Find Your Happy Place

TrainFlatsI’ve been working remotely around the world for almost a year. Travelling through fifteen different countries and over twice as many cities. That means I’ve slept in countless different beds. Slept on every type of pillow you can imagine and some that you wouldn’t want to.

I’ve lived out of a suitcase containing clothes for all four seasons – from a bathing suit to a winter coat and everything in between. I’m carrying miniature toiletries that meet minimum daily requirements. My laptop for work, my phone to keep in touch and my patience to endure it all.

To some people that experience would be a nightmare – constant change, endless challenges and a sense of falling with nothing to hold on to. To others it would be a dream – excitement, adventure and a sense of freedom beyond imagination.

It all depends on your perspective.

We all have preferences that steer us toward people and activities that bring us happiness. Happiness is a perspective – a way you can look at every moment and every situation, every day. When we find ourselves in situations that compromise our happiness, we still have a choice on what perspective we have.

My experience of travelling exposed me to many different cultures, beliefs and people. Experiences that were some time familiar and comforting, but more often awkward and challenging. At every moment I had to choose. Would I be full of fear – closing down, shutting out and missing out? Or would I choose to be happy about each situation – open-minded, curious and ready to grow?

Happiness is a survival instinct.

It was in my second month of travel when happiness as a ‘survival skill’ really kicked in. I had just experienced a very challenging transition from my first ‘honeymoon’ month in Portugal. The first month felt like an extended vacation. The seven-hour security line at the Lisbon airport was a draining dose of reality. Then came Morocco – exotic, mysterious and Muslim – a far cry from the freewheeling European life. The social restrictions were evident in Rabat, the Moroccan capital city that would be my home for the next 5 weeks.

My first instinct was to stay in my apartment, limit my exposure to people, places and things. Basically, crawl into a hole and hide. I was unhappy. Which raises the question, why was I travelling in the first place? Clearly I needed a shift in mindset. I needed to make a choice … would it be Happiness or Home? What was getting in the way of my happiness?  It was helpful to identify the “5 signs You’re Not Happy…” in this Huffington Post article. So now you know the signs of being unhappy.

How do you know if you’re happy?

It’s funny. In my opinion happiness is different than joy. Joy is more fleeting moments of great pleasure, jubilation and glee. How one would feel if you won the lottery. It seems unlikely that one could maintain that kind of joyful exuberance for extended periods of time. Happiness for me, on the other hand, is more like a sense of satisfaction, pleasure or light-heartedness – a feeling of cheerful, carefree contentment. It’s a nuance where happiness is more like a mindset vs. joy which is more a state of mind.

Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate what true happiness is for me. With conscious practice, I’ve been able to maintain my happiness no matter what happens. I still experience bouts of joy and sadness, but manage to hold happiness at my core. I thought it might be helpful for you to have my list of tips and tools. So you can be happy every day, too.

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Here’s to your a Nice Life!