Mercedes Ngoh Sieff is the Founder and Creative Director at Yeotown Health Retreat; she is also Positive Psychology Coach and Vinyasa Yoga Teacher.
What is happiness for you?
Happiness for me is feeling whole and complete with the present moment. Not living in the anxiety of what may happen one day or that I may not get what I want, but rather wanting what I have and living in gratitude.
How did you come to your current level of positivity and what did you have to overcome to achieve it?
Numerous studies have shown that happiness is actually 50% genetic which means some people are born with more of a predisposition to being happy over others. Yet the other 50% is within our control so with that in mind I’m a big fan of utilising the character strength of ‘Perspective’, which is the ability to look at the bigger picture and take a step back in moments of stress and negativity.
I don’t think possessing a high level of positivity is born in one go by overcoming one particular event but rather like a muscle, it gets stronger the more you use it, and it needs to be put to regular use in order for it to become a natural state. So I believe I cultivated it over time, overcoming many various events, some small, some not so small.
What tools and techniques are you using daily to keep happy? – do you think one can stay content living in a big and busy city like London? If so, what’s the trick?
I think it’s a combination of things I do both on the inside and outside to keep happy. Tending to my mental and physical health through mindfulness meditation and yoga but also engaging with people around me; being silly playing with my little girls, snuggling with my husband, having a laugh with my friends and engaging with my guests at Yeotown and students in my classes. I think when you tend to both the inside and the outside, it doesn’t matter where you live as you realise that happiness has to come from the inside and from having a good relationship with ourselves and the world around us.
Why have you decided to study positive psychology and how do you bring it into your work as a yoga teacher and your daily life?
I discovered Positive Psychology while studying Coaching at Cambridge.It’s funny because people often thing Positive Psychology is some sort of ‘happiology’ or just positive thinking and being happy all the time but in reality, what drew me to it was the way it gives us tools to better manage our unhappiness, and how it teaches us to cultivate more resilience in the face of challenge. I like to speak of the PP concept of Flow in my yoga classes alongside various character strengths such a curiosity, empathy, perspective among others and how to better utilise them both on and off the mat. I make sure to utilise my top character strengths on a daily basis which studies have shown most of the happiest people do!