Living 

9 ways how Thailand helped to improve my mindfulness

One thing that many of my friends and family keep telling me ever since I moved to Thailand is that I am more ‘relaxed’ now. Less stressed. And smile more.

Now one could say: Of course. It’s the Land Of Smile. You gotta be all happy and smiley. Plus you’re a foreigner there. So you earn more and have a better live than the locals anyways.

Wrong! First I don’t earn more than Thais in the same position and secondly I live a simple, ‘normal’ life here and don’t take part in the typical ‘expat’ lifestyle that has nothing to do with the ‘real’ Thailand. Moreover, and more importantly, lots of those ‘rich expats’ don’t seem to be that happy here. If you meet one of them by chance and happen to talk to them you will find out that they will complain most of the time by comparing how bad things are here compared to home.

So how does one then stay happier and more mindful in Thailand? Let’s see.

1.) Mai pen rai

This is one saying that is super famous here in Thailand. And you will hear it all the time. Sometimes, or to be honest, quite often, you will think it is not appropriate. And I agree. Mai pen rai means ‘don’t worry’ or ‘don’t care / let it be’ and pisses foreign expats of when quoted all the time at the work place or in private communications with the girl of ones nightm dreams.

When taking the whole mai pen rai approach to a different level though it does make complete sense. Problems that come your way are what they are and getting all pissed and angry about it won’t change it. It is what it is. Mai pen rai. Now stop whining and deal with it.

2.) Don’t expect too much

This sounds like a sad approach, it’s not meant like that though. In this case expecting something means That we shouldn’t expect that everything goes the way we, ha, expected it to go. Things never (barely) go as expected in Thailand. The best thing to do when things don’t go as expected? See point number one on this list. Adjust, deal with it. And in order to avoid being completely off the track by minor (or major) detours simply don’t expect to never hit a bumps. The world is a bumpy road, so is life. Mai pen rai.

3.) Calmness

I’ve gotten so calm here in Thailand. It sometimes amazes myself (haven’t gotten humble though). I had my bag stolen. On university campus. With lots of security guards and cameras around. My bag contained my whole life. Passport, Work Permit, Credit Cards, Laptop, Tablet, Phone, Keys, Money, even my suit (I was doing sports at the time of the incident). I lost everything at once. I didn’t get angry though. I quickly shifted into the ‘Let’s replace the lost stuff’ mode. Even when the police didn’t want to help (that was quite obvious) I didn’t get mad. It wouldn’t help. They wouldn’t change their behavior and I would only get stressed and mad. No need for that. Staying calm saves you from getting to many grey hairs.

Another example is the trip to the immigration. As we all know government offices are often a place where ‘customers’ pay under the hand to get what they want. Since I’m super legal here in Thailand I don’t do that. Therefore I have to wait quite a while to have all my documents processed while others, who choose to pay, get a faster treatment. Again, mai pen rai. Getting mad wouldn’t change anything. I’ve seen many people getting mad about things like that. Never helps. Just makes them look bad and mad and angry. Stay calm. You will feel better.

4.) Material World

We love to buy things, right? Cool phones, cars, etc. Everybody has something he likes to have and show off. I’m writing on a damn expensive MacBook Pro right now for example. However, when living I Thailand, I realized one thing more than before. Things don’t last forever. In a country that is that hot and dirty, dusty etc. your stuff won’t last as long as back home in a highly cleaned and temperature regulated environment. Sure I could leave my stuff at home when I go out. But that’s not what I bought it for, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s tech gadget or clothes. Nothing lasts forever. In fact nothing even lasts that long. So when something breaks (I just had to replace my phone screen for the 2nd time in 3 months. Without me breaking it.) take it the way it is. Something is broken, fix or replace it. Done. No need to get all mad about it.

5.) Friends

So no one told you life was gonna be that way? Problem is, no one told you how friends gonna be either. There are good friends, and bad friends. And bad friends aren’t friends. As easy as that. If you have friends who only want to be friends with you because of your job, skin color or when they need someone to crap on, but are never there for you, then they are no friends and don’t deserve to be thought and worried about. I cam across a lot of ‘false friends’ here in Thailand and therefore learnt how to let go if people that I considered ‘friends’ but who turned out weren’t. Not holding on to those people who influence you and your mind in a bad way helps to stay calm and relaxed.

6.) Loneliness ain’t killing you

In contrary to modern day poet’s highly acclaimed publication loneliness isn’t killing you (“My loneliness is killing me” out of the inspiring “Hit me Baby one more time” by B. Spears, 2003). When you’re in Thailand you will face loneliness. Inevitably. There’s the language barrier both in spoken and written form. Then there’s the cultural barrier and then there’s the fact that you’re a foreigner and ‘strange’ by default. So there will be a time when you will be alone. But that’s not a bad thing. Being alone, especially when being abroad, helps you to understand yourself, your behavior in foreign situations and the overall, bigger picture, of what is happening in your life at the time being.

7.) No time for fear

Everybody is scared of something. When living abroad in a country with a completely foreign language, culture and all by yourself does not give you much room for fear though. Either you go ahead and make a fool of yourself, ask and talk to stranger and simply ‘do’ things instead of waiting for them to happen. If you always go for the ‘safe’ way, wait for others to come to you and for opportunities to present themselves you might end up waiting forever. This is true in all situations and countries of course, more though however in a country far away from home and and the culture that you’re used to. Be fearless. Go for it. You are the master of your soul and the captain of your fate!

