When was the last time you did a proper bent-over belly laugh? Or giggled so much you shed a tear? You know, like you used to at lunch break with your bestie or the first time you watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Now think about the last time you said the S-word. Or the T-word. That's stressed and tired if you hadn't figured it out.
Even if your dry wit and hilarious banter is off the scale, it appears the most we can muster up in return is a half-hearted smile—a light snigger at a push. After a 60-second self-assessment, I realize I too fall into this category, so when I heard that beauty and wellness mavericks Neom had opened up Happiness Schools in a bid to help us reclaim our sense of humor, I put my name on the list.
Listen and Learn
First off, you can forget stuffy classrooms: This is a 30-minute one-on-one session with a Neom consultant, and it all takes place at the back of its stores. Not in a treatment room but in a more discreet area that’s quiet, where you won’t feel ogled by other customers. Before I started chatting about my loves/hates and how I was feeling, I was rewarded with an herbal tea just for being there and a hand scrub using products from the signature Happiness range. Which, as a side note, smells divine. A mix of wild mint and mandarin, it’s immediately uplifting and took me to a sunnier place far, far away from Central London.
Back at the table the learning really begins, all over a relaxing hand massage (which makes it hard to make notes, so take a Dictaphone or record the session on your phone if you really want to remember what was said). I was lucky enough to have store manager Alessandra Suzzi as my teacher. Thanks to her encyclopedic knowledge of essential oils, I discovered mimosa would be good for calming my whirring mind, rolling a mandarin over my stomach would help relieve my IBS (it's soft, rolls well and the essential oils in the skin aid digestion) and that drinking room temperature water with a wedge of ginger would rebalance my intestine. Another infusion on my homework list? Mandarin and squashed blueberries. An easy detoxifying tonic, Suzzi said that it wouldn’t undo my midnight deadline–fuelled sugar-binges but that it would recalibrate my insides so I could happily move on from them.
Other gems of advice I came away with? Eating watermelon will make you happier. Why? Because it forces your mouth to smile. Use Neom’s Bath and Shower Drops as a daily pep-up (unless you’re pregnant). Out of its entire portfolio of products, the drops contain the highest percentage of essential oils and can be absorbed into the bloodstream immediately to boost your circulation and get you ready for fun times.
Drop two or three globules into your palms, press them together, cup your hands and inhale, and then press the warm oil into the back of your neck and around your chest and collarbone. I did it before I started writing this, and while I’m not in fits of laughter, it filled my nostrils with a joyous scent that meant working on a Saturday much less painful.
Pinching your brows is another good tip. Suzzi explained that this is because brows are a naturally uplifting part of your body. “When you connect with the brow, you lift the outer edges of your mouth, so, again, it forces you to smile naturally.” Sounds silly, but actually after my half-hour lesson was over, everything she’d told me made sense.
Even the bit about exercise: She pointed out that in today’s society, not only do we not laugh, we do everything in sprint mode—even exercise. HIIT and pushing to go to a class every day, even when we’re exhausted, doesn’t give our bodies the time and chance for toxins to leave the body, so they gather in the stomach area and brew away as pain and negativity. Call it coincidence, but the next day I skipped combat class and managed to go 24 hours without Buscopan.
Each lesson is, of course, tailored to the individual, and there are other schools available: sleep school, energy school and de-stress school. You can arrive in-store knowing which one you want to attend, or you can perform the sniff test when you arrive. This involves inhaling the scents linked to each treatment and whichever one you feel the most synergy one is what your body and mind is crying out for. It makes it easier if you don’t want to admit you might need a revision session on how to be happy, too.
“People don’t like to say they’re unhappy; we put on a brave face and say, ‘Actually I’m fine,’” says Suzzi. “It’s why during the initial consultation I like to use words and terms like ‘uplifting,’ and explain that it’s about contentment rather than an overwhelming sense of happiness.”
It’s more realistic, at least. Because you won’t leave the store in fits of laughter. I didn’t, anyway, but I did feel better about myself and I had learnt something, which is the whole point of going to school, right? If only we'd been treated to a pamper session during maths, we might all be algebra whiz kids. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?
It's important to check in with your personal doctor if you're feeling depressed, anxious, or "off." Happiness and enjoying a moment (like eating watermelon or tea) is not the same thing. Real work is necessary to understand how and why you feel things, or the layers that make up why you're in a funk. These tips are helpful for pick-me-ups, but if they don't sustain you, we urge you to see a doctor to talk things through.