Any form of change and challenge can deplete us if we don’t allow time to direct our focus towards a few simple practices to conserve our energy and stay well.
Just like you, I have been also living through an adaptation period of this “new normal” which means: longer days in front of my computer screen to navigate the online business world, allowing for contemplative time to investigate viable directions to keep our business operating, and investing time and resources to learn how to use new web based tools to keep up to date in this rapidly changing world. And like many, doing my best to stay in touch with my loved ones virtually.
School of Happiness is now operating fully as an online wellness studio serving individuals and companies to stay well from the inside out body, mind and spirit.
Keep your Happy Vibe High
According to research from Harvard University Happiness is accessible through consistent behaviours. We don’t have to be happy all the time, smile when we don’t feel like it or laugh when we want to cry. Emotions are part of being human and feeling them is perfectly okay, we do need to learn when and where to express them to remain healthy and happy and to maintain harmonious relationships.
Create a Pathway to Happiness
We can optimize our happiness whenever we feel the need for a boost.
Here are three of the top happiness habits:
Positive psychologist Tal Ben Shahar teaches that just 15 minutes of rhythmic exercise like taking a brisk walk, swimming or cycling is like taking an anti-depressant. He goes on to say that not exercising is like taking a depressant!
I also read a report that just one minute of rebounding makes us happier and stimulates our feel-good hormones. I keep my rebounder (mini-trampoline) close by and bounce for a few minutes when I need a boost or some inspiration! Rebounding actually clears my head and inspires new creativity when I feel stuck.
When we make health and happiness a priority in our life, it is pretty easy to infuse more movement into our day to enhance our well-being: dynamic stretching, going for a walk, put on some good tunes and dance around! Remember just 15 minutes 2-3 times per day will do the trick!
On any given day we may experience all kinds of feelings from the moment we awaken to the time we finally put our head back on our pillow to go to sleep. Sometimes we are happy, other times filled with sorrow, some moments irritated or afraid then back again to excited and hopeful. One feeling may last for awhile, and then another takes its place.
Throughout any given time frame we may witness a steady stream of emotions or feelings for various reasons. The practice of meditation helps us become more aware of these feelings and how to navigate them in a healthy, helpful way.
Hatha Yoga is my go-to feel-good practice that is designed around movement (asana), breath (pranayama) and meditation. Breath-centric yoga asana unifies the mind and body through the movement of breath leaving us feeling more centered and relaxed.
With the breath as our guide, we move through carefully selected asana to help stimulate circulation, activate deep core muscles and connective tissues which in turn alleviate deeply held tensions caused by stress. Meditation follows the asana and pranayama practice as a natural, unforced, process allowing us to access deep states of stillness and personal insight.
A rhythmic steady flow of breath will always help quiet a restless mind, even a regular 10-minute coherence breathing practice will lead to profound life-enhancing results. The School of Happiness can help guide you into your Zen zone.
3. Gratitude – Be Happy Now
It is often easier to know what we don’t want vs. what we do want. How do you normally respond when someone asks you what you want? On the affirmative or the negative? What do you want for supper? Not meat. What do you want to do this weekend? I don't feel like doing much. What colour do you want to paint the living room walls? Not red.
When we focus on what we don’t want, we get more of what we don’t want. The brain is wired that way. We get what we focus on. One of my favorite expressions is “energy flows where focus goes”. What we bring awareness to naturally shifts.
Get present. How is your posture right now? Notice the quality of your breath. Feel the temperature of the space you are occupying at this moment. What is the underlying physical sensation in your body or emotional current right now?
These questions often get us out of our head and into the moment. Life experienced in your head is often far removed from the reality you are living. Create your life intentionally. It all begins with getting clear on what you do want, instead of focusing on what you don’t.
Why a gratitude practice can help.
When we begin to notice how we think most of the time we can begin to identify if our thought patterns are making us happy or unhappy. The “I will be happy when” analogy only sets us up for creating more unhappiness in our life. I will be happy when this pandemic is over, I will be happy when our revenue increases, I will be happy when my daughter gets into college, I will be happy when I lose 20 pounds, I will be happy when I retire and I have more time, etc.
Happiness is an inside job in every stage of life. Here. Now. Align and move in the direction of what you do want to avoid being stuck where you do not want to be.
Gratitude helps you get in touch with what is right in your life and what you appreciate the most.
According to research coming out of UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps gray matter functioning, and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness, the central nervous system is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant. It’s a fun and easy way of taking care of your well-being.
There are many studies showing that people who count their blessings tend to be far happier and experience less depression. I have moved in and out of this practice for years. Now, before going to sleep I pick up my journal and list ten things that I appreciated in my day. Many studies suggest listing three things, and in the early stages of practising, even that was tough.
I noticed just after one week, I could flow through ten “gratitudes" more easily: the morning walk with my dog, feeling the cool air on my face, listening to the birds sing, savouring my first cup of coffee or smoothie, having fresh water to drink, Ian’s comforting hugs, encouraging team mates, conversations with loved ones, the cozy bed I sleep in, receptive and amazing clients who put their trust in me every day, the support of my family, resources to work from home, the trees that surround our community and the list goes on.
The more I write, the more I feel my heart expand into harmonious sensations of calm, lightness, and joy. When I feel better, I work better and live better. There is a direct link between the brain and the heart. Feelings of gratitude about people and places we love create a state of well-being which in turn reinforces our immune system and overall health in a positive way. Take it a step further and say thank you to others, this kind gesture can shift the energy in any conversation.
Seek out the good
There are times in life where the experiences will be unpleasant, do your best to seek out the good moments too. A shift in perspective can help us see that our greatest challenges may also be great opportunities. We can always find something to be grateful for. Train your brain to see the beauty and possibilities around you and your energy will expand naturally leaving you feeling, more inspired, solution oriented and creative. Your health and heart will thank you for it too.
Laura Warf is the founder of the School of Happiness, which crafts methods for wellness by integrating tools from ancient teachings to today’s cutting-edge research. The mission of the School of Happiness is to guide and inspire individuals to become conscious creators of their well-being in body, mind, heart and spirit, following their eight essential elements to health and happiness.
Laura is a passionate wellness educator and leader in mind-body-heart integration. She offers retreats, classes and workshops live and online.