I specialize in international career and expat coaching. I am a certified coach / counselor at Dutch...
ABC of expat woman's life: H - Happiness & Expatriation23 April 2012, by Dorota Klop-Sowinska
As a person who is deeply engaged in helping people to create a happier (expat) life, I will try to answer the following questions:
› Are expats more or less prone to be happy?
› Is there any correlation between being happy and moving abroad?
› What does it take to be a happy expat?
In order answer these questions, I researched the subject of happiness. Thousands of theories, books, and articles have already been written on the topic.
The vast majority seem to hint that there is no "one-size-fits-all" theory that will make all of us happy. That is why I believe the most important thing is how you, dear reader, understand the word happiness, and how it occurs.
If you are not 100 percent certain what your sources of happiness are, take a few moments to complete these three simple sentences:
› I feel happy when..
› I smile when..
› I lose track of time when..
Types of happiness
In literature, two types of happiness are often mentioned:
› The hedonic happiness
The hedonic happiness is based on the short-term feeling of pleasure, received from outside sources such as buying new clothes, food and drinks, and often involving consumption of unhealthy food or alcohol.
› The eudaimonic happiness
This type of happiness comes from within, strengthened with meaningful people in our lives, and is based on:
Those who truly accept themselves tend to accept others too, including their flaws. As expected, they tend to feel good about life in general.
- Clear purpose in life
Those who know their values and live according to them, are aware of what they want to offer to others and how do they can contribute to the world.
- Strenths & Daily life
Being aware of your strengths and actively using them in daily life increases the number of times we can experience the state of flow - a moment when time does not exist and you are purely immersed into an activity.
- Love & Social relationships
One of our core needs in life, the need to belong and to be accepted cannot be realised without love and close relationships with others.
A way to continuously set new goals and accomplish them.
It is self-evident that by realising the second type, the eudaimonic happiness, we can find and experience the real long-lasting feeling of happiness. Nevertheless we are often caught up in the pursuit of the first one.
Happiness & Expatriation
Now, what is the link between happiness and expatriation? In my work I meet a lot of expats who cannot feel happy, especially after the first year abroad. I think it can be easily explained by some of the previously mentioned factors.
Photo by Flickr user ND Strupler
For most people, family and close meaningful relationships are top values. Living abroad causes, especially in the beginning, a serious shift in that sphere of life. In my article F - Family & Friends you can find more on how to create healthy social ties.
On the other hand, I also believe that expat life can be a great opportunity to increase your chances of being truly happy. Although it is sometimes a bumpy road, it enables you to rethink your life and your purpose.
Moreover, it may allow you to "grow faster" than those who stay back home in a more stable and predictable environment.
We learn the most and the fastest through direct experience. Next to learning obvious things such as a new culture and new people, you learn about the most important person in your life - yourself.
Analysing the habits of my expat clients that help them to be happy abroad, I have identified the following ones as essential:
› Positive mindset
› Awareness of one's strengths
› Feeling of being in control of one’s own life
› Ability to live in here & now
› Ability to face difficult situations without running away from the problems
Journey or Destination?
I do realise that to me happiness is a journey, not a destination; a journey that consists of many short moments. I think the best "teachers" of happiness are children, who live 100 percent in here and now.
And while I - the mother who wants to go and play in the park - am impatiently pulling my daughter’s hand, she is already enjoying the journey! She stops all the time to look at ladybugs, flowers that just started to bloom etc.
Her ability to live the moment and feel happy is pure and unforced. Mine is based on having to choose between dragging her into the concept of "happy playing" or stepping with her into the moment of happiness.
Well.. I have already made my choice! Have you?