Five Tips for the Pursuit of Happiness

When attendees of The Women's Group (TWG) are probed about what happiness means to them, we seldom hear answers like finding fulfillment in myself, a strong sense of self-confidence, or time alone to relax. Rather, the majority of the answers include "pleasing my husband, seeing to my children's needs, satisfying my in-laws". What contributes to this culture of suppression of self-fulfillment amongst women from our target groups in Palestine?

TWG is partnered with Shirin Sayed, founder of ROA for Thinking and Creative Engineering, who has been trying to get to the bottom of it.

Mrs. Sayed has found that attendees of TWG equate happiness more often with their roles as mothers and homemakers because this it the domain in which they are given at least partial range in exercising some level of control over their lives. Our target audience tends to have less of an impact in the greater community due to lack of opportunity and because there is often no space for them to express their ideas. These limitations sometimes cause them to become withdrawn and introverted with little hope to reach beyond what they have been conditioned to accept as "norms". Personal happiness becomes equivalent to the overall happiness in the home. Based on these findings, Mrs. Sayed has been sharing steps TWG attendees can take to foster healthier home environments that are conducive to finding personal happiness.

Shirin Sayed's Top Five Tips to Pursue Happiness:

1. Balance - overexerting oneself in any given area can be stressful, which is counter-intuitive to finding happiness. Psychologists encourage practicing moderation in diet, household chores (devise a chore-chart to share tasks with your family), time spent inside and outside the home, and time spent on others and oneself.

2. Good Health - this includes exercise, which doctors say "significantly lower[s] risk for all manner of diseases — those of the heart in particular... [also, benefiting people with active lifestyles to] less often develop cancer, diabetes and many other illnesses", as well as "[improving] people's mood significantly... [while remaining] about the same on days they didn't..." according to a study conducted by University of Bristol's Department of Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences; and nutrition which not only has its health benefits physically, but also "can also influence your mood".

3. Sharing - it is okay to find happiness in one's family, in fact it is completely natural. Take moments to share an embrace, a positive anecdote from the day's happenings, your appreciation for them, and so on. Experts agree that "it’s important for families to spend time snuggling in bed together, reading, or talking or playing games. This kind of positive touch helps [family members] feel loved and secure..."

4.Self-Reflection - schedule time each day to focus on yourself, whether it is by reading the book you love, meditating or simply relaxing. In a Harvard study psychologists quoted, “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind".

5. Happiness is a Choice - be mindful of seeing the glass-half-full. Separate from negativity and find something to laugh about every day to give your hormones a boost. Psychologists agree that a positive attitude can make all the difference in finding your inner happiness.

Your struggles may or may not vary slightly or significantly from attendees of TWG, so we are interested in hearing from you. What does happiness mean to you, and are you being proactive in pursuing it?

-Samin Samin is The Women’s Group Program Coordinator