How to be happy is something everyone looks for. Happiness is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Are you feeling like you’re a universe away from spotting that rainbow, let alone spotting that pot of gold? It’s okay, don’t despair.
Here are 10 ways to help you be happy and get that spirit of yours high again.
On life, not on drugs.
1. Understand what suffering is
What are the root causes of suffering? Let’s use some yoga wisdom to explore this.
Some 2000 years ago, an Indian wise man, called Patañjali, created a book; “The Yoga Sutras”. A thread (‘sutra’ meaning thread) of texts offering the knowledge of yoga.
According to this book, the causes of suffering are five: ignorance of our real nature, egoism, attachment, aversion, and the fear of death (Yoga Sutras II.3).
You can write a book on this (kinda like Patañjali did), but I’ll try to cover that in a few sentences.
Ignorance of our real nature: this cause is the source of the next 4 causes. It means that you are not who you think you are. You are actually the universe. Yes, that’s right. You’re like a wave in an ocean. One with everything. You are the same power that makes the sun shine, the earth spin, and the trees grow.
That’s cool, isn’t it! Just remember that and stop feeling sorry for your weird little ego-self.
Egoism: we think that we are our brain, our body, our emotions. We’re not. This point actually says the same thing as the previous one.
Attachment: clinging to pleasure. Ah, who doesn’t. When something feels good, we want more of it. Love, sex, donuts. When we can’t have that anymore, we cry.
Aversion: clinging to pain. Ha! Sounds contradictory. Why would we want pain? But believe it or not, we do. Makes us feel alive.
Fear of death: speaks for itself.
Fortunately, there are ways to set ourselves free from all these downers.
2. Do yoga; breathe
First of all, there’s yoga. Yoga is a tool to help you enjoy life and get through the hard times. It’s not a religion. It’s not built on faith. Instead, yoga uses a number of concrete physical techniques that basically help you feel good.
Most of our problems are created by our minds. And our mind can be “the ground for both bondage and liberation”.
The essence of yoga is to control these “fluctuations of the mind” by turning our awareness to our breath, to the present moment.
It doesn’t mean that you have to sit still for 2 hours, trying not to think.
Rather, it’s about living in the present moment, in any way possible. It can be achieved by being aware of your breath or by losing yourself in any type of action, including exercising or washing the dishes.
Here’s a little meditation exercise that is easy to do. Don’t worry if you feel like you’re not doing it right. That’s just a thought. Let it pass.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Make sure your spine is upright and supporting its own weight when you’re sitting. You can also sit on a chair.
- Feel how your body connects to the floor.
- Become aware of the rising and falling of your upper body on the rhythm of your breath. Now, start your inhalations from the belly up. Let your belly expand as you inhale, and sink back as you exhale.
- Stay with this physical sensation of your breath. Don’t alter your breath, just accept how you breathe right now. Keep your eyes closed so you can focus more on what’s going on inside your body.
3. Accept that happiness is not our normal state of being
Happiness is not a given. I mean, we come into this world crying, and then we have sickness and death to deal with. Our destiny lies in a wooden casket. Or in a hot oven, just what you prefer.
Suffering is part of the human condition. Of course you feel down.
So what? Wouldn’t it be easier to accept that you sometimes feel like this? That you don’t need to be happy all the time?
Why feel bad about feeling bad? Accept it and you will feel a lot lighter instantly.
Still not feeling better? Good that we have 7 more ways to go.
4. Go offline (after you’re done reading this article and liking my fb page)
We spend way too much time online. First thing in the morning, we check our phones for messages. Last thing before going to sleep, we check our phones. When we wake up at night, we check.
On average, we check our phones more than 157 times a day.
That’s 3.9 years of our lives we spend staring at our phone screen.
Why on earth do we do this? Maybe because our brain releasing a funny chemical called dopamine (“happiness hormone”) that makes us feel good every time we receive a text, tweet, like or friend request?
That means we are technically addicted. Always looking to get our next fix.
What also happens on social media, is that we see the lives of other people through a massive glittery-rainbow-&-unicorns-fantasy filter. Really, your friends do not look that tan in real life. They are not smiling their teeth out every single moment of the day.
Their hair actually looks as crappy as yours when you wake up. Trust me, they do care about their #morninghairdontcare, and no one #wokeuplikethis.
Try it, go offline for a while. At least leave your phone alone at night.
5. Connect with other people
This relates to point number 4. Did you know that the source of addiction is a lack of connection?
No, not on social media; in real life. Connecting with real people is the key to beating any kind of addiction or source of unhappiness.
Apparently, people with strong and broad social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Close relations give us a better feeling of self-worth and belonging.
Look, we’ve all seen “Into the Wild” (if not, go watch it). Remember that “happiness is only real when shared”.
Strangely enough a sunset becomes more beautiful when you are looking at it in the arms of your lover or when having a beer with your mate.
When you exercise, your brain releases all kinds of happy hormones; endorphins, serotonin, dopamine. Yes, that’s the same dopamine your phone addiction gives you. Tiny difference here is that working out is actually good for your body and your general state of mind.
You don’t need to become an athlete, just 20 minutes of focused exercise per day (includes walking) does the trick.
7. Go outside and smell the flowers
Sitting in your room doesn’t do you any good.
Get yourself to the beach, the mountains, to a forest. You will feel so much better being surrounded by nature. Nature has a tremendous healing power.
Try to actually smell a flower.
8. Know that you are not alone
Know that you are not alone. Every human being feels like this at some moment(s) in their lives.
Think about how unhappy so many other people must be, especially those who are hungry all the time. That’s 780 million people according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
You are way better off than like 10% of the people living on this planet. Lucky you!
That doesn’t make you feel any better? Then read on.
9. Find out what your definition of happiness is
What does happiness even mean?
Happiness according to the dictionary:
- the quality or state of being happy
- good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy
This can be interpreted differently by everyone. What do you think “good fortune” means? For some it’s counting money. For others it’s counting the stars.
When I was 15 years old, I was wondering what the meaning of life was. Like all people do when they’re 15.
My mom gave me a sweet little postcard on which she wrote; “your reason in this life is to seek your happiness”.
Not her happiness. Not somebody else’s happiness.
Sometimes we stop ourselves from doing the things we love, because we’re afraid that we don’t meet the expectations of the people we love.
What brings you good fortune, pleasure, contentment or joy? Go find that out, and do more of it.
10. Make plans
I don’t like to plan ahead. I like to keep my agenda open. But, I get extremely bored and chaotic when I don’t have any schedule at all.
You may think that creating a structure for yourself might be the opposite of freedom a.k.a. happiness. On the contrary, it will provide you with much more quality free time. Like my very first yoga teacher Peggy Hall says; “Structure creates freedom”.
Why? Because when you’ve set yourself a task, and dedicate yourself to it for a certain amount of time (preferably max 30 minutes so you can concentrate better), you actually get sh*t done. That makes you feel productive. And that makes you enjoy your free time even more.
11. One extra bonus tip
Come join me on a Surf Yoga Retreat. Happiness guaranteed.
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Consult your physician, therapist, psychologist, priest, Shaman or any other qualified Guru for your health problems.