I wish someone had told me how easy it is to be happy

“I wish someone had told me” is a series of posts that feed into our inquisitive nature at CN&CO. Each week we hear from someone in our network about something interesting or surprising that’s recently happened or occurred to them. These blogs are a way to pay it forward and form part of CN&CO’s belief that the world can be a better place – and we all have a responsibility to make it so. This week’s post is by Carel Nolte.

I count myself lucky that I am an optimistic person. Bad things happen in my life and, like all people, I experience sadness, trauma, anger and unhappiness. However, I bounce back quickly from these experiences and want to share the conscious things I do to make it so. Some of these are serious, others more frivolous. Some anybody can do, others are unique to me. But all contribute to my happiness and I hope they do also to yours.

Read

It really doesn’t matter what you read, but reading is the best way to improve yourself. Reading relaxes me, it stretches my mind, it makes me smarter, it exposes me to different ways of thinking and it helps me support authors, an important part of our societal consciousness. I love reading (auto)biographies, The Economist and a spot of trashy Jilly Cooper is often needed.

Make friends with people who are way smarter and nicer than you

I am blessed by phenomenal people in my life. I don’t waste time with people who take away from the short time I have on earth. It took me a while to get this one right and I still don’t have the balance right of spending enough time with these amazing folks – but I don’t waste any time on people who are nasty or prejudiced.

Travel

Travel does not have to be physical. It can be in your armchair reading about other places and ways of life. Physical travel, though, is both challenging and enjoyable. Whether in your own backyard exploring a new suburb, your own country enjoying her many treasures, or overseas discovering different perspectives and learning, travelling is both a physical and emotional visceral experience for me. I am very privileged to have visited nearly all my “bucket list” places such as Easter Island/Rapa Nui, Ethiopia, Sarajevo, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Bhutan and Brazil.

Late this year I am finally getting to Champagne and the list will be done. There are loads of places I still want to visit, but the “must do” list has been done. I have seen some on a shoestring, wing and a prayer, others in luxury. All possible because I believed they could be.

Mentor and be mentored

Whether consciously or unconsciously, it is vital to teach others and learn from them. Pick people who complement you to grow from their behaviours and in mentoring know that you aren’t aiming for clones, but sharing wisdom to help others be the best they can be (and usually way better than you!)

Do things you can’t, like running the Comrades Marathon

Run – and do other physical activities

I never thought I could, and so I didn’t. Then I ran a 10km race, did three Comrades and now know I can, and love it! Physical activity is a way of celebrating your body, giving thanks for it and maintenance to keep it functioning for as long as possible. Despite starting late in my life, I love doing exercise and enjoy the challenge – plus the release of endorphins make my day, literally.

Laugh, at yourself

I think one reason The Donald so stresses me is that he never laughs (least at himself). Laughter makes me happy, it gives me perspective. And laughing at myself reminds me that the world will, despite my, at times, idiotic behaviour, carry on. And laughter often gets others to laugh. And what is more fun that deep, belly laughs with others?!

Do things you can’t

In other words, don’t buy into the concept of “can’t”. It may take time, it may not be easy, it may cost money, it may stretch you, but anything is possible. In doing the impossible, you grow your life.

Make mistakes, say sorry, learn from them, move on

In other words, keep perspective, be kind to yourself and grow. If you don’t make mistakes or are afraid of making them, your life will shrink, not grow.

Take what you do seriously, not yourself

Again – just another way to say, keep perspective and have fun. And support others to do the same.

Volunteer and donate

In doing so, you will receive and enjoy benefits far beyond your imagination. Contributing is a way of ensuring your own wealth and longevity. I promise you this. Give and you will get back a million fold. Generosity begets generosity, feels good and is, quite frankly, the way to live.

Be a servant leader

Leadership is tough. You make mistakes. You have to make unpopular decisions. You must look to the future, long after today’s generations are dead. And you must understand it is about others, not yourself. Do the best you can for others and you will benefit the most.

Take responsibility

It is not about not fuccing up as I am wont to say. It is how, in the aftermath, you deal with what you did/did not do. Forgive others when they mess up. And support them. As you will be supported in taking responsibility.

Listen to music

Supporting musicians, authors, actors and other creative who make our world beautiful is a duty we all have. And of course, listening to music when you are sad, happy or excited is a way to magnify emotion and live, fully.

Spend time with close family and friends and let them see you at your worst

A tricky one for me, as it takes time to get to everyone. Thank goodness for social media where I reflect my life and try to share my varied emotions. A real privilege to know I have given the best of myself to my close people who have died. It means I live life without regrets and can think back fondly of shared memories.

Learn how to play bridge

It keeps your mind active and satisfies a competitive spirit. It gets you to meet fabulous people and, in my case, it allows you to spend a week a year in Plettenberg Bay with the most phenomenal friends you can ask for.

Get massages

The physical and emotional benefits are immense. I am sitting in Phuket as I write this, just having had a 90 minute massage. My body feels great, my mind worked out this blog during the massage and I supported an honest working person who has a great skill.

Drinking good wine with good friends in a foreign country ticks many boxes of happiness for me. This photo was taken on my birthday on a recent trip to Club Med Val Thorens in France with a bunch of good mates, most of whom I also work with

Drink good wine

Not too much (and certainly not too little). The history of wine, the story of each winery, the varied elements that go into making a bottle are all things that excite and delight me. And with delicious wine, I do my best solo thinking and have the best time with strangers and friends alike!

Say yes more often than no

You just never know where a positive thought and willingness to take risk will take you. For me it has taken me down unexpected, joyful roads.

Just start

You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row to begin. Take the first step. Others will follow. Adapt as you go along. Don’t wait for perfection. It doesn’t exist (thankfully!)

Get a tattoo

They are beautiful. They tell stories. And you are breaking a modern taboo and returning to an ancient art form.

Know that sadness is part of life

And finally, the best way to be happy is to know that sadness and severe grief are very much part of our existence. Without those ultimate lows, our highs will be worthless. In those times of despair, depression and darkness, know that you are not alone. And do a few of the things I suggest in this blog.

Much love and happiness to you all.

Carel

Recent “I wish someone had told me” posts:

I wish someone had told me how much fun it is to own a racehorse
I wish someone had told me I can help stop crime by picking up litter
I wish someone had told me how good it is to take some time out