Hacks on happiness
Happiness is not about pure luck and uncontrollable fortunate circumstances. Living a truly happy life is about focus, choice, and willingness to let go and to work for it. It is about knowing thyself and about truly choosing it, being willing to let go of anything getting in the way. Also, if it is yourself.
Waking up to a rainy day in the midst of winter, I am grateful to wake up. I am grateful we are all here. I am grateful to wake up on a winter day in a place of my own choice. And what I want to share with you today is this choice of happiness. This thing I learned. How to stay happy.
On the surface, of course, my life looks amazing. I have four healthy, happy children, I am happily married, I have tons of friends, a good education, enough money, freedom to travel full time, a beautiful bus to live in, a European passport, and an open heart. And it IS amazing, my life. All of these elements are true and provide me with substantial amounts of daily happiness.
Today, I wake up in Portugal, our new adventure, in a beautiful house in an orange field with a good amount of light coming through the clouds, most of my children around me, and meaningful and interesting things to do all day.
My recently deceased father often said: “You can rehearse and become better at guessing”. What he meant was if you study, your guesses will be better guesses, and therefore, more often, you will be right. It sounds like a paradox, but actually, it is not. If you try, you will improve. You will learn, so your guess will be better next time. A guess is not done in a vacuum, and it will not be pure coincidence whether you are right or wrong. You can optimize your chances by studying your subject, by rehearsing, by never giving up, by improving, and by paying attention. He is right, of course.
The same applies to happiness
When I say today, I choose to be happy; there are many layers to my point. One of them is I have rehearsed. To be happy is not pure luck. Living a happy life takes willpower, practice, rehearsing, focus, and choice.
When I had cancer, life was not exactly easy. I had three children and a husband waiting for me at home, begging me to survive while the disease was all over me and the treatment very cruel, the fear sometimes overwhelming and the despair … well, the same: sneaking in on me whenever I let my guards down.
But I learned something. I learned happiness, and faith would make me survive. I learned I had to be happy to stay strong so I could stay alive. And I learned I could stay happy with just one happy moment per day. Just one thing that would make me smile, or make me feel in my right place, or make me feel life was meaningful. It could be my children visiting or myself visiting home. It could be a conversation. It could even be a bird outside the window.
Earlier in life, I had the idea that happiness was a more huge thing and a more vulnerable thing. My happiness could be destroyed by little things, like an argument, something that did not work or work out, a piece of sad news or some worry, or actually any negative emotion. I thought everything had to be right, to be perfect, to be balanced in order for me to be happy. But I was wrong. It is the other way around if you choose so: Happiness is right there in the little things, and one little happy thing can fill up the happy barometer for the whole day. It is enough. If we choose so.
To dare happiness
Another question is this: Do we dare to be happy? Everyone wants to be happy, they say, but do they truly? Often times, the idea of happiness is not an idea of a state of mind, a balanced emotional life, mental freedom, smiles, or inner peace. It is more of an idea of possessions, wealth, the lack of challenges in life, an idea of perfection so perfect; the journey has to be long and hard before happiness can be reached. And I am not sure happiness is actually the goal. I am afraid this perspective is more of a learned value system and some sort of despair. The true self trying to get out of constricting beliefs without truly considering re-thinking the basics of life.
Am I too vague? I hope not. This is complicated stuff.
To be truly happy, we need to be able to let go of the values and ideals of everyone around us and of the construction of modern society: What is needed and what has to be. We have to do our inner work to find out what we personally hold valuable, what is truly important to us, what is the right thing in the unique life we are living, and what is our true path. This job is not done in an afternoon, and it will probably never end. We need to stay tuned to this kind of reflection to stay alert and awake.
And then we need to dare. It seems like being busy and being worried and in a state of longing for something else is Normal. On the other hand, being happy, content, and grateful is a rare and almost crazy thing. They look at you with a weird gaze if you proclaim yourself happy and, content, grateful, and at peace. Do you dare that gaze? Do you dare to protect your truth from the surrounding doubt? Do you dare to be very different, and do you dare to lose the common ground with most of the other people you meet?
In my experience, it is actually not an easy choice to make. Personally, I find it is worth it. Challenge the dominating truth and find your own. Choose to be happy all the way. Let it in.
What is happiness anyway?
This is subjective. To me, happiness is about love, freedom, presence, and peace. To be happy is a state of mind, and in my opinion, it helps a lot to be focused and to rehearse.
Happiness is not something that occasionally happens to you if you are lucky enough. And happiness is certainly not a state that can be obtained and held as a general trait of life. Happiness needs attention and care.
In order to be truly happy, we need to:
- Dare to choose it
- Work for it
- Let go of everything disturbing and not relevant
- Work for it some more
It might sound more complicated than it is. It is more of a commitment than hard work. It takes focus, choice, and discipline, and it can be done. By anyone.
