Finding Happiness

What makes you happy?

Do you think you have enough happiness in your life?

How can you make your life happier and more fulfilled?

In yoga, happiness is derived from many practices, including the cultivation of Santosha, or contentment. Santosha is the state we reach once we have learnt to become still and balanced, no matter what is going on around us. It is the ability to find peace in the most difficult of situations, and not allowing the challenges of life consume us. In a state of Santosha we embrace change and grow from our experiences, whatever they are. And if you are able to deal with the ups and downs of life without drama, staying rooted in gratitude and positivity, it’s likely you’re going to suffer less and therefore have room for more happiness in your life.

Here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

We often focus our energy on trying to please other people, making sure we are there for family and friends when they need us: this quote reminds us that we need to attend to our own happiness too, by being compassionate to ourselves. This means not getting dragged down by all the things we feel are “wrong” about ourselves and the way we’ve lived our life up to this point, but focussing on improving ourselves so that we can move forward to help others with an open heart.

Let’s go back to that first question now: “what makes you happy?” As you consider this, visualise a situation, or a person or being, or a place – or anything else - which makes you truly happy. Close your eyes and feel that happiness deeply in the core of your being. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be that happy for more of the time?

Of course, we have to let ourselves feel the effects and emotions of all of the situations that life brings. We are all going to experience sadness, disappointment, grief, betrayal, frustration, anger or melancholy at some time in our life. But we must feel, acknowledge and process these emotions, recognising that they are our teachers, but also that they are temporary, and so we can let them go. This will mean we are creating space for happiness to bloom within us. Here are a few ways we can focus on creating more happiness in our lives:

Keep your Attention on your Intention. Set goals, and keep them firmly focussed in your consciousness. Put a list of your goals and aspirations up on the fridge or a wall where you’ll see it often. In this list, state your goals – such as relaxing more, exercising more, reading more about subjects that interest you or going and out and doing new things, spending more time to be with the family – whatever is important to you. You could put each goal on the lock screen of your mobile phone (individually if you have many), or leave post-it notes around the house to remind you of them.

Make your goals and desires into affirmations – which means stating them in the present tense, as if they’re already happening - and chant them, silently or out loud, last thing at night and first thing in the morning. For example: “I am in charge of my life” or “I truly have all the time in the world”.

Start a Happiness journal. Spend a few minutes either first thing in the morning or last thing at night, writing down what has made you happy and grateful.

Don’t waste energy worrying about things we can’t change. This is something we can practice while we’re on the mat. Once we’re in a pose we find challenging, (wheel or square pose anyone!?), we can try our best to release into it, letting go of resistance. We can also look forward to coming out of the pose, at which point we know we’ll feel happy to have risen to the challenge!

The yogis and other sages say that Energy follows Mind. Consider this quote from the Buddha:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows one, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the wagon.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one, like a shadow that never leaves.”

Dhammapada 1-2. Essentially, you have a choice to make about how you allow yourself to think.

Use meditation and living more mindfully. You can use meditation and mindfulness at any time: they are both simply practices requiring focus in the present moment. And both need to be practiced regularly to master them! So whether you’re walking the dog, washing the dishes, talking to a friend or sitting in meditation, try to give the activity your full attention to kick- start your journey to finding happiness in the present moment.

Re-examine your routines. How often do you watch television just before going to bed? Or scroll through your mobile phone feed, absorbing whatever pops up in front of you? Instead try reading something uplifting, or taking a relaxing bath, or a restorative yoga practice before you rest for the night. If your mental diet is full of stimulation from outside sources at bedtime, essential sleep could be interrupted, or not be of good quality, and you’ll be more likely to awaken feeling stressed or still tired. Examine your eating habits, including the times at which you eat, as this can also affect your sleep. Try to avoid caffeinated drinks in the afternoons and evenings. Spend time winding down with a soak in the tub, or a restorative yoga routine for bedtime. The next morning you might even find the energy to take a stimulating yoga flow and chant your positive affirmations whilst you practice!

Finally, know that the only person who can make you happier is yourself. As wise yogi Thich Nhat Hanh tells us:

May all beings experience a life of Love, Freedom and Happiness. Including you! xCx

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