The Little Book Of Sanuk is THE go-to summer read for a dose of happiness


Why The Little Book Of Sanuk is the go-to summer read for a dose of happiness – a new book that reveals the Thai secret to a joyful life

The past few years have seen us all looking to other cultures for guidance on how to live our lives. Now it’s time to meet the new happiness hero – Sanuk!

Sanuk is a Thai concept that can loosely be translated as meaning ‘fun’. Though sanuk is in fact much more than that; it’s about achieving pleasure, satisfaction, and togetherness in all aspects of life.

It’s a happier, more optimistic way of living, and it’s something we can all learn to embrace.

Being around friends and family is what makes an experience peak sanuk. But you can inject sanuk into all aspects of your life. Deeply ingrained in Thai culture, sanuk is a guiding principle in Thai people’s day-to-day lives.

Being around friends and family is what makes an experience peak sanuk

Everything should be as enjoyable as possible. Nothing is taken too seriously, and anything worth doing should contain some element of sanuk. You know sanuk when you feel it – and Thai people believe that it’s the little things that add up to a joyful life.

If hygge is snuggling under a cashmere blanket by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate as storms rage outside, sanuk is a laughter-filled picnic with friends, family and kids on a hot, sunny day.

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Here’s how to channel the spirit of Sanuk for your happiest summer yet…

Prioritise fun

When was the last time you had fun? Perhaps it was a catch-up with old friends over dinner as you retold familiar stories which still bring tears of laughter to your eyes, or maybe it was playing with your kids, giggling with a colleague over a work in-joke, singing along at a concert or helping neighbours to make your community a better place to live.

Whatever the occasion, chances are it sparked a feeling in you that you’d like a lot more of. The joy of being totally in the moment and free from anxiety is a magical state when we feel truly alive.

But what if you could bring that feeling of lightness into all areas of your life, every day?

There’s a famous Thai proverb which says: ‘Don’t seize the day. Just tickle its belly.’ It’s a reminder that joy and fun can be found in all elements of life.

Sanuk encourages us to bring more pleasure into our lives by reconnecting with loved ones, embracing new connections, and coming together to help make the world a better place, one smile at a time.

The impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of us all has been huge. It’s never been more important to look at what brings us joy, so then we can actively try to create more playfulness and spontaneity in our lives.

It’s never been more important to look at what brings us joy

If you think it’s impossible to plan for fun, try this. Cast your mind back to when you last had the best time. Who were the people you were with? Make an effort to meet up with them. What were you doing? Schedule that activity. It really can be that simple.

In fact, the delicious thrill of anticipation can be as much fun as the event itself. Kids are masters at this; anyone who’s spent time with child under 10 in the weeks before Christmas knows that looking forward to the big day is all a big part of the excitement.

Looking ahead brings more joy than looking back, with one study into the connection between anticipation and happiness finding that when it comes to holidays, just planning or anticipating your trip can make you happier than actually taking it.

The ways in which we self-sabotage are familiar to clinical psychologist, Dr Jessamy Hibberd, whose area of expertise is in adult mental health. Hibberd believes we need to learn to prioritise pleasurable activities.

‘Not all time needs to be productive,’ says Hibberd.

‘It’s important to do things just for fun, with no expected outcome or greater purpose than enjoying yourself.

‘As kids we know the importance of fun, but somewhere along the line it gets lost as we go into adulthood and moved down the priority list.

‘Play is important for happiness and creativity and is something we should actively keep in our lives.’

READ MORE: 4 steps to happiness – from ancient yogic wisdom

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What the science says..

Studies have found some of the reasons why having a good time for its own sake can improve our emotional wellbeing. When we do pleasurable activities, it releases the feelgood hormone dopamine which boosts positivity and can counteract feelings of hopelessness and stress.

Doing fun stuff also provide a source of something called eustress, a type of positive stress that can contribute to feelings of optimism and excitement about life.

There are physical benefits too. Research by Professor Matthew Zawadzki, a health psychologist with the University of California, Merced showed that when people engage in leisure activity, they have a lower heart rate and more psychological engagement – that means less boredom, which can help avoid unhealthy behaviours.

Studies have found some of the reasons why having a good time for its own sake can improve our emotional wellbeing

Having fun also allows us the opportunity to connect and create bonds with others, one of the key drivers when it comes to sanuk.

Ten free ways to have fun:

1. Head to your nearest park with a pal (or 10), a ball and a frisbee.

2. Host a games night; board games, cards, trivia quizzes.

3. Invite friends over for dinner, everyone brings a dish.

4. Organise a clothes swap with your friends.

5. Check out a new neighbourhood.

6. Make a time capsule of things which sum up life as it is right now.

7. Have a mini spa day with friends; DIY facials, manicures, massages.

8. Offer to walk a neighbour’s dog.

9. Have a culture day; visit your local free museum, watch a classic movie.

10. Exchange homes for a night with friends who live somewhere completely different.

The Little Book of Sanuk The That Secret to a More Joyful Life

The Little Book Of Sanuk: The Thai Secret To a More Joyful Life by Karen Sinotok (HarperCollins, 12.99) is on sale now and available to purchase on Amazon.

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