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10 Simple Things You Can Do Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

Joe Martino | Collective Evolution

We are all in search of happiness it seems. For me I prefer to look at it as the search for peace and joy in life as I find happiness can be too conditional and anytime we have to look for or chase something we are looking outside of us. Surely some of this is just semantics but for lack of a better word, happiness in my view is a state of being that comes from within and isn’t fickle.

I came across this great article about the science of happiness and how researchers have been able to discover that various simple things that we can adjust in our daily lives can bring more happiness to our state of being. Again I believe happiness is a long term thing, not short spurts of emotion that we chase, but something that is born within and sustained naturally in our being.

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.

brain_walk

 

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Especially this graph showing how your brain activity decreases is a great insight about how important enough sleep is for productivity and happiness:

sleep

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

Sleep is another topic we’ve looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive.

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long-term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

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Paulo Coelho on The Meaning of Life

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hikADxCjdNE

Paulo Coelho discusses the meaning of life.

 




Be Positively Real

Ally Hamilton | all things healing

There’s a lot of pressure in the yoga community and in many spiritual circles to “be positive!” and to “think positive thoughts and positive things will happen!”. And I’ll be the first person to say that I believe your thoughts have a lot of power in that they create a chemical reaction in your body, and that prolonged periods of stress will lead to dis-ease. But I think there’s an important distinction between not allowing yourself to fall into a negative cycle of thinking for an extended period of time (As in, “life sucks, people suck, I’m a loser, I hate my life”. If you’re in pain like that, my heart truly goes out to you, and I hope you can find the strength to start to make some different choices, take some action on your own behalf, embrace the voice of your intuition, and get support if you need it. You’re here for a reason and you’re the only you there is!), and completely denying your shadow emotions: fear, doubt, shame, rage, insecurity, jealousy, desperation. I would encourage anyone to make gratitude a regular practice. To continually pick up the mind, that loves to head into the past or the future, that loves to compare and contrast, that worries endlessly about things that may never come to pass, and bring it back to all the things you DO have, that are going well, that are gifts. I would not ask anyone to try to be positive in every moment, though, because that’s just not realistic. The people who cling to the light and deny the shadow stuff end up being owned by it. We see that again and again. Anything a person pushes down is going to come back twice as hard, Three times, four times, five times as hard until it’s acknowledged, embraced, and processed.

I think a better endeavor is just to be real. To be you. To respond to life as it unfolds from moment to moment with awareness and sensitivity. Sometimes things happen in this world that are so painful they take your breath away and make you feel your heart might collapse in on itself. Are you supposed to receive those experiences as gifts and force yourself to think positively? And is it your fault these things happened because you weren’t thinking positively enough? I don’t believe that. I believe in beauty and in chaos and in love. I don’t say things like, “everything happens for a reason” anymore, although I did ten years ago. If you ever heard me say that back then, I’m so sorry. Can you imagine going through something awful in your life, watching your child being slowly taken from you by an awful disease for example, and going to a yoga class where the teacher smugly tells you, “everything happens for a reason” as they take you through hip openers? Do you think that’s going to make a person feel comforted, embraced, supported…or judged, alienated and alone? It’s possible everything does happen for a reason, and it’s possible everything just happens, and it’s also possible the truth is somewhere between those two ideas. No one knows. I just know what I believe, what makes sense to me. You have to figure out what makes sense for you. And hopefully we can all respect and love each other even if we have different ideas.

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The Biggest Mistake Most of us Make on the Spiritual Path

Craig Hamilton | Integral Enlightenment

Many of us today are engaging in a tremendous amount of spiritual work on ourselves. We’re meditating, praying, attending workshops, seminars, and retreats. And yet the vast majority of us are making the same mistake. We tend to put far too much significance on the need to work out our personal psychological issues as part of our spiritual path.

It’s important to recognize that this isn’t our fault. This tendency grew out of our psychotherapeutic culture which basically told us that we were all messed up by our childhood and that we have “inner wounds” that need to be healed in order to become happy and fulfilled as adults. And, as the great enlightenment teachings have been imported to the West, this psychotherapeutic worldview has gradually become superimposed onto the spiritual path.

The way this plays out practically is as follows: let’s say that I take up a spiritual practice in earnest, and I notice in the course of that practice that I’m deeply defended against life and intimacy. I won’t let other people see me. I always wear a social mask which actually hides a lot of insecurity. Well, upon discovering this, as a psychologically informed modern, my tendency is going to be to withdraw inward, to go back to my past, to start plumbing the depths of my psyche to try to find and uproot the personal causes of this fear and insecurity, and this tendency to hide myself from life.

But in an authentic spiritual context, we would point out that this “personal problem” you’ve discovered is in fact simply one of the basic, ordinary manifestations of ego. And, rather than sending you on an endless and pointless archaeological dig into your psyche, we’d simply encourage you to face directly into the Truth of what you were seeing, to see the psychological tendency clearly, and the motivations that are driving it in the present. Most importantly, we’d encourage you to make direct effort in the opposite direction of your habitual response. So, in this example, when you see yourself preparing to put on a good face, we would encourage you to instead take the frightening leap to be transparent and vulnerable.

Upon reading this, many psychologically informed experts will protest, asserting that, if it were that easy to change, everyone would have already changed and there would be no need for . . . well, no need for psychotherapy . . . And this is a perfectly reasonable response from someone who has had no experience engaging in the kind of spiritual practice I’m describing.

