Creating Your Own Happiness
Amidst work, relationships with friends and family, bills, and other responsibilities that pile up in text messages and in our mailboxes, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day struggles and forget about doing what makes you happy. That’s too bad, because happiness is what makes existence so enjoyable.
As an ambitious 20-something year old, I find striking that balance hard to do. My apartment is a mess, I eat on the run, and live at work. To remedy stress, I often binge-watch Netflix or put in more hours at work.
And I’m not the only one. A 2015 American Psychological Association study found that millennials have by-far the highest levels of stress among generations. That same study found the average adult spends more than six hours per day sedentary. Another 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Labor found the average adult sleeps about eight hours per day; works nearly nine hours; does chores and eats for about one hour; and engages in leisure activities for about two and a half hours, among other things.
That means of 24 hours, unless you’re doing a job you love, the average adult is taking about 6 percent of their day to focus on things they enjoy doing.
Extrapolating those stats further, that means the average American adult spends less than 10 percent of their lives engaging in leisure activities.
Unless, of course, activities you enjoy become a lifestyle, maybe even a career. During a recent press trip, I was encouraged to try and make that a reality.
Hiking the Canary Islands
Large cacti dominated a forlorn landscape ahead of me as I stepped around rugged, large black rocks on the northern coast of Tenerife, one of Spain’s seven Canary Islands. It was getting late in the evening and the overcast sky showed signs of pink.
Not far away, towering cliffs dropped off suddenly to crashing waves hundreds of feet below. A stiff breeze blew off the blue ocean, tousling my hair. After hiking all day through the heat, it felt good.
Hiking in the Canaries is incredible. Over the past several hours, we’d passed through quaint adobe villages nestled in lush hillsides, down into sweeping, volcanic valleys, and through narrow gates which kept goats from wandering too far from rocky, barren ravines.
Ahead, my guide, Miguel Antunes from El Cardon NaturExperience, led a group of about ten other travel writers and tour guides during a press trip hosted by the island’s tourism board, Tenerife No Limits.
Miguel, originally from Portugal, is steeped in the island’s history. At 24, he speaks four languages fluently and has experienced more adventure in those years than most people will in their entire lives.
During the hike, Miguel easily mingled with all of us, slipping from French to English to Spanish without skipping a beat, cheerfully conversing about any topic. I found his social ease and apparent enjoyment of life to be refreshing.
A Lifestyle of Happiness
Miguel has traveled extensively. After spending years in Latin America, he moved to Amsterdam for a while, then discovered Tenerife.
These days, he leads tours on the island, living as an expat. I imagine that’s what he’ll do until the travel bug bites again, then he’ll be off to another place.
His life revolves around travel because he has prioritized it: travel makes him happy, so that’s what he does.
I wonder how much those statistics would change if the average American, like Miguel, prioritized their own happiness. What if we spent 94 percent of our time engaged in fulfilling, enjoyable activities?
There will always be responsibilities waiting tomorrow, and always be unenjoyable activities that need to be done today.
However, no matter where you are, I think it’s possible to strike a balance. It’s possible to create a lifestyle of happiness, no matter who you are or where you come from.
Sometimes, that lifestyle happens overnight; other times, it takes long-range planning and strategic career moves.