We spend lots of money in the name of “seeking happiness”, but the key ingredients to genuine and lasting happiness might be closer in range than you thought…here’s why.
The Science behind happiness
A psychologists research by Havard University showed that people spend 46.9% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they’re doing, and this mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.
This research, titled “A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind“, found people’s minds wandered frequently, regardless of what they were doing. It also found that people were happiest when making love, exercising, or engaging in conversation. They were least happy when resting, working, or using a home computer.
While how you spend your day doesn’t tell much about how happy you are, mental presence, i.e, the matching of thought to action, is a much better predictor of happiness. When you’re not paying attention to what you are doing? You’re significantly less happy.
Right Here, Right Now
“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. ….. all forms of fear are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. ……and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and to “be here now”. This teaching is twofold:
- When we can be present with our body and task at hand, we experience life as it is, not as what we fantasize or dramatize it to be. This is an essential insight to the skilful living.
- Given the natural state of our mind tends to wander, it takes intentional training to be in command of our mind. This is where mindfulness-based activities such as sitting/walking meditation, breathing exercise or yoga come into play. With regular and dedicated practice, we can become much more present, mindful, and content.
Acts of Kindness
Aside from being present with our life, another key ingredient to genuine happiness is compassion. Our mind-wandering is typically self-centred and it’s linked to a relatively negative mood. When we can direct our thoughts toward the well-being of others, we feel good about ourselves and the situation we’re in.
Much research such as this one has shown random acts of kindness help to release the “love hormone” oxytocin and the euphoria-feeling chemical dopamine. It even increases serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.
But where do we begin?
We can only begin with ourselves. In this video, I talked about how to be a bit happier by practising empathy towards ourselves. Also how expressing empathy leads to other positive mind power such as curiosity and creativity.
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