“Happiness Doctor” Lia Bernardo on Finding Happiness Within Her and Helping Others Harness It
It’s a self-love revolution! “Happiness Doctor” Lia Bernardo takes us on a journey of self-love this coming Valentine’s Day—and beyond
In every single one of Lia Bernardo’s classes, she plays Will Bunderfield’s “Long Time Sun” without fail. “It is my absolute feel-good song,” she says. A combination of a Sanskrit mantra, the Irish folk song “Long Time Sun,” and the poem “Our Deepest Fear Is Not That We Are Inadequate” by Marianne Williamson, the song is also the feel-good anthem of everyone who has ever attended Lia’s retreats, of which there have been plenty. Lia gushes about the song, encouraging us to give it a listen, and so we did—the song, which clocks in at almost nine minutes, feels exactly like a session with her, no matter how informal: Calming, uplifting, and empowering.
As the “Happiness Doctor,” Lia’s made it her life’s mission to teach self-love to every single human being on this planet. It’s a calling for her, she reveals, but she wasn’t always the person that she is now. “It was really a long, drawn out process of finding answers, and I was always externally focused,” Lia admits. “At the end of the day, I tried everything, and the only thing that worked for me really was just liking me. I think I’m living proof that when you love yourself, you can become the best version of you, because I wasn’t always this version of me.”
“And I’m proud of that,” she adds, “because I genuinely believe that the reason my journey took longer than most is because I was meant to teach this.” What Lia is referring to is Psychoneurology—the latest breakthrough in emotional and mental well-being. The approach is a drug-free alternative to traditional psychiatric and psychological practices, and operates on the belief that humans aren’t ill, broken, or diseased; rather, each individual human being is already perfect and whole, and they simply “lack the resources or skills needed in order to deal with their challenges,” says Lia.
I think I’m living proof that when you love yourself, you can become the best version of you, because I wasn’t always this version of me
Her days, which often begin with a fresh cup of coffee (no dairy or sugar milk for her), are spent helping her patients and students harness happiness from within themselves through exercises and self-affirmations. Lia is an easy presence: both soft-spoken and firm, masterfully deviating between the two whenever the need calls for it. She looks at the person she’s talking to straight in the eye, her answers sincere and her laughter ebullient. Her calling comes naturally, and she credits courage as the reason that she is able to find her strength and her voice in order to thrive best at what she is doing. “I think courage is what propels you to actually embrace your life purpose,” she says.
“It takes a lot of courage for me to be transparent and vulnerable and put myself out there. But at the end of the day, it’s the number of lives we touch, it’s the number of people we help. That really is the measure of why I do what I do,” Lia adds. To be able to take care of other people, Lia of course makes sure to take care of herself. She likes to refer to self-care as ‘self-nurturing,’ “because when you nurture yourself,” she starts, “you don’t wait for a finish line. You actually nourish it, take care of it, you’re kind to it, you’re compassionate towards it, like the way we take care of our children, or the way we take care of our plant, or even a pet for instance.”
I think courage is what propels you to actually embrace your life purpose
It’s a very holistic process and activity for her. It’s not just about getting massages or getting one’s nails done—while that is also a very important aspect of it, there’s a whole lot more to it. One of the ways in which she accomplishes this is by “raising frequencies.”
Calibrating to one’s vibrational frequency is one of the most effective resources towards creating self-love and happiness, she shares. “It’s all about what you are feeling. Vibration is about feeling the energy of a person or a space and even a situation. When we are mindful about raising our vibrational frequency we feel good within and we come from the best version of ourselves. We respond to others based on how we feel about ourselves.”
It’s powerful, and in our conversation, Lia demonstrates just exactly how: Lia asks me what my inner weathervane is like. After my response, she asks me to close my eyes, and then think about something that I’m grateful for at that very moment. “It’s very immediate,” she says. “Gratitude is an instant game changer. I use gratitude a lot because it’s something you don’t have to think about.”
We turn to talking about her. So much of Lia’s work is spent channeling her energy towards other people. She’s someone that many look to for guidance, teaching, and healing—does she have someone to turn to herself?
“Absolutely. Everybody needs one,” she says. “I do have my go-to’s because everybody needs love, nobody can do this alone. I have a very, very intimate core group of friends, who I really, really treasure because they’re my safe place. My great need is to feel safe, as with a lot of people.” Lia, too, is moved by human kindness and compassion, and put-off by inauthenticity. “Every single one of us comes from love, because love is our true nature. You don’t learn self-love, you remember self-love,” she says.
You don’t learn self-love, you remember self-love
And self-love for Lia is creating her own heaven on earth. That means sleeping for 14 hours straight in her happy place, Baguio; beginning her days with coffee; journalling and meditating; and then scrolling through Instagram. But Instagram, as with all social media, can have adverse negative effects on our well-being, so Lia makes sure that her accounts are set up so that it’s all positive. “It’s all curated,” she says. “We call that vibrational hygiene.”
Her pursuit to happiness isn’t necessarily a chronological, linear journey. Most of all, she’s found that there’s no use in pursuing it—after all, happiness is within all of us, within herself. She just needed to look inward and trust in the process that everything in her past was there for a reason.
“I have come to realize that nothing in our past has been placed there by accident,” she says. “Every experience you have had since birth—no matter how painful, no matter how traumatizing—it’s your ability to get up from that that really defines where you’re going to go and everything in your past is there to shape you towards embracing your purpose, towards embracing your mission and what it is you are meant to accomplish and lead with your life, and when I say that, it’s nothing grandiose. Don’t think that it’s because you need to stop global warming. It can be that you just need to learn compassion or that you need to be able to love unconditionally.”
For Lia, who has found her purpose in teaching, she still looks at life with bright, shining eyes. “I’m excited about my future,” Lia says, grinning. “I’m grateful for my present, and I’m super excited about my future. And that’s what gets me going.”
Lia Bernardo will be doing 'Raising Frequencies' classes at Fairmont Fit every first Thursday of the month at the Fairmont Hotel Makati from 6 pm to 8 pm. Each class will be themed based on the life lesson she and her team are teaching.
Produced by Kate Paras-Santiago
Photography by Ronan Capili
Makeup by Angie Cruz
Hair by Francis Guintu
Styling by Edlene Cabral
Videography by Pat Buenaobra
Video Producer Joan Ko
Shot on location at Chef Jessie Restaurant, and The Rockwell Club.