What’s the secret to staying happy, relaxed, motivated, and performing at our best?
Look no further than the Huichol people, an indigenous tribe from the mountainous region of central Mexico.
The Huichols are some of the happiest, healthiest, wisest people on earth. A surprising number of their tribe live past 100 and work in the fields up till the day they die.
As a young man, I traveled to Mexico and was invited to live with the Huichols for 12 years, where I became the adopted grandson of a shaman named Don José Matsuwa, who lived to be 110.
I learned many life lessons from the Huichol shamans, the most important of which was that small behavioral changes can make an enormous difference in how we live, love, and thrive in our everyday life.
Here are six small changes you can make in your life to stay happy.
The Secrets To Being Truly Happy
1. Make challenge normal
When we view tasks as giant and overwhelming—such as filling out our kid’s financial aid forms for college, or painting the house—we get discouraged, feel defeated before we even start, and dread every moment of the task.
The Huichols plant one kernel at a time and keep at it until, seed by seed and row by row, they’ve planted a steep hillside with corn. They believe challenge is a normal part of life and makes us stronger, smarter, and more resilient.
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2. Make the task you’re doing your priority
The Huichols have a simple yet effective way to cope with all that they have to do in a day: Think of the task as your top priority, rather than a means to an end.
A shaman might tell you that sawing through a giant tree trunk using a hand tool is daunting, but moving the saw back and forth with precision and consistency isn’t. The same is true for your activities. Place all your focus on what you’re doing right now, and don’t let discouraging thoughts or interruptions distract you.
3. Be the person you hope to become
We tend to make goals for ourselves that place us in the future, instead of in the now. For example, “Someday I’ll be fit and thin,” or “Once I’m done with XYZ, I’ll get back in touch with my family.” A Huichol shaman is always striving to do better right now, today. It’s that simple.
If you want to stay happy and content, you must constantly surround yourself with people who understand you and support you.
If you want to be healthier, make decisions today that will help you feel better tomorrow. Ask yourself, “Does this behavior/decision/person help me move forward?”
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4. Stop rushing, and get more done
Huichol elders carry huge loads on their back up the mountain every day. They can do this because they move slowly and deliberately, securing each foothold and putting one foot in front of the other.
We often rush through our day to accomplish all the tasks on our to-do list. But doing a task slowly and methodically is a better way to accomplish goals. Slowing down allows the body and brain to function at their optimal efficiency.
5. Fight boredom by appreciating repetition
The Huichols have daily tasks they have to do to sustain their tribe. But instead of seeing these tasks as monotonous, they celebrate them. Every day’s fieldwork, for example, is an investment in the tribe’s future.
In our lives, we often have to do the same thing every day and we feel bored. But if you embrace and appreciate repetition, that sense of boredom and monotony go away.
Think of your daily tasks as ways to become truly masterful. Think of them as small regular investments toward a larger goal you want to achieve—e.g., better health, better finances, or better relationship.
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6. Feed yourself with nature
As people who live and work close to nature, the Huichol people are outside every day, tending their fields and animals, experiencing the changes in weather and seasons. Being in nature calms and centers us, allowing us to stay happy and well. But many of us go outside only to walk to our cars.
Try to spend at least 30 minutes a day in nature, whether it’s walking to work, taking your lunch break on the roof, or doing something outdoors in the evening, such as riding a bike, swimming, or watching the sunset. Nature replenishes us and reenergizes us.
Shaman-healer Brant Secunda and world champion Ironman Mark Allen teach seminars worldwide on fitness, health, and well-being. Their new book, based on the approach they developed, is Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books).
Featured image by sashapo