture the moon. Picture it appearing in the midst of a sunset, feeling that sense of certainty and peace to the point where it’s almost impossible for you to imagine it not appearing. And in that moment, know that you are at your most pivotal manifesting point. Apply that feeling to anything you want, and it will be yours.
7 Takeaways from Our Chat with a Happiness Researcher
Sarah El-Abd on the pursuit of happiness.
Happiness is fleeting. Happiness is an abstract concept. Happiness is a subjective experience. And the world has happiness on the brain. Following this year’s edition of International Day of Happiness, the global community was reminded that with mass suffering taking place in Yemen, Ukraine, and Palestine as we speak, we ought to spread happiness by sharing positive messages, connecting with people, and donating to those in need. But how does Sarah El-Abd, a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute in Denmark, define happiness? And how does she, as an expert, pursue it? Here, we share seven key takeaways from our conversation.
On the definition of happiness:
“Happiness can be defined as the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile. Personally, I’m of the opinion that happiness means something different to every person, and I would therefore define happiness as the way that an individual really feels about his or her own life in that sense.”
On the pursuit of everlasting happiness:
“We often answer the question, ‘Can we be happy all the time? And why?’ And of course, the short answer is ‘no’ – nor should we be. Happy people are happy the majority of the time, and this is perhaps because they have a positive outlook or they live their life in a positive context with well-founded structures. However, negative things can also happen to happy people, and it’s important to remain conscious of how life is treating us overall in that sense.”
On why some societies are happier than others:
“The World Happiness Report usually explains the difference in happiness across countries through six factors: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and the perceptions of corruption. In addition to these factors, each country has cross-cultural nuances that also contribute to differences in happiness, so it’s important to understand that some countries cannot push happiness forward with their GDP per capita, for example.
However, we can push happiness further through freedom to make life choices or generosity or perceptions of corruption because these don’t need to happen on an overall country level basis – as long as you feel them in your everyday life and local community. It’s one of those things where small changes create larger effects, so if we lower perceptions of corruption in local communities or even within our own circles, then that in itself is bound to potentially create a difference in happiness.”
On Nordic countries ranking high in happiness:
“It’s known that all of the five Nordic countries are consistently ranked within the top 10 of the happiest countries in the world, and I do believe that Denmark inspires other countries to increase the quality of life for their citizens. We are exceptionally good at decoupling wealth and well-being and, after our basic needs are met, we realise that more money is not conducive to more happiness – so we focus on other things that increase our quality of life instead. In other words, it is the small things that really matter. These include spending more quality time with friends and family, and enjoying the good things in life.”
On observations around happiness during the pandemic:
“It’s the small things that can help us find happiness when times get tough, and we found that there has been renewed interest in the Scandinavian concept of hygge during the pandemic. Hygge has been referred to as the perfect night in – it’s during this phase that we must spend an increased amount of time indoors, that practising hygge can help make the best of the conditions that we are living in.
It’s a very culturally significant concept to Danes, who have long used hygge as a survival strategy for winter, when it gets really dark and cold and gloomy here in Denmark. With the pandemic still presenting challenges, hygge has been – and continues to be – one of the ways that we seek comfort. And for happiness purposes, we hope that it continues to play a role in people’s lives because it really is very relevant.”
On the debate around money buying happiness:
“There is an understanding that wealthier countries tend to rank higher in happiness. However, when we bring that down from a GDP per capita to GDP per person perspective, this isn’t necessarily the case. Look at the Easterlin Paradox, for example, which explored what happened to the happiness of a country’s citizens as the GDP per person increased. The two did not always go hand in hand, and it was therefore evident that correlation did not imply causation.
When we go back to GDP per capita, yes, some of the wealthiest countries are some of the happiest countries, but the wealthiest country is not necessarily the happiest. The likes of Finland and Denmark boast strong economies and have ranked high in recent years, but they certainly aren’t the wealthiest. Similarly, larger economies such as China and America simply don’t rank as high. Money is interesting to explore from a happiness perspective and, up to a certain point, it’s very relevant – but there is a threshold.”
On the happiness hacks that she swears by:
“With happiness, I think it’s important to always take a few steps back – you can sometimes get very focused on one of the six factors that make countries happy. For example, if you live in a country that’s ridden with corruption, you may question your ability to be happy. But it’s really about taking a step back and realising that there are other factors, perhaps shifting focus to the high levels of generosity instead.
