I was in the midst of drafting a piece on the importance of self-love and introspection when my friend Jamie Goode posted this. Coincidence has its funny ways, so here are my own thoughts on the not-so-often discussed matter.
Isn’t it bizarre that this is a question we repeatedly ask one another, in the morning, the middle of the day, in a meeting, on coming home, on the phone...? How are you? This is such an odd form of mumbling politeness; one that is so often only meant half heartedly. So we go on in our day, answering “yeah, good thanks,” but perhaps never really stopping to ask ourselves the question. How am I? Am I doing ok?
So are you? Are you really doing ok? Are you happy? And what does happiness truly mean to you?
I heard once, that in life, we need the triangle sequence of friendship/family/romance, work life, and living situation to be in balance, in order to be happy. We can continue without one, if we lose two we fall into disarray.
I don’t particularly believe in this. A change in circumstances at the beginning of 2017 saw me pedal at full speed through my intense career, working as hard as possible. This was, and is, a natural path for me as writer still in a full time job, a writer who has seen her life become utterly devoted to wine and thus to travel, but it was also a way to distract myself and to avoid dealing with emotion, because we don't want to examine our raw human emotions. Society's how are you conditions us to shy away from them when we shouldn't.
Dissecting this triangle has made me contemplate: as someone utterly in love with my job, having my nose in a glass of wine brings me deep joy. However, for myself and others, publishing an article, writing a wine list or hosting a tasting may make you happy, but does it give you a feeling of intrinsic peace? Probably not. A living situation, no matter how good it is, also won’t give you this. Nor does friendship and family alone; yes, good friends and family are crucial: they cast a happy love net, good feelings and a support network, but do they result in deep, innate happiness?
So what does? I had had enough of feeling almost-happy last year, and nothing I did would seem to result in true happiness. I was so focussed on bringing happiness to others but frustratingly I wasn’t quite there. I barely felt like writing anymore, I was exhausted. I took myself to do some yoga for the first time in years and everything changed. The little segment of time devoted to me during my practice gives my brain and my body time to be by itself, to rest and to heal. It has taught me to look after myself. If we don’t look after ourselves, what do we have? We see many people, particularly in hospitality, who are burnt out, tired and perhaps unhappy. Instead of the aforementioned triangle, happiness first and foremost comes from self-love. Leading a busy life means it becomes easy to forget yourself. I never used to give myself any time. Yoga has taught me that. Be kind to your body, don’t abuse it. Allow yourself to feel the raw human emotions I discussed earlier, and allow yourself to deal with them, no matter how painful they may be. We must be happy within ourselves in order to bring happiness to others, and it is crucial that we are comfortable within ourselves before entering relationships, in order to bring out the best in our partners.
In addition to giving yourself self-love, surround yourself with people who love you, and take time to figure out who these people are: probably still the people who ask you the awkward British, how are yous, but ones that truly mean their words. The ones who will pause and listen if you shrug and say, hey, not actually that great. And who understand that it's ok to feel that way.
...and those that don’t? Well, there are plenty of those people out there. There are people who will mock you, there are people who will talk about you behind your back. There are people who won't be happy for you. Smile at them, hold your head high, and keep going. Give zero ****s about them. Many people in life will attempt to project their own insecurities on you. Let them try, because, do you know what? They can’t get to you. Don’t let them. Life is too short.
... and if you make a mistake? Move on. It happens to all of us. We are human.
All of the above realisations mean that, for the first time in a while, hey - I'm really happy.
However you want to, whether through yoga, meditation, or even just ten minutes in the dark alone with your thoughts, taking a deep breath and unite your body with your thoughts, and remember that we are grounded. Take time to feel the connection between the ground and your feet. We are here on Earth, with nature and all the wonderful things that exist on our planet, which for me very importantly includes our vines and the people devoted to them. Remind yourself of what’s important in your life and be thankful for it, and be thankful for one very important thing: we're alive.