Happiness is a very elusive beast and it’s something we always seem to be striving for. Here’s what you can do to start being happy now.
It’s eternally around the next bend and in the greener field. We just know that it will magically appear when we have achieved something that can’t fail to change our life, such as losing those last five pounds, finally pulling off scorpion pose or kicking that sugar habit.
The truth is that happiness comes in moments, and we have to have our radar tuned to notice when those times present themselves or we are in danger of missing them. We are all so preoccupied these days and being busy has become something of a badge of honour. When we add to that all the distractions of mobile devices and messages, it has become increasingly more challenging to slow down and notice all the amazing things happening that make us realise life is actually pretty good!
1. Press ‘pause’ regularly
When a friend points out that we don’t seem to have much fun these days, it’s definitely time to stop and regroup rather than ploughing on through the next point on the to-do list. It can be a great idea to take a few days off and disappear to a different place to get a change of perspective and a break from routine. When we take a holiday, we often fall in love with our choice of destination because we have time to savour the food, enjoy a stimulating new environment and generally feel less rushed.
If we can’t take an extended break, why not try to apply that change of perspective to our daily life? We can press ‘pause’ and take a holiday from our routine by trying new classes and experiencing different teaching styles. Switching things up even in this small way can reinvigorate our interest in something that feels stale and offer joyful moments as we try a new pose and appreciate how our mind and body reacts to a fresh challenge. It’s easy to practise in the same way over and over again and lose our sense of how wonderful yoga can be – remember how excited we were when we started out?
Even little ‘micro’ pauses in our day can make a difference to our sense of happiness and wellbeing. Making time to take a short lunchtime walk, escape the desk and eat something healthy and delicious can help us to feel more in control of our day (autonomy at work is a big contributing factor to workplace satisfaction, according to research) , so schedule in a proper break. Make time to stop for a coffee or smoothie on the way home and just sit and savour it without distractions. Take the discipline of yoga off the mat and just be in the moment for a while without worrying about what needs to be done next.
>> Move into Happiness when you’re ready to press ‘play’ >>
2. Learn to be mindful
We can also learn to take pleasure in small things during the day: getting up earlier in the morning to savour that first cup of tea, getting a yoga practice in before work, or taking time to set the table for a healthy, unhurried breakfast are all ways of bringing joyful moments into our lives that we can be grateful for. Slowing down and taking our time can help us be much more mindful, creating opportunities for pleasure. I sometimes have to remind my students not to assume that they know where we are going in our vinyasa flow classes as I often throw in variations, so it’s important not to be on automatic both on and off the mat and miss something fun or new.
Being mindful and taking pleasure even in mundane activities can help us with the ability to ‘reframe’ our viewpoint and see dull chores differently. Reframing is a coaching term where clients are encouraged to see a situation from a new and more positive angle, and satisfaction can be taken from something as simple as coming home tired to clean sheets because we made time to tidy up and make the bed in the morning. Carving out time earlier in the day to get organised can lead to moments of pleasure later on when we are drained and just want to relax.
3. Don’t attach
Importantly, don’t attach your joy to ‘whens’ and ‘ifs’. ‘If I can achieve this backbend I will be happy’, for example. When we practise, it is crucial to remember that asana is just one of the Eight Limbs of yoga and we must not pin our personal satisfaction on attaining poses. We all have off days and our individual anatomy will make it harder or even unlikely that we achieve certain asanas. My shallow degree of hip rotation means that any wide angled poses will always be a challenge, as my skeleton is limited to a certain range of movement.
Focus rather on the Yamas and Niyamas, the controls and restraints that help us be grateful for what we already have and can already do. When it comes to self-development or svadyaya, we do it for the sake of the learning process, not for the outcome, just as we eat well and exercise the body for tapas and the development of discipline, and not because happiness lies in tipping the scales at a certain weight.
Ultimately, to be happy we need to stop worrying about the destination and focus instead on enjoying the experience of the journey.
This post was written by Tracy Johnson, the founder of Brainbox Coaching and Empower Yoga Bristol. She trained under Sally Parkes and is a 200 hour RYT with Yoga Alliance. Tracy blends her yoga teaching with confidence coaching and stress management to create a holistic practice, and runs her classes with warmth and humour. She is the author of a careers guide, Working in Science, co-author of The Coaching Gurus, and writes for publications such as OM Yoga Magazine, Globe of Love, Happiness+Wellbeing, MindBodyGreen and has been featured in the Guardian, Body Fit magazine, the Bristol Post and Cardiff Life. She is also a career and confidence coach, self-defence instructor and an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and is currently writing a book combining yoga with her coaching techniques for stress management. Follow Tracy on Twitter.