Something quite bizarre has been happening lately, well, for the last two months at least. I noticed that a lot of people around me, myself included, had been feeling quite low.
Almost everyone I knew, seemed to be dealing with a lot of personal issues and internal struggles/revelations. Some couldn’t really pinpoint what was making them feel so melancholy, but some were experiencing very specific phases which were outside of their control. Most were not sleeping well, and starting their days not enthusiastic for what was ahead.
It was hard to stay afloat during this time – everywhere I went, people were down, slightly depressed.
We were all discussing our problems, sharing tips on how to deal. If we weren’t talking we were keeping to ourselves. It was hard to just run away from the fact that some kind of sadness was in the air so we could let go and just have some fun.
I’m not sure why it was that most of us seemed to be experiencing this at the same time. I did read somewhere that the early part of 2015 was having several interesting celestial events like solar and lunar eclipses. We had already experienced a full solar AND lunar eclipse. Quite rare to experience both in a short span of time.
Here’s a list for 2015 if you’re keen to learn more.
Some believe that during times like these, we experience a shift in consciousness and things therefore go out of whack a little. It seems it’s also a great time for manifestation – whatever we’re feeling during this time gets manifested in the coming months, so it’s wise to keep your thoughts positive and optimistic.
During this time when everyone was low – and perhaps because I was seeking it so desperately – I also came across so many amazing articles and resources that shared very practical tips on how to be happy.
Celestial events or not, something kicked in that told me it was time to get happy and use all the tools which I found online including some very basic things I already knew deep within myself.
My goal was to get happy and hopefully in that process I could try to help others get happy too. I was going to fake it till I made it – I believed that there were things we could do that could help or fool our brains into getting happy.
Once we get the motions going, it will uplift others. Any emotion is contagious – hang around long enough it will affect your mood too.
Notice how around sad people you feel low but when someone’s bursting with joy and is so pleasant you can’t help but get a little excited too (even if it’s temporary)?
Or at least if you try to fake it to make someone happy in that moment you both find that you can cheer up a little?
“We rise by lifting others.” Anonymous
Happiness is a science I believe – you don’t just sit there and expect it to happen. There is work to do, there are things to practice and be mindful of, and there are things one will need to let go of.
Also, while hard at first, you have to actively pursue the art of trying to be happy – fake it long enough it will actually start to catch on and make you (and others around you) feel better.
It’s a whole process that goes on and on. One will never just learn to be happy and then stay in that constant state.
The things that trigger and affect us will continue to change in form (since energy expands and all) and thus, our approach to dealing with those things, and ultimately the affect and how we deal with it, will also change and be different each time based on where we’re at in that given moment.
For as long as we live, everything will change. Nothing will ever be constant. And our lesson each time will also be different. So our goal should be to never give up, to keep trying.
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” Elizabeth Gilbert
I decided to put the science into action. I broke it down to two things:
(i) The Mind
(ii) The Body
Attaining happiness was going to be a holistic approach. There were going to be mental and physical activities and changes.
I noticed that once I started to actively pay attention to these, everything around me started to make a turn for the better. I was feeling better on the inside, and I also noticed people around me were starting to feel better too, or at least I began gravitating to the ones who were.
Whether it was all a coincidence or not, I’m grateful that we all got out of it and we’re back on track to having fun again.
So how can one get there? Starting with the mind is the first crucial step.
You must decide that you want to be happy. You must feel the desire in your heart to be happy. Once you get that, you then need to focus on how to train your brain to see the good things in life.
This can be tough for some people. Maybe it’s because of family upbringing (a negative/traumatic childhood), or perhaps it could even be due to the nature of your job.
Are you in a role that requires you to look for errors or problems, such as accounting or law? If so, you might just, without realizing it, be predisposed to pervasive pessimism that carries over into your personal life. Read more on that here.
Regardless the cause of what’s got you on a negative loop, you need to recognize the cycle you’re caught in and that the pattern needs to stop.
