Plus tips on how to keep your chin up through hard times.
By Nina Phitchitsingh
About six months ago, a family member said to me, “just be happy-go-lucky, Nina.” These words shook me. It made me reminisce about when I was younger, carefree and always cheerful. What jaded me? What dimmed my optimism? Apart from a series of difficult life events, COVID-19 and its unpredictable nature also played a part. New strains, additional vaccines, irrecoverable plans, travel restrictions and being isolated at home are all micro-knockdowns that have made us frown again and again.
Without a doubt, we have become a lot more guarded and serious. I know I myself have lost some of my bubbliness – I miss those days of feeling light and free, not thinking about constantly locating sinks to triple wash my hands or evaluating who is safe to be in contact with. I sought out community members whom I always deemed merry and cheery, and asked them how they’ve stayed so happy through such difficult times.
“Most of us are used to the constant hustle. It’s just so much a part of the culture now, so accepting the slowdown when COVID-19 hit was difficult. However, if it’s taught us anything, it’s that as long as we have each other, that is all that matters. As long as we’re safe, and healthy, we need to be so grateful. I was so blessed to have found love during the past two years, and to have the unconditional kind of support from my partner who really helped me get through it. To have people around you who lift you up, who love and treasure the essence of who you are, is so undeniably important.
“I also begun to take a lot more interest in other aspects of my life that matter much more than the career hustle, like improving my mindset and mental wellbeing. This includes practicing reframing my thoughts when things feel difficult, learning to react less to negativity, and not hesitating to talk to people around me who support me.
“Don’t get me wrong, I miss the old hustle culture, but you learn to adapt and more importantly, be happy now, not later, not when things get better. Just really try hard to be your happiest now. If you think and act with gratitude, then it’s a lot easier to feel positive.”
“It’s very important to stay positive during tough times, especially because I have two little girls, Samaira and Ashira,who look up to me. When the pandemic hit, it gave us the opportunity to take on the project of upgrading our house. We got the kids involved in painting, building an outdoor shed, and setting up a 14-foot trampoline. The hands-on project was surely a memorable one. I was taken back to my childhood doing flips with the girls on the trampoline.
“I also started my own garden not with flowers but Thai herbs, such as holy basil and Thai chillies. This definitely cheered me up when I was home sick, and I never ran out of ingredients for my very own Thai dishes, which remind me of my mum’s cooking.
“Since the girls were home during this time, we’ve also been spending quality time together as a family by having movie nights which took us back to our childhood watching Tom and Jerry and Mr. Bean with the kids.
“During the pandemic, the Gurdwara was low on sewadars and I took the opportunity to help prepare langar, in which I involved my girls. It was a pure experience for them to connect with Babaji and teach them the value of sewa. These experiences definitely brought us joy and we shall cherish each moment we spent together and the people we connected with along the way. Times can be tough but with mindfulness we can lead our lives positively.”
“Happiness is liberating. Happiness is peace. Happiness is focusing on what you want. Acknowledge the emotions, allow it to heal, and you’re automatically connected to the Wi-Fi of happiness.
“Many times when a challenge appears, the initial approach is to experience parts of the emotion, and then the rest of it is automatically chucked under a rug in the hope that time is a great healer. Yes, time is a great healer, but time only heals what is acknowledged and not what is hidden ‘because it’s too scary to deal with.’ The irony of life is that no matter how well the treasure of your emotions is hidden, it finds a way out, and sometimes you are oblivious to its manifestation in your reality.
“My advice is to create a routine where you can connect to your breath, meditate, and do a little movement or exercise. In simple words, practice ‘me before we’ at the start of your day, and experience the miracles that follow.
“I have had my fair share of challenges in life, but each time I have decided to focus on what I want. I learned that I can’t change people, but I can certainly fix my own life and reality because I am the author of my own reality. I am happy because I choose to be.”
“I’m not always happy-go-lucky, but I love that people think I am. Maybe it’s social media or the way that I am when I’m face-to-face with them. There are days where I’m jumping with joy, and days where I don’t want to see anyone’s face. Nevertheless, I’m real in what I feel, express and show. It’s important to remember that it’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to embrace what you feel because it’s only temporary (even the good days). You have to face all your challenges knowing that The Universe or God is teaching you something, or giving you an opportunity to take important action. With that switch in mindset, happiness just flows. As a mum to a two-year-old baby boy, there is pressure to constantly have a smile on your face. But being pressured will only boggle you down, and I have to remind myself that I’m only human.
“Here are some tips to bounce back: go for a walk or a run, recite the Mool Mantar constantly until you feel some strength enter your body, and believe me, it will! Scribble down your thoughts and desires, talk to a friend, take a hot shower, meditate (if you can), watch inspiring YouTube videos (Neville Goddard and Abraham Hicks are some of my favourites) and eat something that makes you happy, but don’t over indulge on the bad, sugary stuff!”