When we tell ourselves to be happy, it more than likely ends up having the opposite effect. It brings with it pressure, which can lead to stress, which is definitely, not happiness.
So how can we make ourselves happy?
According to studies by O’ Leary and Dockray (2015) and Khanna and Greeson (2013), mindfulness is one of many practices that increases happiness and thus overall well-being.
*Mindfulness: the intentional and nonjudgmental awareness of all thoughts, feelings, and sensations that occur in the present moment (O’ Leary and Dockray 2015).*
I like to think of mindfulness as the meditation of the 21st century. It’s not sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat overlooking the rolling waves of the ocean; it’s time we take to remove ourselves from our emotions. This can take place in different forms: from cooking, running and swimming to painting, writing and cleaning. In fact, I find one of my most meditative states is in the shower. These mindfulness practices should be done somewhere without human interaction. A place where the only dialogue is internal. Talk to yourself but more importantly listen to what you have to say.
Ask yourself questions.
A really great practice I learned from the Headspace App, is reflective questions.
Close your eyes, take a breath. In your mind ask, ‘How are you feeling today’ as if asking someone next to you.
Now let your mind be silent. Imagine floating. And without pressure, let your mind visually show you the answer.
Don’t shape the answer, don’t be ashamed of the answer, don’t suppress the answer, don’t try and interpret the answer. Let it rest there.
You can do this (eyes open) while you’re running, while you’re on your way to work or while you’re in the shower.
And once you know these answers, you can begin to understand not only why you feel this way, but also how to change it. Eckhart Tolle describes this interaction of your mind and your thoughts as a higher evolution of humanity and the foundations of enlightenment.
Finding a way to meditate is easy.
Be productive: work-out, create, clean.
And by doing these activities each day, with the intent to meditate, you will find happiness. It’s scientifically proven.
Khanna, Surbhi and Jeffrey M. Greeson. 2013. “A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction”. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 21 (3): 244-252. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2013.01.008.
O’Leary, Karen and Samantha Dockray. 2015. “The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being”. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 21(4): 243-245. doi:10.1089/acm.2014.0119.