25 July 2016, by Mandy Loh

Secrets to Happiness

It all started with a simple question: “Are you happy with your life now?”

I was lunching with a good couple-friend, who are also godparents to my kids. We were talking about their recent snowboarding trip and other travels, and I had remarked that such trips are out of the question for me at the moment, as my kids (especially Caris) are still too young.

My friend then shot me that question. He honestly wanted to know, because they are DINKs (Double Income No Kids) and my life is so different, being a SAHM (Stay at Home Mom).

With a big smile, I responded with a resounding YES! Being a mommy is really the best thing that has ever happened to me. And I relish my “job” every single day.

After that lunch, I continued to ponder that question. What is happiness anyway?


I like this definition by positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, who described happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

Alright so basically, happiness is the joy experienced when you feel that life is good. How does one get to this point? Well, I’m no expert, but let me just share my experience and how I came to my state of happiness.

I wasn’t always happy with my life. I had a massive quarter-life crisis in my early twenties, after graduating from University. I did not enjoy being a lawyer, yet I had no idea what I wanted to do instead. (I know, first-world problems!) From a purely materialistic point of view, life was good. I was living the high life as a lawyer, getting paid well, flying business class and staying in 5-star hotels for my work. Logically, I SHOULD have been happy…but I wasn’t, because I did not feel fulfilled.

So I took a year out, quit my law job, and worked in a summer camp in the US for a couple of months.

At summer camp with my group of 10-year old girls, at our "fort" in the woods.

At summer camp with my group of 10-year old girls, at our “fort” in the woods.

I also went backpacking around Western Europe with my then-boyfriend (now husband), who won my heart by quitting his job and blowing all his savings to join me on my whirlwind adventure for two months.

Backpacking in Amsterdam

Backpacking in Amsterdam

It was an amazing experience that really opened my eyes to the big, wide world out there. Needless to say, I was finally happy! (Of course, who wouldn’t be when travelling, right?)

Beyond the fun and thrills of travelling, though, the year out gave me a much deeper perspective of life, which I believe are the secrets to my happiness. Here’s what I learned:

1. Break free and follow your heart’s desire

I realised that life is what I make of it, and I was free to chase my dreams (cliche as it may sound). Growing up in Singapore, I subconsciously felt pressured to stick to certain prescribed paths. After my year out, I gained the courage to follow my passions, such as giving up a well-paying job to work in a non-profit organisation, and then giving up work altogether to stay home for my kids. These choices are unconventional and run counter to mainstream ideas of success. But when you realise that you are free to live your life regardless of what other people think, or what society imposes upon you, that freedom creates happiness.

2. You don’t need much stuff to be happy

One of the effects of backpacking is the startling revelation that you really don’t need all that much stuff in life. For almost 8 months away from home, all my worldly possessions fit into a bag that I could carry on my back! Mostly clothes, toiletries and maybe a guide book and some maps. That’s it! Why spend so much of life working for money to buy stuff that may not even bring you much happiness anyway?

All my possessions in that bag...and I could live quite happily!

All my possessions in that bag behind me…and I could live quite happily!

3. Live each season of life to the fullest

Enjoy the current season of life you are in right now, instead of hankering for some future success to eventually fulfil you. Many people tell themselves “I’ll be happy after I make my first million dollars”, or whatever other goal they may have, but its an endless chase. Why not make the most of the present?

Before getting married and having kids, I lived my life fully. Besides travelling extensively, I went scuba diving, snowboarding, and went salsa dancing lots.

Snowboarding in Whistler

Snowboarding in Whistler

Trying to get a clownfish to kiss me...

Trying to get a clownfish to kiss me…

And now that I am “grounded” at home with young kids, I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the fun stuff because I’ve been there, done that and gotten the T-shirt! It’s all about being content and making the most of every season of life.

In fact, I’m busy enjoying my little ones at their cutest and most impish age, and loving every moment of it! (Except when they’re whiny and throwing crazy tantrums…)

I couldn't even choose the best photo of the two munchkins...had to make a collage!

I couldn’t even choose a favourite photo of the two munchkins…had to make a collage of them!

So yes, I am happy with my life now! And I sincerely hope you are happy/ find happiness too!






Mandy Loh


September 26th, 2016 at 12:44 pm    

Hi Shirley,

Thanks so much for reading my blog and for posting your comments! Yes I totally agree with you, won’t trade my current life now for anything! High-five to you for being a happy stay-home mom too! 🙂 And of three kids!!! Wow awesome!


September 26th, 2016 at 11:15 am    

Oh how I love that you had the courage to quit your job and just go work in a summer camp and travel. You are so right there about following your heart. Especially before we have kids. I am a mum of 3, and though I miss some of my pre-kids days sometimes, I will not trade my current life of being a stay-home mum for anything.

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