By Steve Fisher
Don’t pursue happiness, simply be happy
How to be happy? It’s perhaps the most important question we all face. Should we actively pursue happiness, seeking the spouse, job, possessions or other life circumstances we believe will make us happy? While this is the conventional approach, a growing body of research and writing suggests that the “pursuit of happiness” actually makes us unhappy.
According to this intriguing new perspective, actively seeking happiness actually creates a feeling of dissatisfaction with our lives. Rather than actually being happy in the present with what we have, we focus on the future and what we want. The conditions we believe necessary for happiness may never be achieved. And, even if they are, we often begin to take these new circumstances for granted and yearn for something else. Not long after moving into a beautiful new apartment or home, we long for a bigger and better one. All too often, this cycle of deferred happiness repeats endlessly. As a result, rather than actually being happy, we continue to pursue happiness by seeking the perfect job, home, spouse, etc.
Perhaps we’ll be happier if we find ways to be happy with our lives as they actually are? Of course, we don’t want to stop setting goals and growing as people, but we shouldn’t make our happiness dependent on an uncertain future. Instead, we can focus on things to be happy about in our lives as they actually are. Right now.
With this thought in mind, and as a personal challenge, I went to my favorite neighborhood cafe here in Saigon and over a Vietnamese iced coffee (okay, three of them ;), I made a list of 101 reasons to be happy in Vietnam.
Surely you can think of things to be happy about in your own life. Of course, you don’t need 101. I set this challenge just to show myself how easy it is to find things to be happy about, if we adopt the right mind set. Regularly thinking of just 2-3 good things in our lives will make us happier.
101 reasons to be happy in Vietnam
1) Life in a foreign country is an endless adventure
2) Being alive at the first time in human history when it’s possible to live anywhere
3) Friendly Vietnamese people
4) Life here is more relaxed than in many “developed” countries
5) Warm and sunny weather
6) Fabulous food…
7) …that’s also super healthy, along with…
8) …cheap gyms, swimming pools and other sports facilities…
9) … and Tao Dan and other great parks…
10) …and that fitness equipment they have, and also…
11) …those public aerobics classes in the parks…
12) …all makes it easy to stay healthy and in shape
13) Friendly expats. We’re all from somewhere else and many people are new so most people are open to making new friends!
14) And most Vietnamese people like foreigners and are interested in us
15) Also, don’t forget the way many locals and expats smile at strangers here
16) And that expats and travelers are often really interesting people…
17) So it’s quite easy to make interesting new friends here…
18) And most of us have amazing local and expat friends who brighten our lives
19) (One for the guys) You can date a 24 year old (even if you’re 48)
20) (One for the ladies) Men don’t bother you on the street
21) Endless novelty from living in a new country, including…
22) …the cool serendipitous discoveries down those little alleys off the main streets…
23) …and tasty street food options so vast you’ll never try them all even if you stay in Vietnam and live to be 100
24) Which all means endless stimulation and opportunities for growth
Just finished the first iced coffee, and the ideas are still coming fast…
25) The way young girls and women walk around arm in arm. With the endless stream of negativity in the news, this is something that always make me smile!
26) Also, lots of cute, smiling children to cheer you up
27) Atmospheric neighborhoods in Saigon and other cities…
28) …and beautiful nature outside them
29) Including lots of beautiful beaches!
30) Low cost of living so your money goes further, which means…
31) …a great lifestyle is much more affordable.
32) But it’s also a great place to discover the joys of simple pleasures.
33) After all, many locals have very little money but seem quite happy. They offer endless inspiration about ways to be happy that don’t depend on money. If they can be happy with simple everyday pleasures, we can too! This is one of many things I learned traveling and living in “developing” countries.
34) Those little drink stands all over the place where you can get fresh orange, passion fruit etc. juices for less than a $1
35) Easy access to lots of other fabulous places in Asia. 1.5 hours to Bangkok, 1 hour to Siem Reap! Etc.
36) 4 Ps pizza. The pizza is great of course but try the amazing appetizers, salads, desserts and Italian wine selection as well 😉
37) Glow Skybar – the views, aura and music are fabulous and most drinks are 50% off before 8 pm
38) Sax n’ Art jazz club and…
40) Super convenient mototaxis (but PLEASE wear a helmet 😉
41) Lots and lots of interesting coffee shops and….
