Nobody could have predicted everything that has happened in 2020.
However, if we had to choose someone to help guide us through the emotional rollercoaster of this year. then Turia Pitt would be it. There’s arguably nobody better prepared for thriving in the face of unexpected difficulties.
For those uninitiated, a twist of fate in 2011 led to Turia suffering life-threatening burns during a fire during an ultramarathon in Australia’s remote Kimberley region. Ever since though she has dedicated her life to rejecting dwelling on the negatives, become an inspiring example of a life lived on-purpose and on-mission.
Her weekly newsletter lands in our inbox and never fails to tackle a completely relevant issue in a funny and relatable way. Whether it’s how she beats sombre moods, how to be mindful without crystals and chanting, and adjusting your goals when things don’t go your way.
“How did she know I was dealing with this?”
She’s not a mind-reader. She has just really lived life and knows that despite our unique challenges human beings are also incredibly similar.
In typical prophetic style, her new book ‘Happy (& Other Ridiculous Aspirations)’ has landed right smack bang the middle of the world’s darkest mood for 100 years.
In it, she interviews high-profile athletes, comedians and scientists about how mindest affects how happy we can be.
Here she shares a little on what the journey to ‘finding happiness’ looks like for her personally and a few lessons she gained from putting this book together.
We like to start every interview finding out where people are at: Emotionally, how has 2020 been for you?
Look, it’s been a pretty… unusual year. We had horrific bushfires near my home town, I launched a social initiative (@spendwiththem), I had a baby, COVID happened, and I released a book.
In summary? A series of ups and downs, highs and lows (haha, just like regular years!).
Your new book, ‘Happy’, seems perfectly timed for a world experiencing a kind of collective trauma. I’m not saying you’re Nostradamus but it really feels like you almost predicted that people would need a book like this. Can you share the catalyst moment that prompted you to go on a journey of finding out what makes people truly happy?
Well, I wrote most of this book in 2019, while I was pregnant with my second son. I’d set out to discover whether happiness was an aspiration worth pursuing because, for almost a decade, people have asked me a lot of questions about happiness.
They wanted to know how I was so goddamn happy, damn it, and how they could get some of it too. And I think what they were really asking was: how can you survive a grassfire, suffer burns to 65 per cent of your body, have your life and appearance fundamentally changed, and still, um, be happy?
And, by that token, how could they get through their divorce/cancer diagnosis/crippling self-doubt and be happy as well.
Having spent so much time looking at the concept of happiness, do you think there’s such a thing as ‘happiness traps’—or, things that people do because they think it’ll make them happy?
Yeah of course. I think we’ve all stayed in relationships that were well passed their use-by date, pursued careers that didn’t inspire us, put off having kids (or been pressured to have kids), bought something that we haven’t really used, went on a holiday that we hated etc.
There’s a lot of things us sapiens do because we think it will make us happy. But’s that the arrival fallacy at play yeah?
The belief that when X happens, then we’ll be happy.
What I’m suggesting in my book is that we should focus on amplifying happy moments. Practise gratitude, be present with your loved ones, savour the good times, learn to love yourself, try to have fun, enjoy your friends and family, and be kind.
In the past you’ve mentioned you prefer not to speak about the fire you faced in 2011) but that you’re far more interested in talking about and understanding how people choose to grow and change from traumatic events. Because of what you’ve been through, do you feel better equipped to cope with unprecedented times like these than other people?
Hmmm. Well, I think the only way we learn resilience is by going through hard times. The only way we get grittier is by testing ourselves. The only way we get more gumption is by showing up when things get tough.
So yes, I guess because I’ve been through a super hard time already, I’m probably more resilient /grittier and more gumption-y then I was before the fire.
What are some of the good things you think are here to stay following all the shifts that 2020 has brought?
Look, as much as 2020 has been a crazy year for a lot of us, I do believe there’s a lot of positives to come from it too. I mean, mass digitization has been pretty phenomenal.
Working from home is a total thing now, people have more time to be with their families, and domestic tourism is an incredible boost to a lot of the small towns in Australia.
Something we have been exploring on COTW is social media and its impact on people’s happiness (I talk here about why I’m not an ‘influencer’ anymore), do you have a conscious approach to how you use Instagram so that it’s healthy and doesn’t affect your mental health?
Yeah look, I think Instagram can be an amazing place. I’ve connected with incredible people (love sliding into those DMs haha!) on Insty and I love that I can chat with my community on Instagram too.
But I have placed limits on the time I spend on there. And I really try to pay attention to how I feel after I’ve had a little scroll.
If I feel frustrated with my life, or myself after being on Instagram, that’s a sign that maybe I need to change up my feed, maybe unfollow some people.
It does get tricky when you have a large following of your own.
Over time, I’ve learned that when you are consciously putting yourself “out there”, you’re never going to please everyone. And negative feedback is inevitable.
I think there’s a tricky balance to find in being open to that feedback, and humble about the times you do stuff up, while also not letting it completely affect how you feel about yourself too.
Finally, a simple one. What does ultimate happiness look like to you personally?
Haha, I’m not sure about ‘ultimate’ but the things that make me happy are my family, being outside in nature and writing.
Looking for more inspiration? Or feeling a little down lately? Read our interview with celebrity photographer Peter Brew-Bevan and learn more about his campaign to raise awareness about men’s mental health.