[Tweet “You are the master of your soul and the captain of your fate!”]

8.) Gossip

I hate gossip. I do. I think it is stupid and a waste of time. And that is the exact reason why I don’t give shit about who talks what about me. People talk. Jealous people talk even more. We all know that, we can’t change it. In Thailand gossip is such a huge part of every day life. You won’t believe it. But hey. Mai pen rai. One of my all time favorite authors once said: The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. (Oscar Wilde).

Gossip starts from a place of insecurity and uncertainty. People who gossip are stressed. Then they get angry. However it is their stress and their anger. Don’t engage in it and you’ll be fine.

9.) Believe!

Very often I stand out of the crowd here in Thailand. Even more than back home. Not because of accomplishments though but rather because of my behavior. While I do understand Thai culture quite well I still refuse to completely blend in when I consider it ‘wrong’. I value honesty over anything and therefore am and always will be honest with everyone. That’s a tough task in Thailand (all over Asia) since you don’t want anyone to ‘lose face’ and many people will consider it impolite. But in the end you have to be able to look into the mirror and be happy with the way you live. Same goes for compassion. Show compassion whenever possible. Don’t think about your direct benefit all the time. Be compassionate, fight for it, make others show more compassion. Those are things that matter. Making some more money doesn’t. Having principles and living for them let’s you go to bed with a good feeling and a calm mind.

 

So now what does that have to do with mindfulness? There are around 6.7 million definitions for mindfulness out there (I just guessed, don’t google it!). I like the one that says that mindfulness is simply awareness of who you are and what you are doing. Therefore, when you care about the few points mentioned above you will become more mindful about yourself, your behavior, your life. And a person who is mindful is a person who is free of stress – and of anger.

[Tweet ” A person who is mindful is a person who is free of stress – and of anger. “]

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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    Next 30 days challenge: Become more mindful :)

  • Mild Chandhraprasert

    I read this article and I’m realized that you seems got a lot of changing mind thought during staying in Thailand and hope that is a good thing. Right now, I felt I have a negative mindset and I would love to use your suggestion because we can’t change the past so, enjoy with the moment and if it bad it’s just a bad day not a bad life.

  • Yotsawadee S.

    Thailand is a high context country that some culture might difference from your culture. But I agreed with you most of Thai are material addicted because they just want to ostentatious or overcome other to get jealous

  • Shatree Suwanvalaikorn

    This is one of the valuable blogs I have read. One thing that is very important is mindset. This blog shows a good mindset. I really appreciate for writing this blog. I think if everyone can follow these tips, they will be able to improve mindfulness and they tend to be happier.

  • Elle Thitakorn

    After I read this article, I figured out the reason why some of my foreign friends told me that I am such a relax person. In my opinion, being aware of who we are and what we are doing is such a good thing to make negative situation turn out to be normal situation and make us more focus about how to handle it instead of complain or panic during that situation. :)

  • Varinthorn Witwarakoon

    I really like the word Man Pen Rai. When I was in Belgium of exchange year, I really like to use the word “Maakt niet uit” which mean Man pen rai in Dutch.

  • May Chiranakorn

    After reading your article, it does really fulfill my heart! It is so great to know that some of Thai’s mindset helps you to be a better person. (Some of that, I just realized and discovered in your article that it’s so important) Yet, not Thais are having all of that. Therefore, all aforementioned in your article can be used not only for the foreigners but also can be used for improving Thais’ mindset as well.

  • Sher Chayanit

    I agree that the saying Mai Pen Rai works really to calm people and get rid of anger. I and people around me use this word many times a day. We became so used to it that we say it to every minor struggles we face in a day. However sometimes we say Mai Pen Rai too often that we actually ignore the problem and just left it like that instead of solving it. The proper way to say “Mai Pen Rai” is to be calm and start to do something to make it better.

  • Jenny Philomena

    Gotta agree with the “mai pen rai” phrase tending to anger a lot of foreignors, since it did to me and a lot of people I know too, haha. Well you seemed calm at the beginning of this article, but later on it started getting more intense. Nice blog tho, goodnight

  • Cb Work

    These words have more powerful for Thai people, which almost all of these I believe Thai people use it every day. When you face with many problems, these things can really heal your mind.

  • Beer Suwongwan

    This makes me remind that every trip really have meaning. This bring me motivation. I which I could have time to find an answer for my emptiness. I truly agree wiht this article.

  • That’s how life in Thailand often is. An up and down between calmness and furiousity. Trying to let calmness win though ;)

  • Kana Matsushita

    MAI PEN RAI sprit is also what I have been learning from This culture the most. It is quite stressful when you are pressured by assignments, work or anything, however, Mai Pen Rai spirit always tells you that you do not have to worry about that because it is gonna be okay and relives you from concerns. I am pretty sure this is what Japanese people can learn from Thai culture since Japanese people are always in a rush and stressful.

  • Opal Tresukosol

    Great article! this article helps people who have negative minds to improve their feeling including me. I like all of your 9 ways that you provided especially “Mai pen rai” it is a common word in Thailand but it means a lot :). Thank you for a nice article.

  • Palm Siradanai

    That “Mai Pen Rai” phrase is the phrase I familiar with. I heard this a lot when I was live in my hometown, when there’s something happen and it’s not a big deal, they would say Mai Pen Rai to each other. But sometimes I think, also Thai people, we used it too much sometimes. Thank you for sharing.