It’s time for another Life Lessons – and this time around it’s our fabulous columnist Nikki Newman… let’s see what gems she has in store for all us GEM’s!

Are you happy at the moment?

I feel like I’m moving past some of the unfathomable stuff and into a place of greater self-knowledge, though it’s a bumpy ride! I’m learning how I need things to be in order to thrive and in turn my family benefits too.

Also, I’m living in a place I love and my health has shown some improvement, which impacts on how I can interact with my husband and son. We have a better standard of life and the move has been hugely inspiring for my art and my writing – I’m actually getting a taste of how I want my working life to look like.

I’ve lived most of my life in England, apart from a spell in Vancouver – both places where gray skies and rain feature a lot! – living somewhere warm and sunny really does help with the happy-chemicals!

But I don’t know about you, I always feel the need to keep happiness grounded, to count my blessings, so I try not to take stuff for granted.  Also, I keep in mind loved ones who aren’t having a great time and either try to share the learning I’ve got from my own difficulties or just be there to listen with love.

If you could go back and say anything to your 16 year old self now – what would it be?

Ooh so much! You have nothing to prove and you cannot help everyone. You’re loved, you’re beautiful, you’re kind, you’re creative. See who you are and the gifts that you have, and really, really enjoy that. Spread good stuff through that, not by trying to solve everything and putting your own needs on hold.

Quiet nights in aren’t just good, they’re essential!

Finally, I’d say that most of the boys you’re going to kiss don’t deserve you and when they ignore you or treat you like crap, that means they’re not interested, not that they need your help in some way! So leave them to it and go have fun with your girlfriends!

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

  • That home can be anywhere you please.
  • That the world is not as big as you think.
  • That Skype is my new best friend.
  • That the words Middle East don’t have to be synonymous with mystery, threat, and fear; there’s a lot of great stuff here too!
  • That I have more skills than I thought.

What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

If I had to be specific, to have my first solo art exhibition, even if it’s a small affair in my own home, it’s a start!

To visit somewhere new with my family, perhaps Nepal; Doha is a bit like a gateway to Asia, there are so many amazing places just 3 or 4 hours away.

What’s your secret to happiness?

Knowing what your own gifts, strengths, boundaries and limitations are and living mostly within them, with the odd stretching of the limits!

As I said above all, to aim for WELLBEING, which comes from a balance of many factors – home, friends, family, work, play, spirituality, health – happiness is the lucky off-shoot of that.

What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

Making something, whether that involves a needle and thread; scissors and glue; or pots and pans, it’s very grounding.

What’s your biggest regret?

For me, a regret is normally about not following a gut instinct on something that didn’t feel right. I have a couple but I try to see the learning that came out of it or how it led to a better place for me eventually.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

Contentment. I hope! I think that has come from time spent doing simple, fun things or just chatting and joking and sharing; see my Learning to Play Your Way piece and you’ll get what I mean!

Also if you can find the humor in a tricky situation, it’s a great way to get through it.

To talk about stuff too, that’s important.

What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

Grazing my way through the kitchen cupboards of an evening.

Worrying too much about what people think of me.

Aside from motherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

That I’ve survived crap, have grown through it, shared through it and maybe can help someone else through it.

My ability to laugh, A LOT.

My creative talents (that’s a new development, right there, the ‘t’ word in association with me; it feels good!)

When were you happiest?

Between the ages of 16 and 18. I had left school with all its baggage and bullies  – oh the relief! – and was at college, studying art, English Literature and psychology to go to university. It was THE perfect mix for me. I loved every aspect of those studies.  At the same time, I had a sweet boyfriend, home life was pretty stable and I had a job that afforded me some independence. Things just felt warm, homely, simple yet with that great buzz of excitement about the future.  It was the first time I really felt like I could be me.

The only time that has surpassed it is now.  In fact, by reflecting on that earlier, happy time in my life, I can see what I need in order to be doing ok, and that’s a stage I’m approaching again now.

What ten words best describe you?


Patient – most of the time

Explosive – when I lose my patience


A reforming perfectionist (am I stretching the ten-word rule?)

Occasionally anarchic (see)

Glamorous (hey, I may not often look it, but inside, I’m feeling it!)




Nikki Newman, 36, from England, currently lives in Qatar, where she moved this year due to her husband’s work. A former teacher and proud mother of 7-year-old Oliver, she’s currently focusing on settling her family into their new lives, while also pursuing her passion for painting. To see Nikki’s work please go to: