How to be happy

Monday, 27 January 2014

It took a while for me to admit it, but after Jim left I found things pretty hard out here for a couple of weeks. Having reached the three month milestone of my stay and made the bold decision to hand in my notice with my job back home, thereby turning my sabbatical into a more permanent move, I was suddenly wrenched from my blissful Doha honeymoon period into the stark realisation that this is my life now.

While things may be about to pick up on the job hunt front (although I am not going to allow myself to get excited just yet!), I still haven't got a job. This means I also don't yet have the security of a resident's permit which means I have to leave the country every month or two and I can't think of this place as my home yet. It also means that on a daily basis I am pretty understimulated and uninspired.

Most significantly I have been starting to feel a very long way from some of those I love the most.

Despite all this (or maybe because of it?), I am more determined than ever to be happy out here.

So that's what I've been doing. 

Cue my 10 step guide to achieving happiness, no matter what might be going on in your life. It's guaranteed to work if you go at it all guns blazing with an ounce or two of positivity (if it doesn't, come and see me).

1. Spend time with really awesome people

Why? Because awesome people are fun, and fun is vital to happiness. Simple.

The WAGs and I went to Gordon Ramsay's Opal for a few drinks the other day and watched the sun set over this view as we put the world to rights. I always come away from my nights with these two in high spirits; they're both currently planning weddings and the excitement is pretty contagious!

That evening was rapidly followed up with another girly chat in Donna's flat as she did my nails a few days later. Another sunset over an equally stunning view

Followed by another drink in Opal. We can't get enough of that place!

Last week, Rich and I also headed out for a meal and drinks with the BeIn Sports crew at Hakkasan. For those of you that don't know about this place, it is a real gem. Formerly one of my favourite restaurants in London, now one of my favourites in the world (yes, big chat!).

Despite the food and cocktails being absolutely glorious, we all know that it is really the company that makes the night. And these chaps always deliver.

And everyone knows that when you've had a few too many cocktails the night before, the only true cure is a massive roast complete with Yorkshires, 3 kinds of veg, half and chicken, lamb cutlets and a whole steak, with more awesome people.

2. Keep your mind active and learn new things

You can't be happy unless you are exercising your brain and there is nothing worse than feeling like your brain cells are disappearing at a rate of knots. Having been out of a job for a quarter of a year now, I feel as though I need to hold onto as much grey matter as I can before it disappears off into the ether. To counteract this, I have been reading so much since I got out here. Books, the paper, blogs, doesn't matter what it is, I can't get enough!

And the best way to put all of this into practice is to get competitive. On Monday, we headed down to Champions with Malka, Luke and Chris for their monthly quiz dose of humiliation. Key takeaway: the oldest national flag is the Danish flag. Definitely, definitely not the Israeli one. Cringe.

3. Be spontaneous

I have always been a big believer that you should be open to taking every opportunity that comes your way in life, no matter how unexpected it might be. You just never know what is lying around the next corner and what you might regret it if you dismiss it - I suppose that's the main reason why I came to Doha in the first place. 

Rich and I had quite a few spontaneous experiences this week, from the more mundane, such as heading to the Souq to experience the delights of Iraqi cuisine (which is really quite good!) and to explore some of the shops when the Museum of Islamic Art closed earlier than expected and we weren't allowed in... the slightly more crazy as we headed out for one quick drink, which turned into 10 jager bombs as a guy we met who owns a penthouse apartment on The Pearl showered us with freebies.

Later that night as we arrived home, our neighbour Damien popped his head out of the door to say that he was having a BBQ on his balcony and would we like to join him. Cue a night of great food and drink, and getting to know some brilliant new friends.

4. Have a giggle

Have you ever felt really miserable and then someone makes you laugh and you instantly forget what on earth you were making such a big deal about? It's something to do with all those endorphins that are released when you find something amusing. And a bit of adrenaline helps too.