Failing in one factor doesn’t necessarily mean failing in all six factors, right? Each carries a good amount of weight. Another happiness hack that I swear by is communication, especially after the pandemic. While relationships are at the core of our being and our happiness, a lot of us are reviewing and re-evaluating what these relationships are and how happy they make us.”
As International Day of Happiness approaches on March 20, consider doing some deep introspection. Are you happy? What makes you happy? What do you do when you don’t feel too good? Here, we ask four influencers in the UAE such questions, learning more about what happiness means for them.
How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?
According to me, happiness is being satisfied with what you have and enjoying every minute of your journey – no matter what happens. We live in a world that makes us believe that happiness can be bought through material things and big goals, and that in order to be happy, you should keep trying to get more and more things instead of accepting your reality. Unfortunately, this only results in unhappiness and frustration. For me, simple things can bring about the most happiness. If you can just live in the moment with your family and friends, while being aware that every second is precious? That is happiness.
Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?
As a Muslim woman, reading hadiths and Quranic verses is the most effective thing I can do when I feel low. In addition to that, I also believe that being in a positive environment with good people is important. So, when I feel low, I avoid any source of negativity and try to just concentrate on myself. I don’t let my bad feelings take control of my mind and heart. Just remember that there is always a good reason to be happy by pronouncing Alhamdulillah!
What about life in the UAE makes you happy?
Ever since I moved to the UAE, I’ve been really happy. I used to live in Paris, but I’d started to lose myself there. I am generally a positive and enthusiastic person, but when you are surrounded by insecurity, bad weather, and angry and impolite people, you tend to get affected by the negativity and feel like you are not in the right place anymore.
Coming to the UAE helped me to find tranquillity. I also appreciate how safe the UAE is, especially for women. In fact, I was once was walking outside around 3am during a Ramadan night to get some fresh air, and a man approached me. He wasn’t threatening or annoying – he’d just stopped next to me to say, “Salam aleykum”. Out of nowhere, a policeman approached me and asked if the man was bothering me. The whole incident made me feel much safer here as I realised how well the country looks after its women.
How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?
I define happiness as an inside job – it’s not something that can be found outside of myself. Anything we desire from the external world can easily be taken away from us as quickly as it may be found. The pandemic was a prime example of this, with so many people around the world suddenly losing their jobs and their livelihoods. In my case, as I work in the aviation industry, it was extremely stressful because my job was suddenly on the line.
What I’ve learnt through my experience is to be deliberate about cultivating happiness. It means not focusing on what I can’t control, such as external events, and focusing on what I can control. What I can control is my breath, the peace that resides in my heart, and the thoughts that consume my head. It’s not always easy, especially when life is challenging, but there is a lot of power in optimism.
Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?
The key to cultivating a life of happiness is to keep it simple. Whenever I feel low, my number one hack is to practise gratitude. Since discovering the importance of gratitude, I have made it a daily habit to begin and end each day by saying thank you for the blessing that is today. I feel the simple act of being grateful for each day is commonly overlooked by people because society values focusing on the future as opposed to staying present in the moment.
Another simple hack that I love to do when I have an off day is open a page of my journal and create a list of 20 things that I am thankful for in my life right now. It could be as simple as a warm cup of coffee in the morning, a phone call with a loved one, or the blue sky outside. It’s so easy to fill up my page with gratitude and, within a few minutes, my mind is focused on what’s going well in my life rather than what’s going wrong.
What about life in the UAE makes you happy?
I love the consistent weather, especially during the winter season. I love warm weather, so to witness the sun shining most days is truly a gift. When the weather is pleasant, it motivates me to be more active outside. I love practising yoga on the beach, riding my bike, or hiking one of the beautiful trails around the UAE. In fact, last month, I travelled to Fujairah with a group of friends to embark on the Rainbow Valley Trek.
It always brings me tremendous joy to participate in fun outdoor activities with like-minded people. When I’m outside, submerged in nature, it helps me to feel grounded and teaches me to let go and let be. Nature is beautiful and evokes happiness, yet it’s not trying or doing anything – it just is. It reminds me that I myself don’t need to try or do anything to be happy, instead, just being authentically me and anchoring onto my true essence will always bring me joy.
