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Laughing Your Heart Out Happiness

Posted by on May 3, 2012

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According to a recent article in Time Magazine as well as several new studies coming out of a new science called the ‘Positive Psychology Movement,’ there is quite a bit you can do to help boost your mood. Those in the yoga world have known some of these secrets for a while, and aside from practicing asana, breathing more deeply, and sitting in quiet stillness for a few moments every day, the following things seem to develop greater seratonin and melatonin, or happy hormones in the brain. The more often you are happy, the more often you can stay happy too, research is showing, as the neural pathways of this psychological habit become stronger. If you want to get happy and stay happy more often, try these things (notice how many of the items listed are straight from the yogic tradition):

  1. Count your blessings – also known as Santosha in yoga circles. This means being happy about what you have, not complacent. We accept all externalities and focus on what we can see as ‘good’ in this moment.
  2. Move, move, move – one word. Asana. It changes everything.
  3. Listen to music, and sing along with it – also known as Kirtan or Bhakti or devotional yoga. Mantra chanting has been used for centuries to elevate your energetic imprint and cause a change in mood and perspective. It’s no wonder this made the list. Have a listen to this Deva Premal and Miten version of the Gayatri Mantra, one of the most powerful mantras known.
  4. Kiss and hug – physical contact is one of the most elemental ways to connect to others in your world. Babies grow healthier when they are held and craddled. Adults feel less stress when they are just touched gently on the arm, or given a big hug. Yogis are known for being touchy-feely. Turns out they are on to something.
  5. Laugh as loud and as often as you can – Laughter yoga has been making its appearance in yoga studios all over the world. If you want to get a taste of one, check out this video.
  6. Nurture Your Spirituality – well, what can I say, Yoga is all about this. No matter what branch you turn to, Ashtanga, Hatha, Kundalini, Bhakti, and so on, you can find some spiritual nuggets to change your life.
  7. Do something completely unselfish for someone else – Give more – there is an entire branch of yoga called karma yoga whose aim is to teach us to be less self-consumed and more giving. For ideas about where to give, click here.
  8. I hate to put this one on the list, but apparently, making more money than your peers can add to your happiness. This is not really a yogic paradigm, unless you consider people like billionaire philanthropists, Bill and Melinda Gates or Katharine McCormick, first lady of helping others.
  9. Identify with your heritage – this can be put in the category of accepting yourself as you are. It is a form of aparigraha, one of Patanjali’s set of moral precepts which tells us not to covet that which isn’t ours, and svadhyaya, or self-study. To know the world better, know oneself better. Acceptance and knowledge lead to greater wisdom.
  10. Use happy memories to trigger happy feelings –  This is all about conditioning your mind for useful mental states.  There are a thousand and one meditations that can be helpful in training the mind to stay intimate with happy thoughts. Here is a kundalini kriya that can help raise your mood as well.
  11. Be an optimist – again, a form of training the mind. In Zen, Yoga, Buddhism and Positive Psychology, this applies. Buddha said, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”
  12. Try new things – you live in a great big world, with an infinite number of possibilities at your feet.  Try something new. Taste a new flavor. Walk, bike or drive home a different way. Your mind will be refreshed and your mood improved.
  13. Stay realistic in your expectations – In Zen, it is said that suffering is the result of expectations held close, not expectations themselves.
  14. Balance work and home – In yoga people who don’t sit up in the mountains meditating and chanting all day, but who still want to reach enlightenment are called householders. Its an apt name considering we have to care for  a home, including the relationships within them, but we also have to work. Finding a balance between these is essential. The tools of yoga can be an incredible way to help you sense when something is out of kilter, and align it. You can start by adding a 5 minute meditation to your day, every day, and watch how some things just solve themselves.
  15. Smile – there are muscles used in smiling which help to trigger a neuro-response in the brain to uplift your spirits. Do it even when you are unhappy to try to shift your mood. You can also bathe in the sun or lift your gaze upward to induce the same response in your brain.
  16. Pick your partner wisely – Find someone who is already happy and spend your life with them. If you look at people who aspire to a balanced, giving life, they are often a very beautiful, happy fulfilled couple who find nourishment from the world, not just each other. Use these people as an example of what you should look for in a mate, whether friend, or a lover.

(c) 2012 Christina Sarich, reprint with reference to author and website only, please, all links in tact.

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