Happiness

I wake up every morning and I am happy. I’ve been very fortunate to have a good life filled with a lot of happy things but even so, this is different. I don’t think I have ever been this happy on a daily basis for this long a time. What makes a person happy? Why do I feel like this? Is it possible for everyone to feel happy? Why is it that often people who have so little are so happy, where others who have so much find happiness elusive? What is up with this business of happiness?

For one thing, for me here, Panama has happy people. There are various polls ranking happiness and Latin American in general, and Panama in particular always rank very high, sometimes at the top. (See this article titled “Money Isn’t Everything”, and these poll results from Healthways).  I think it is easier to be happy when you are surrounded by happy people. It rubs off on you.

Recently, I happened across this TED talk on happiness by Shawn Achor, a Harvard psychologist. He says “We’re finding it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.”  and later “90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success,we can change the way that we can then affect reality.” Listen to the TED talk to hear the rest. It’s very interesting. 

Mr Achor ends with some recommendations – 1. Write down three things you are grateful for. 2. Journal about a positive experience you have had in the last 24 hours. 3. Meditate, which helps your brain focus. 4. When you first bring up your email every day, write someone thanking them or praising them. If you take just a couple minutes every day to do one of these things, you can train your brain to be more positive which in turn makes you happier, more successful, and a more positive influence in the world around you.

This works for me. As a Buddhist, we are taught these very things. Buddhism is all about being happy, and we are taught that happiness doesn’t come from the external things we are told to strive for, but from our internal world, from our own mind.

An attitude of gratitude is a big part of happiness. I think this NY Time article by David Brooks explains this very well. He also talks about expectation, which may factor in to why some expats are not happy in their new country. If you expect things to be a certain way, if you hold things to very high standards you will probably be disappointed fairly often. But, if you take your world as it is and be thankful for everything it provides you, you are much more likely to be happy.

If you have trouble feeling gratitude, watch The Human Planet, a wonderful BBC production about people coping with the climates and challenges of nature where they live. I am so grateful that I don’t have to walk through the desert with my camels hoping to find that well, because if I don’t I will die of thirst. I don’t have to carry kilos of sulfur on my back while breathing toxic gases, or risk my life to find the fish in the rushing river to feed my family. It is amazing what many people have to do just to survive.

OK, enough deep thinking for one day. I just think it is shame that most of us aren’t given a proper understanding of happiness so we can have more of it in our lives. Not only is it good for us, it is good for those around us, and as expats it’s good for our adopted country and new neighbors.

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
This entry was posted in culture, Miscellaneous, Panama and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Happiness

  1. very nice post, Chris …

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  2. oops … come on, I know how you spell your name, sorry about that ;-/ …

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post, Kris.

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  4. indacampo says:

    Oh, I could go on and on about the unhappy people that I encountered while I was visiting Canada recently. I let it get to me so much that I had to ruminate over my relationships with them when I got home and question whether I wanted to continue my friendship with them.
    Unfortunately some truly unhappy people can’t seem to get themselves or their lives “unstuck” no matter where they are in the world.

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    • I wonder if we forget our former “normal”, and then it’s even more jarring when we encounter it again? And, we are taught all the wrong things. Work hard, get that good job, get the stuff, be successful. So, we go that route and then wonder why we aren’t feeling the happiness we were promised. If we are never exposed to other ideas and better ways, how do we unstick ourselves? Or, most important, would we rather stay with our familiar but not so happy ways rather than work for change? I know some who’s unhappiness is so much a part of their identity they can’t imagine being someone different.

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      • indacampo says:

        And I think I realized that I’ve never noticed it before because perhaps I carried a it with me for so many years before I realized that it was time for change. Last year’s experience was bad, this year was even worse although not at first glance. Once I dug deeper it was disturbing, you’re correct when you say it is part of some people’s identity. I was happy to separate myself from the situation and focus on my visit with my family instead. You prompted some deep dinner discussion about gratefulness between SU and I last night. 🙂

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  5. Your post made me happy! Thanks, Kris.

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  6. Bravo Zulu! It is a choice you and only you can make, WHY make the wrong choice!

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  7. Wonderful and thoughtful post, Kris. I so agree with the post and the following comments. Thank you!

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  8. Great post.
    Let’s all just be happy!

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  9. Rona True says:

    Beautifully said Kris. Thank you.