How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?
Happiness is a state of mind. It’s a decision that you make to enjoy the moment and feel content with what you have and where you are.
Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?
When I feel low, I don’t try to force myself to be happy and fake it. I spend some time alone at home or with my kids to analyse my feelings and the reasons behind them until I feel balanced and ready to face life’s obstacles again.
What about life in the UAE makes you happy?
The UAE is a vibrant country, and it always keeps you busy and engaged. Whether you are interested in arts and culture, love shopping and fashion, or are a busy mom with toddlers to entertain, you can always find something to do. Being exposed to so many different cultures here can put things into perspective about how diverse people are, and how everyone has their own definitions of being happy and enjoying their time.
As an architect, I find that the design of buildings and communities here help in keeping up people’s spirits. The gyms, pools, and well-designed outdoor spaces make people want to mingle and move – and that’s crucial to leading a happy life.
How do you define the term ‘happiness’? What does it mean to you?
Happiness can mean a lot of things. For me, it means always having or doing what gives me that feeling of fulfilment. It’s also about being around the people I love and helping them be the best version of themselves. Helping someone with something that’s troubling them – whether that’s by giving advice or just listening as a friend – makes me feel content. This is especially true when it comes to family, as nothing beats spending time with them and watching them enjoy life. Finally, happiness is also accepting myself as I am and appreciating what I have in my life – from my health to my career – and using that to support my needs and the needs of people around me, whether in big ways or small.
Are there any personal happiness hacks that you swear by when you’re feeling low?
I believe that emotion is energy in motion. If you feel down, your mood can instantly be changed with a shift in environment and physiology. When I feel blue, the first thing I do is indulge in self-love activities. I like to run a warm bubble bath, light a candle, play sounds of Tibetan bells in the background, relax, and turn inwards.
Often, when people feel down, they may turn to unhealthy choices such as alcohol to numb the feeling, but that only reduces the pain temporarily. Turning inwards in a quiet place and starting to listen to yourself can have a more long-lasting effect. I like to reflect on the little things I’ve done and remind myself that plenty of other people still have it harder. After all, I still have food on the table and a roof over my head. I also try to reconnect with a friend or a family member. That always puts me in a good mood and fills my heart with love.
What about life in the UAE makes you happy?
The UAE is a progressive country, and it’s still very much shaped by the friendly and welcoming Muslim/Arab culture. In fact, the first thing I noticed when I came here was how multicultural it is and how respectful people are of each other. I also love how people here seem to have a hunger and ambition for things, and how the country is constantly developing with new and exciting projects on the way. The opportunities are endless!
When I was younger, I dreamt of ‘making it’ in New York City, but today, I feel proud to have made a better choice by living in the UAE as I believe that this country is the future – it will have the next Silicon Valley, the next city that doesn’t sleep, and so much more!
Last Monday was centred around the celebration of romantic attachment, with people going all out to express their love for their significant other. But what about self-love? Are you madly in love with yourself? And does that question seem alien to you? Having worked with hundreds of women, I can safely say that women generally struggle to love themselves wholeheartedly. Some cannot even fathom what it feels like. Here, I’m going to show you what it looks like to be in love with yourself and provide you with tips on how to get started on that journey towards self-love.
When I was nine years old, I remember feeling special and loved. Looking back, it was because I loved myself. I would wake up excited and eager to see what the day held for me. I would say what I wanted when I wanted. If I did not want to do something, I would simply say no. If I wanted something, I would ask for it. I was very clear with what I wanted, needed, what I liked, and what I did not like. I loved myself wholeheartedly. I was happy.
Fast forward to my 20s, and I was filled with self-doubt. I would constantly censor myself when I spoke as I didn’t want to look stupid or sound silly. I always wanted to lose weight, regardless of how I looked. I would repeatedly criticise myself. “Why did I just say that?” “What must they think of me now?” “I can’t believe I did that!” “I wish I was thinner/smarter/richer.” It’s exhausting to just remember the endless barrage of self-doubt and judgement that seemed so normal to me at the time.
