It’s the Little Things in Life: Happiness Practices Around the World
Happiness isn’t all about grand ambitions and big achievements, it’s also about the little touches that make daily life a bit nicer.
All over the world, people have found their own ways to brighten up a difficult day without the need to spend money. Our new series of illustrations takes a look at a few that you might like to try for yourself.
It may sound like an ancient rite, but Japanese forest-bathing was first developed as a scientifically verified aid to conventional medicine in the 1980s. Take yourself for a mindful walk through the woods when you feel low and you can rejuvenate mind, body and soul.
Hawaiians have a good awareness for the idea that anger and resentment hurt the person that feels those emotions more than the one who provoked them. Literally meaning “to make right”, the double use of the word pono – right – indicates that you must make things right with yourself as well as the other person. When you feel your anger swell, sit down with that person and talk openly about your feelings.
Norwegians define themselves by their connection to the natural world and outdoors living. The winter is so dark that they have to roam a little to keep their spirits up, and summer days last so long that there’s always time to visit nature. Putting some time aside each day to walk in the park or really listen to a nearby river can help you find your place in the world.
When you picture a group of Germans sitting around laughing and toasting frothy beer with each other, that’s gemütlichkeit. Difficult to directly translate, it describes a very special kind of social bonding where being playful and lively can create a sense of belonging. You can create this feeling with your family or friends by treating each meeting as an occasion and always taking an opportunity to dance or sing together.
The famous Spanish afternoon nap has been around for thousands of years and, if it used to be considered a physical necessity, today it is often regarded to be a luxury. Even if you don’t live in a hot climate, a 20-minute nap after lunch can help avoid that energy dip that derails so many good starts.
The French like to take a petit drink to mark the end of work and the beginning of the evening, and what ritual could be more civilized than a polite appetizer? Try something French like a glass of pastis or vermouth when you get in from work to put you in the mood for dining.
Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil: ‘mate’
“Yerba mate raises morale,” wrote the French Society of Hygiene in 1909, “sustains the muscular system, augments strength and allows one to endure privations. In a word, it is a valiant aid.” This miraculous tree leaf tea can be taken alone as part of your morning ritual or sipped from a calabash bowl and passed around with friends.
If keyif is a central part of Turkish national culture it is also, in practice, a very personal thing. Keyif means just finding a moment to be by yourself and to quietly live in the moment. You can choose to do so on the beach, on a park bench or in the bath.
Bosnia & Herzegovina: ‘kafa’
The tempo in Bosnia is somewhat slower than elsewhere in Europe, and kafa – the coffee break – is a big part of that. Sitting down with this specially prepared brew means committing to a discussion of world affairs and personal gossip, and forgetting about time for a few moments to concentrate on the flavor of the coffee and on the quality of your company.
The word ubuntu is taken from the Zulu phrase ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’, which is the idea that a person only exists and thrives through community. If you are open and affirming to your neighbours, you can acknowledge your part in society and strengthen yourself by strengthening others.
Next time you find yourself in need of something extra to brighten up your day, remember these ten things that make people happy around the world.
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James, M. (2011). The Hawaiian Secret of Forgiveness. psychologytoday.com
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Whiteoak, J. (2007). Making ‘Gemutlichkeit’: Antecedents of ‘Bavarian-style’ Musical Entertainment. search.informit.com.au
Willis, S. (2017). Siesta. msu.edu
Trigg, R. (2017). The aperitif: All you need to know about France’s ‘evening prayer’. thelocal.fr
Smith, J. (1988). More Than a Drink : Yerba Mate: Argentina’s Cultural Rite. latimes.com
McKirdy, C. (2016). How to Drink Yerba Mate in South America. vice.com
Thomas, O. (2010). Cultural encounters in Istanbul. bbc.com
Sarajevo Times (2016). Drinking of Coffee in BiH: A Ritual that is much more than plain Need for a Drink. sarajevotimes.com
Kimmerle, H. (2012) Ubuntu and Communalism in African Philosophy and Art. rozenbergquarterly.com
Ifejika, N. (2006). What does ubuntu really mean?. theguardian.com
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