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  10. Sunni Morris says:

    Kris,

    Very nice post. We do make our own happiness by the attitude we carry around with us everyday. It’s always better to see the good in everythng and not to dwell on the negative at all. Being grateful for all our blessings is key, no matter how small they are. Sometimes I really find it hard to understand how some people can see it any other way, but I’m not judgemental and I’m only mindful of myself.

    Sunni
    http://sunni-survivinglife.blogspot.com/

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    • Unfortunately many people don’t know another way, or can’t see themselves another way. You’re right, we can only mind ourselves, but maybe we can be good examples too.

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  11. David says:

    Hi Kris David here ,,I saw the video on happiness ,, it’s sad to say but 90 percent of working people in the U.S. Are on that treadmill of do more ,, do more ,, do more ,,, then when you finally get that vacation you really can’t enjoy it because all you are thinking about is work ,, because you have been brainwashed into thinking that life is your work ,, many people LIVE TO WORK ,, when they should be working to live ,,, I ve been working for the same company for 18 years now,, I was one of those people ,, I say was because in April of this year I was hit by a car while riding my motorcycle ,, broke every bone in by right foot and the heel of that foot was torn open like the back of a cargo plane it took 100 plus stitches to close it my right hand middle finger was dislocated and needed 10 stitches to close it,,, after 3 casts , wheelchair,, crunches and walking boot I’m now walking with on crunch and a slipper on that foot because it’s still swollen ,, and will be for another 4 or 5 months I’m told,, I wear a 13 shoe but can’t find a shoe big enough because of the swelling ,,due to this I have had a lot of time on my hands when not going to doctor appointments ,, I’m now able to get around on my own now where as I was depending on para transit to take me to my appointments and bring me home ,, the first thing I did when I was able to drive again was to go to a nice park and just sit and listen to the wind and the sound of nature all around me ,, the fresh air and getting out of the house was like a shot of new life ,, HAPPINESS does not depend on what you have or who you are in society ,,it solely relies and depends on what you think,, BUDDHA says ALL THAT WE ARE IS THE RESULT OF WHAT WE HAVE THOUGHT. , IF A MAN SPEAKS OR ACTS WITH A EVIL THOUGHT ,PAIN FOLLOWS HIM ,,IF A MAN SPEAKS OR ACTS WITH A PURE THOUGHT ,,HAPPINESS FOLLOWS HIM, Love your posts ,,DAVID ,,take care.

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    • I heard about some CEO who had a bad accident and said it was the best thing that ever happened to him. Like you, when he was home recuperating he had time to think about what he really wanted out of life. He quit his job, simplified his life, and never looked back.
      Motorcycles are dangerous. As a nurse you can imagine what I have seen. Thank goodness it was your foot and not your head! The foot is bad enough, but if the head doesn’t work… well, you may not be thinking about happiness or anything else.
      Yeah, vacations LOL It takes you days to get everything organized, days to unwind, and by then it’s time to go back to work and put right all the things that went wrong in your absence.

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  12. David says:

    David here again ,, I also wanted to say I’m reading Norman Vincent Peale ,, the power of positive thinking ,, it has opened my eyes to a lot ,, I was a mess only thoughts I had were negative ,, I can see myself being happy again ,, this accident has given me time to see myself outside of the box that I put myself in ,, and I think panama is just what the doctor ordered ,, when I get myself back in shape again,,

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    • Buddhist teachings have helped me enormously. I think it’s all the same though, ways to be happy, like your book, slightly different ways of saying the same things. In the US we are taught all the wrong things to be happy – work hard, get the stuff, etc. I’m so glad for you that you are finding other things. Yes, you can be happy! Come finish your recovery in Panama surrounded by a lot of other happy people 🙂

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  13. David says:

    Thank you Kris ,, when my injury case is settled panama is my next destination ,, by then I hope I’m healed enough to where I can enjoy it ,, you see before the accident I stayed in shape all my life just so I could enjoy my retirement ,, I never wanted to be one of those guys that is in a beautiful country ,, and restricted to activities because of his health ,, I wanted to enjoy my retirement ,,, I just hope I,ll be able to jog on the beach with out too much trouble from my foot,,

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    • Thank goodness you have been in good shape. Otherwise recovery could have been even more lengthy and difficult. When you get here if your foot gives you trouble, we’ll get you a bike 😀 Seriously, I think you can have a great time no matter what your foot does. Many of the people I see restricted by health don’t have the motivation to get out there and do things, to make themselves stronger, and I think that’s part of the problem.

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