Hawaii is consistently rated as the happiest state in the nation. Residents of the Aloha State rank the highest in terms of physical and emotional health, work satisfaction, lifestyle behaviors like smoking and exercise, access to health care and food, and overall contentment. According to the Gallup-Healthways poll—an annual survey that examines well-being around the country—Hawaiians are a blissful bunch.
A Hawaii State of Mind
The reasons behind this may seem obvious to most. It’s almost always sunny in Hawaii. The temperature rarely drops below the 70s. There’s an abundance of free outdoor activities, from paddle boarding and surfing to hiking. The natural landscape is outrageously beautiful. It seems that anyone would be happier and healthier in such an environment.
But it isn’t the environment alone that makes Hawaii the most joyful state in the nation: Hawaiians are well-known for their Aloha Spirit, a way of life that is grounded in patience, humility, honesty, friendliness, acceptance, respect, and unity. Here are five ways to channel the Aloha Spirit and find harmony, wherever you might be:
1) Take Your Time With Everything You Do. Island time isn’t a myth; it’s a fact. The pace in the Hawaiian Islands is gentler than in most states, which allows its residents to savor their days. Spend a few minutes observing the natural wonders around you—the birds outside your bedroom window, the jacarandas in bloom on the side of the road, the sheet of fresh snow in your backyard. Relish the sensory delights of cooking, from the aromas in your kitchen and the satisfying sound of slicing fresh vegetables to the vibrant colors of the food you’re preparing. Take a few minutes to “talk story” with your barista. Enjoy the taste and texture of your lunch rather than devouring it quickly to get back to your desk. Slowing down will allow you to appreciate the world on a deeper level, and will lead to a more positive outlook on life.
2) Give Up on Perfectionism. Go anywhere in Hawaii and you’ll most likely see at least one person sporting a t-shirt that says “Hang Loose.” It’s not just a popular saying; it’s a way of life. Business attire means an aloha shirt for men and a sundress and sandals for women. Locals wear “slippahs” to the beach, the store, and the office. The music is relaxed (slack-key guitar has its roots in the 50th state); the food is modest and unfussy. Plans are intentionally laid-back. Homes are casual and comfortable. If we followed this principle and stopped trying to be perfect in every aspect of our lives—whether that means refusing to be seen in public without a full face of makeup on, keeping an immaculate home, or dining out with friends only at the best restaurants (which involves weeks of planning)—we would be able to enjoy ourselves more. Spontaneity, as it is for Hawaiians, would become second nature. And, most importantly, we would have more time for our loved ones and our real passions.
3) Love and Accept Others Unconditionally. This starts with yourself. Forgive yourself for your mistakes, be kind to yourself at all times, and extend this love and acceptance to everyone you encounter. Author of Managing With Aloha: Bringing Hawai’i’s Universal Values to the Art of Business Rosa Say writes, “One of the most beautifully compelling beliefs about the Hawaiian culture is that there is no such thing as a bad person from the standpoint of ha: People are born good. There is only bad behavior, chosen in disregard or in manipulation of your alo for some misdirected reason, but a reason which can always be redirected toward good when you manage to purposely connect to your ha.” Just as we should give up on perfectionism in our personal lives, we should stop expecting perfection from our loved ones. Instead, we should accept and appreciate them for who they are—flaws and all.
4) Trust That You Are Exactly Where You are Supposed to Be. There are many meanings to the word aloha. It means hello and goodbye, love and thank you. It also means to “hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.” Too often we struggle with self-doubt, and I see this in many of my clients. They ask, Am I where I’m supposed to be at this time in my life? Am I meeting society’s expectations? Am I working hard enough? Am I rich enough, attractive enough, smart enough? Shouldn’t I be doing more? It takes a great deal of faith to believe in the unknown and to trust in what cannot be seen, but if you surrender to where you are in life you’ll be surprised by the contentment you’ll find.
5) Go Outside and Get Physical. Residents of Hawaii report to higher levels of well-being than anyone else in the country in large part because of their outstanding physical health. They smoke less. They go outside more. They thrive on physical activity, whether it’s biking to work, walking the beach at sunset, or swimming on the weekends. Whatever state you live in, aim to go outside and get physical at least once a day—even if that means a brisk ten-minute walk around your neighborhood in the snow. Engaging with Mother Nature and exercising are two of the best, cheapest, and safest antidepressants available, and the greater your physical health? The happier you’ll be overall.
The Aloha Spirit can be found anywhere because its roots are in our hearts. Locate the inner islander in you and before you know it, you’ll see sunshine wherever you go.