I am not claiming that just because you step onto your yoga mat a few times a week that you will master the art of happiness. However, through practice (not perfection) powerful and undeniable internal and external shifts will occur that may lead to greater joy.
Before we get to the happy-making tips, let's first define a few different types of happiness:
The Yogi's Definition of "Happy" vs. Real Life "Happy"
Who doesn't feel a boost of joy in the eyes of a new love, when offered a job promotion, or celebrating the birth of a baby? How can you not appreciate life with greater ease?
However, without mindfulness, we can easily fall into the trap of our mood and overall outlook on life depending solely on the events that take place outside and all around us. Yoga provides the tools to undertake the task of navigating the internal landscapes; the sub-conscious mind, dreams, and the emotional and spiritual mind body connection. These shadowy areas can seem pretty cloudy compared to the bright lights of the day-to-day busy hustle.
Keep in mind, happiness does not mean absence of suffering, rather, this state of mind can exist in spite of suffering. Happiness, a steady and undeniable inner peace, allows you to have a genuine smile on your face in the midst of real life with all of its inevitable ups and downs and twists and turns.
Life sure sounds a lot like yoga, doesn't it?
With that being said, here are five tips on how to be happy:
1. Contentment Within
In yogic terms, Santosha describes this state of unshakable inner peace. How can you find it?
Try this simple exercise right now: put a little smile on your face. The slight turning up of your lips sends an instant mood-boosting message to your mind. Now, remember to find that smile when you confront a slightly less than pleasant situation.
2. Non-Attachment to the Outcome
Letting go of expectations does not mean numbing out, not caring, or repressing your emotions. Rather, non-attachment is a healthy distinction between what you can and cannot control. Savasana, that final yoga pose, teaches how to embody this type of blissful surrender. Have a dream or intention, work towards it, and also make time to rest and give that dream space to manifest.
You can't do it all alone. Trust the universe has your back and relax sometimes!
When you find yourself feeling edgy and nit picking every last detail, you may want to take a step back and look for something to appreciate. Complaining incessantly leads to unhappiness and chronic disappointment, making any solution virtually impossible.
Gratitude, on the other hand, invites acceptance and greater clarity so you can have a more objective view of the big picture and take action, if needed.
Take notice of where you may feel resistance to gratitude. Often the aversion is not to the gratitude itself, but to a situation that requires you to take action or one that no longer serves you. You can still express thankfulness for having the wisdom and courage to move forward, which will help get you out of the heavy-hearted habit of finding fault.
4. Explore the World with Curiosity
Beginner's mind, that hopeful, child-like perspective reminds you that everyday a journey lies before you beckoning you into the great unknown. Seems like an exciting adventure, but really, who wants to always deal with the unknown? Talk about terrifying.
At first glance, the security of knowing exactly who you are and where you are going offers the illusion of peace, but in many ways this mindset creates more attachment which leads to increased suffering. More suffering equals less happiness.
The solution? Plan your day and be brave enough to leave at least a small opening for possibility and the unexpected miracles you will most definitely encounter.
5. Compassion for All
Compassion makes unconditional love possible. It subtracts the need for duality which causes us to lump people and events into those elusive, yet fatal, good versus bad compartments. These types of limiting definitions close down the heart and mind and lead to isolation and loneliness.
Always remember this mantra, "I am doing the very best I can and so is everybody else." This will help release you from holding yourself and others to unrealistic expectations.
Bridge the gap between "yoga" happy and "real life" happy by remembering that true joy does not depend solely on external circumstances. This includes not placing too much emphasis on perfect execution of your asana, giving yourself permission to "feel" your feelings without judgment, and taking time to continuously get to know yourself everyday.
Stay present to your ever changing tides and you will flow happily on and off of your mat.