Finding happiness in a tropical paradise sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world.
However, to find true happiness in a sunny, warm, relaxing environment requires the exact same skill set that is required to be happy while shoveling snow in Toronto in January, or sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in L.A. during rush hour.
Here in Panama, you will find countless examples of this fact.
In short, the people who were happy and content in their lives in the north, are the same ones who tend to find happiness and peace here in Panama.
This is not meant to dash the hopes of those who are looking forward to a positive up-tic in their well-being, by quitting the rat race, letting go of their emotionally, or physically punishing work life, and moving south to practice a slower, simpler way of life.
Believe me, there are definite benefits of moving to the tropics.
Wherever You Go….
But, the old adage “wherever you go…there you are” clearly applies to retirement in the tropics.
If you were the kind of person who got into fits of “road rage” on your way to work in the morning, every time some “idiot” on the cell phone cut you off, then you will certainly find something to get upset about in Panama.
Most likely, that tense, angry disposition will find an easy target in the glacial bureaucracy in Panama, or the “relaxed” punctuality of your domestic worker. Rather than “flipping off” some absent-minded motorist in rush hour traffic, you might find yourself muttering under your breath about the “inconsideration, or ignorance of ‘these people’ here in Panama.
There is plenty to get upset about here, if you are looking to get upset.
Let Go Of Old Mental Habits
The secret to true happiness in Paradise is having a willingness to let go of old mental habits.
If you are angry, you need to let that go. If you are selfish, let that go too.
One of the greatest benefits of life in the tropics, and in a slow-paced culture such as in Panama, is that one has so much more time. This means that there is a lot more time to practice the healthy life habits that nurture a happy mental state.
If you are in a happy mental state, you are more likely to practice acts of kindness, and to smile at the people you meet. These acts will serve to reinforce your happy, peaceful state of mind. Thus, the happiness that you feel in each moment can build on the happiness of the moment before. “Brick-by-brick”, you can create a happy life.
Make Someone Happy
One of the surest ways to feel happy is by doing something nice for someone else. Ex-pats, upon moving to Panama, will notice that with the drop in their living costs, they are, in essence, elevated from the middle class that they once occupied in the north, to that of the “elite” here in Panama.
Now, some might see this as an opportunity to buy more “stuff”. You could own a bigger house, buy boats and cars. You could eat more, or drink more. However, by this time in our lives, hopefully, most of us have already figured out that having more “stuff” isn’t going to bring us any real happiness (Unless, of course, one was barely getting by, or really over-extended, during one’s work life).
Living In Panama Is Like Winning The Lottery
In effect, a move to Panama, is a lot like winning the lottery. You are suddenly richer, with more free time on your hands, and you are completely free of your old routine.
Numerous studies of lottery winners show, overwhelmingly, that lottery winners, six months after winning that huge payout, are actually “less happy” than they were before they won. They have everything material that they want, but they still don’t have that elusive prize; They don’t have happiness. In fact, studies show that the only lottery winners who consistently end up happier than they were before, are those who give their winnings away to someone else.
So, if coming to Panama can be equated to winning the lottery, and if “giving it all away” is the surest way to be a happy lottery winner, how can we be happy “lottery winners” in Panama?
How To Be A Happy Lottery Winner
I would suggest that we use our new-found “wealth” and influence to be of maximum benefit to other people in our new community in Panama.
We might figure out a way to help those around us.
- Create work opportunities that pay better wages, or that teach new skills to our Panamanian neighbors and friends.
- Assist in the education or health care of their children.
- “Adopt” a Panamanian family and try to help them to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of their society, with the arrival of so many new ex-pat immmigrants, new demands for education, and technology.
There are those who move to Panama, to take advantage of the ignorance of Panamanians regarding the economics of the world “outside”. B ut, nothing will lead more certainly to unhappiness, than to come to Panama and to take advantage of the local people. You will see ex-pats who buy the homes of Panamanians, without any regard to where these people are going to live after they sell. You will see ex-pats who have Panamanian employees, working for the same wages for 10 years ago. These types actually get upset at other expats who pay their employees a living wage. This kind of behavior will certainly not lead to happiness. In fact, it will most likely lead to unhappiness.
Why is it that sociologists’ studies always show that woman are much happier than men? Its because most women are much more involved in both the family, and in the community. In short, they have more meaningful relationships.
For expats, particularly men, moving to Panama, we have to work very hard to replace those social connections that we formed at work, and in the community, with relationships of equal value.
How To Get Involved
- Get out, and get involved in the community.
- Make friends with your ex-pat and Panamanian neighbors.
- Find out what you can do to participate in the community.
- Join a sport, or
- Start a hobby with others.
- Put your best self forward.
Try to help someone else to be happy. This is the best way to be happy yourself.
Can you be happy in Panama?