Few people from the ‘colder climes’ sit on a stretch of long white beach gazing out at the ocean and say ‘I wish all this sand was snow.’ Perhaps it’s the Vitamin D, in the form of sunshine, not pills, doing its work? Tell me if you’ve had this experience of the second day of your Mexico vacation. You all of a sudden realize that you’re walking around with that perma grin on your face…starting to remember who you are without the stress and day to day responsibility of life and work back home. Sound familiar? What is it about the culture of Mexico, its people and collective ‘energy’ that encourages happiness?
We know that Mexicans struggle just like people everywhere, some more, some less. But, the majority of Mexican people we’ve met are warm, quick to laugh and just seem happy. They seem to focus more on the time they spend with family and friends…whatever their circumstances.
Over a million Canadians and Americans have left their homes north of the border, and now call Mexico home. What else, after the sun, surf and a two week escape from the drudgery of bad weather and work, encourages the ‘big move?’
We did some digging and here’s what we found. First, a quick search found the World Values Survey named Mexico the #2 happiest country in the world. That’s way ahead of Canada and the US!
Many studies confirm culture values have a huge impact on happiness. University of BC professor Dr. John Helliwell’s researches the relationship between economics and happiness. His big takeaway? Friendly and supportive community connections are the most important indicator of a happy life.
These connections he says, have contributed to the evolution of humanity. “It’s our capacity to engage for good that has allowed human beings to put up with a whole lot of difficult times and those who cooperate best have had the greatest survival capacity.”
Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola, on the board of directors of Mental Health America, has done studies that show:
Mexicans are less stressed than people in other countries.
Mexican immigrants to the United States are far less stressed than their American-born children and grandchildren.
“What we found, for example, is that people who were the second and third generation of Mexican origin, have two to three times higher rates of major depression, anxiety disorders, more drug and alcohol abuse and dependence than the first generation.”
In a radio documentary, Consumerism, Money, and Happiness, Richard Eckersley, an Australian public health researcher states, “addiction is really a hallmark of our era, and I think it reflects that we don’t have culturally promoted kinds of other, deeper forms of meaning and purpose in our lives. So we make up for it by consuming more. But the evidence is overwhelming that people who are characterized by materialistic attitudes and values actually experience lower well-being, lower happiness, more depression and anxiety and anger than people who aren’t materialistic.”
Mexican’s generally place less value on financial/personal success. Their currency is time spent with family and enjoyment of life. Healthy family ties are the metrics of their success.
Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress says that stress has important negative health implications and is only beneficial if our bodies have the resilience to manage it. “Everything about the human system has some sort of beat, rhythm, or pulse,” says Hanna. Resilience is built by enough breaks for sleep, physical activity, meditation, time for social connections. Without these, stress wears down our emotional, physical and mental resistance.
When asked about living in Mexico, Cindy Bouchard, owner of Villa Amor del Mar in the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxle was contemplative. She said she’s generally a happy person but there’s a big reason why she feels happier in Mexico. “For me, the biggest reason is because people take time for others. I was the worst culprit in Canada, always in a hurry… rush, rush, rush. The Mexicans always take time for others and make me feel special. I have adopted that. Whatever it is I might rush to, can wait.”
All this tells us three things: 1) pursuing a life of meaning is better for your health and happiness. 2) the most socially engaged are the fittest, and 3) a life that includes more connections, siestas and fiestas is a happier one.
Photo Credit: Lonely Planet