In this series, Juliette Sivertsen interviews people who live and breathe wellbeing. This week, she talks to Tamara Waugh, founder of The Happiness Experiment, a trustee on the HELP Foundation board and avid 'gratitude for change' agent.
The word happiness feels like an overused and misunderstood term; torn apart over the last few years, studied to the microbe. It means many things to me and not much at all, a passing emotion in the wider lens of feelings and emotions that makes up me. It's not something I aspire to, more something I am grateful to feel at some point of every day. It's the little moments in between the ones we talk about. It's the emotion I am most present for, the one that comes with a physical feeling, always when I'm not looking for it. I think of words like joy and contentment when I think of happiness.
Wellbeing is a constant work in progress. I am consistently going through periods of growth. When I feel a growth period approaching, I make the necessary adjustments to realign with my values in any area I feel is not aligned. So that might be in the company I'm keeping or my diet or simply not taking enough time for just me.
Gratitude has opened what were once invisible doors of pristine opportunity to take a wide-angle view on life; it has allowed me to constantly reassess how I approach the world. It has allowed me to use self-discipline as a tool to achieving goals, it has deepened the connection and relationship I have with my daughter and all the people I care about, it has allowed me to be gentle with myself when I need to.
Being known as the "happiness chick who works in mental health", I used to think that if I was down or unwell or just not able to show up 100 per cent, that I needed to take myself away to a little cave, until I could be what I thought people saw me as or what they needed me to be. Identity has been a big suitcase of bouncy balls that I felt was luggage to carry around and present to people. It is not. It is everything that I was, everything that I am now and everything I am becoming.
Authenticity is my bag now. There is such relief in that. I am no longer afraid of all the parts of me I wanted to hide. Nowadays as much as I can, I am honest and open if I am feeling a little "wobbly" or "out of sorts" or just downright flat. I set boundaries so that I may operate in any space my head might be in. I look after myself and give me what I need.