One of the most important elements of happiness is attention. We need to know what makes us happy, which means we need to do our inner work to sort out our priorities so we are very clear and can hold in our minds what is truly important to us. When that is done, we need to do some more personal work to make sure we know when our true values are being met and when we are moving toward our life goals.
It is not enough to state that my family is one of my core values. We need to define: What family? What about it? How is your family life when it is perfect? How does it look, feel, and unfold? How do you know it when it is right? How do you know it when you are moving in the right direction? What can you do today and in the long run to honor this value, and how do you know this is the right thing to do?
All of this reflection has to be done, no matter the value system. If you are not clear and have nor clear markers and no clear plan, it is all a blur. Everyone knows their loved ones are of importance to them and that a healthy body, economy, career, and love life is what they want. But how does it look? What does it mean to you personally? In your specific case, what can you do, and what elements of it truly make you happy?
As an example:
I know beauty is of great importance to me. Especially the beauty I find in nature, in my traveling experiences, and in my everyday life. To stop and enjoy the beauty of a sleeping child or a sunrise or an orange or an almond tree or a piece of art or some architecture, to breathe deep and truly enjoy this is one of the treasures of my life. I hold this in my heart, and I pay attention to these experiences, being grateful when they unfold and after, when I move on, carrying this beauty in my vibration. If I carry a camera, I often double the experience by working with my photography to not capture beauty nor the moment but to create more beauty by making wonderful pictures and having another moment of happiness, as I truly enjoy taking pictures.
This is just one example. I have other, more important core values, and I am constantly paying attention to my inner world to make sure my value system is up to date and that I am ready to go for it when stuff that is important to me presents itself in my surroundings/options.
In the years I am living now, one is this adventure of traveling and letting in so many cultures, experiences, landscapes, and especially people to my family life is one of the great values I hold. To go live our life to the fullest, to do it every day, to stay alert and present and grateful for the amazing lifestyle of the nomadic family.
Another true value for me is health, which means I love to do my yoga, I am grateful for clean water, and I enjoy cooking healthy food for my family. All day long if needed.
This is not about me. It is a about more general reflection of what happiness is. So, let's move on from my examples.
Another important element of happiness is paying attention to it. The more attention we give to the life elements that make us happy, the more they get to fill us up. There are only so many hours in the day, and if we fill our minds with the grateful, happy, smiling joy of recognizing our own happiness when it is in the present moment and enjoying the memory of it when we are doing something more trivial. Another good reason, by the way, I took up the habit of taking pictures. I have an amazing Memory Lane to go to on a rainy day.
So, did I explain what happiness is? Probably not. But I did point in the direction where you can find it. And that is important. Because happiness will always be subjective. You have to go look for your own. Basically, you have to go create your own.
How to stay mentally healthy while full-time traveling
Sometimes it is too much. Sometimes I feel doubt. And very often, I miss someone. Just as often, my life is overwhelming, and I am in endless processing of the many, many experiences.
Here, I shall share my strategies to stay mentally healthy and ready:
- I meditate. Not a lot, not systematically, but enough.
- I write a backward calendar. Half a page every day about what happened yesterday. So things don’t get mixed up.
- Every Sunday, I make a gallery of photos and write a travel story text about what happened.
- I stay connected to my inner world by allowing intuition, emotion, gratefulness, and silence to hold important places in my everyday life.
- I stay close to my loved ones, hugging, talking, smiling.
- I reflect with my husband and children on all subjects, especially the ones considering what we want, what is important, what makes everyone happy, and what makes sense.
To stay mentally healthy is about knowing your own needs and paying attention to the needs of your mind, your brain, and your soul. I know myself well enough to know what I truly need, what is truly important. Because I know this, I can often let go and let flow and forget about all of the systems.
To stay mentally healthy is also about happiness. To me, it is. It is about choosing to focus on what I love about this life, and it is about all the time saying yes to what life offers me.
It is also about never giving in to fear. Of course, feeling what you actually feel is important, and sometimes we feel fear. Oftentimes it is because someone or some media fed us with fearfulness. So, we need to pay attention to what we are letting into our minds.
I shall say this again. Because it is important. It is very important to pay attention to what we let into our minds. Just as I would never eat something I consider poisonous, I will not let something into my mind that will take me off my trail.
It is just like eating: When I eat, I ask myself: Do I want this inside of me, as a part of me? And when I let in information, art, literature, stories, and experiences, I ask myself: Do I want this in my mind?
Back to the fear. It is important. Sometimes it is there for good reason, and we have to pay attention to it. And here is my million-dollar piece of advice:
When you feel fear, stop and breathe. Give fear the needed attention so you understand what is going on. Do. Not. Act.