When I hit my 30s, I decided that I’d had enough and wanted to return to feeling as good as I did when I was nine. At that point, I started studying the brain and was already a Master NLP practitioner who was obsessed with being the best version of myself. What I noticed then was that I was not the only one who spoke so badly of myself. That’s when I started on the journey of falling in love with myself.
Observe Your Thoughts
We have thousands of thoughts a day and many of them are about ourselves. Most of us think that these thoughts just come from nowhere and, even though this is true to some level, it doesn’t that we can’t control them. The first way to fall in love with yourself is to observe what you are thinking about yourself. When you look in the mirror, what do you say? What is the tone you use to speak to yourself? What are the words that you use? If you have never taken the time to really observe the thoughts you have about yourself, start noticing and start writing them all down truthfully.
When you monitor your thoughts, you will realise that it is generally filled with a lot of judgement. It’s natural and we all do it, but you also need to start challenging those thoughts. The easiest way I did this was to ask myself, ‘Would I say this to my best friend?’ Start talking to yourself the way you would to your best friend. Be kind to yourself in the words and tonality that you use. Praise yourself. Tell yourself that you did well and have compassion for yourself. This takes time and practice, but it’s by far one of the most important parts of starting the process of falling in love with yourself.
Honour Your Needs
Another way to start falling in love with who you are is to honour your needs. For example, if you had a busy week at work and your friend asks you to help her move over the weekend, and you say yes – even though you’re physically and emotionally exhausted – then you are not honouring your needs. You’ve put your friend’s needs above yours. Learning to only say yes when you truly want to is one of the most powerful ways to honour your needs. Honouring your needs and wants as a woman means putting your own mental and physical needs before others.
As women, we tend to be people-pleasers and struggle to say no. And being a people-pleaser recoveree, I understand how hard this can be, but the power of being authentic and saying yes only when I really mean it has transformed my life. It means that when I say yes, I am not resenting doing what I have agreed to do. It means that I am not from an empty cup. It is not selfish to do that – in fact, it’s the most loving action you can take for yourself and the people in your life. Honouring your needs, both mentally and physically, is extremely powerful.
Love Your Body
As a woman, you might have a very complicated relationship with your body, and you could be very critical of it. Sometimes you might punish your body by overfeeding or underfeeding it. You could push your body to its limits at the gym or not stimulate it at all by living a sedentary life. A whole article can be written on this issue, but it needs to be mentioned here as so many of us base our self-worth on the size of a dress or the number on a scale. Learning to love your body, no matter what, is a big part of falling in love with ourselves.
How do you do this? Love your body for how it is right now. Think of it like this: if you had an object you loved, respected, and honoured, how would you treat it? You would treat it with care. You would look after it with everything you had. Our bodies are the same. If you treat your body with love and respect, you will nourish it with food that you know will fuel it properly. Moving your body and fuelling it from a place of love and respect is also one of the key ingredients to falling in love with yourself.
Surround Yourself with the Right People
Finally, I want to talk about the people in our lives. Learning to surround yourself with people who uplift you, bring you joy, inspire you, and motivate you is also important for falling in love with yourself. Allowing someone into your life who constantly brings you down or is toxic and berates you is not going to do anything for your self-love. However, learning to distance yourself from them and finding people who have positive things to say and can improve your well-being is essential to falling in love with who you are. One of the most powerful things you can do as a woman is to fall in love with yourself because, the more you love yourself, the more love you can give to the world.
Was this helpful? Learn more ways to improve your health and well-being in our Wellness section.
Heal Your Inner Child with This Holistic Technique
Ready to face the traumas of your past?
In recent times, inner child healing has become one of the safest and most widely accepted forms of therapy. Inner awakening and emotional independence through such healing have brought unbelievable changes in the lives of people. It has, thus, almost started a whole new era of holistic healing and inner awakening.
Inner awakening is like waking up from a deep slumber. You see more, you hear more, you sense more, and you see the bigger picture. You can see situations from a bird’s eye view – even those that involve you. You begin to become neutral and therefore less drained from what is happening outside of you. It is a state of self-awareness and emotional independence that remains, whether you are going through the ups or downs of life. It is more of a being state than a doing state.
If you seek growth, transformation, and personal development, then inner child healing will help you attain tranquillity and inner peace. However, it is difficult to grow, transform, and heal without healing the emotions that weigh you down. Our family and romantic relationships commonly trigger us the most, but if we pay attention, these triggers can reveal how reactive we are to other’s opinions of us.
