Aloha means hello. It also means goodbye. Aloha is also a moral code, an expression of love and a connection to nature.
It can be difficult to comprehend how a single word can have so many meanings, but the complex concept of aloha is incomparably significant in Hawaiian culture. Those who live in Hawaii know the idea well, and it is one of the state's unique characteristics that keeps people from all walks of life coming to the islands again and again.
The late Haleaka Iolani Pule, a teacher of Hawaiian spirituality, described aloha as "our innate sense to love things unconditionally... It's a symbiotic relationship and the acknowledgement of that symbiotic relationship that you have with everything in the universe around you and recognizing exactly your space within it."
You will know the spirit of aloha when you feel it. For example, when you visit a friend's house and are welcomed by their family with open arms, or when you come home after a long day to find a neighbor has left you a bag of freshly picked mangoes on the porch. A moment of aloha can be as simple as exchanging smiles with a stranger.
While Hawaii's natural beauty and inherent aloha culture make it easy to experience here, the aloha spirit could be applied to any situation: From a subway platform to a busy day at the office, everyone can benefit from a little more aloha in their lives. Here are 5 ways to live with aloha, every day:
1. Value and spend time in nature.
Native Hawaiians have always had a deep reverence for the natural world. Aloha 'aina, meaning "love for the sacred land," is an old concept in Hawaiian culture, but it can be found in virtually every aspect of modern life. A recent study, for example, named Honolulu as America's greenest city.
But beyond just taking care of the land, aloha 'aina also emphasizes enjoying it -- which has a lot to do with Hawaii's seemingly permanent spot as one of America's happiest states. Taking time to be in nature and appreciate the natural world, whether you take a quick hike or enjoy a long sunset surf session, has been shown to improve your mood drastically, and the exercise will give you a noticeable energy boost.
2. Live in the present moment -- and appreciate it.
Aloha is used as a salutation in Hawaii because people -- whether old friends or total strangers -- choose to greet each other with love and positivity. This simple and rewarding mindset can change a lot about your approach to daily life. By starting every interaction on an empathetic note, for instance, you're forced to let go of your own preoccupations and focus on the present moment.
Studies have shown that being mindful of the present can do wonders for one's emotional well-being. Those who take time to think about and understand themselves and the world around them have more control over their emotions and experience less stress.
3. Cultivate meaningful connections.
People in Hawaii don't just say "Aloha," they do things with aloha. Your boss will sign work emails "with aloha," smoothies can be blended with aloha, and tour buses, according to their bumpers, are even driven with aloha. It's as if people in Hawaii are constantly surrounded by an affirmation or mantra to live life with love, which spills over into the state's highly social and family-oriented culture.
The Hawaiian concept of Ohana (the Hawaiian word for family), for instance, goes hand in hand with aloha, and the word isn't limited to the nuclear conception of family. For example, people don't have colleagues in Hawaii, they have a work ohana. This is an important distinction because establishing such deep bonds with others and recognizing your purpose within a community not only increases your own happiness, it could even extend your life.
4. Choose to see the good.
It's easy to get overwhelmed with the ups and downs of life, but when you choose to begin every interaction or task with aloha, you're creating an atmosphere of friendliness and love. Living with aloha may help you master your own emotions and teach you to look on the bright side of life.
Optimists, after all, are thought to enjoy many health benefits, including having healthier hearts, and adopting an optimistic attitude will not only improve your own mood, but the moods of those around you.
5. Love always.
At its core, aloha means love and everything that comes along with it: sympathy, kindness, compassion, mercy. It means spreading joy and understanding through small acts of goodness. Living with aloha is a daily reminder to better ourselves and the world around us and to treat others with respect.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and spread the love. A little aloha never hurt anybody.