Last Saturday we packed for the airport in a hurry, dragging our phones, computers and tablets with us, only to realize we were beholden to them in a country that really didn’t care how many emails we answered or how much social klout we had online. The U.S. standards and measures of success did not apply in Mexico. We had stumbled into a country that cared more about their lives and health based on one very important indicator: happiness.
The exchanges between people, the incredible warmth, shared customs and culture left me longing for the days when we connected outside of email, tweets and text messages. We happened to be visiting in the days preceding a very important holiday, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It is a day that celebrates the joys life as much as it celebrates the afterlife. Death is a very natural part of life (and 100% guaranteed for each of us – sorry folks). What if we, as a culture, moved away judging our lives based on the number of years and the material things accumulated to measuring the quality of the years we are given? What if we started to value our Gross National Happiness as much or in place of our Gross National Products/Productivity. If we had to measure our lives based on number of kisses, hugs and handshakes, how many of us would fare well?
I bought a brightly colored memento to remind me that we must celebrate each day and seek the happy in this life. It may seem a little morbid to some of you, but I’m a little quirky and it suits me well!
Research is just beginning to understand how powerful our minds can be in determining our longevity and our health. My focus was entirely and almost exclusively on keeping my physical self healthy for the past 10 years of my life. In the last year I have faced several transitions in my life that have forced me to keep my mental state in check – even more than my physical state. Doing what I want instead of what I thought was expected of me. Asking myself “Hey, Erin – are you happy? No, are you REALLY happy?” on a frequent basis. Waking up to what I love each day is big predictor of the length and quality of life. A bigger predictor of health and longevity than being able to complete a crazy amount of push-ups, cycle for hours on end or run a marathon. Pretty crazy, huh?
A major publication revealed the impact of HAPPY on our longevity. While more research is needed and the study isn’t perfect, it’s sufficient to say we have the power to add quality to our years and perhaps more years to our lives. We spend a lot of time in life trying to make things we think should make us happy work, when in fact they don’t. Whether it’s a career, a social obligation or a relationship, you can shed the things that are not bringing you happiness and be on the path to pursuing happiness and your optimal mental state of well-being.
I challenge you to start small in seeking your happy. Tape a piece of paper on your bathroom mirror (or just write on it with a dry erase marker!) and write one thing that you did that made you happy each day. Celebrate the moments in your life. If you start with one, that could lead to 3 or 4 more each day. If you want resources on increasing happiness, leave a comment below. I’ve read a book or two (okay, more like 10) on the subject of positive psychology and helping find their happy is a BIG piece of my wellness coaching process. Hit me up if you’re interested in a one-one guide for finding more happy and being well.
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