Being emotionally independent means being balanced in any situation and with anyone from your unhealed environment. An inner feeling of emotional security is one that that reflects your inner confidence and elevated self-esteem. It is driven by self-awareness of healthy boundaries that you draw with everyone without feeling violated, pushed, or victimised.
Let’s Talk Trauma
‘E-motions’ by holistic definition means ‘energy in motion’. Internally, we are all chemicals. Every emotional state we feel is nothing else but a neurohormone flowing through our bloodstream to make us feel different feelings such as anger, guilt, hurt, sadness, victimisation, lust, and even helplessness. Everything we think influences our emotional state. Our feelings produce a particular chemical from our hypothalamus or endocrine glands that, in turn, influences our energy and the important energy centres that we call chakras.
Each situation that we go through where we feel heavy or light can make us feel low or high on energy as it’s all connected to our meridians. What we feel is what we focus upon repeatedly in our thought space. Generally, these thoughts come from our unhealed, hurt, neglected, abandoned, or abused past.
Each time we feel sad, bad, or unpleasant, there is something within us that got triggered due to a past association that we had been through as a child – trauma that is held as an association by this inner child. To heal this hurt, we can regress in time to re-parent the inner child and integrate them with the healed adult, both vibrationally and behaviourally. With that said, here are five common situations that we often get stuck with due to unhealed past trauma.
1. Self-Sabotage Due to a Passive-Aggressive Inner Child
When critical and harsh authorities control or criticise a child again and again, it makes them angrier and creates a rebellious attitude against those authorities. In most cases, these harsh authorities are parents or grandparents who made them suffer and caused pain associations with them. The adult person in the future will then – at no cost – want to follow any system at work or even in a social environment, hence attracting failure, rejection, relationship crises, and other interpersonal issues. They might even get addicted to substances as they aren’t able to manage the chaos in their head. They enjoy the thrill of beating the system and breaking the rules that a particular authority had set for them, and this lands them in trouble all the time.
2. Lack of Self-Confidence and Self-Doubt in Decision-Making
When someone has a tremendous amount of self-doubt, they’re unable to decide on anything. This confused and vulnerable mindset makes one think, ‘I am not good enough.’ Such people attract relationships that disturb them and leave them emotionally drained. They face a lot of anxieties in life – especially in their career. Other effects of such a damaged past include loneliness, social anxiety, a lack of confidence in moving forward, and indecisiveness in career and relationships.
3. Pre-Marital Anxiety and Trust Issues in Broken or Difficult Relationships
We grow up with a basic idea of how relationships work based on how our parents lived with each other. How did our mother respond to our father? And how much does our father respect our mother? What degree of functional or dysfunctional relationship did they have? This would have impacted our mindset and how we see others in a committed relationship. Trust issues, breaking rules, infidelity, an inability to draw boundaries with others, and being unable to end an unhealthy relationship – all of which eventually lead to depression in the absence of emotional support – are very common today as a result of this kind of trauma.
4. Depression and Anxiety
With feelings of hopelessness and no support from anywhere, it is quite natural for us to worry a lot about our fate and future. We might constantly think about a future that seems bleak, with no resources to cope with the resulting anxiety of the unknown. On top of this, the pandemic has triggered anxiety attacks and a lot of uncertainty about work, relationships, and many other things for a lot of people. The unhealed and unresourceful inner children in the adults of today seek answers and clarity from pillar to post. They join webinars, read books, and meet people to see if they can get answers from somewhere.
5. Patterns of Pain Due to a Loop of Aggression, Guilt, or Helplessness
When our environment is beyond our control and our past issues (with oneself and others) have left us either angry or guilty, it often leads to us taking it out on other people, things, or even ourselves. We struggle to let go of emotional outbursts and end up imitating the behaviour that we were exposed to in our childhood. We reflect that unhealed self to become a bully towards others, and then feel regret and remorse to which we don’t have an answer – leaving us to just keep suffering. This loop continues as a pattern from person to person, environment to environment, and situation to situation – and all the while we’re unable to do anything about it as there’s no clarity on how to break out of the loop.
The Truth? All the Answers Are Within!