42) …Vietnamese ice coffee. Ahh, speaking of which…
I’m just finishing up my second one here at the cafe. I doubt this blog would exist without this tasty, refreshing and highly addictive beverage and the stimulation it provides. In fact, it’s a miracle that human civilization advanced at all without this stuff!
43) Endless variety of fresh fruit…
44)…and those great smoothie and juice shops
45) It’s a great place to take up yoga, meditation or other healthy Asian practices, which are also proven to promote happiness
46) High quality and cheap medical and dental care
47) Great spas
48) And speaking of health, if you eat the local food you’re going to live longer. More time to be happy about things!
49) Local markets with their endless variety of fresh and prepared foods
50) Pho and the many other varieties of Vietnamese noodle dishes
51) Those cool Banh Mi stands everywhere
53) The friendly Vietnamese students who come up to chat in the parks
54) (If you’re single) lots of other single people
55) Lovely, refined women…
56) An undeniable attraction of Vietnam for men
57) Easy and free to video Skype with friends and family in other countries. Just 10 years ago this wasn’t possible. What a wonderful time to be alive!
58) Great place for location independent work
59) Buddhist pagodas. Along with the parks, these are great places to relax and reflect.
60) Great vacation options are plentiful and easily accessible…
61) …and vacations here are probably cheaper than everyday life back home!
62) Partly because of the super cheap domestic and regional flights…
63) …and sleeper busses to take you to other parts of Vietnam or Southeast Asia. Just to offer a few of the endless possibilities…
64) Fun, easy and cheap holidays in Dalat,
65) Nha Trang,
66) Mui Ne, etc.
67) And don’t forget Halong Bay, one of the 7 wonders of the modern world
68) The endless great lunch places that pop up for a few hours and then disappear until the next day
69) Clothing as good as Zara, Gap, Banana Republic (or your own personal favorite) is available everywhere, at a fraction of the price.
70) Those old men who will fix your motorbike on the sidewalk
72) Vietnamese beer…
74) and wine
74) No winter!
75) Can wear shorts and a t-shirt everyday!
76) Thanks to e-books and the internet it’s easy to read English books, magazines and newspapers. Impossible or difficult even 15 years ago. Did I mention…it’s a wonderful time to be alive!
77) Travelers love Vietnam….and so should we!
78) The novelty and challenges of life abroad are a great way to develop patience and flexility, which are extremely valuable qualities whether we stay here or move on.
79) With beaches everywhere it’s a great place to practice or take up water sports
80) The street food is so tasty, healthy and cheap that there’s no need to cook but…
81) …with fresh and healthy ingredients it’s a great place to cook if you do enjoy it
82) Saigon Outkast and the cool events they host
83) Tasty and healthy local snacks
84) Locals are super friendly and helpful when you’re lost. This is not true everywhere and is one of the many things I appreciate about Vietnam
85) With endless new things to discover and interesting people to meet it’s a great place for walking…
86) …but motorbikes and parking are cheap when you’re in a hurry
87) You can put your entire family of four on a motorbike, just like locals do. On second thought, this is an Absolute Hazard. Take a cab and buckle up 😉
88) Visas are cheap and easy to get
89) Public swimming pools and fountains to cool off on the hot days or…
90) …learn to appreciate the rainy days because it’s cooler
91) Those lovely traditional dresses (Ao dai) and….
92) …the ladies that pose for photos with them in the parks. This is another thing that always makes me smile!
Where at 93), and I’m just finishing my third iced coffee. Is my laptop shaking or is it me!?
93) Seriously, if you complain here you’ll probably do it anywhere…so why not stop bitching and find things to be happy about!
94) Sushi ko (super fresh and cheap sushi and other Japanese food)
95) Fresh Vietnamese sea food
96) Low levels of street crime
97) Lovely tree-lined streets
98) Conveniences stores everywhere
99) Amazing teas
100) Would you actually be happy with a “normal” life back home?
101) Life in a foreign country is full of constant surprises (and new things to be happy about!)