Many people think that living in Paris should guarantee happiness. We have friends all over the world saying: you can’t complain, you’re in Paris! We’re very lucky to be here, but it’s not always as easy as it seems from the outside. There’s the postcard-perfect Paris and then there’s real life with all its intensity.
I moved to Paris in 2008 feeling the happiest and healthiest that I had ever been in my life. I thought I had it all under control. However, a year after my daughter was born I started experiencing digestive problems. I was in pain and frustrated because I couldn’t figure out how to heal. I was also sleep-deprived.
“Some days, I was so fatigued that I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through the day. I was worried and stressed.”
I saw several doctors and tried many different approaches. I became a health coach in search for additional answers. Little by little, and with lots of support, I finally started to feel better. The three self-care practices that became my new habits were: running outdoors, being mindful of the food that I put on my plate and building a regular meditation practice.
Can you see the tiaras, smiles and feel the happy energy in this photo? Did I ever imagine that I was going to be running races in Paris when I moved here almost nine years ago? Of course not!
One of my favorite stories relates to my first experience of running in Paris. I tried running outdoors while living in New York. I didn’t enjoy it. However, the moment I moved to Paris something shifted. My mind insisted that I didn’t like running, but one early morning my feet just took off and started running in the Champs de Mars, the park where the Eiffel Tower is located. My mind still resisted but my body kept sprinting. After almost nine years living in the City of Light, I still feel this excitement each time that I run outdoors. I can say that, against all the resistance from my mind, I became a slow but very happy runner.
Many of us are aware of the things, activities, and food choices that would make us feel great – happy, awake and alive – but sometimes it is easier not to take action. This is especially true when life gets intense and when stress builds up.
Allow me to share my reflections on the capacity we have to create moments that make us feel alive, awake and filled with joy. Each one of us can learn to make every moment count. It can happen!
How to add more happiness in your daily life?
✿ Create time for yourself and listen to your body. Many of us are so busy that we wait for the perfect time for self-care practices. Instead of waiting, take a moment to step away from your to-do list and re-connect with your body. This can be as simple as taking 3 minutes to stretch your body and relax your mind. Give your body the opportunity to feel happy and alive even if it is for a few minutes at a time. You can read about practical ideas on how to do this in “Your Happy 3 Minutes” exercises in my book, Happy, Healthy & Zen in Paris.
✿ Make having fun a new habit. Attending fun activities is a great way to add happiness into your daily life. The picture shown above is from the 8 km race that I ran in 2016 with a group of friends. This race is called La Course des Princesses at the Château de Versailles. Because it is a Princess Race, tiaras and feathers are welcomed and encouraged. When you are having so much fun, nothing else matters. If you’re a runner, you can still sign up for this year’s Princess Race on June 18, 2017. If you go, don’t forget your tiara!
✿ Build your team and be accountable. The experience of life itself changes when we have support. You can start building your support team today. Get them moving. Instead of having coffee with friends, invite them for a walk or gentle run by the river (or to share your favorite form of exercise). This strategy works. You’ll feel inspired and so will they. Run a race with your closest friends to celebrate a birthday. I guarantee it will be an experience that you’ll remember forever. You can have cake and candles after the race. I’ve done this and it works!
✿ Make the moment last. When you are finally outside, going for a walk, a run or any other fun activity with friends or by yourself, take a moment to appreciate that opportunity. Look at the sky, see the clouds, pay attention to the light, the air touching your skin or the sensation of the sun warming up your body. Be present in the moment. If you start thinking about your to-do list, pay attention to this and bring yourself back to the moment you are experiencing right now. Breathe. Smile. Be proud of yourself.
✿ Learn how to make simple moments extraordinary ones. You can have an ordinary day or you can have an extraordinary one. You get to choose. Get creative, explore and give yourself the opportunity to feel awake and alive in the City of Light on a regular basis.
While living in Paris, be on the lookout for opportunities to feel happy in ways that you never imagined. Be open-minded and prepared for new adventures. Pay attention: your feet might want to start running too. Give them a chance!
Remember that what you learn about yourself and your wellbeing while you’re in Paris will stay with you for a lifetime.
In my next post for INSPIRELLE, I’ll share my tips on how to build healthier food habits into our busy schedules.