This month, media personality Jade Seah talks about how she takes a no-guilt approach when it comes to self-improvement.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Many have asked why I’ve gone back to school to take up a year-long diploma in applied positive psychology. Well, it’s a new area for this TV-radio-host-and-emcee, and the subject on the science of well-being interests me a great deal.

But going back to school seemed so self-indulgent when I first considered the time and cost involved. On time, the husband was quick to remind me of my other “guilty pleasures” that range from netball to wakeboarding, and connecting with friends over food and drinks.

On money, he pointed at my Yolo (you only live once) attitude, as seen in my dare-to-live adventures that include flying off somewhere on a whim, three snowboarding trips in three months, and hiking to Machu Picchu in the Andes Mountains and later, Everest Base Camp.

It got me thinking: Is spending that equivalent amount of time and money on my education something to be labelled as a self-indulgent guilty pleasure?

I must say, going back to school was one of the best decisions I’ve made: It expanded my mind and heart.

I devoured my first positive psyche book Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment by Harvard lecturer Tal Ben-Shahar, and got hooked.

I indulged in more literature on the subject. During this time, I dealt with the loss of my beloved grandmother, and finding out that my dad had Stage 3 cancer. In the last three months, I have had meaningful discussions with fellow students at The School of Positive Psychology, who have humbled and touched me. I have learnt what contributes to happiness, while questioning the meaning of the very word.

So, inspired by my studies, I’m now working on bringing this science of happiness to more people through motivational talks. This way, people can feel encouraged to take steps to be happier, improving their mental and emotional well-being.

Sometimes, we give ourselves so much grief for what we think of as guilty pleasures. However, the time spent on self-improvement – be it hours of practice on a favourite musical instrument or watching Netflix – is really taking time for self-care that should carry absolutely no guilt.

These days, I juggle my work, writing columns, doing readings for school, preparing for exams, and writing research papers. And, I couldn’t be happier.