It’s the Little Things in Life: Happiness Practices Around the World

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.

Japan: ‘shrinrin-yoku’

Happiness: ‘shrinrin-yoku’ Peace Revolution
Japan: ‘shrinrin-yoku’

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.

Hawaii: ‘Ho‘oponopono’

Happiness: ‘Ho‘oponopono’ Peace Revolution
Hawaii: ‘Ho‘oponopono’

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.

Norway: ‘friluftsliv’

Happiness: ‘friluftsliv’ Peace Revolution
Norway: ‘friluftsliv’

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.

Germany: ‘gemütlichkeit’

Happiness: ‘gemütlichkeit’ Peace Revolution
Germany: ‘gemütlichkeit’

When you picture a group of Germans sitting around and laughing, 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.

Spain: ‘siesta’

Happiness: ‘siesta’ Peace Revolution
Spain: ‘siesta’

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.

Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil: ‘mate’

Happiness: ‘mate’ Peace Revolution
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.

Turkey: ‘keyif’

Happiness: ‘keyif’ Peace Revolution
Turkey: ‘keyif’

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’

Happiness: ‘kafa’ Peace Revolution
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.

Nigeria: ‘ubuntu’

Happiness: ‘ubuntu’ Peace Revolution
Nigeria: ‘ubuntu’

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 nine things that make people happy around the world.


Shinrin Yoku (2017). Take a walk in the forest.
James, M. (2011). The Hawaiian Secret of Forgiveness.
Gelter, H. (1999). Friluftsliv: The Scandinavian Philosophy of Outdoor Life. Canadian Journal of Environmental Education, 5, Summer 2000
Whiteoak, J. (2007). Making ‘Gemutlichkeit’: Antecedents of ‘Bavarian-style’ Musical Entertainment.
Willis, S. (2017). Siesta.
Trigg, R. (2017). The aperitif: All you need to know about France’s ‘evening prayer’.
Smith, J. (1988). More Than a Drink : Yerba Mate: Argentina’s Cultural Rite.
McKirdy, C. (2016). How to Drink Yerba Mate in South America.
Thomas, O. (2010). Cultural encounters in Istanbul.
Sarajevo Times (2016). Drinking of Coffee in BiH: A Ritual that is much more than plain Need for a Drink.
Kimmerle, H. (2012). Ubuntu and Communalism in African Philosophy and Art.
Ifejika, N. (2006). What does ubuntu really mean?

Illustrations: NeoMam Studios

How to Be Mindful in Technological Age?

mindful technology

It’s a quiet room. You’re alone, seated on a low cushion. Sunlight pours in through the window, and you can feel the warmth on your face as you close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, listen for the sound of air passing through your nostrils. Sit empty for a moment before you breathe again.

Your phone buzzes on the floor besides you.

Don’t think about the phone. It’s probably nothing. Come back to your breath. The phone vibrates again. Maybe someone commented on the photo you posted a few minutes ago of the sunlight coming through the window. Don’t think about the phone. Focus on your breath. Maybe it’s your friend getting back to you about dinner tonight. Don’t think about the phone.

It’s not so easy.

With the convenience and availability of modern technology, the desire to stay connected and entertained often overpowers our ability to live fully in the present. However, these same technologies can also have positive effects if we choose to be intentional about how we use them. Here are three examples of disruptive technologies and what you can do to live alongside them in a mindful way.


The proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and computers with access to an endless amount of digital information might seem purely distracting. Once you’ve tuned in to a variety of social media platforms, streaming video services, professional communications, and countless ways to document your life, it can be easy to fall into the trap of constantly feeding on these. A ringtone or vibration from your phone can instantly pull your attention away from face-to-face conversations, meals, driving, sleep, and any semblance of stillness. This is where being intentional can save you.

One strategy for maintaining a healthy relationship with your phone is to designate specific times when you won’t access it. This could include meal times, focused work sessions, and when you’re sleeping. The temptation to stay connected may be too powerful to simply silence your phone and set it nearby. Instead, find a drawer or a box in another room to store your device so you won’t have to look at it and wonder what you’re missing. Another approach is to install an app that monitors how much time you spend on your phone. Some of these allow you to set limits and will alert you when you’re close to reaching your daily maximum.

Video Games

Video games may seem to embody the opposite of mindfulness. However, some groups have developed new ways of using these to promote mindful, productive behavior. For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross teamed up with video game developers to create realistic training modules for health care providers preparing to enter conflict zones. In more domestic settings, educators have begun to incorporate the language and reward systems from video games in their teaching and tutoring methods through a process called gamification. Without including actual gameplay, teachers have found ways to re-envision traditional assignments through the lens of something many of their students find more entertaining.

Those who enjoy video games recreationally can also benefit from reassessing the way they play. For example, setting a specific amount of time to play can keep you from spending an entire evening outside of reality. If you want to use video games as a meditative practice, it can also be helpful to choose games that are inherently soothing. For example, I occasionally play video games with the intention of relaxing, yet within a few minutes I find myself frustrated, yelling at the screen. At this point, I’m more stressed out than when I began, and it’s difficult to stop because I feel I haven’t accomplished anything.

After I recognized this pattern, I started looking for games that wouldn’t trigger so much aggression in me. The creative mode in Minecraft features an open landscape where you can build an infinite amount of things out of different materials. Separate from the main game mode, there’s no conflict and no consequences, just ample space for creativity. This might sound boring, but for me, part of being intentional about gaming means choosing to play a game that will actually help me relax.

Artificial Light

Even one of our most essential technologies, artificial light, can have serious disruptive effects. Excess light pollution emitted from populated areas can negatively affect local wildlife by disorienting animals that depend on light from the sun and stars for navigation. And while it can be disheartening when you can’t see the stars beyond the glow of bigger cities, artificial light has negative effects on our health as well. The light we depend on to brighten our homes, streets, shops, TVs, computers, and phones throws off our natural circadian rhythms, which leads to insomnia and daytime fatigue.

The best way to combat the ill effects of artificial light is to limit your exposure after dark. This includes restricting the time spent on your phone or watching TV before bed. And though you shouldn’t be expected to walk around in the pitch dark in your own home, turning on a low, warm lamp in the evenings can decrease the energizing effects of artificial light.

We need to be careful about how we use today’s technologies, though not all technology is inherently bad for our mental states. Entire industries have risen with the goal of aiding our efforts to look inward and reach a more natural, peaceful state of mind. If you have trouble finding still moments in your life, you could try a number of apps that lead users through simple daily meditations. And essential oil diffusers, white noise machines, and Himalayan rock salt lamps can have a drastic effect on the ambience of a room.