We have lived in Seoul South Korea for nine months. For spring break in March we went to Hawaii and it was so fun to be “in the States”. We ordered from Amazon, we went to Target, we read and talked in English everywhere, and we got a lot less stares. It was a great break, but about halfway through we were already getting sad about returning “home” to Korea.
As we got back to routines it’s been hard to find our own happy. The kids and I have had long conversations about being able to be happy no matter our circumstances. While this is a principle all humans have to learn, the third culture kid is put to this test on a regular basis. They have to learn to find that stability within themselves when they cannot control their environment. And as their parent I have to show them by example.
I was thinking about all these things when I found myself stuck in traffic. There are only two English radio stations here and I am sick of both of them, so I decided to find a podcast to listen to. I stumbled on one by Shawn Achor, a positive psychologist on the secrets of finding happiness. As a Mormon I related to his definition of happiness in that it is the pursuit of your potential. He had me hooked. Here is his Ted talk in which he presents the science behind his theories, and the best part, practical simple things we can do everyday to improve our happiness.
If you don’t want to spend the 12 minutes on the talk, here are the 5 things you can do:
- Write down three items of gratitude- more then just “I’m grateful for air” but more like, “I am grateful that my son hugged me today, it helped me feel unconditional love.”
- Write down a moment you had that you really felt something deeply. In his talk he says this will make us feel happiness in the remembering and then also help us look for “moments” through out our day.
- 15 minutes of cardio
- 2 minutes of meditation. Simply not doing anything but breathing will help defend us from “cultural ADD”.
- Send one text, email, or call to thank someone.
For once it didn’t sound intimidating!
I started to do some of these daily and immediately began to experience the benefits. Especially the reaching out to thank someone. When I shared all of this with my daughter, as she was struggling to find happiness, I felt helpful for the first time in a long time. When we help our kids learn to help themselves we are setting them up for success. Maybe living overseas makes them learn it younger then other people, but in the long run I know it will be part of the blessings of living this crazy life. Becoming resilient, confident, and not dependent on anything else to make them happy, is a lesson that a lot of people never learn.
Imagine my surprise when we got our monthly Ensign and there was a message from Elder Soares entitled: Paths to true Happiness. And furthermore, on lds.org there is also digital content in the same issue: Happiness, More then a Mood by Maryssa Dennis and Charlotte Larcabal. These articles perfectly combined the message from the Church, and from Shawn Achor.
You might think that steady happiness requires steady prosperity and freedom from pain or trials. But studies show that favorable circumstances don’t guarantee happiness, and unfavorable ones don’t doom it. Instead, among all factors that affect your happiness, your choices have some of the greatest influence. Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy taught, “Happiness is determined by habits, behaviors, and thought patterns that we can directly address with intentional action.” Happiness is more than just a good mood or a carefree life—it’s a way of thinking and living that we can control. General mood levels are certainly affected by genetics and our upbringing, but our personal choices play a significant role. In short, “happiness is a choice that anyone can make.”
As we take measures to have the Spirit with us, and then apply positive, practical exercises to retrain our thinking, we can create happiness no matter where we live.