When fear is present, we stay silent. We analyze, we breathe, we watch the sunset and eat good food, talk about the situation, and understand why we feel fear. Once this is truly analyzed and we are not locked in the emotion, we can make a plan and start acting again.
It is normal to want to act when we feel fear. We want to DO something to eliminate the awful emotion of fear. Often we run around to find solutions and implement them long before we have done good thinking. In our life, it is very clear we have to stay silent and not act until the solution is clear and the fear is no longer dominant.
I have two final points. One is the focus; the other is saying yes. So follow me on a final note here.
I have written the word focus many times in this text, and I am not sure I have been clear enough. Being a happy person is very much about focus.
One thing we lose when we choose happiness is the opportunity to complain and the option of repeating negative stories. The human mind is a storytelling mind; we have narrative elements in the thousands in our inner world, and we are very much made up of these stories: the ones we heard, the ones we lived, and the ones we like to repeat.
If you want to be a happy person, you have to look at this vocabulary. Just like we pay attention to what we let in, we need to pay attention to what we let out. Everything affects us, and conversations, stories, the vibration of other people, of art, of literature, of music, and movies affect us much more than you should think.
I do not engage in negative stories. I engage in conversations about frustrations if they are true frustrations, and the goal is to understand, evolve, and solve the situation, of course. But mostly I chose to talk about what I love, what I like, what amazing experiences I have, what I look forward to, and how the beauty unfolds around me. I read books I like the vibe of. There is a lot of fantastic literature of very high quality I would never read because it is too dark, too negative, and will leave me with a too-low vibe.
As I chose happiness, I also chose to not engage in conversations about complaints. I want to talk about love, happiness, beauty, adventure, gratefulness, peace, art, languages, culture, ideas, and philosophy. And I have made it a habit to change the subject. This is important to me.
I focus on all the life elements that make me happy, and I choose to not let my attention point to negative stuff too much. As I have recently lost two of my parents, I cannot say I never think about sad, frustrating, and complicated stuff. But even so, I try to think about the good in it, the elements I can truly say, I am grateful for, and the love I can find in the situation.
Focus plays a key role in the choice of happiness. I can not stress this enough. Remember I opened this reflection on the story of rehearsing your guesses? This focus thing is what it is all about. Rehearsing all day every day to stay focused on the kind of thoughts, conversations, music, actions, and life elements that will make you happy. You will not regret it, I am sure of it.
The say yes hack, tapping into intuition
My very last comment, as I realize this is a very long reflection, is this. Say yes.
My happy life derives from a lack of actual planning. I have big things in place, I know what I want and what is important. But I also know what is not important.
The “say yes”-hack is about embracing the moment. In my nomadic life and my huge social personality, I am constantly in new places with new people. And I love it. If I had a lot of plans and ideas, I would move from cognition to action and work from a plan. But as I choose to say yes, I move from a situation and its elements to gratefulness and a deep breath. Once I feel the vibe of what is happening around me and inside me, I will know what to do or where to go. I look for the options and the happiness, the amazing life elements in every situation. With no plans, I say yes to invitations, to music, to conversations, to meals, to the beauty of a tree just down the road, and a festival in a city I am driving through.
Beauty is of true value to me.
This makes our adventure full of nuances and unforeseen elements; it makes it amazing and happy. But it also makes us happy. We allow our inner world to guide our choices, and we have the freedom to pick up on the situations around us. Very often, life has something to offer, and if we dare to say yes to what comes our way and choose what we want and it will make us happy, it is the “right” thing to do – we will flow with the cosmos in the most beautiful way.
Do we need a sum up? This text is already very long.
I can make a statement.
If you want to be truly happy, you have to choose it, to work for it, and to pay the price of it.
Thank you for reading the blog. I write to share our experiences and perspectives and would love to hear yours. Please comment in whatever way feels right to you: Facebook comment, personal e-mail, text message, or whatever you like. It brings a lot of joy in the bus when we hear from readers. Thank you, and may the sun shine on your path.
The photo gallery is not as such about happiness; it is merely the album about week 4 of 2020, what we did, and what fascinated us. Enjoy if you like; the notes on the pictures will share the travel stories. We were on the Algarve coast of Portugal.
The theme of this week: Oranges: Tuesday this week was moving day, and before the end of the day, we found ourselves living in an orange field. Ripe oranges, mandarines, and lemons beautifully lighting the view. C-vitamin, old Portuguese culture, amazing smell and view, amazing vibe, and basic emotion. So grateful and peaceful we became from living just a few hours in this place.
Grandparents. Yay! The amazing name of my Mother-in-law is Rose Merry. The story goes the Danish priest had never spelled the name Mary, as he was just a humble man, so he knew the word Merry from Merry Christmas. The father of my mother-in-law was a sailor and wanted his daughter named after a wonderful cook he knew, with the name Rose Mary. In the papers in Denmark, this became Rose Merry. And here we are. With my happy mother-in-law and ---- my father-in-law with no story right here but a lot of them in his heart.
