“I lived in Dubai for 2 years, then I went to India for 3 months, I’m on my way back to India for one more month and after that I’m heading to Canada,” I was telling a businessman who was sitting next to me on the airplane. He stared at me in admiration and then asked me: “What is your secret?” He was also traveling a lot, but those were business trips that didn’t leave him much free time. He told me how many cars and houses he had, but was still working his butt off to earn more and more… He was a living proof that money doesn’t make you happy and at some level he was aware of that. He told me he wants to live more like me and asked me for advice. A rich businessman asking me for advice?? 😀 All I could say was: stop working so hard and start enjoying life. And if you don’t do that, life will find a way to force you.
He wasn’t the only one. I can’t believe how many people ask me for the recipe to a happy life. So I decided to write it down. I know there’s billions of articles like this one, and I recommend you read every single one of them 😊 Here are my 10 ways to a happy life:
1. Follow your dreams
By this I mean simply that you do the things you like. It’s such a simple thing, but so many people are still not doing it! We get so caught up in things we don’t like, that we don’t take time for the things that truly make us happy. Is cleaning the house really more important than taking a walk in the nature on a sunny spring day?? Is a boring desk job really better than traveling the world??
Maybe what you like is not always easily accessible, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! If you really want something and you are ready to work for it, then you can achieve anything. You don’t necessarily have to make a career out of it, the important thing is that you enjoy doing it. If it’s the right thing for you it will eventually find it’s way into a career anyway.
I’ve always tried to live my life by doing what I liked. I pursued my dream of becoming a journalist and I did that for as long as I could enjoy it. I decided I want to travel the world and I’m traveling the world. I wanted to become a yoga teacher and I did it. I like photography and writing I’m doing it. Especially for the last 8 months I’ve been doing only the things I like. Because of that I can say I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. The things you like will not always make you rich with money, but they will make you rich, I promise you that.
This brings me to my next point:
2. Money does not bring happiness. Period.
A lot of people will make everything in their lives about money. Their jobs, relationships, decisions will be money-based. Many think that money can buy happiness, so they try to get more and more. But in the pursuit of money they often loose themselves.
If money – and everything that we can buy with it – really makes us so happy, why are most of the rich people in the world so unhappy? Why famous stars have all these drug and alcohol addictions, divorces, health issues? Why are they never happy with their appeareance, with all the fancy clothes, diets, plastic surgery? Money and materialistic things take our attention outside ourselves, which makes us more and more disconnected from our true inner self. And this only causes suffering.
Trying to ease the suffering with materialistic distractions, drugs, alcohol and other similar things, will never help. The only way out of suffering is the way in.
I’m not saying that people with no money are always happier. Unfortunately we live in a world in which living without any money is almost impossible. We all need it and we all have money related problems. I know how it feels when you don’t know how you are going to pay the bills or buy food, and I know the feeling of not having to worry about money. I’ve been down both roads. Living in Dubai for 2 years made me learn first-hand how bad a materialistically driven society can be. So I guess what I’m saying is: don’t get to attached to money. It’s something we need to function in this world, a necessary evil, so to say. If you don’t have a lot of money don’t stress about it, trust you will always have enough. And if you have a lot, be happy with it and stay modest.
3. Less is more
Detachment is an important step towards happiness. I recently learned that the less possessions I have, the better I feel. When I try to fit all my belongings (that are now 10 times less than they used to be!) in boxes in my mom’s small apartment, I sometimes find myself feeling almost anxious about it. It feels like they are a heavy burden that doesn’t allow me to breathe properly. A few months ago I decided to sell my books. I was very attached to them, but getting rid of them made so much space – not just literally but also metaphorically. Having less materialistic possessions in your life sets you free. When you realize you don’t need that much you can live a happier life.
4. Live in the now
It’s easier said than done, but it’s one of the most important steps to a happy life. All the stress, fears, anxiety and worries are related to the future. If we live in the present moment and don’t think about the future, all those things cannot exist. Simple! Even if it’s a simple logic it’s very hard to achieve. Our lives are all about the future: we go to school so in the future we will get a job, we work so we will earn money and we will be able to buy a house and a car, then we will work for our children and our retirement… We can’t wait for the end of the shift, for the weekend, for holidays… we are always so focused on enjoyment in the future that we don’t enjoy the present moment. But the key is to make the present moment nice and enjoyable, not to suffer for something that may never come. What if tomorrow never comes? Don’t be too sure it will. Focusing more on the now is a daily effort but it makes us truly enjoy every moment of our lives.
