Each of us struggles with happiness in our own way, especially because life comes full of difficult situations. Although we can’t control all of the circumstances in our life, we can change our attitude and participate in things that bring us peace. In this way, happiness is a choice. It is a way life. Happiness comes out of active choices we make each day.
If Buddha were alive today, he’d pity all of us for living in this extremely fast paced world, filled with constant commitments and stimulations. From the moment the day starts to the very end, in the modern world we never slow down. While I don’t recommend quitting your job and moving into the woods, just taking a few moments to slow down each day can at least help. Sit and relax, and take a few deep breaths for 10 to 15 minutes each day in a quiet place. During these quiet moments or bouts of anxiety, I recommend repeating this phrase taken from a Buddhist book of sayings, the Dhammapada:
“Quiet your mind. Relax. Watch. Nothing binds you. You are free.”
Let It Slide
Making a big deal out of the smallest things really gets in the way of achieving happiness. Think about it. Each day, small things can trigger us to feel such negative emotions; getting angry because your roommate ate your avocado, or a friend owes you 20 bucks. The next time something that trivial makes you angry, think about it and let go. It’s your ego grasping for control and dominance, but in the end it’s just toxic for ourselves to get that riled up over such small matters. Take a deep breath, think – is it worth getting pissed off over a piece of fruit?
Remember that feeling when someone you know passes away, and for the next few weeks you feel this sense of what’s really important. That’s what you need to hold to, and remember, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Spending some time outside comes as a recommendation from personal experience. Each day after work, I go running outside by the beach and sit for a few minutes after stretching, just looking at the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea. Maybe you don’t have the sea nearby, but find a place where you live to sit outside each day like a local park or near water. Especially with most of us in an office all day, sitting outside can do wonders for improving our mental health. Not to mention, Buddha himself achieved enlightenment while sitting under a tree.
Feeling depressed or overwhelmed? Take a moment, just to sit outside and do nothing. Take some deep breaths, go for a walk, just stop and listen to the breeze.
In the Dalai Lama’s book, The Art of Happiness, he stresses the importance of community, and getting to know the people around you. With our smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, and endless gadgets, it seems we spend most of our time in front of screens. Don’t forget the importance of human interaction! Instead of just saying a cursory, “hi, how are you?” to your friend or coworker, ask them something more personal. “Hey – how did your daughters’ softball game go?” For those who aren’t that social, make sure to spend quality time with the people that matter the most in your life. Pull yourself away from the screen and get more personal!
One path to spirituality in Hinduism is through physical activity (ever heard of yoga?) Ok, you might hate running or going to the gym. But don’t underestimate the power of a 20 minute walk. Physical activity reduces stress, boosts self esteem, improves sleep, and wards off both depression and anxiety. During exercise, our bodies release endorphins which trigger a positive feeling similar to that of morphine, aka a natural high. Need I say more?
Although achieving happiness doesn’t come easily, actively pursuing it will eventually bring us closer to inner peace. Taking small steps each day eventually leads to a happier lifestyle, a healthier mentality, and real improvement toward finding peace.
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