Of all the metrics of a nation’s success, there’s one indicator that’s much more important than you think: happiness. According to a Gallup poll, happiness is generally decreasing worldwide. But not everywhere. In the country of Fiji, the happiness of its citizens is trending upwards.
It’s not that Fiji lacks the stressors of everyday life — the people there just deal with them in a different way. Fijians see happiness as not just a feeling, but a lifestyle. This contentment is evident all over Fijian culture — and from the moment Fijians say hello. To greet people — or to bless them when they sneeze, or wish them good health — Fijians will enthusiastically say “Bula!” So when we compiled a list of people who share this joyful enthusiasm, or the “bula spirit,” we decided to call them Bulanaires.
This is a new kind of rich list: a list celebrating people who are rich in happiness, not in money. These Bulanaires are defined by their compassion, altruism and relentless prioritization of happiness for themselves and others.
1. Agapi Stassinopoulos
Agapi Stassinopoulos was born and raised in Athens, Greece. At age 18, she entered the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. She moved to the United States to pursue a career in acting, and later went on to earn her Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.
Stassinopoulos speaks and conducts seminars and guided meditations worldwide, empowering others to create the lives they want. She lives in Los Angeles and New York and is a frequent blogger for Thrive Global. Her new book is titled Unbinding the Heart: A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, and Unconditional Love (Hay House). Visiting Fiji has motivated Stassinopoulos in her work to help others find a calmer, happier life — she especially admires the Fijian culture of caring and giving.
2. Jeff Probst
Jeff Probst is the executive producer and Emmy Award-winning host of the U.S. version of Survivor, which has made Fiji its homebase for the past several years. (He is also the author of the New York Times best-selling kids adventure series, “Stranded.”)
“The Bula spirit of Fiji has impacted our entire crew in the most amazing way. We love shooting Survivor in Fiji and a large part of our crew are local Fijians. We have developed so many great relationships with Fijian business as well. It’s one big happy Survivor family,” Probst says.
3. Lisa King
Lisa King is on a mission to stop Kiwi kids living in poverty from going to school hungry. As a mother of young children, she was horrified to learn that one in four children in New Zealand live in poverty, and that thousands go to school every day without lunch. She followed her passion and left a comfortable job in marketing to start Eat My Lunch, a social enterprise which, for every lunch purchased, provides a free lunch to a child in need. Since Eat My Lunch’s inception in 2015, the company has provided over 1.1 million lunches to kids in poverty, and Lisa has been nominated for multiple awards, including New Zealander of the Year.
4. Eddie Jaku
Jaku is the self-proclaimed “happiest man on earth.” As a Jew living in Germany before and during World War II, he saw death every day throughout WWII and because he survived (his story of survival spans 12 years, from Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 until liberation in 1945), he made a vow to himself to smile every day.
Jaku has one life lesson he wishes to teach those younger than him: “You must not hate.”
“You say ‘I don’t like this person,’” Jaku says. “But you do not hate. Hate is a disease. It destroys first your enemy, but you also. Hate should be taken out of the vocabulary. This is the downfall of humanity.” Jaku truly lives up to his own promise, and at 98 years young, still manages to inspire everyone who meets him.
5. Katie Fitzsimons
Fitzsimons, of Cronulla in New South Wales, is one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence, and a motivational speaker, certified life coach, and director of the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation, which was established in honor of her sister who died in an overseas accident in 2012.
Determined to save others from this fate, Fitzsimons left her corporate career in 2013 to dedicate herself to educating young Aussies about the importance of travel safety through an eye-opening school presentation. Inspired to help others thrive through adversity as she has, Fitzsimons now also teaches students about building resilience during challenging times. Described as ‘life-changing’ and ‘unforgettably inspiring,’ her presentations have reached over 100,000 students at over 200 schools around Australia and the United States.
If you’re inspired by the people on this list, know that anyone can be a Bulanaire. Here are some of the practices used by our Bulanaires to create a calmer and happier life.
- Jot it down. Use your pen as an outlet. Research shows that writing your issues on the page increase happiness and eliminate the stress of unfulfilled goals.
- Unplug and recharge. We give our phones a chance to recharge every day — we should give ourselves the same courtesy. Studies indicate that overusing a smartphone (aka smartphone addiction) can lead to anxiety and depression. Instead of reaching for your phone the next time you feel bored, grab a book or go for a walk.
- Practice positive self-talk. How you talk to yourself matters. Reinforcing negative thoughts can create feelings of anger and irritation before you even speak to anyone else. Practice mantras like “I am enough” instead of falling into negative self-talk.
- Be grateful for what you have. It can be hard to feel grateful in a stressful moment. But practicing gratitude — whether it’s writing down three things you’re grateful for when you wake up or telling one person every day that you appreciate them — can have a big impact. Gratitude can bolster happiness and hope for the future, as well as enhance self-esteem.
- Cultivate relationships with the people around you. We really do get by with a little help from our friends. Connections with the people close to us (whether it’s with coworkers, neighbors or classmates) lead to decreased levels of stress and better sleep.