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The Secret to Happiness: A Malaysian Perspective

Written by Samantha Edwardsimage – Country To Canberra Teen Blogger

What is happiness to you? When are you happy? What makes you happy? For a lot of people, happiness stems from our inherent materialism. A win in the footy, an A on an assignment, cheap tickets to that concert you really want to see. But do these really mean anything in the bigger scheme of life?

I was recently lucky enough to travel to Malaysia and volunteer at Bethany Home, a school for people with disabilities (mainly children) in the area. This two week experience brought me back to Australia and the comfort of home with a much bigger picture of everything in my life I take for granted. The kids at Bethany have a rough life: with mild to severe disabilities, they live in a hot, humid and developing country where their differences struggle to be accepted. However, one of the things I noticed endlessly throughout my stay was that everyone is just so happy, always with a smile on their faces. I honestly believe that we could all learn a few things from the people there, about how to lead a happy and fulfilling life. I know I did.

Here’s a few ‘takeaways’ from my trip which I believe are key to happiness 🙂

1. Appreciate the Little Things

For the students in Malaysia, it didn’t take much for them to give you a big grin: a smile, handshake or high-five was all it took to ignite the stunning light of pure joy in their eyes. There are so many things in everyday life that are special; the sunshine sketching patterns on the ground, autumn leaves filling the horizon with red and orange, an unexpected compliment. Sometimes the small details in life are the most beautiful and awe-inspiring.

2. Revel in Other’s Success

One of my highlights at the school was the annual “Special Olympics”, a day devoted to celebrating the achievements of the students. From across the field I saw boys and girls with autism, Down’s syndrome and a variety of other awfully debilitating disabilities jump as if their lives depended on it. I think that if you’re struggling to find things in your life to cheer you up, looking at the triumphs of your peers will fill your heart, and brighten their day too. Seeing the animated faces and listening to the excited voices put a smile on my face.

3. Lend A Hand To Someone Else

In the school, offering assistance was met with a passionate welcome from the students, and their enthusiasm was infectious. Even if you can’t directly see the impact that you’re having, you’re almost guaranteed to feel a sense of satisfaction just knowing that your time and effort is going to a worthwhile cause.

4. Be Grateful For What You Have

We are extremely lucky to live in the safe and comfortable country that is Australia. Many of the students we met don’t have the luxury of clean water, or can’t afford food; their breakfast and lunch at school was all they ate each day. So forget the “don’t haves” and the “I wants” and be thankful, even just for the roof over your head and clean water. The worth of even the smallest things should not be overlooked.

5. Don’t Overcomplicate It

Almost every student I worked with showed me just how easy it is to be happy. They have an incredible resilience that allows them to live like there is no tomorrow, appreciating the little things and being grateful for everything in their lives. Being happy is natural, and should come easily; if you have to force it, it won’t be genuine. Living in the moment and letting happiness be part of every minute of the day makes many troubles seem less, and struggles seem easier.

The kids I met in Malaysia showed me how to embrace life and all the privileges I have, making happiness look easy. Don’t be fooled though. It might seem easy, but it still requires time and effort. According to Ralph Marston, “Your happiness will not come to you. It can only come from you.”