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Being Happy is Healthy

5 May 2016   Shanti Gowans
Do you feel as if you are always chasing something, be it a promotion, a new car, or a significant other. This arises from a belief such as, “When xyz happens, I’ll be happy.”
The reality is, event-based happiness is fleeting. While some major events can make us happy at first, research shows that this happiness does not last. The mistaken notion that major life events dictate your happiness and sadness is so prevalent that psychologists have a name for it: impact bias. 
This happiness is synthetic, and conditional - you either create it, or you don’t. However, happiness that lasts comes from within you, and is earned through your habits. Your life did not just happen. You experience life exactly as you have fashioned it. If you are unhappy with where you are, you can deconstruct the parts you don’t like and build them up again. Classical Yoga provides you with a step by step blueprint for doing just this. Your days will be filled with more joy and less stress. And you will accomplish far more than you ever thought possible. Classical Yoga is a guide to crafting your perfect life. Sages and supremely happy people have honed habits that maintain their happiness day in, day out. Here are some of these habits. Try them out and see what they do for you:
Slow down to appreciate life’s little pleasures. By nature, we fall into routines. In some ways, this can be a good thing. It saves precious brainpower and creates comfort. However, sometimes you get so caught up in your routine that you fail to appreciate the little things in life. Know how important it is to savour the taste of your meal, revel in the amasing conversations you have, or even just step outside to take a deep breath of fresh air.
Exercise. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. Schedule regular exercise and follow through on it knowing it pays huge dividends for your mood.
Give more. Research shows that spending money on other people and resources makes you much happier than spending it on yourself. This is especially true of small things that demonstrate effort, such as going out of your way to buy your friend a book that you know they will like, or making someone a meal that they will like.
Good company.  Happiness spreads through people. Surrounding yourself with happy people builds confidence, stimulates creativity, and it’s fun. Hanging around negative people has the opposite effect. They want others to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. Think of it this way: If a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself. Do the same with negative people.
Stay optimistic. Bad things happen to everyone, including happy people. Instead of complaining about how things could have been or should have been, reflect on everything that elicits gratitude for you. Fnd the best solution available to the problem, tackle it, and move on. Nothing fuels unhappiness quite like pessimism. The problem with a pessimistic attitude, apart from the damage it does to your mood, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you expect bad things, you’re more likely to experience negative events. Pessimistic thoughts are hard to shake off until you recognise how illogical they are. Force yourself to look at the facts, and you’ll see that things are not nearly as bad as they seem.
Get enough rest. I can’t say enough about the importance of rest and sleep to improving your mood, focus and self-control. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, removing toxic proteins that accumulate during the day as byproducts of normal neuronal activity. This ensures that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your energy, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough good quality sleep. Sleep deprivation also raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. You know how lousy you feel when you’re sleep deprived. Make sleep a priority, it makes you feel great.
Have deeper conversations. Happiness and substance go hand-in-hand. Avoid gossip, small talk, and judging others. Instead focus on meaningful interactions. Engage with other people on a deeper level, knowing that so doing feels good, builds an emotional connection, and is an interesting way to learn.
Help others. Taking the time to help people not only makes them happy, but it also makes you happy. Helping other people gives you a surge of oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, all of which create good feelings. In a Harvard study, employees who helped others were 10 times more likely to be focused at work and 40% more likely to get a promotion. The same study showed that people who consistently provided social support were the most likely to be happy during times of high stress. As long as you make certain that you aren’t overcommitting yourself, helping others is sure to have a positive influence on your mood.
Make an effort to be cheerful. No one wakes up feeling happy every day and supremely happy people are no exception. They just work at it harder than everyone else. Understand how easy it is to get sucked into a routine where you don’t monitor your emotions or actively try to be happy and positive. Consistently evaluate your moods and make decisions with your happiness in mind.
Do things in-person. Only let technology do your talking when absolutely necessary. The human brain is wired for in-person interaction, so jump at the chance to drive across town to see a friend or meet face-to-face because it will make you feel good.
Cultivate a growth mindset. People’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged, because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed. People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. This makes them happier because they are better at handling difficulties. They also outperform those with a fixed mindset because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.
Bring It All Together
What other habits make you happy? Happiness can be challenging to maintain, but investing in the right habits pays off. Adopting even a few of the habits from this list will make a big difference in your mood and your life.


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About Shantiji

Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography

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