By Frosty Wooldridge
While on tour of the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico, we stopped in Coulter Bay, Grand Tetons for lunch. Walking down the street, several boys chatted with each other. This photograph was taken just before the entire group raced off toward their own destinies. That split second of the photograph froze in time a moment of happiness. It made me think about the meaning of happiness while I rode down the road on my bike.
Bhutan, in Asia, sets the benchmark for living a “happy” life. Its culture mandates that “happiness” holds the highest distinction in the realm of daily living. The citizens thriving in that country enjoy a much slower and quieter living pace. They maintain a spiritual connection to their world. Thus, peace and harmony thrive among Bhutan’s citizens. No murders, no headaches, no prescription drugs, no alcoholism, no gridlock, no air pollution, no slums and no social unrest. When I visited that country, I came away with a “happiness factor” that thrives within me today. I caught what they “live” and incorporated it into my own life in our high speed, high stress society.
How do they maintain “happiness” in a world racing toward some kind of destination on the horizon? Really, how ‘fast’ do we need to ‘get there?’
America features almost the opposite culture from Bhutan. More often than not, people exceed the speed limit on our nation’s highways. Most Americans buy the fastest internet provider on the market. They flip TV channels faster than a ping-pong game. Urgency dominates America’s fast food joints, painkillers and laxatives. Pain sufferers buy 131 million doses of popular headache and pain relievers annually. In 2021, 105,000 Americans died from opioid drug overdoses.
What makes the difference between the “happiness factor” in Bhutan and the “high stress factor” prevalent in American big cities?
Instead of hell-bent-to-get-there, try the Bhutan way of thinking about the quality of your life. Even if you live in a big city, you can gather Mother Nature around you at your office with plants, a fish aquarium and relaxing music.
At home, you may create peaceful scenes replete with flowers, plants and paintings that soothe your spirit. You could create a serene backyard with a waterfall, birdbath and bird feeder.
You might create a “spiritual sandbox” where you take off your shoes daily and thrust your feet into the “biorhythms of the universe” and re-synchronize your body to the pulse of the galaxy. It’s called “grounding” or “earthing.”
While on a bicycle tour for a weekend, week, a month or months—or any kind of vacation—it’s not the miles you make in a day, it’s pictures, conversations, spiritual awakening, handshakes, curiosity, and a sense that you’re enjoying Satori, Eudemonia and Zen. Essentially, those words mean the “meshing” of a perfect moment of living via happiness, with the appreciation of that moment.
You may incorporate four quintessential decisions to shift your life from stress to peaceful living:
—Tell yourself each day, “Life is good.” Think primal, pure fountain, universal source and energy. Remember your childhood when you played for the sheer joy of movement. Re-introduce “play” into your daily schedule. A walk along a trail, a quiet moment in your rocker, a swing in the park and bird-watching by a pond. Take delight in a dragonfly landing on a lily pad. Walk away from the dark night of the soul or anything bothering you—by your intellectual choice through practice. Think of the good. You might ask Alexa to play Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a wonderful world.” I do, and it plays in my head the entire day.
—Understand and appreciate that “I am capable, I am joyful and I am enough.” Inadequacy and comparisons permeate a large swatch of American life: business, school and social gatherings. This world today stems from comparisons with others in dress and/or status. Maybe choose to be at peace with yourself because you no longer compare yourself to or with anyone. Cherish yourself because you are the only “you” in the world.
—You did not come to this planet to prove yourself. You arrived in grand style to express yourself, laugh with life, create with life, and entertain yourself with whatever passion catches your fancy. Once you seek and strike upon your passions—stress, anxiety and pain vanish into your rearview mirror.
—Finally, like the Bhutanese people, you gather your happiness factor by engaging your “calming factor” via your connection to the natural world. You impel yourself into wholeness by the little choices that build on your self-acceptance and, finally, your freedom from headaches, pain and anxiety.
What absorbs or thrills you? Okay, engage it. As you do, you feel captivated in life’s activities, which in turn render happiness. Recreate your life to your bearings. Seek that which vibrates with your being. Enjoy the miracle of life pulsating in every cell of your body. As you do, you dwell within the “happiness factor” throughout all your days.
As one of my dearest friends, Jeff Freeman, says, “I’m going fly fishing.” He’s full of joy out in the middle of a stream catching the illusive Rocky Mountain cutthroat trout. Another friend loves to hike in Elk Meadow. When you see folks walking on those trails, you wish you were there with them. You’ll always see a smile on their faces and a happy countenance from their wellspring of joyful energy. As John Muir said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” It’s called, “The Happiness Factor.”
Frosty Wooldridge lives in Genesee, Colorado and is a six-continent, world bicycle traveler and author of “Living Your Spectacular Life.”