There’s a term used in psychology called Impact Bias, or our predisposition to overestimate the impact of future events in our current state.
These tendencies have been exploited commercially, as it projects the feeling of happiness away from the present moment, not as an inner state but as an external desirable outcome. When we get the type of relationship, job, possessions that we want, then we can then experience contentment.
Surely by now, we realized that as soon as we met one desire another one is automatically born, giving space to a bottomless cycle of needs and expectations that only place our ‘happiness’ even further in the future and away from us.
The manipulation of this psychological human trait is largely applied by most industries when creating products and the reason is simple: a shopping mall filled with content people would translate to less profit.
Clearly, we have hopelessly attempted to achieve well-being in the most ineffective ways. On the bright side, there is scientific evidence suggesting that some habits, if kept regularly, will contribute to sustainable happiness.
Among the most powerful tools to achieve such state are gratitude, exercising, mindfulness, and generosity. Although it sounds simple, we need to form habits to develop these virtues.
Let’s look into ways to develop each one of them:
Applying perspective to observe how we might take circumstances and people in our lives for granted is a great tool to develop gratitude.
Taking our thoughts a bit deeper we can focus on the precious things that we have such as our eyes, hands, health, life, and family.
The place we came from; as many countries face war or cultural restrictions that we will never experience in our lives. The time in history where we live as human beings, women, children, black, white, mixed race, gay, atheist, evangelic, rich or poor.
The social revolutions that have gained the freedom that we experience in many places on earth. The variety of shops that prepare our food at a low cost anytime that we feel hungry but don’t want to cook, the artists that work for months writing, acting, studying so we can sit in the comfort of our homes and be entertained for a few hours watching a movie or reading a book. The electricity, running water, public transport, planes, kettles, washing machines, mobile phones.
We have more luxury today than a king could only dream about a few centuries ago, without the need to do much. All of this was all created for our comfort, and for that, we must be grateful.
It’s close to impossible to finish a jog in the park and not to feel better, or to attend a yoga session and leave the class stressed out. You don’t need a fancy gym, £100 leggings or a “tailored-body-type-signature-workout”, just a pair of trainers and a walk around the block will be a great start.
Exercising is a fantastic way to enhance your feel-good hormones, and as you practice you’ll be hooked on it. It’s also possible to temporarily boost your endorphins via alcohol, nicotine and sugar/fat and it will also create a psychological hook (addiction) but the latter option sooner rather than later will have a deteriorating effect in the user.
In a hedonistic society that has tried to replace happiness for instant gratification, it’s worth remembering the formula: Short-term discomfort (discipline) = long term pleasure. Short term pleasure = long-term pain.
Any investments in experiences that can bring you to the present moment are money well spent. To be mindful you don’t have to be a monk, but to appreciate the moments you are in fully. Enjoying life ‘now’ has been proved challenging but by pursuing hobbies and healthy habits, mindfulness -being here now and not “wishing to be elsewhere”- becomes attainable.
This wellbeing requires a behavioral shift. Thankfully we are learning to value experiences over things. Ideally, to travel, attend a yoga retreat, daily meditation would have a great impact on your happiness. But if you can’t do any of that just yet, stop for a few minutes daily and breath intentionally, just focusing your attention in the air coming in and out of your lungs, this is a baby step into developing a deeper meditation habit.
To act generously is to have faith. Faith is the opposite of fear; it’s to believe that the best is yet to come despite having evidence. Faith is to believe in abundance as opposed to lack, and although most of us make associations with money or possessions, generosity goes beyond that.
Time, for instance, it’s one of the most precious things we can gift someone with, including ourselves. Love can be given freely to anyone, in a smile to a stranger, in the forgiveness to the ones around us, by giving a few coins to someone in need, or to support a charity. People get richer when they share; that is the fascinating alchemy of generosity.
In yoga, giving is also known as Karma Yoga or the Yoga of Action. It purifies the heart by teaching to act selflessly, without expecting of gain or reward. By detaching from the fruits of our actions and offering them to God (or a higher force), we learn to diminish the ego.
You can start to be happier now by applying the tips above immediately!
- You have all you need and even more (give thanks for these blessings!)
- Buying more things will only reinforce the part of your brain that is never satisfied.
- Your physiology determines largely how you feel. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, slow down, breath deeply for a few minutes
- Love people and use objects.
- Value experiences over things; its money well invested.
- Give: love, time, money or anything you can, scientific studies suggest that it’s a shortcut to happiness.
- When you feel like your thoughts are winding you up, focus on your breathing patterns, you’ll alter your nervous system in as little as 3 minutes.
Happiness starts from within! So, take that first step into a creating a happier life by going on an invigorating Yoga and Meditation Retreat with Daniela!