Last week I experienced one of the toughest moments in my life. I had to say goodbye to my beautiful 92-year-old Nan. She has been there for me through thick and thin, encouraged me through good and bad and just loved me for who I am. All who knew her will forever remember Nan’s epic generosity, love of a good laugh, legendary knitting skills and love of cooking. Some of my best childhood memories are at Nan’s eating melted cheese off a tin plate straight out of the oven, coconut macaroons, ginger cake, the best fried rice and stuffing balls, chicken and vegetable soup plus all the usual treats and treasures that Nan’s love to give their grandchildren. Rushing home on Wednesday afternoons knowing that Nan would be there with special treats and of course, Sunday evenings with fish and chips, brown pickled onions and white bread for the chip butty’s on the table. There is nothing softer than Nan’s knee or her cuddle, especially if you were the first to get into bed with her when she was having a sleepover. I know that there are not many people who get to have their Nan in their lives for so long and I feel so lucky to have been one of them. Being English and a dedicated supporter of the monarchy, Nan has always wanted a special letter from the Queen to mark her 100th year. She didn’t quite get there but I know that Her Majesty the Queen would have congratulated her on a life well lived. A life full of love, laughter and happiness. Becoming a nonagenarian (90+ years) like my Nan doesn’t just happen though. Nan was sharp as a tack till the very end and it was her body that just couldn’t keep up. There is a bit of effort involved in reaching this milestone and I know that walking for miles on end, remaining calm in all kinds of storms, keeping social networks alive and well, eating good food and enjoying life are all performance enhancers that Nan used to her advantage. I know that when I reach the same milestone as my Nan I want to be confident that I have done everything in my power to live my best life. Are you doing everything you can?
“The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children’s children. It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone. It is in us that their history becomes a future.” Charles and Ann Morse
With our lives conducted at a fast and furious pace these days, have you noticed that the pursuit of happiness now seems to be an Olympic event? It seems there are so many hoops to jump through to achieve this nirvana state rather than it just finding you. There is much made of the eternal search for happiness across all media modes perhaps indicating our interest in the subject and the desire to get some. Various dictionaries define happiness as “the state of well-being that is characterized by contentment through to intense joy.” Of course, this will differ between individuals. It is possible that the pursuit of happiness is fraught with danger, as results are never guaranteed and you never know what will be found along the way or at the end of the journey. There are always classic times in life that we remember and feel clear moments of happiness like finishing high school, earning your first dollar, doing fun stuff with your friends, getting married or the birth of children. For me, some of my happiest moments include sitting on the back lawn as a kid with my parents and siblings in summer eating watermelon with the juice running down my chin; riding the waves on my first surf mat and spotting a dolphin when running along the river. Being happy doesn’t need to be complicated, achieved or completed. Very often it can be found hiding in the simplest things. There are a number of global ‘experts’ on happiness and, while there are various schools of thought, most agree that the following aspects can significantly influence our happiness.
The Life Juggle – for most of us, having many balls in the air including work, home, play and relationships, is a relentless challenge. It can be difficult to feel happy and at peace when you are stressed and trying to keep a balance in your life. It is often difficult to say no to others but before you say yes to someone else, check first that you are not saying no to yourself. Kicking Goals – to give yourself direction, regularly set goals or plan things to look forward to. This gives your life meaning and a sense of purpose. It could be something as simple as making plans for the weekend or organizing your next holiday. Health and Performance- there is no doubt that your health and well-being is key to your overall happiness. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the most basic of needs have to be met before other aspects of your life can be addressed. If you are suffering from poor health, the issues causing this should be tackled first. Networked: research shows that those people with a strong support and social network are happier and healthier. A sense of community and belonging is essential to our well-being. Inner peace: reducing stress in your life is a bit like decluttering your home. Some items need kicking to the kerb, some need regifting and others remain cherished. Sometimes the same type of spring-cleaning is necessary in your own life. This may mean clearing space to do the things you truly enjoy, learning to relax through meditation or music or finding some ‘me’ time.
I recently interviewed my very own 91 year old Nan in the pursuit of uncovering her secrets to happiness. I figured she may have gathered at least a couple over the past nine decades. Growing up in the UK during World War II and wife of a career military man has meant that she has experienced some tough times in her life but she is a tough one my Nan. Although at 91 years she now lives with heart issues, Nan is still an avid reader (without glasses) and sharp as a tack. This nonagenarian has lived independently until only a few months ago and has only just entered a new phase in her life, moving into a low care aged facility where she enjoys plenty of visits from her extended family of nine grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren. I have often wondered about the secret to Nan’s longevity, health and happiness. She believes it is due to her placid and calm nature. I think it is because she has never gone looking for happiness, it found her while she was content to be in the moment.