In life many of us chase the seemingly elusive ‘prize’ of happiness and seek it out in all sorts of places. We look for it in a marriage, we wonder if it can be provided by children, we go after it when we change our jobs and perhaps believe it will come to us when we retire…but the truth of the matter is, happiness is a state of mind and it comes from within.
Yes of course it is hard to be happy if your world falls apart around your ears and you would be considered worryingly close to insanity if you laughed in the face of adversity – but as I want to show you today, with a concerted approach to positivity, balance, humility and humanity you can achieve happiness.
Those of us who choose to retire abroad often experience such excitement and so many positive thrills as we plan our relocation and make the initial move – but as is often the way after such a big high we can experience lows when we think about family we have left behind, friends we don’t see as often, the cultural differences that challenge us and so on. Therefore for us, understanding where happiness comes from and aligning issues and challenges in our lives with a more balanced perspective can be critically important if we are to be fully satisfied with our lives, and indeed, find enjoyment in our new life abroad.
If you’re thinking about relocating overseas when you retire, hopefully this guide will allow you to make the move a wholly positive one – and if you have already relocated and are living the reality of a retirement abroad, I hope that the following considerations and observations will allow you to get the very most out of your new life.
Positively Managing Relocation and Cultural Transitional Challenges
Virtually everyone who moves abroad has a common factor driving their relocation – and that is the pursuit of an improvement in their life. For those of us who choose a retirement overseas we’re often going in search of a more relaxed pace of life, better weather or a more affordable cost of living for example…and because we are driven to make the move happen, it happens!
The excitement and thrill of the move ensures our adrenaline carries us through any difficulties we encounter initially, and then as the reality of our new situation dawns on us it is absolutely natural to feel a sense of anything ranging from disappointment to regret and even fear as the adrenaline ebbs away and we see just how much has changed. With time, the vast majority of expats reach an equilibrium where once again they can see all the positive reasons that drove their relocation, and they become content with their new life.
However, it is my opinion that you can positively manage any challenges that you face and you can move way beyond any negative feelings and maintain a sense of positive wellbeing throughout the relocation and transition process. Rather than seeing the changes that are happening in our lives as taking control away from us, and feeling out of our depth because of the way we have actively altered our lives by retiring and relocating, understand that impermanence is an absolute reality of life, and holding on to anything is ultimately impossible because we will all one day die! Learning to let go is a completely freeing and positive experience.
Conversely, if you emotionally rally against the changes that you have instigated and that are part of your ongoing life you will be unhappy – so instead, learn to embrace or at least accept change as inevitable, and be at peace with yourself because along the journey the only thing of permanence is your own sense of self – your own soul if you like. If you can maintain this understanding you can be at peace and therefore ‘happy’ with your life, no matter how many cultural differences you need to adapt to accept, and no matter how much your life has altered.
Managing to Live Happily Even With Increased Distance From Those We Care About
One of the most frequently voiced issues that retired expatriates deal with is the distance their move abroad puts between them and their children, grandchildren and friends. On a purely emotional level it can seem hard to imagine that this feeling of regret, distance or even loneliness can be resolved – and yet it can be! By having nothing but positive feelings for your loved ones and showing them your kindness, affection, love and concern in a positive way you will be struck by how much closer bonds can become even though physically there is distance between you.
Some people find that when they are ‘in each others lives’ that the pressure of obligation and duty can become quite overbearing – therefore distance can once again help put relationships back in perspective, and as long as you feel absolutely positive about those you love, you will naturally experience feelings of happiness towards and surrounding them.
On a practical level, once the ties that bind you all together are clear and positive in your mind and those you love feel nothing but your love, they will be drawn towards you. So, to make it easy for them always have space for people to come and stay with you, and make the invitation to visit an open and open-ended one. People are naturally drawn to positive people – your family, friends and loved ones will be far more likely to maintain close and meaningful bonds with you when issues and feelings such as ‘obligation’ and ‘duty’ go out the window!
Maintaining a Positive Frame of Mind no Matter What Retirement Brings
The realities of retirement are sometimes difficult to come to terms with – as we age so our health can deteriorate, our energy levels can dwindle, our positive self image can fade in a society obsessed with youthful beauty, we can lose loved ones and perhaps we can even lose our sense of identity when we leave our career behind. All of these challenges come at a time when we are older and therefore expected to be ‘wiser’ and more experienced at coping with change and challenges. This means perhaps people are less willing to offer support because they feel it will not be required or welcome – and for those of us living abroad and away from our extended support network, getting the help that might make things easier is perhaps more difficult.
However, by learning to find peace from within it is possible to accept external changes to our lives, our health and our very being. As mentioned above, impermanence is the fundamental reality of life and if you can come to accept this, change will no longer affect you in a negative way. Retirement is the ideal time in our lives to reach this state of internal peace – we no longer have the pressures of family and work, we have time on our hands to dedicate to getting and keeping things in perspective.
If you can find acceptance, love, peace and serenity within yourself you will find you are never troubled by external pressures again because you will understand that they are of no relevance to you. You will even find it easier to cope with ill health if you maintain a positive attitude – because rather than taking the view that it is unfair or inevitable, you will accept it but be able to stay strong and focused and in that way ‘fight’ against it with your emotional strength.
How to Start Being Happy!
As stated at the outset of this guide, happiness is a state of mind – therefore you have to actively choose happiness as your path. Just as it takes time to learn a new skill or language and it requires consistent practice to master, so it will take time to ‘train’ your mind to take the positive path…however, your consistent persistence absolutely pays. By choosing to feel love and kindness, by deciding on a path of humility and humanity, by accepting impermanence and choosing not to engage negatively with any form of change or ‘conflict’ you will feel less burdened and be more able to discover inner peace. With inner peace comes happiness!
On a practical level you can choose to openly give thanks every single day for the positives in your life. You can vocalise your thanks or even write them down, this will concentrate your mind on positive aspects of your life and naturally you will focus on the good things that surround you. You can take time out to look around you and appreciate the aspects of your new life abroad that are an improvement on your old life, and you can choose to spend time with or even just thinking about those in your life whom you love.
All of these ‘tasks’ are emotional training that when practiced with consistency enable you to become more at peace, more in harmony and more positive about all aspects of your life. Ultimately they are steps you can take towards enjoying a happy life.
About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.