What do you enjoy most about your life?
Need need time to think about it?
What did you enjoy most about your day? Still thinking? What do you enjoy most about your yoga practice? I know, you need another moment.
Why are we as humans so reluctant to acknowledge the things we enjoy? It is as though by simply saying “I enjoy” that we could mean that we are selfish, pleasure-seeking animals that are self-centered and self-important. More likely than not, we find ourselves making excuses, feeling guilty and denying ourselves of the very things we enjoy most in life!
A shift needs to take place, and our health depends on it. Even if it means that we are pleasure seeking animals, we should consider that pleasure is important to self.
Deep down, being “happy” is something that each of us desires. We know that it feels intrinsically good, that we deserve to be happy and we deserve to feel good–as often as possible! However, pinning down exactly what happiness is can be a challenge just like it is to identify what we enjoy about our life, our day or our yoga practice.
Let’s try the questioning again. Traditionally, words to describe happiness include joy, optimism, success, and well-being. What is something that gives you joy in life? Maybe it is the work you do or a significant relationship. What is something that gave you optimism today? Maybe it was a friendly neighbor, a smile from a stranger or a sale at your favorite store. What part of your practice felt like you were being successful in your well-being? This could be practicing with your friends or arriving on time to your favorite class. No matter how great or small, each thing that we are able to identify will ultimately play a role in our own idea of happiness. Cultivating a practice of acknowledging happiness is inextricably linked to our health.
What makes one person happy will most likely be different from the next person, but one common theme prevails: being happy is associated with vitality and optimal health. Happy people generally eat healthier, tend to exercise more, and get better sleep than those who are stressed out or depressed.
If you need a bit of inspiration in the happiness department, here are 5 ways to quickly cultivate happiness is your everyday life.
Be in the moment. While it may seem incredibly obvious, we can still go to yoga and be on the yogic path totally consumed with thoughts about the past or future. Stop, drop and be present. Not only will you feel more in your body, but you will also slow down the excess work in your body from coping with the stress of high level processing.
Practice love and non-judgement. This is for yourself and for others. We are all doing the best we can with what we have in any particular moment. Being in practice of loving the self and others allows us to show and share compassion.
Smile and Laugh. Studies have shown that when your face is in a smiling position it actually sends a signal to your brain that you are happy. Laughter has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones while also increasing memory and learning. Additionally, laughter increases creativity and improves alertness. The beauty of this tip is that you even when you fake smile or fake laugh, you still are training your brain and body, and you will reap the benefits as a result.
Gratitude. Make a list of 5 things each day that you are grateful for. Saying thank you and really making yourself aware of the things that are great in your life can very quickly shift your mood.
Connection. Humans are social beings and are inherently seeking connection. We are designed this way and have a fundamental need to be in community. The beauty here is that by having social support, we ease our stress and suffering. By establishing meaningful connection with others, we invariably put problems into perspective; we make ourselves available to consider things differently.
Photography Credit: Nkechi Deanna Njaka