Most of us are looking for something in life. Something that gives that extra sparkle. A bit more happiness here – a bit more de-stressing there. However, the problem is that we’re looking in all directions rather than focusing on what we’ve got and finding happiness within. In Yoga we practice this a lot. Being happy, unattached, content, mindful. But even as practicing Yogi, we sometimes feel a desire to venture out and look for ‘more’. With the colder and rainy weather coming it’s easy to get lost in thoughts – lost in translation.
“Come hear a wise, compassionate, smiling man talk about Happiness.” – if it would be that easy to feel the happiness from within – why don’t we all have it?
Both scientists and philosophers agree the key to happiness is not acquiring material goods or achieving specific goals, but rather it’s the extent to which we are aware and can appreciate what we have. That awareness and appreciation is where mindfulness comes in. More than 11,000 different studies show that developing a grateful mindset significantly improves mood, health, and relationships,” says Nataly Kogan, author of Happier Now, How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments.
Here are some tips (for young and old):
Start a Gratitude Journal:
Write down 3 good things about your day. Every day. For 30 days. By looking for little moments of happiness each day, you’re training your brain to get off autopilot (especially if you’re prone to negative thoughts) and to focus instead on the good that’s already in your life, whether it’s a warm cup of coffee or a text from a friend when you need it.
Be as compassionate with yourself as you are with others:
When you’re practicing mindfulness, you not only learn to be more compassionate toward others, you also learn to see and communicate with yourself through a compassionate lens. The simple act of self-compassion can boost happiness as you practice being kind to yourself when things go wrong. You know that inner critic that lambasts you when you’re already feeling down? Letting that critic go is the best thing you can do for your overall happiness. When you’re compassionate with yourself, you’re quicker to forgive yourself and move on.
Make your experiences ‘Keepers’:
Close your eyes and remember a time you felt happy. Maybe someone was kind to you. Perhaps you got a smile from a friend or your pet was happy to see you. Remember a wonderful moment like that. Simply close your eyes and bring it into your mind. What do you see and hear? Notice how you feel when you remember the memory.
Rick Hanson, author of Hardwired for Happiness, described in a recent Untangle podcast (https://soundcloud.com/untangle/rick-hanson-inner-strengths-to-finally-develop-resilience) how being present can help you both fully experience good moments while they’re happening and turn those into memories to save for later. In this way, positive experiences become “keepers, so they really sink in and increasingly grow your inner strength,” he says.
Send Kind Thoughts:
We do this with kids in the classroom regularly. If you google “loving kindness meditation” you’ll get lots of ideas on how to practice this for yourself too. Now – close your eyes and bring someone you really like to mind. Imagine them happy and smiling at you. Say to them in your mind: “May you be healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you be peaceful.” Notice how your heart feels when you do this (kids usually say they feel all warm and fuzzy in their chest, like their heart is smiling). Now try a self-hug and send kind thoughts to yourself. Say to yourself “May I be healthy and strong. May I be happy. May I be peaceful.” Now – how do you feel?
Some Yoga Poses for Happiness:
Happy Baby Pose: Start on your back with your knees drawn in towards your chest. Grab hold of the pinky toe sides of your feet, with your elbows on the inside of your knees. Draw your shoulders toward the ground, tone your arms and flex your feet as you pull down on your feet. Draw your knees wide and toward your armpits and try to stack ankles above knees. Lengthen your lower back down to the ground. Stay here for up to one minute, and then release and draw your knees in to your chest
Warrior one: From standing, step back into a lunge but drop your back heel and point your toes out 45 degrees. Keep your back leg straight with your forward knee flexed above your ankle. Lift your arms overhead, shoulder-distance apart. Hold for five long, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Warrior two: Step your right leg back, as though you are coming into a lunge position, but drop the right heel and point the toes out to almost 90 degrees. Keep your right leg straight with your left knee bent to align above your ankle. With your shoulders aligned above your hips, reach your right arm back and left arm forward with your palms down. Look past your front hand and take five long, deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Legs up the Wall Pose: Resting on your back, place your buttocks on a bolster or pillow and raise your legs up the wall with the heels resting at the wall. Let your arms rest at your sides. Raising your legs up above your heart promotes venous blood flow to improve circulation and reduce swelling. Changing your relationship with gravity also takes noticeable physical stress off your body.
Guided Mindfulness Meditation
With Courtesy of Insight Timer – please follow the link for some guided happiness meditations (download the app free from the app store): Happiness Meditation
Happy Music Playlist:
We all have good days and bad days. And that’s ok. It’s what you make out of it – that’s what counts. Happy Yogi’ing!
By Regina – Regina is the Executive Director of Yogazeit and a mother of 3. Teaching Yoga and Mindfulness to children and seniors brings her joy and inner happiness. Come and find her on the mat (or the chair) one day! Have a happy day!