11 January, 2019

Every week, Flash Pack operations director and resident columnist Jenni Shaw discusses a different aspect of her life as a 30-something adventurer. This week: how to be happy. 

There is a lot of talk these days about happiness and what this actually means.  With the rise of social media and the ability to broadcast our lives at the touch of a button, everything is so much more out in the open and we are privy to the intricacies of peoples lives in a brand new way.  Now it makes absolute sense that people will only post the good things, the meals out, the Friday night cocktails, the luxurious beach holidays….(you get the picture).

No-one is going to post the daily grind; the endless loads of washing, the stuffy commute, the really boring project they are working on in the office. And, whilst we are all sensible humans and absolutely know that an Instagram feed is nothing but a highlight reel, it can be difficult not to be swayed by the seemingly perfect lives of others.

Read more: Why your 30s are an important age for adventure

In regards to this highlight reel that we curate online, we all know the images to project in order to seem like we have found that elusive ‘happiness’ however, just because we seem to be doing cool things, going to amazing places and eating and drinking delicious food and drink, these things are not what actually make us truly happy.

I believe that with a bit of life experience and the wisdom gained with age, it becomes clearer what it is that actually makes us happy.  Once we have identified what happiness actually looks like, we can then go about creating a more fulfilled life for ourselves, one behind all the social media and outward displays of ‘happiness’.

I spent my 20’s living a somewhat materialistic existence.  I always wanted the latest designer bag or bit of tech and spent all my money on these things.  They did indeed make me happy to an extent, I mean, who doesn’t like buying new and shiny things?!  The endorphin rush from the purchases was as good as any exercise or chocolate-induced high, and the feeling of walking around carrying my new swag on my arm was also pretty nice. Did these things though, actually bring me true and lasting happiness?  The answer (unsurprisingly) is no and I think it took me a while to realise this.  It was actually my first Flash Pack trip to Vietnam and Cambodia which really started to open my eyes to what it is that really makes me happy.

People

I am extremely lucky to have an incredibly close family who I genuinely love spending time with.  As the eldest of three sisters, all born within four years, I was fortunate enough to have two best friends on tap throughout my childhood (and into adulthood) and I am ashamed to say that it took me far to long to appreciate how amazing this is.  Spending quality time with my parents and sisters is most definitely something that makes me super-happy and something that I endeavour to do regularly.  Friends, just like family, are also super-important to me and therefore spending time with my besties is also something high on my priority list.

The Great Outdoors

Chilean Lake District.

This one makes me chuckle as I distinctly remember many an argument with my parents when I was a teenager about spending time up in the Lake District going for WALKS.  As a teen I HATED it and just wanted to stay at home and go shopping with my friends.  Now, however, it is one of my favourite places, and I honestly believe there is nothing better for the soul than some good fresh air and peace.

Read more: Unwind and recharge with a green therapy hit

I am equally happy whether it be at the beach, a stones throw from the house I grew up in, or amongst beautiful lakes and mountains. I therefore make a big effort to spend time outside of the city in the Great Outdoors as often as possible.

Movement

Everyone is different and there are many people who absolutely swear by exercise as a contributory factor to their happiness, me included.  I really enjoy getting a bit of a sweat on, pushing myself physically and mentally and having that time to myself just to switch off from any of the stresses of day to day life.  I really notice it when I don’t have exercise and movement in my life, so I make sure that I keep this as consistent as possible.

Experiences

Street food Vietnam

Finally, something which encapsulates all of the above and more is experiences.  As I mentioned earlier, having lead a fairly materialistic existence for the former part of my adulthood, it took a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia and a career change to make me realise that actually, memories created from epic experiences are a big factor in happiness.  Whether it be awesome tasting menus, mountain abseils, humpback whale encounters or even just really special nights in with a loved one, I now make it my mission to really live and love life, curating experiences where incredible memories are made.

Read more: How to quit the rat race and follow your dreams

So these are the four things that I feel massively contribute to my personal happiness and wellbeing. What I really want to emphasise is that I don’t think I really discovered these until I hit the big 3-0, and stepped back from the life I had lived in my crazy 20’s.  I was perfectly happy then, but I now realise that this was much more of a surface-level, instant-gratification type of happiness whereas now, I most definitely have a deeper happiness.

The bottom line is, it is never too late. If you are searching for that elusive feeling of happiness and contentment, then do just take a step back and really identify what it is that makes you feel the best.  Once you know this, it is merely a case of making sure these things are present in your life as much as possible.

Images: Flash Pack/Shutterstock


Get happy with a life-affirming trip

Japan

Hakone onsen Japan

Belly-flop gracefully into your very own Japanese hot spring experience. With whisky drinking at secret bars, a meditation session with a Buddhist monk, and a relaxing wallow in the hot spring onsens of a traditional ryokan – this 13-day journey across Japan gives you a little taste of it all.

Take me there

Iceland

Iceland is the nearest to an otherworldly adventure you can get without leaving Mother Earth. Black beaches, dancing skies and natural hot springs to bask in are just the start.

Let’s get steamy

Borneo

It doesn’t get much more adventurous than a kayak trip through the rapids of Borneo’s Ulu Ai region to spot orangutans. You’ll hop between plush boutique hotels and jungle camps to see the best of Borneo’s rainforest, including pygmy elephants and the endangered sun bear, before watching the sun set over the South China Sea.

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