Friday, January 20, 2017

Author Annmarie O’Connor Author Annmarie O’Connor at the launch of her new book, The Happy Medium.
Picture Brian McEvoy

Swap the weight of having it all, to having more with less… that’s the mantra of Annemarie O’Connor’s new book, writes EMMA CONNOLLY

WE expected Christmas to be exhausting — and we were right. What we had forgotten was how totally and mind-blowingly over whelming the New Year can be.

From every angle we’re being bombarded with messages — more like promises — on how to be a new you, a better you, the best you ever were in fact. How to be happy, happier… sure why not make that the happiest you’ve ever been?

The result? One minute we think we’re all set to be the fittest, healthiest person ever, living in an Instagram worthy house, great job, cute kids, exotic holiday planned, packed social schedules and so on. The next we’re so confused that what we can’t even decide what to have for dinner.

Thankfully Annmarie O’Connor and her new book The Happy Medium is here to help us find that all important balance and always just out of reach happiness.

Best-selling author of The Happy Closet she’s back for round two with a self help guide to show us how to swap “the weight of having it all to having more with less.”

Her massive likeability factor makes us sit up and listen whenever she’s dishing out the advice — even though she admits herself it’s just her outlook that makes her qualified to “riff on happiness” and nothing else.

“I believe that happiness is found on your own terms — not the dictates of the masses or the validation of a crowd. I believe in living a life you love and loving the life you live — regardless of how that life is packaged or presented to the world. For many years, I tried to fit the ideal of a lifestyle I thought I should be living rather than the one that gave my life a storyline and a sense of purpose. It’s this story and my own observations on life that underpin both The Happy Closet and The Happy Medium.” The book promises to help us gain perspective on our personal satisfaction by using “positive psychology to clear unsustainable expectations of what constitutes a life well lived”.

Breaking that down further, she says we basically need to lower our expectations which is not something we hear too often.

But it’s not about just ‘making do’ with your lot either — more like discovering what you need to make you happy so you can get more of it (with the emphasis on ‘you’.) There’s a chapter dedicated to finding our your satisfaction type, advice on how to find your flow, some mediation techniques and exercises on how to find your purpose. The style is light but the advice is not and to get the most out of this book the reader has to be prepared to do a bit of work.

“The Happy Medium will help you manage the modern day distractions that put the kibosh on considered choices; it will teach you to balance online and IRL connections with others, yourself and your selfie; it will guide you on giving gratitude for what you have while going after what you want; it will get you to unplug and tune into your own personal WiFi (wisdom, intuition, feelings, instinct) instead of the dictates of others. This book will also help you leverage personal problems in a bid to find purpose; most of all, this book will show you how to appreciate the small things in life and create your own happiness legacy.”

An obvious source of dissatisfaction and distraction is social media and Annmarie dedicates a chapter to a digital detox-with options for a master and mini cleanse.

She says: “An increasingly technocratic society is making people more anxious and less happy. As creatures of social comparison, we continually wonder how happy we are compared to others.

“As a result, we strive for validation beyond our comfort zone, creating unnecessary stress and anxiety when we compare ourselves unfairly with the leaders of the pack. In The Happy Medium, you’ll learn how to reset your factory settings with a digital detox, and tune into your own personal WiFi with best practice tips on killing comparison syndrome, establishing personal boundaries and swapping FOMO (fear of missing out) for JOMO (joy of missing out).”

Anyone who has met Annmarie or seen her on TV can’t help but notice her serenity.

What’s her secret?

“I’ve been practising a hot vinyasa yoga for about three and a half years now. It’s the only physical exercise I have ever stuck with long term. I’ve also been practicing mindfulness meditation for about four years now. Prior to having started, I was an unofficial ambassador for low-level anxiety. I had six crowns put on my teeth due to a chronic case of stress-induced bruxism. I had hospital EKG tests for heart palpitations (also stress-induced) and I’d frequently find myself wide awake at night with insomnia (also stress- induced). And those were just the physical ailments. My head felt like Grand Central Station at rush hour during a power outage on Christmas Eve before the stores closed. Pure chaos.

“Being able to take myself out of my head and into my body by connecting with my breath has been one of the most powerful tools I’ve ever learned. My yoga teacher once said that the breath isn’t something that can be packaged or sold like a New Year diet plan or gym membership which is why it is also your strongest and most honest ally. Looking for balance? Learning how to breathe is the first step.”

And what makes her happy?

“I truly believe that most mid-life/quarter-life crises happen because of relentless box-ticking based on cookie cutter social expectations. We think the job, car, big house will make us happy until we realise the things that really nourish us are subtle (and more sublime) than that. Finding meaning in life doesn’t entail embarking on an Eat, Pray, Love excursion to south-east Asia or joining a womb circle in the Andes (unless of course, you want to); rather it’s about reconnecting with the everyday bliss bringers that lend a soft lens and gentle scent of gardenia to even the most humble tasks. You know it as that pocket of sunshine your cat invariably seems to find the moment of silence before your children wake up and the day officially begins. This is where you are truly satisfied; this is where happiness actually lives.”

The Happy Medium is published by Gill Books priced at €14.99.

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