I had a simple childhood and everything was a hand-me-down from my older brother. No fancy pencil boxes, water bottles or school bags.

My parents told me to study hard and get a good job – that was the way to get “rich” and to able to afford all the luxury in the world later on in life.

And so that is exactly what this daughter did.

I graduated with a Bachelor in Business Management at the Singapore Management University, snagged a job in a top ad agency, and signed on as a Mediacorp artiste.

While I was more than financially comfortable, I was pretty miserable.

I checked the boxes – education, money, social status, and physical appearance. So what went wrong and why was I unhappy?

Well, it boiled down to three things, so I have learnt.

No. 1: Social connection. It’s the single most important thing one can do to be happy, and depth (not breadth) is what matters.

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That is to give more love to the special few, and to deepen the bonds and trust, while taking time off from superficial relationships.

No. 2: Flow state. That’s to be immersed in something like a favourite activity where you can use your creative abilities to lead a happier and more fulfilled life. 

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For me, it is sport, but it could be playing a musical instrument, cooking, or learning a new language.

No. 3: Gratitude. Yep, grateful people are happier people. The simplest thing you can do for yourself right now is to count your blessings.

Can you believe it is the last day of the year?? . Thinking back on 2019, I realized it’s the small changes and habits that I have consciously worked on that have compounded to make a big impact in my life. . Meditation, for example, is something I used to think was mambo jambo, and definitely not something this restless and chatty soul ever wanted to do! But studying Positive Psychology and learning the science behind it made me intrigued enough to want to try. It builds new neural connections in the brain; sort of like working out to train stamina or strength, meditation strengthens and trains the brain to be more resilient and able to cope with stress and challenges. I only do it for 5 minutes a day, maximum (!) but already have seen the positive changes enough for me to want to keep at it. You ought to try it! . Just like how I’ve been consciously taking time like this to take care of myself, I’ve also paid more attention to my car’s well-being! I try not to let my engine run to empty anymore #anotherstoryforanotherday , and choose good fuel to protect it. With Esso’s Synergy Supreme+, I’ve also noticed my journeys are smoother. . I spend a lot of time in my car and it is definitely more than a mode of transport. My Billy Too (yes, I name my vehicles) is my little sanctuary and safe space, especially on crazy busy days where I am out of the house from 6am till past midnight. I like to sit in the car for a few moments of peace before a big event or meeting, and I sometimes squeeze in a quick few minutes of meditation there too! . Learn more about Synergy Supreme+ at: https://www.esso.com.sg/supreme-plus #EssoSG #EssoSynergySupreme #sp

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And, I keep a “Three Blessings” journal. It involves penning down three good things (before going to bed) that happened (to you) in the day that you’re thankful for.

I prefer to do this first thing in the morning to kick-start my day, looking back on all that was beautiful the day before.

Now, try it every day for a week! Like me, you can possibly find an immediate lightness of spirit after writing the blessings down.

I found an increased sense of purpose that helps with productivity and getting me into a flow state at work (double win!).

The side effects: I feel pumped with vigour. And research has proven it to be the most powerful of all positive psychology techniques for increasing overall well-being.

It takes just five minutes a day to be happier. If you do just one thing for yourself today, let this be it!

ALSO READ: CONTRARY TO POPULAR BELIEF…THE SINGAPOREAN WOMAN IS HAPPY

This story was first published on Her World’s January 2020 issue.