A great job, good health and the love of family members and friends are all traditional signs of a happy and successful life. Personal success is often simply viewed as doing what makes you happy. Only, that begets another important question: What is it that makes you happy?
Spending more quality time with your children, spouse or other loved ones is certainly gratifying. Creative endeavors like painting or ceramics classes are a nice, relaxing getaway from the rigors of work life, also. Maybe excellence at work provides fulfillment in and of itself, so much so that you focus your energy on accomplishing more at the office, going above and beyond the call of duty. You may not have a real understanding of what makes you happy in the first place.
What if the answer were even simpler than that? What if these markers for personal fulfillment were shielding your perspective from what it truly is that makes you happy?
Before becoming fraught with the notion of needing more clairvoyance on your path to true happiness, consider the lessons of The Happiest Man in the World.
A recent study by the University of Wisconsin found 67-year old former French biologist and current Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard to be unusually happy! Researchers gave Ricard a series of MRI’s which showed him as having unprecedented levels of positive emotional activity in his brain and conversely low levels of negative activity. He wrote a new book titled Altruism, a nearly 900-page exploration into the nature and virtue of happiness.
Ricard’s book suggests that the constant pursuit of pleasurable experiences actually becomes strenuous and that laughter really is great medicine to get over negative emotions. His advice for those seeking happiness that it is as easy as riding a bike. Furthermore, he describes happiness as a personal choice; a skill developed over time with practice.
“[A]ltruism and compassion, inner freedom, senses of serenity and fulfillment, resiliency… they are skills that can be cultivated through training the mind in compassion, caring mindfulness, emotional balance, and so on,” Ricard says.
Another piece of advice he gives for being happier is to spend 30 minutes of each day practicing meditation. The concept of making mindful meditation part of your daily routine is not necessarily a new one and is becoming increasingly profound.
The ideals of mindfulness are slowly permeating popular culture in meaningful ways across contemporary culture and for good reason. America’s top professional talent is integrating mindfulness practices into its work environs as a way to elevate productivity and creativity.
Forget the cliches of meditation being cross-legged and robed in a candle-lit room with the smell of incense and fruitless attempts at levitation. Think of mindful meditation as a short period of time during your day in which you simply bring your attention to the moment and in doing so experience a greater sense of peace and calmness.
While that may sound strange, it has powerful implications on your overall attitude and well being. Similar to rebooting your computer, it’s a chance to clear your mental hard drive each day and simply start fresh. By being mindful each day, you will decrease the risk and symptoms of anxiety and depression, And it only takes a few minutes.
Start by setting aside 5-10 minutes each day to do nothing but be mindful. The best environment is to be in a dark or dimly lit room and sit, with good posture, eyes closed and no outside noises if you can help it.
A simple exercise routine, nutritional diet and healthy dose of social interaction are all great signs to leading a successful and happy lifestyle. Spending the time being mindful each day will allow you to feel gratitude for the good things you have in life and shed the insecurities about your shortcomings. Then, your daily routine will not just be something you consistently do, but something you consciously gain fulfillment from.
For more on how to develop a healthy and happier routine, click here to learn about the Caterpilly program.
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