What can we learn from, ‘The Happiest People on Earth’?
The title has been thrown around a fair bit over the years, though it seems the results are in, the Pirahã people are legit the happiest on Earth.
They are a small tribe, living deep in the Amazon Jungle. Talk about picturesque locale, if you can get past the piranhas and deadly plants. They are hunter-gatherers and can literally walk into the jungle naked, with no tools or weapons, and walk out three days later with baskets of fruit, nuts, and small game.
In his book and documentary, American Linguist, Daniel Everett describes his experiences living with the Pirahã people: “I have never seen people before who live with such happiness and refinement, despite the severe conditions they deal with.”
Psychologists from MIT brain and cognitive science departments agreed that they appear to be some of the happiest people they had ever seen…“If we are to compare Pirahãs, and the time they spend laughing and smiling, with the other communities we study, we should say that they are the happiest people in the world.”
So the question stands, what can we learn from this simple tribe about living a fulfilling and content life.
Well, a few key aspects stand out. Firstly, a large part of their life is dedicated to play.
“Playfulness is a central value, childcare the most basic priority and free time the measure of wealth.” With only roughly four hours a day spent working and the rest made up of having fun, chatting, and enjoying what life presents to them.
Another interesting and heavily debated area of the tribes take on well-being, is their attitude towards sleep. They usually rest for only twenty to thirty minutes each time they feel tired. Pirahã people think that sleeping is bad. They believe that while sleeping, a human being becomes weak and unable to protect himself, therefore, they opt for micro naps whenever the body needs it.
Another huge takeaway from the tribes way of life, is their ultimate practise of presence. Pirahã culture is ingrained in the preset moment. So much so, that they literally don’t acknowledge any existence of past or future. They are concerned solely with matters that fall within their direct personal experience. Everett explains the core of Pirahã culture with a simple formula: “Live here and now.” The only thing of importance that is worth communicating to others is what is being experienced at that very moment. “All experience is anchored in the presence,” says Everett, who believes this carpe-diem culture doesn’t allow for abstract thought or complicated connections to the past — limiting the language accordingly.
Living in the now also fits with the fact that the Pirahã don’t appear to have a creation myth explaining existence. When asked, they simply reply: “Everything is the same, things always are.”
Finally, these guys are extraordinarily grateful for what they have. Which in a modern world, ain’t much. They practise gratitude daily and hold an optimistic outlook in life. Summed up when a tribesman was asked by a researcher why he was there. His response translates to – ‘You are here because this is a beautiful place. The water is pretty. There are good things to eat here. The Pirahãs are nice people.’
Chill. Where do we sign up?