What is happiness?
It seems like a pretty simple question, but pause to think about it and there are so many options. Happiness is truly an individual expression — what brings immense joy to one can certainly make another weep!
Happiness can be effortless to attain — For example, seeing a friend, going to a yoga class, eating a delicious meal, taking a long walk on a beautiful day. But then why is that pleasure-feeling so fleeting once the moment has past?
Why is happiness so difficult to sustain? When we are dreaming, striving for something, how come happiness sometimes seems right within our grasp, but then scatters to the floor like flax seeds at our feet? And to what capacity do we need happiness to feel overall fulfillment?
Psychology Today defines happiness as “more than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life — that is, with a sense of meaning and deep satisfaction.”
Perhaps right there, in that definition, is the key to sustainability — “meaning and deep satisfaction.” Perhaps many of us are simply living moment to moment, smile to smile, but we are missing a deeper sense of our lives, our purpose. Within our daily rush we forget to pause and reflect, to find meaning in what we are doing. Operating on auto-pilot will not bring us prolonged happiness — Alarm, shower, work, an activity thrown in, then repeat. Of course we’ll feel good in instances of interaction with kind people, friends, accomplishing goals, but these are all minutes that will drift away. When they pass, what shall we have left to hold onto?
Again, I ask — how can we not only capture moments of happiness, but sustain them? Plant them as a seed within ours souls so that they flourish into a beautiful, healthy tree, growing with us as we do, throughout our lifetime.
10 PRACTICES FOR SUSTAINABLE HAPPINESS:
1) Meditation — Take some time for yourself. Daily if possible. Find what mediation means to you and practice it. Start small and build, like any practice. No one begins by running a marathon. First you jog down the block, or even just take a long walk. Breathe, empty the mind. And also reflect. Self-reflection is crucial. Take the time to ponder.
2) Practice Gratitude — Yes, gratitude is a practice, especially if you are not used to it. The mind doesn’t know to say thank you for the smallest things unless you pause to do so. It is so important to recognize the gifts from the universe. They are everywhere and you are receiving them. The more you notice them, the more remarkable they will become and the more happiness you will find in their beauty. The day is freezing, but instead, focus on the way the wind blows the leaves into a ballet of natures’ own uniquely dressed dancers. In the rain, the sound of the plink plinking on the cars creates a melodic composition, steady and rhythmic, the drops jumping in time. Find gratitude in the smiles of strangers, in the extra time you have to breathe when your subway is running late, and in the hand holding of a mommy with her child as you witness true love. Savor these experiences. Enjoy them. Taste your life. Pause for moments and feel the sun shine upon your face. Lift your chin upwards and let the light pour into your skin. Let it warm your being. Let it penetrate your mind, granting you bliss that you carry with you from within, a feeling you can retrieve as easy as sticking your hand in your pocket and pulling out a key.
3) Practice Positive Thinking — Also something that needs to be practiced. You must train your mind. It is a mindful, waking mediation you must be constantly cognizant of. It is so easy to let the “little things” annoy us and speak of that, but instead, constantly look for the positives in every situation no matter what and only share these truths (with yourself and others). In time, the mind will adjust and this will become the more natural way, your more voluntary response to a situation. Nothing in life is worth the loss of your heart’s joy or your mind’s peace, especially that which is beyond your control. Buddha said, “Be vigilant; guard your mind against negative thoughts.” Happy thoughts produce happy people. When we are filled with negative thoughts, that muck builds up inside and we fester and ooze negative energy. Be a source of brightness. It starts with the mind, it starts with the thoughts.
4) Be Flexible, Adaptable, and Willing To Change — Life is an ebb and flow. The more you ride the tidal wave of it’s movements, the less sea sick you will become. It is only when we fight the natural course of the universe that we lose our happiness. We cannot control every detail no matter how much planing we do, so learn to let go, trust, and accept. Enjoy seeing things from varying perspectives so that you may shift your viewpoints at appropriate moments to aid your comfort level, thus continuing to sustain your happiness level through a variety of scenarios.
5) Be Sure To Have Love For Yourself — Everyone has heard the expression “how can you love someone else if you don’t love yourself?” That is because it is true. Self love and self care is so important. How can you be in a happiness bubble and generate light if you are putting yourself down? No negative self talk. Don’t compare yourself to others. You be you and be your own best self. Respect yourself and your boundaries. Be humble. Love and appreciate yourself. And then respect your friendships, relationships, and partnerships. Surround yourself with positive people and more positivity will continue to surround you. It is the law of attraction. It is a never-ending cycle and it is real. Energy attracts energy.
6) Don’t Carry Burdens — Forgive and then forget. This applies to others and to yourself. Don’t carry the weight of regret or prior problems. Resolve it all quickly and then move on. Let it all go. Communicate freely, be honest, and share. Dilemmas, distresses, and troubles are too heavy of hardships to hold. When we release all of this we are lighter, and free to float beyond the sky. Don’t let all of this weigh you down. How can you possibly be happy if you are carrying the heaviness of all of your troubles?
7) Treat Everyone With Kindness and Smile Often — Even those you do not know. Help strangers when you can, even in the simplest ways. A “good deed” goes a long way. One a day is sublime and can become part of your daily practice. Soon you won’t even know you do it it will be so natural to react with care. And smile, smile, smile. It is nice to be nice. When you smile, the world smiles back at you, and the reflection of the beautiful universe is shown to you by way of continual joyfulness in your heart.
8) Learn New Things — Be curious, be creative, ask questions, keep the mind sharp. It doesn’t mean you have to be an artist, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try new things, new foods, travel to a new place, make a new friend, Finding true happiness sometimes involves taking risks, not always playing it safe. It may be scary at first, but the rewards can be tremendous.
9) Listen To Your Body — Eat well, stay hydrated, exercise daily, care for your body, and attend to it’s needs. Do yoga! Practice deep breathing. Breathe fresh air and feel sunshine on your face. Give yourself massages and stretch. Pay attention and stay in tune. Your body will tell you what it needs if only you pause to listen.
10) Listen To Your Heart — Be present in mind and body. Lao Tzu said, “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Let your heart guide you. Stay open and alive. Do not close yourself off to others or yourself, even when the heart is hurting.
Perhaps these ten points will resonate and can be used as a guide towards capturing your sustainable happiness. Perhaps they can help you achieve a deeper, richer vivacity. And while we are vying to avoid unhappiness, truth is, it will creep in unexpectedly; but perhaps we do need it, a bit of yin and yang. It reminds us truly how great our prosperity is after all. So when displeasure does visit, appreciate that too … let’s just hope it is quite rare.
Written By: Pamela Lyn