You have to have the discipline and mind power to have control over your thought process.
Here are a just a few things you can do to get started, but remember, you cannot quit halfway. You have to master the art of making each of these part of your being and your nature.
1. Practice gratitude
Ah, we can never run away from this. You want to be happy? Start getting grateful now.
Did you know that bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists? Apparently, they are simply grateful to get a medal at all.
Gratitude will make you happier – it will improve your relationships, make you a better person, and make life better for everyone around you.
Start a gratitude practice and make this a daily ritual. Every night before you go to sleep, think of or write down three things you are grateful for. It could be how someone did something nice for you, or it could even be for something as simple as the sunshine was glorious all morning or you got to work on time.
Remember the reverse is also true. Keeping track of bad things will make you feel miserable. So watch those thoughts and teach it to keep positive.
“Focus on the powerful, euphoric, magical, synchronistic, beautiful parts of life, and the universe will keep giving them to you.” Anonymous
2. Start complimenting – yourself and others
You know the saying, “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you?”
Well, what if we flipped that around – “Don’t do unto yourself, what you would not do unto others.”
So, if you would not say to someone that they are stupid or ugly or horrible, then do not speak to yourself like that either. Love has to start from within.
This is tough for more people, as they are the ones who tend to beat themselves up most. It’s easy to get lost in self-blame and victimisation.
However, try to stop that as much as you can. Start looking out for great things about yourself, qualities about yourself you like. If you can’t think of anything, but yet you’ve begun this journey and decision to be happy, then pride yourself for that at least.
Say to yourself: “I’m proud of myself for making this decision to try my best to be happy.”
That’s still something. Once you can start to appreciate things about yourself and give yourself compliments, start to notice the good in others too, and then compliment them for it. Go on, surprise them and make their day. You may never know how much somebody could have needed that in that moment. I’m sure you remember having days like that too.
Forcing yourself to see the good in you and others is a great way to train your brain to get positive.
3. Spend as much time as possible with the people that you like
They say you are the sum of the people you surround yourself with. So the next time you’re feeling low, take a look around you. Is there anybody happy in that circle?
If there isn’t, you might need to change the scene for a while (some usually end up doing it for good once they initiated the initial distance) and start to hang around with people who look like they have a life you would like to emulate or one you are seeking for yourself.
If you want to be happy, with a great job, a balanced lifestyle, then hang around with others who are like that too.
“Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” Oprah Winfrey
4. Filter what you’re processing
Again, just like your social circle, you will have to filter what information you process.
Do you notice that your Facebook newsfeed is filled with negative/pessimistic statements and complaints? What kind of movies are you watching? What kind of news articles are catching your eye? What kind of music do you listen to?
Have a zero tolerance rule for negative crap. If you see a comment you don’t like from someone on Facebook, choose to select “I don’t want to see this”, “Unfollow [person’s name]” or “Report this post”.
You can also start following pages that post positive, inspirational and healthy content. This way, when you do go online, you’re surrounded by happy information all over your newsfeed. I started doing this about 3 years ago and today I love that my world is filled with lots of happy news.
Also cut down on angry/violent movies, music or any other type of content. Opt to be positively stimulated. Go for things that put a beat in your step not a slump in your walk. Stop watching the news or reading the newspapers for a while. Avoid negative/fear-based media reports.
While you’re filtering the information that’s coming in, also don’t forget to filter the information that’s going out. Do not speak ill, gossip or pass judgement to situations and others. Keep your conversations positive and optimistic.
“You cannot hang out with negative people and expect to live a positive life.” Joel Osteen
That covers the mind part. While you’re trying to cover that, there are also certain things you need to practice to keep your body functioning in such a way that it’s releasing happy chemicals.
1. Get enough sleep
A good night’s sleep can help tackle stress. Without enough sleep, one is usually tired and therefore less patient and easily agitated. This in return, increases stress. It’s important to get at least 7 to 9 hours sleep each night.
