8 Mindful Habits to Be Happy
Mindfulness helps us live healthier lives so that we are less affected by negative stress. In being more mindful, we are able to feel more relaxed and are able to improve our relationships with others while feeling happier and more satisfied with our lives. One can argue that in practicing mindfulness and being aware of your mind and body, you may encounter discomfort or negative feelings. So does mindfulness lead to happiness? Yes and no. Even though being present can at times bring up emotions or thoughts that you are not ready to confront in the moment, and thus not lead to happiness, there are mindful habits that you can build to create a happier life. In building these habits, we learn that although every day may not be a good day, there is always something good to be aware of.
Science proves that people who are more mindful are significantly happier than people whose minds wandered away from the present moment. And although mind-wandering is completely normal, it is important to be aware of what we are telling ourselves, and bring ourselves back to the present moment. Here are 7 mindful habits that will without a doubt elevate your happiness:
1) In negativity, reframe your situation. Be the observer. Most times we get so caught up in a situation that we let our negative emotions control our thoughts. When we cling to such negativity, we fall into that downward spiral. It is important to understand that feelings of anger, depression, and sadness are all temporary. When experiencing such negativity, be mindful of any tension in the mind and body. Pay attention to thoughts. For example, when we switch our focus from “I am depressed” to “I am feeling depressed,” we can change our perception and step outside of the negativity. Observing our emotions in this way enables us to let go of the unsettling feelings and be more open to happiness.
2) Embrace happiness. When we notice the sweet moments in life that bring us joy, we should celebrate it. Whether you notice a butterfly settled on the tip of a flower, flapping its wings in slow motion, or curl up on your couch to eat a bowl of your favorite ice cream, or even catch up with an old friend over dinner, be aware of the pleasant, happy feelings. These moments are an invitation of pure bliss and although sometimes fleeting, these feelings can positively impact our entire day. Embrace the pockets of happiness throughout your week and see how it impacts your mood.
3) Breathing is your superpower. As simple as it sounds, just breathe. Our breathing patterns change so many times throughout the day depending on how we are feeling or what we are doing. Taking a deep breath brings us to the present moment and is the fastest way to connect to our mind and body. Sometimes we just need a reminder to breathe. And yes, we are always breathing - but are we paying attention?
4) Express gratitude. When you are thankful, you are giving of yourself. And when you give, you are happy. Positive psychology demonstrates that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with happiness. When we feel grateful, we are connected to the world around us and it is when we express gratitude that we acknowledge the good, and thus feel happy. For instance, your co-worker dedicates more time to help you with a project than you had expected. By feeling grateful for their gesture and time, you feel connected to their goodness in helping you out. In writing a thank you note for them, you are expressing gratitude and acknowledging their goodness. This habit not only makes you happy, but also your co-worker as happiness is best shared.
5) Spend time in nature. We spend so much of our time indoors and online that we forget how disconnected we are becoming. Research shows that being in nature makes us feel connected and actually makes us feel more alive. A lot of times we feel like we do not have the time or energy to go for a walk outdoors, but even spending 10 minutes outside and getting some sun actually energizes us. The next time you are in nature, be aware of your mind and body - how does Mother Nature make you feel?
6) Sleep more. Mindfulness is about being aware of your thoughts as much as it is about listening to your body. If you are tired and feeling exhausted, rest. Getting enough sleep allows you to protect your overall health and sometimes we tend to forget about the importance of it. Sleep helps your brain function better, it enables you to make decisions and be creative, and it even strengthens your immune system. In fact, when we are sleep deprived, our risk for depression actually increases. When you are feeling overwhelmed, check-in with your body and see if rest is all you need.
7) Move your body, run, lift, and play. Exercise in the form of running or even yoga gets the blood flowing, and also the breath moving. Awareness of activity enables us to be mindful of releasing any stress or anxiety we are carrying in our bodies. For instance, the movement from stretching can help with moving the oxygen in our bodies and when we are mindful of our breathing while we are stretch, we can breathe into the tension (perhaps tight muscles) and release with each exhale. When we exercise, our brain also releases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for feelings of please and happiness.
8) Smile. It’s your other superpower. When you smile, your brain tricks you into being happier. And yes, it is backed up by science. I challenge you to consciously smile more this week and be aware of your thoughts and feelings when you do. Your smile is more than just your facial expression. “Peace begins with a smile” (Mother Teresa).