If we consider our conscious mind as a processor that is constantly seeking answers and solutions, then the subconscious mind is the hard disk where all our past painful associations and events – which we have repressed due to the pain we feel each time we visit our past – are stored. We, in our practice of inner child work, strongly believe that if we know what the problem is, then we in our inner awareness (from the stored memories in our subconscious mind) would also know when and where the problem started.
We can help reconstitute and reintegrate that inner child who went through trauma or an unhappy memory. To revive and make the present work for such individuals, we have to revisit the past under hypnosis and speak to this inner child who is stuck under a memory and then make this individual’s child-personality walk their highest path to reconstruct the self-esteem or emotional resource that they lost. This helps to turn them into an adult of today who has positive qualities such as assertiveness, patience, calmness, confidence, equanimity, courage to draw boundaries, and faith.
All of these resources come from within us as we have all these values in our subconscious mind. Once we reconstruct our past and grow out of the part of us that suffered, we won’t ever go back to the same behaviour or discomfort. Once healed, we then become emotionally independent individuals of today who are awakened. We can move on and create possibilities with our renewed healed attitude of life and take our best foot forward with clarity.
How do you picture yourself in the future? Would everything be easier then? Will you be happier? Will you have the body you want? Will you have it all sorted out? The truth is, you do not have to wait to become ‘her’ – you can be her right now. Let’s explore how. I want you to spend some time daydreaming into the future – I know, it sounds somewhat counterintuitive to what I just said, but bear with me. Let’s think 10 years from now. It’s the year 2032. Think of the woman you will be.
Where are you living? Who is around you? What does your home look like? What do you look like? What clothes are you wearing? What do you do for work? How do you fill your day?
Build an image of your perfect self – your most authentic and happy self. Start by creating a picture of where you are, what you look like, and what you are doing. I want you to really allow yourself to dream your biggest dream here. If something is not meant for us, I really believe that we won’t be able to imagine it. If we are able to imagine it in our mind’s eye, I believe that means we will be able to achieve it. So, there is a strong element of belief here – belief that what you are dreaming of can be achieved. Once you have created the image of your perfect self, I want you to go inwards.
What do you believe about yourself? How do you talk to yourself?
What are the words and tone you use when you talk to yourself? How do you react to difficult situations? What boundaries have you put in place for yourself and for others? What integrity do you have with yourself? How much do you respect yourself? How deeply in love are you with yourself? Now, as you really think about these answers, I want you to lean into your body and feel how you are feeling. Where in your body do you feel love for yourself? Where in your body do you feel respect for yourself?
The best thing about this exercise is that you can embody the woman you dream of today. You can decide to take on the beliefs that she has about herself right now! You can decide to respect yourself as she respects herself now. The point here is that if you spend a little time and actually think about who the future version of you will be, then you can decide what parts of ‘her’ to embody now.
Think about how she dresses, for example. What kind of clothes make her feel good? What kind of clothes does she wear to school, to run, to cook, to relax, or to go to the gym? Then slowly take the clothes that do not align with her out of your wardrobe. Think about how she speaks to herself. If you see her as encouraging, loving, and respectful, then use that language when you are talking about yourself today.
This takes time, so don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get it right away. Eventually, you’ll be able to embody her characteristics. When we start thinking like this and start trying to be like that person today, we are actually morphing into that person as it’s not the money, the job, or the body that will make us happy. Instead, it is how we are with ourselves that will take us there. That is self-development.
Another lovely way to use this exercise is to use it to make decisions. If I am stuck on a decision or want to do something in my business or personal life and I’m not sure which decision would be best for me, I ask the future me. I lean into my vision of my future self and think how she would think. I ask her what beliefs she has about herself and then ask what decision she would make today from that new set of beliefs.
The decision-making process comes from your future self. The magic in this is that, sometimes, your beliefs today can limit you and not allow you to stretch or step out of your comfort zone. By connecting to your future self and asking what she would do, you can overcome these limitations. Would your future self take that bold step? Would you make that investment? Would you allow fear to stop you here? Try to list three things that your future self would change. Have fun with it, stretch yourself, and step forward into the amazing woman that you are.