Having tea with grandparents, making jokes with father and grandfather, and even in a vegan, gluten-free, organic restaurant at an old monastery converted to an organic farm, shop, and restaurant. What's not to like?
Moving day. OH - a LOT of work to pack everything. We did become quite tired, but actually, it is very nice to move often, as we end projects and get things done, decide on elements we have ignored, and get a full check on our belongings, letting go of what we don't need and taking care of what needs care.
The orange adventure: My fascination with oranges is huge. To me, a Dane from the North, living in the middle of an orange field with wonderful hosts who just want to share what they have, just looking at them and taking pictures, touching and smelling at different times of the day and before and after rain is a true adventure.
The grandparents: We are so grateful to have the grandparents around, how can I put it? We just recently lost 2 of my four parents, and truly feel the value of grandparents with an increased force. Life is strange. But mostly amazing, mostly wild and delicate and happy.
Yuna in the Orange field: Even the dog just loves to run around in the orange field, get wet on the paws, roll in the grass - be free and happy.
And the children: Well. No comments. This is just perfect.
Rosemary Happiness: I love rosemary. It is easy to find in the wild, in the cities, and in the gardens of the Iberic. This particular one was full of honey bees, and I just smiled when I heard them hum, enjoying the fact I buy rosemary honey at the market and that there are still bees around. Plus the flowers. And the smell. And the child right there behind the huge plant.
A Puzzle in the Sun: One of the things we really wanted to do for the six weeks we decided to live in a house was to do 1000-piece puzzles. Impossible when living in a van and very close to impossible when living in a bus. So here we are. A puzzle in the sun.
Picking Flowers for Mother: This looks like an illustration from a Swedish children's book from the 1950s. Well. Maybe I would have had to use another filter. But you get the idea.
Walking life together: My husband's parents have been married for more than fifty years. Walking life together is a beautiful gift to have.
Going out for sunset: It is a good habit to go out to enjoy the sunset. This time at Praia de Faro, a small strip of beach on a long island just out of Faro. Beautiful.
Father and son: They are so alike and so different, and I love them.
My son, my dog, the sunset: When the sun sets, we sing. A hymn of gratefulness. For the day. For the life. For every gift we received, every person we touched, every burden we got to lift, and for the love of God.
Beauty is of true value to me: The ocean often makes it very easy for me to return to myself.
Oranges. From a new angle.
The beauty of plants: My great-grandmother traveled the world after she retired. She was not a wealthy woman, not my Danish great-grandmother, the mother of my mother. She was a humble Copenhagener, and when she got old, she enjoyed traveling by bus to other countries. She took pictures of flowers to take back and show to her mother. When my grandmother and mother were alive, I sent them pictures of plants and flowers. Now they are in the next life; I still take the pictures - just sending them by other channels than email.
I love tiles. I am more or less obsessed with tiles, with the aesthetics, with the geometry, and with the history of them. I can not pass tiles without adding them to my collection.
The Tiles of Moncarapacho:
Doors. Another obsession of mine:
Abandoned house fascination: With the amazing tree growing through the wall.
The beauty of decay: Detail from the same house.
The doves own house.
Walking together: Just going for a walk. My parents-in-law did walk the Camino several times and still love to go for a walk. Long or short. As long as it is together.
Do not enter: Abandonned almond field with a very closed door.
The true adventure: Just look at the photo. This is a handmade, homemade, self-done, amazing motorbike with a side wagon. With numberplate. Legal. Lovely. Amazing.
A very special house
A traditional cake.
The Marie bread
Another grateful day: Reminded me of an American cartoon I once saw
Our 1000-piece puzzle
The market in Faro
Old-fashioned cargo in the market in Faro
A beautiful little veggie shop in the local market in Faro
Street art in Faro, I just LOVE street art.
More street art: Beauty in the detail, the coincidence of art in an unplanned city walk
Tiles from the seventies
The drops and the light
We have friends visiting.
Enjoying the sunsets, whenever possible
Sunset over orange fields.
Flowering almond trees. What a gift. Once I thought I had to go to La Palma one year in early February to experience just this. But often, you get what you ask for, just in a different (often better) way than you thought. So it was here: Our extra time in Portugal was sweetened by the flowering almond trees.
And thousands of ripe citrus trees.
Mandarins in the rain. Wonderful scents. A whole new sensation of bergamot, water, wind, and a hint of Christmas spirit?
And here are a lot of other impressions from this wonderful area:
Stuff you can buy at the market in Faro:
A comment on this article from my old website:
In the meantime letting myself inspire of those who have tanken the step. Thank you. 💗
Where are we now?
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