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Sophie Keller wants you to be happy. In fact, this happiness expert (and mom to 4-year-old Judah) has literally written the book on it. Four to be exact.
But rather than passing on wisdom from an exceptionally easy life, this British transplant, who lives in Santa Monica with her husband and son, says it's actually life's hurdles that have made her an expert on happiness.
"I was bullied a lot at school from the ages of 7 to 14 every day, and then I had a tennis accident, and my back collapsed, and I couldn't stand or sit without being in pain," she says. When doctors told her she wouldn't get better, Keller opted not to take no for an answer. Instead, she eventually healed her back through a Pilates technique, Alexander technique, meditation and therapy.
But it was when she suffered a miscarriage (before her pregnancy with her son) that she felt the most conviction about pursuing the road to happiness and helping others with their pain. "I committed to it in a really new way after this happened," she says.
Keller talked to mom.me about how moms can increase their happiness.
What are some of your happiness tips when it comes to parenting and being a mom?
The first thing is to not have too many children. I know that's a bit controversial. The key to being a great mom is balance, and often when we're young, we have an idea of how many kids we want. And then life does what life does to us, and circumstances change.
The key is to see where you are when you've had one. If you think your relationship is going beautifully, if you think you're handling having one beautifully and you can afford another, have another. But if you can't, rethink your belief system and where you are.
Is there a way to increase your happiness level when you're stressing out as a parent?
When you're parenting, it's very important to be balanced in your approach. Decide what you need to make yourself happy. Do you still need to be in the adult world? If you do, how can you make that happen? How can you make sure that you're fulfilled?
A lot of people say that once you have kids, the marriage takes a bit of a backseat. How can parents keep their marriages happy?
You've got to go on dates once a week. It's really important to stay connected. Make sure the kids, if they're young, are in bed at a certain time because you need to have your adult evenings.
It's important to keep that bond close, because the kids are going to be much happier if their backbone is strong—and their backbone is their mom and dad, or whoever is bringing them up. So the better the relationship is, the happier they are going to be.
It's also important (for kids) to see that arguments can be resolved easily. Don't be afraid to argue in front of your child, but make sure that you resolve it quickly in front of them. ... They can see that disagreements or differences of opinion can happen, but they've seen you resolve it in front of their eyes.
When it comes to having a happy home, in a sometimes messy house, what's the most important element to increasing the happiness factor?
By nature of us being women, we will be doing more of the cleaning up. You can't get away from that. If you think it's hard to do it with one child, then it's going to be doubly hard with two, and triply hard with three. And remember you've got your husband as well. The reality is that you can get them to do as much as you can get them to do, and you will be doing more. And come to terms with that.
Everyone's unique, and find what your talent is.
Many people are ditching Facebook because of endless comparisons that they feel they cannot live up to. How should people deal with that kind of "Keeping up with the Joneses"?
Everyone's unique. ... Find what you're good at, and focus on it. Forget everyone else, because everyone's completely unique. If you're so OK with yourself, it doesn't matter. And that goes for siblings, too.
Often it's that thing that you overlook that's so easy for you. So usually it's glaring at you in the face, what you're so brilliant at.
And just don't go online. Why do something that's going to make you upset? Pull away from it. You don't have to be on Facebook. It can stop us engaging with people hugely.
How did you find happiness after the tragedy of your miscarriage?
I had lost a baby before (my son) at five-to-six months pregnant. After losing her, I wrote Healing After Miscarriage, a workbook and guided meditation for women who have lost babies during and just after pregnancy. And what it is is a workbook where you work through all these feelings that have come up for you—the anger, the grief, the guilt. You work it through in this workbook, and you listen to a guided meditation that helps you to let go of the baby, and let the baby go back to where they came from. And it helps you to heal.
When this happened to me (and [my baby's] name was India) the way that I worked through it with such grace was that I let myself feel all the emotions that I needed to feel. I knew that I was who I said I was. I was so authentic to who I am and what I teach. Her gift to me was that it made it very, very clear that I am ready to really be an expert in happiness and in the work that I do.
You said you had to deal with bullying when you were younger. How would you advise parents to deal with bullying?
Go straight to the school and deal with it. It's a button for me. You need to be very aware if it's happening and stop it quickly.
You're nurturing these young souls, and you've got to be very conscious of what you're doing.