Take responsible disciplined measures to make sure this happens. Avoid any type of stimulation from technology which can keep you up, try to silent your thoughts by not thinking about the future, and do your best to get the shut eye you need.
Also put this in practice if you’re upset about something and want to make a decision. Make sure you only do so after a night’s good rest. Think things through and see if your feelings about something changes the next day. Do not make any rash moves.
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” Irish proverb
2. Watch what you’re eating and drinking
Don’t forget the fundamentals. If you’re cranky, eat something first before you blame the world for it.
And watch what you’re eating. Is it loaded in sugar or grease? Are you eating fresh and clean? Are you drinking a little too much alcohol lately?
Put the right fuel in your body and it will serve you well all around. Junk food and alcohol will not save the day, it could in fact set you back and take you back to square one.
So get smart about having healthy eating habits – there are many ways to still enjoy good food that nourishes the body without feeling like you’re giving up the world.
3. Smile as often as possible (even if you don’t feel like it)
I’ve recently been practicing this for the last few months and it’s fast becoming my favorite quick fix to feeling better.
Try this exercise: Look straight ahead and smile. A nice chilled relaxed smile. Make sure it reaches your eyes, so that it crinkles at the corners. Hold that smile for a while. Take a deep breathe and exhale. Notice how you feel.
Now frown. Crinkle your eyebrows, purse your lips, and take a deep breathe and exhale. How do you feel now?
Did you notice a difference? Did you feel lighter when you had a smile on your face?
I’ve started practicing with having a frozen Mona Lisa smile on my face. I know that sounds weird, but I don’t mean it in a fake way. I focus to have a relaxed smile on my face as much as I can. I find that as a result, I feel much calmer and happier.
It’s as though smiling can fool the brain to feeling happy.
If something is happening that could upset me, I try to catch myself early enough to pause the thought and put a smile on a my face for a while. I find that I easily let things go as a result and I end up communicating in a much gentler way.
Also by smiling, I seem to be attracting a lot of friendly people my way. They make jokes and say cute things. It feels like a blessing to see joy emulating from those I know and also strangers.
There is also a Taoist practice called the Inner Smile that validates this. It’s all about sitting still for a while, and going into feeling an inner smile and radiating love to those around here. You can read more about it here.
4. Watch your posture and body language
Finally, there are a list of things you can start changing now that will begin to immediately make you feel better. Of course, you have to couple this with a positive mind – they work to complement each other.
Just like the effect of a smile and frown mentioned above. Doing the following things can fool your brain into thinking happy:
(i) Power stance: Stand straight and tall – this conveys confidence, authority, strength and happiness. Spread your legs slightly wider than shoulder width. Bring your hands out to the side and raise them to they’re at a 45% angle (make a “Y” shape). This is a gesture of openness, receptivity and joy.
Lift your chin up – this symbolises looking forward optimistically. Looking down symbolises being stuck in the past, fear and lack of confidence. Then smile – the most important part. Send the smiling message to the brain. Hold this pose for a few minutes.
I like to incorporate this in my daily morning yoga routine, during Sun Salutation.
(ii) Always sit straight – don’t slouch.
(iii) Make eye contact and have a friendly smile when you speak to someone.
(iii) Feel with your heart – at all times, imagine love going in and out of your heart, and send that to wherever you’re facing. When you’re speaking to something, think of this feeling and send the love directly to them. If you’re getting upset, start to “breathe” from the heart and see if this helps make you feel better.
(iv) Walk briskly and with a spring in your step.
(v) Avoid crossing your arms – this is a signal of vulnerability and fear. Be open to receiving. Sit straight with your palms on your sides or on your lap facing upward.
(vi) Do light exercise daily. Get the blood pumping.
So there you go. Your formula for happiness. So if you’re feeling low, try this for a while – at least 10 days and see how you feel. Cover both the aspects of the mind and also the body. I promise you will start to feel better and with that, will be able to also help others who are feeling low too.
Do you have other tips for the mind and body to help boost happiness? Share your thoughts with us below!