Rich and I went to the London Comedy Store night in the Radisson Blu on Tuesday for an evening with Justin Moorhouse, Paul Sinha, and our favourite, Mike Gunn. Apologies for the grainy photos (I need to invest in a proper camera, as my iPhone is dying a slow death), follow this link to get a better idea of how our night went. Hilarious!

Later in the week, Mayur and I had yet another spontaneous outing as we decided at the last minute to head down to the rugby club for an afternoon.

If any of you Doha lot haven't been here yet, I thoroughly recommend it. It's a bit pricey for membership, but if you can latch onto someone who already has it (Mayur won't need his arm twisting too much), you are guaranteed a good night and more than a few laughs. Picture yourself in a working man's club on a Friday night in Doncaster with cheap booze and a cheap band playing and you're halfway there. 

If you go at the right time, there may even be a match to watch. We were lucky enough to see the mighty Doha thrash Muscat (don't ask me by how much, we got a bit lost at the bar).

5. Get out and about

It's all too tempting to sleep until the afternoon when you don't have much to do. I never thought I'd find myself spouting such a cliched line, but simply getting out of bed and out in the fresh air really can do wonders for the soul!

On Rich's day off, we always try to go somewhere for a stroll, even if it's just around the Pearl. Having explored most of our little island now, the other day we decided to have a little peruse around the one bit of coastline we hadn't been to yet, where they are building lots of new villas.

Most of these properties are still empty, so being the nosey people that we are, we had to get a bit closer for a little look inside. Shhh!

They are truly stunning properties, but their best feature is their view.

We also always try to organise something to do in our evenings. Whether it's a meal and a film at home, or a meal and a few drinks with these people somewhere in the city centre, it's important to keep busy! Even if the night ends with Josh buying one too many shots and us old codgers having to escape home to bed early doors because we can't take the pace.

6. Eat well

And by this, I don't mean making sure you get your 5 a day and hit every food group while not exceeding 2,000 calories. Boooring!

By this, I mean eat lots of comforting, yummy, feel-good food. Like tasty home-made burgers with home-made burger sauce.

Or a warming bowl of gooey, home-made Macaroni cheese.

(So what if there is a whole block of Cheddar, Smoked Mozzarella and Parmesan in there, it tasted good OK!)

Or deciding to have chocolate fondue for supper, because you can.

7. Take lots of exercise

I feel like this is a fitting follow-on from point number 6. And I'm not just adding it in so that Mummy Bags doesn't have a heart attack on reading it, I promise (seriously, if anyone's having the heart attack, it's me right now).

I don't need to sell you the benefits of exercise, but I might need to sell the fact that I now love love love it to some of you back home. I am actually really, truly exercising properly and regularly for the first time ever! The gym, swimming, wake boarding, Davina's workout DVD... you name it I now do it! Here's the proof:

I know I know, there wasn't anyone around to take a photo of me actually working out in the gym, but it happened I swear!

Next on the list is Yoga with our new friend Ravi. I'll be a seasoned sportswoman in no time.

8. Do things you wouldn't normally do

Pushing yourself to do things outside of your comfort zone (see the whole of point 7) always makes you feel a real sense of achievement, and I reckon that 90% of the time you surprise yourself by actually enjoying it.

Like going to watch the Qatar Masters the other day (even though I was pretty sure that watching golf would bore me to death), and playing crazy golf with the boys (which I knew I was terrible at). Did I surprise myself? Did I heck! OK, I still lost at crazy golf absolutely abysmally, but the whole day was a lot of fun.

In Mayur's words "I think I could get into golf...well, I think I could get into the hospitality side of golf!".

9. Use your creativity

It's a scientific fact that creativity is linked to more positive emotions, overall well-being and happiness. 

This past week has been full of creativity as I've been organising the Doha leg of Donna's hen do and writing a guide to Twitter for Mummy Bags who is entering the scary world of social media...

...and I have of course been writing this blog!

10. Be thankful

Last but certainly not least, the most important thing that gets me through my day is waking up and being thankful for everything I have and all of the brilliant people in my life. And not just thinking it, but letting people know about it.

Amen to that.