But what happens when we let go of this compulsion to work out our problems, and instead begin to directly engage in a path of active transformation like the one I encourage, is that we suddenly find that we have access to a part of our self that is already free from our ego’s limitations and issues. It’s a part of our self that was never wounded or traumatized, that doesn’t need to be healed, that is already whole and complete, and has access to boundless energy, creativity, and positivity, and is completely ready to participate in life fully, boldly, passionately, holding nothing back. And, in this, we feel instantly connected to the heart of the spiritual thrust behind the Kosmos.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional Health

Amy Branton | all things healing

The importance of emotional health

The Institute of Heart Math Research Center has spent the last 20 years focusing on the heart- brain connection and discovering the benefits to our physical health of being in a positive emotional state. When we are in what’s known as the coherent heart state measured as 0.1 frequency using an EEG monitor. Our mind, body, spirit and emotions are working harmoniously together. In this optimum state we are better able to communicate, solve problems, be creative and even have better physical co-ordination. This is a good place for us to be living our lives from but trying to be in a state of heart coherence in our fast paced technological society can prove challenging to say the least. Whilst there is a big focus on physical exercise and appearance there is little recognition of the need to look after our emotional health and the detrimental effect it can have on our well being if we don’t. This coupled with the British cultural conditioning of keeping ‘a stiff upper lip’ means as a nation we are very good at repressing our emotions rather than expressing and releasing them.

There is growing evidence from the new science of Epigenetics that this strategy for coping with emotions is the root cause of many physical symptoms and disease we experience. Bruce Lipton, a stem-cell biologist discovered it’s the emotional environment we create in our mind that impacts the health of our cells not our genes. This discovery means we can no longer ignore our feelings and emotions. Finding ways to ensure we spend time in the coherent heart state is not just something we should ‘fit in’ our busy lives but a state we should aim to be in constantly. We need to recognise that slowing down and feeling gratitude and appreciation for life will bring many benefits to mind, body and spirit that our modern society does not make time for.

Here I outline 5 healthy habits you can develop to improve your emotional health

Create some daily quiet time

Find a time every day that you can turn everything off and spend some time in a quiet place. Switch off the TV, Computer, Phone and whatever other gadgets you feel like you can’t live without and spend at least 15 minutes just listening to what comes up for you. There maybe emotions and feelings you find uncomfortable and you may have the urge to grab your phone or computer to distract yourself. The reality is those emotions and feelings are trying to get your attention for a good reason. This is an opportunity to tune into your heart and listen to what it’s telling you and the first step towards creating a deeper connection with yourself and your inner world.

Find some daily quiet time to listen within

Develop an awareness of when you are stressed

Modern society and our use of technology has brought us many advantages but an unwelcome consequence has been our levels of stress have increased. The commute on the tube, the bullying boss, the relationship that’s not going quite according to plan and the cigarettes and wine you tell yourself are relaxing you at the end of the day are all contributing factors to your stress. For some people stress becomes a way of life but this is when it get’s dangerous. Your body was never designed to be in a constant state of stress and if you don’t take time to become aware of when you are stressed sooner or later you will experience burn out, illness and in some cases serious disease.

Take the time to notice when you begin to feel stressed, how you feel in your body, the thoughts that are running through your head and how this effects the way you interact with others. Once you’ve noticed when you are feeling stressed you can learn healthier ways to reduce it than drinking another cup of coffee or smoking a cigarette. Believe me these are adding to your stress, not reducing it!

Learn EFT

Emotional Freedom Technique is fast becoming the safe and easy way to release stressful feelings in the body and mind. Whilst focusing on the stressful feelings in your body that may manifest as a tight chest, knot in your stomach or other physical sensation caused by stress. You tap on a sequence of meridian points to rebalance your energy and bring you back into the parasympathetic calm state when you have been triggered into a stressed or fight/flight state . EFT is also known as ’emotional acupuncture’ and the basic tapping points can be found here https://www.freehearteft.co.uk/howtotap.html. Learning to tap rather than reach for a cigarette or a glass of wine that just have the effect of suppressing your feelings is a much healthier way for you to deal with stress and will help you return to a coherent heart state associated with optimum health.

Be kind to yourself

1Our money focused society conditions us to believe that being successful means having more money, more stuff, more sex and more power. This means we are all working really hard to achieve these goals that if we really stopped and thought about it. We might realise are not bringing us the happiness we were promised but instead are making us feel like we never have enough and feeling stressed because we are chasing an impossible dream which wasn’t ours in the first place. Participating in this competitive culture can mean we are very hard on ourselves as each of our achievements is barely acknowledged in our race to achieve the next goal, pay rise or rung up the ladder. Being kind to yourself means working out what’s right for you rather than blindly following someone else’s ideas about what makes a successful life and what brings happiness. The reality is happiness is very personal and only you know what truly makes you happy. The greatest kindness you can give yourself is taking the time to work out what happiness means to you. There is no better way to improve your emotional health than taking whatever action you need to make sure your life has the right mix of ingredients that make you happy.

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The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude

What makes you happy? Have you ever wondered why some people are happier than others? What role does gratitude play in happiness? Join Soul Pancake as they take an experimental approach to what makes people happier. Check out the study here: https://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/articles…