Expat Life

5 Ways to Increase Your Happiness for Expats

Happiness- did you know that there are scientifically proven ways to increase your happiness? Some of these are especially useful for expats. Because moving abroad doesn’t magically make you happier, at least not all of the time.

Happiness levels

According to research among twins, your happiness level is 50 percent hereditary, 40 percent is determined by intentional activities, and only 10 percent by external events.

Glass Half Full

So, if you are naturally a glass half empty person, there is still 40 percent of your happiness level that you can influence with intentional activities.

Here are 5 scientifically proven and free ways to increase your happiness.

5 Scientifically Proven And Free Ways To Increase Your Happiness

1. Walk in Nature

5 Ways to Increase Your Happiness for Expats _ Expat Energy


Taking a walk in nature has been scientifically proven to increase your happiness levels. It was determined by measuring stress levels by two different groups. One group walked on a park like, leafy campus, the other group along the highway. You will know whose stress levels went down.



For expats:

Whether you live in an Asian megacity like Beijing or in a tropical climate like Malaysia or Brunei, do go outside and walk. It will not only help you to discover your surroundings and have some exercise, but it also decreases your stress levels. Go to a park or a green neighbourhood, or take weekly trips out of town. In a hot climate, adjust to the local conditions by going out early in the morning or later in the afternoon.

2. Practice Gratitude


What are you grateful for? Writing down 3-5 things every day that you are grateful for is beneficial for you. It makes you pay attention to the wonderful things, big and small, in your life. Recording those things makes it even more powerful. Get a journal (or an app on your phone) that sparks joy and start writing.



For expats:

It can be a pitfall abroad to start paying attention to the things that are not there, missing your family and your favorite brand of chocolate. However, once you start noticing the things that are special in your life, it will help you appreciate what is there.

3. Build Close Relationships with Positive People


This is two bits of research in one: building close relationships with people and not just anyone but positive people. People with less than 5 good friends are generally unhappier than people with 5-10 close friends. According to the Framingham Heart study, we are 15,3 percent happier when we know another happy person directly.


For expats:

The relationships that you build with people, whether locals or fellow expats, and the fun things you do with them can make or break your expat experience. And if you end up in a circle of toxic expats, you know, the ones who complain all the time, about the locals, their helper, the weather, the food, you name it, it will have a negative impact. So find an upbeat and positive crowd. Of course everyone has off days abroad, but steer clear from permanent negativity.

One piece of non-scientific, seasoned expat advice: keep investing in relationships with new people as well. As the expat world is perpetually changing, after a few years you may find yourself with friends all over the world, but no longer in the place you live.

4. Practice Mindfulness


Being out of your comfort zone can send your mind racing. Old fears and insecurities may resurface, or you have to deal with unknown dangers such as snakes, food scandals or crazy traffic. Mindfulness, originally developed for people with chronic pain, can help you deal better with circumstances you cannot change and will help you quiet your mind.



For expats:

Abroad you are outside of your comfort zone, in the beginning for sure. Life can be stressful and hectic. You may also need to deal with sick family members half a world away. If you find yourself stressed and worried, starting a mindfulness practice may be beneficial. Apps like Headspace and Calm provide helpful guidance.

5. Choose to be Positive


If you had told me this a few years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you. How can you choose to be positive? I was more of a glass half empty person. But like scientific research, I have found out that you have more control over your mind than you think. You don’t have to spiral down the negative thought loop, but you can train your brain to stop. You can start seeing the half full glass.


For expats:

I’m always amazed when I meet expats who hate everything about where they live, when they’ve lived there a long time. You always have the choice to move (even if you think you don’t). You don’t have to be happy all the time, but you can choose to be positive. It definitely takes practicing, especially when you feel overwhelmed, but it is possible. 

Want more? Here are 63 More ways to be happier. 

What has helped you increase your happiness levels abroad? Put it in the comments.


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