You are here

Finding Happiness Without Leaving Home

Three words: eat, pray, love. They're simple, sure, but the true meaning behind them opens up a whole world of opportunities… that is, if you're author Elizabeth Gilbert (or perhaps her big-screen alter ego, Julia Roberts). Gilbert's brutally honest memoir, Eat Pray Love, and the just-released film version recount her adventurous global journey to re-self-discovery after a painful divorce. For the few of you who have yet to read the blockbuster bestseller, Gilbert eats across Italy, prays in India and finds love in Indonesia all on a quest for, well, happiness. (Although… who wouldn't be happy if they had a sizeable book advance and traveled to the most beautiful countries in the world? That's what we thought.) Fortunately, you don't have to spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets—or even leave the comfort of your own kitchen, your own relationship and your own back yard to experience all the lessons Gilbert learned along the way. Here's how to eat, pray and love your way to a satisfying personal transformation with a few simple tips you can try today—no passport required.

EAT with Authentic Pleasure
Traveling across Italy, Liz Gilbert took every opportunity she had to eat at the local haunts. As she devoured lots and lots of gelato, pizza and pasta, she added a few inches to her waistline (gaining 23 pounds!). You can enjoy the savory and spiritual delights of authentic Italian fare (minus the weight gain) with these three tips.

1. Follow the Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet allows you to enjoy all of the great food Italy has to offer, including lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts. It also reduces the risk of heart disease by suggesting simple substitutions to your diet like replacing butter with olive oil and using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods. The Italian way of eating also recognizes the importance of enjoying meals with family and friends with a glass of red wine (in moderation). Salute!

2. Whip Up Some Whole-Wheat Pasta
We all know that traditional white pasta doesn't do much good for your overall health but it's great for your budget. Turn it healthy: Substitute delicious whole wheat pasta in place of white. It's just as satisfying as regular pasta and research has shown that whole grains may lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and obesity. Dress it with your own tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes and basil—or try this quick and easy recipe for Whole-Grain Penne.

3. Pick a Healthier Pizza
Don't bother calling up Papa John's, just head down to your local farmer's market and pick up fresh ingredients and make your own Greek-Style Pizza with Ricotta and Feta Cheeses.

PRAY with Calm and Joy
While studying at the ashram of one of the most respected gurus in India, Gilbert practiced hours of yoga every day, chanted with her fellow students and went deep into new levels of meditation. But you don't need an exotic location—or even hours on end of peace and quiet—to reap the benefits of this relaxing and restorative practice, which has been shown to reduce stress and boost immunity. Check out our beginner's guide to meditation or work one of these everyday alternatives into your day.

1. Choose a Meditative Workout
Yoga is an obvious choice (and check out its surprising benefits), but your active meditation can be as simple as going for a run outside, in the morning, by yourself. Former SHAPE Editor-in-Chief Valerie Latona's personal preference is to cut off all electronic communication, including banning cell phones and iPods, and focus on the rhythm of her own movement and the peace of the scene surrounding her. Taking in the silence and nature around you helps you connect with your authentic self and shores you up for the craziness that lies ahead in your day.

2. Just Breathe
Lotus position, eyes closed, deep in non-thought—that's only one way to practice meditation. A simpler way is by doing something you already do every moment: Breathe. It only takes a few minutes, or it can take as long as you want. A breathing meditation is simply finding a quiet place where you won't be disturbed and just taking deeper breaths than usual, focusing on the breath itself instead of on that fight you had with your mom or your crammed to-do list. If possible, hold longer, deeper breaths for a second or two before exhaling. Repeat this at least five times and you'll find your body and your mind in a more relaxed state.

3. Find Instant Calm
It took a lot of practice but eventually Gilbert had to say only three words—Om Namah Shivaya—to find instant calm. You can find your fast track to that state of relaxation by thinking happy thoughts and chanting a mantra aloud or even just in your head: Try a Sanskrit term like Om Shanti or simply Om, or pick any word—peace, love, joy, even chocolate!—that centers you.

LOVE with Abandon
Almost every woman harbors a fantasy of falling in love with a gorgeous stranger in an even more beautiful country—Gilbert finds that big romance at the end of her journey, in Indonesia. After two failed relationships and many nights crying on the bathroom floor, she finally makes it work with a handsome Brazilian man who appreciates her for exactly who she is. Find a richer relationship with your significant other by following these three good-love tips.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate
We all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus, but you and your guy can get on the same page—if not the same planet—by tackling these eight common communication problems in relationships head on.

2. Take Charge of Your Own Happiness Don't worry, make yourself happy! Taking responsibility for her own happiness made Gilbert ready for love, but it took a lot of trial and error to get there. Enjoying independent activities that feed your soul—taking a yoga class, shoe shopping and even drinks with the girls—can all trigger the endorphins that make you smile, so you need your guy less and can enjoy him more.

3. Stay Connected
We all live busy lives, whether it's juggling a work and social schedule or picking up the kids from their individual activities, and we can sometimes forget how to stay in tune with our significant other. Make sure that your relationship doesn't fall too far down on your to-do list by following these ten ways to strengthen your bond.