Photo by Phoebe Tillem
It seems that the countries with the tiniest, poorest people, seem to be the happiest. Why is this? What is it that makes these people, who appear to have so much less than us, so much more content? I’ve been fortunate to travel to a few of these places – India, Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador – and I’ve observed some commonalities in all these places. Here’s what I noticed.
Activity is part of daily routine
Watching little old women on riverbanks smack their laundry around on rocks and then carry their large baskets of fresh clothes home is some of the most impressive fitness I’ve ever seen. Our luxurious lives of washing machines and elevators do not lend to a lean bod. Sorry to say it but if you sit in a chair all day, going to the gym for one waking hour of it is not going to save you.
Ride your bike to run your errands, take a walking meeting, or offer to take your neighbors kids to the park for an afternoon. We have to combat the convenience of our lives to uplift our energy and keep our minds fresh and sharp.
They live simply
In a world of Amazon Prime and Chromecast, we can get everything we want right when we want it. This means we generally end up with much more than we need while still feeling like we don’t have enough.
We accumulate goods that fill our homes and allow drama to fill our heads, but avoid the quiet that fills our hearts. The key is to cut out the unnecessary. Most of the pain and suffering that exists comes from overactive minds and environments and over obligating to things that really don’t work for us.
Living simply means to reduce the noise, to enjoy the sunshine, and to make space for true meaningful abundance to work its way to you. People in third world countries don’t have a lot of physical things, but they also don’t have a lot of emotional chaos.
They take care of the community
In community-based countries, the best interest of the group is prioritized and celebrated, no matter who is in first place. Humans are social animals, and when we isolate ourselves by trying to out-run everyone else, we lose connection to the deep warmth from community that brings us true joy.
Nurture your relationships, take joy in other peoples’ successes, find ways to extend your heart to everyone around you and love will pour into your existence from every angle.
They have reverence & enjoy
Planet earth never ceases to amaze me. Volcanoes, oceans, jungles, stars – there is so much to savor, but we get so easily distracted by shiny new buildings and accessories and clothes that we forget to enjoy the gifts that nature puts right in front of us. There is so much to be delighted by each day but we overlook it due to ‘bigger’ or more important responsibilities. When we slow down and realize that life is meant to be enjoyed and each moment cherished, we can live with a lot more happiness and contentment.
They take time for rest
At best stress can ruin your day, at worst it will kill you. Slowing down to nurture your body and let it regenerate will enable you to have a long and peaceful life. When we don’t rest, we deprive our body of the critical time it needs to refresh and regenerate for the next day. These things your body can only do when you’re in deep sleep, so it’s critical to take the time to allow yourself rest.
Nap after lunch, sleep in on the weekends, go to bed early on a Tuesday. Taking rest seriously enables us to get the most out of our waking hours, and does wonders to quiet and balance the mind.
They celebrate often
When I was in Ecuador, they celebrated a saint every other day. Parades, fireworks, singing, the works. When I was in India, I would wake up every day at 5 am to the sound of drums and guitars and singing in the jungle. Celebration should be part of every day, not something reserved for a few times a year. The act of coming together to share joy and eat good food is the biggest and most energizing experience any of us can take on. Find reasons to celebrate and do it often, it will bring lightness to your heart and lifts your focus from the minutia and frustration of daily life to brightness, pleasure and beauty.