A Practical Method for Cultivating Happiness
We’re all looking for something in life. A successful career, the perfect partner, wild adventures, that dream home; it’s different for everyone.
If we boil it down though, it’s really not all that different. We all want to be happy.
Happiness is an emotional state identified by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment.
Today, we tend to think of happiness as something that we’ll eventually obtain and rarely as something we already have.
But the more we learn about the human mind, the more it becomes clear that happiness can, and should, be cultivated; and you can start right now.
The fact that we have control over our own happiness is relatively new knowledge.
Yale University created a course in 2018 covering all the new science-backed techniques on creating happiness. It was only ever taught once in-person to a class of over 1,200 students.
Later that year, the course was moved online to accommodate more students, and eventually, it was opened to the public. To date over 3.3 million people have taken it.
Who would have thought that happiness would be so popular?
Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale, attributed much of this popularity to stress caused by the Pandemic.
“Everyone knows what they need to do to protect their physical health: wash your hands, and social distance, and wear a mask,” she said. “People were struggling with what to do to protect their mental health.”
Yale’s course goes into great detail about understanding, creating, and maintaining happiness and if you have the time, we highly recommend you give it a shot.
The point here is that creating your own happiness is very real.
Science Says “Be Happy”
The way we look at it, there are three things that make up the foundation of a happy life: Gratitude, Kindness, and Sleep.
Let’s start with sleep because without this one, the others won’t matter much.
We know A LOT more about sleep now than we did even 20 years ago.
Lack of sleep has recently been linked to multiple types of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, and more.
We still have a lot to learn, but the most recent scientific studies strongly suggest that adequate sleep is essential for living a happy life.
Creating and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule should be first on your list when it comes to living a healthy, happy life.
We outline some tips for creating a healthy sleep schedule right here.
Now, let’s talk about the superpower of gratitude.
It really is a superpower. Actively pursuing gratitude rewires our brain to overcome something all humans have called the Negativity Bias.
The key is actively pursuing; we need to think of gratitude as a skill that we practice and build up.
Ever hear the saying “not every day is good, but there is some good in every day?” That right there is the exact attitude you want to try and adopt in order to benefit from gratitude.
And talk about benefits, gratitude is chock full of them. Studies show that regularly cultivating gratitude physically changes the brain in a way that makes us happier.
Other proven benefits are improvements in sleep, relationships, optimism, immune function, serotonin and dopamine production, and finally, heart health.
There are a ton of ways to build up your gratitude skills, here’s a good place to start.
Onwards, to kindness.
Being kind to others makes us feel good.
We don’t need a scientific study to show us that. We’ve all experienced that warm fuzzy feeling that accompanies being a good samaritan.
Kindness is ingrained in our culture. It is a distinct part of what makes us human.
Sometimes social media or mainstream news makes it seem like we are staunchly divided; quick to anger and arguments with others. It seems like kindness is completely thrown out the window.
But, this is an illusion. When we look at years and years of factual data we see the truth; the overwhelming majority of us are kind to one another time and time again.
And when it comes to happiness, kindness is often referred to as the secret ingredient.
Doing nice things for others boosts serotonin levels in the brain. So much so, that you can experience something known as a “helper’s high” which is chemically similar to a “runner’s high.”
Practicing kindness lowers anxiety levels, and keeps them low for weeks.
And acts of compassion release oxytocin into the brain and body; also known as the love chemical.
Kindness is the gift that everyone can afford to give. It’s the path to a healthier, happier life and a more successful and progressive society.
Together, a healthy sleep schedule, a gratitude practice, and kindness combine to form a time-tested and science-backed recipe for a happy life.
We designed a quick guided meditation specifically for cultivating a happy mindset. Give it a try here.