Consider This Holistic Approach to Boost Your Spiritual Path
Invest in Reiki and reap its benefits.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, suffering, loss of jobs, and loss of life have all become impossible to ignore. Some looked inward to find ease within themselves in these troubling times, while others sought refuge outside for support and care. It has prompted medical attention to go beyond just clinics and hospitals, with holistic approaches and mental health care becoming a priority for many.
Reiki as a healing approach was codified in Japan in the 20th century by its founder, Dr. Mikao Usui. This holistic practice was prevalent throughout ancient history, but it is said to have originated in India. It can be roughly translated as Rei meaning ‘spiritual’, and Ki meaning the ‘life force energy’. The healer acts as a facilitator in activating and channelling the ‘universal energy’ by hovering their hands on a person’s body. It can even be carried out from miles away, confirming that it’s a union between mysticism and medicine.
Throughout the world, holistic healing approaches have gained popularity and are used as a complementary practice to traditional medicine. In the past few decades, yoga, meditation, and acupuncture have been scientifically studied to measure their success. Reiki, being the latest entry, has perplexed quite a few due to its success without an identified cause. “All of this is so wishy-washy – how can you heal just by physical touch?” my sister said to me when I volunteered to heal her after my training to become a Reiki Practitioner. After we completed the session, she said it was reassuring to feel the warmth of care, which made her feel energised and humbled.
Dr. Ann Baldwin, Editor-in-Chief for the Center of Reiki Research, says that people who claim to study Reiki through energy-sensing machines are measuring something else – such as heat – but hopes that we may be able to measure it one day. There have been studies demonstrating that Reiki has successfully lessened the side effects of chemotherapy, induced favourable surgical outcomes, calmed the nervous system, and produced long-lasting results in altering people’s experiences in both physical and emotional pain.
“I had no urge to eat and forgotten how to sleep,” said my client Abdullah, who is a UAE national and owner of a real estate company. “After the first session, I was able to sleep like a baby and eat like a bear,” he laughed. His root, sacral, and solar chakras were severely imbalanced, causing havoc in his personal and professional life. After six sessions at Illuminations Well Being Center, he was able to get on with his life with peace and stability while his personal relationships greatly improved.
No cohesive study has been able to describe the mechanisms of how healing energy is passed between bodies, though reiki treatment and training is offered in many esteemed hospitals in the UK and US. Reiki Master Pamela Miles (who has been practicing Reiki since 1986) suggests that as an energy substance, it cannot be given, received, or measured in a scientific context. “Through an unknown mechanism, the hands are mindfully placed with detachment, which evokes a healing response within the system,” she says.
Hippocrates, known as the father of Western medicine, observed in his notes that health – like diseases – can passed from one person to another. Scientists researching Reiki suggest that it is similar to a mother touching the injured knee of her child to make the pain go away through physical touch and care. Personally, I learned about Reiki while I was going through a hard time in my life. I never liked the sound of pharmaceuticals or even psychotherapy. I wanted to believe in having a spirit and, if I believed in spirit, I had to believe that wellness is not just about the mind or the body. Reiki allowed me to experience my spirit, and it showed me a whole new world that I perhaps always believed in, but somehow buried deep in the depths of my mind so as to not come off as crazy.
“I have an inexplicable pain in my arm and just can’t focus on work. I literally lash out at my closest friends for no reason at all,” a client named Tahira, a UAE national working in marketing, said to me during our first appointment. She suffered from childhood wounds and lack of self-esteem, which caused both her solar plexus and sacral chakra to be blocked. After a few sessions, she said to me, “You transformed my whole life. When I think of myself before the first session, that person doesn’t sound like me.”
60-year-old Anastasia, an expat schoolteacher with a cheerful demeanour, came to me one day and told me she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. After a few minutes of talking, I told her that perhaps her heart chakra needed some attention, which made her burst into tears as she was still holding onto her grandson’s grief. Days after she successfully completed her treatment, I got her text saying, “My tests show I am cancer-free, and your support made me go through chemotherapy with courage and an open heart. I will never forget that you saved me.” That message reassured me that Reiki is a powerful and dynamic healing modality.
In the book Alternate Medicine? A History, medical historian Roberta Bivins noticed that when comparing conventional medicine with alternative medicine, the Western model is effective but “far from complete”. She further posits that a person’s health is heavily influenced by their emotions, the weather, the position of the stars, and faith – just as much as diet, age, activity, and environment.