5.If you don’t like something about your life – change it!
We like to complain about so many things in life, thinking it’s not in our power to change them. Guess what – there’s always a way! You ALWAYS have the option to change something you don’t like about your life, whether it’s your weight, your personality, your job or your partner. It might not be possible to change it straight away, but work out a plan and do it. It may take time and effort but ANYTHING is possible. So stop making up excuses and start looking for solutions!
6. Do something creative
Creativity is one of the most important aspects of our lives. I would say it’s almost as important as food and water. These feed our bodies and creativity feeds our soul. I think the happiest people in the world are the ones who have jobs where they can use their creativity on a daily basis. Even if you are not one of them, doing something creative in your free time is very important. There is a variety of creative activities you can choose from: painting, drawing, music, writing, photography… The result of the activity is not even important, what matters is that you get so overwhelmed by it that the outside world disappears, you forget about time and sometimes you even forget to eat or drink. The past and the present disappear and you are focused only on the present moment, which brings you immense peace and joy.
7. Take care of your body
Being healthy is considered one of the main conditions for happiness. But many people still think health is something that just falls down from the sky. Some are still unaware of how important exercise and diet are for our happiness.
It’s simple: the more you take care of your body, the healthier you are, which means you are also happier. By making sure you keep your body healthy you are also improving your self-esteem and being loving towards yourself. Loving yourself is the foundation of healthy, loving relationships with others.
8. We need meaningful relationships
Living in Dubai and talking to people who still live there has taught me a lot about relationships too. Unfortunately, most of the interactions between people there are as fake as the city in the middle of the desert can be. Most foreigners that live in Dubai will tell you this is what makes them unhappy. I learned that just spending time with people that we don’t feel that close, is not enough on a long term. Meeting new people is great and we can learn a lot from that, but as humans we cannot live without deeper connections with true friends, family, partners. Without that we feel lonely even when we are surrounded by people. On a long term, we need someone who loves us and whom we can trust. So don’t hang out with people just to spend time, but invest in meaningful relationships instead. And remember: how can you be happy if there’s nobody to share the happiness with?
9.Take time for yourself – learn to be alone
You also need to invest in the relationship with yourself. This is the most important relationship in your life, as it determines all the other relationships.
We tend to keep ourselves busy all the time, just so we don’t have to face ourselves. I guess we are afraid of what we are going to find there. We watch TV, we drink, we fill our time with work, people or we even make children, just so there’s no time left for being alone with ourselves. But if we don’t get to know ourselves better we can never be happy. For one, we will never know what truly makes us happy and we will continue doing the wrong things.
So take time every day for yourself. Learn to be alone. Sit with your thoughts, without any distractions and just observe. I promise you will learn so much, even if you just do it for 10 minutes a day!
10. Stay out of the comfort zone
The comfort zone is a very dangerous thing, because it’s so easy to get stuck in it. It’s when things are neither very good or very bad, but an average. It’s the zone where you don’t need a lot of effort to live a perfectly safe life, with no bigger threats and sacrifices. But it’s also very B-O-R-I-N-G!
The biggest obstacle in coming out of the comfort zone is fear. If you don’t really like your current job, but it’s giving you a solid paycheck, fear will tell you: “Don’t live this job, what if you can’t find another one with such a good salary? Your life is fine as it is, don’t change anything!” But if you don’t give into fear you know that there are so many better possibilities outside of the comfort zone! So don’t let fears control your life, they are always wrong. I try to live my life doing the things that scare me the most, because I’ve found that the best things in life come out of these decisions. Overcoming fears not only gives you strength, but allows you to grow and become a better person.
There’s no big secret to a happy life. If you want to be happy you need to understand that happiness is not the feeling that comes from materialistic and outside things. It’s something that you find when you look inside. So my biggest advice – and at the same time my motto – is: get to know yourself, do the things you like and change the ones you don’t!
I would love to hear from you, so let me know if you have any tips that I didn’t mention!