Meditation for happiness
What do you think of when you think of happiness? Is it a feeling you chase after but never quite reach, or a state of mind that you’re able to tap into if you have the right resources? Happiness is a state of mind — an underlying sense of contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life.
Here’s the good news: the feeling is already there, readily accessible, often buried beneath layers of thoughts and emotions. All it takes is tapping into it and reconnecting with a happy state of mind. By doing a happiness meditation such as the Headspace Happiness course (available to logged in subscribers), you can start mindfulness training to reconnect with that feeling and experience more happiness. Below, find everything you should know about the link between meditation and happiness. Try for free
10 Ways Meditation Will Make You Happier and Healthier
I never really believed the hype about meditation being the Holy Grail of inner peace and calm, overflowing happiness and joy, oodles of energy and aliveness…
All those beautiful emotional states we want more of in our lives.
Until I tried it. For real this time. Twenty minutes a day, for 7 days, marked with a satisfying ‘X’ on my wall calendar.
I was converted!
Now I’ve been meditating for the better half of two years, it feels like time has slowed down and my senses are sharper.
A single day feels full to the brim with simple joys, beautiful moments, moving experiences, colour and brightness. It’s like the dust of groundhog-day-living has been brushed off my heart and mind.
If you’re sitting on the fence and need a little nudge over into action-town, here are 10 ways meditation (or mindfulness) can bring more happiness, health and well being into your life.
1. Restful Sleep
Meditation can help you let go of those circling thoughts that keep you from drifting off at night. You’re also more likely to have deeper, more refreshing sleep, so you’ll wake up feeling energized.
2. Sharper Memory
Studies have shown meditation can improve your memory. This is particularly important in our digital world, where our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter (it’s a fact!).
3. Flowing Creativity
Meditation can help you awaken the creative parts of your brain (yep, even you non-creative types). Studies have shown that meditation can enhance your ability to come up with creative ideas.
4. Less Anxiety
Meditation can reduce your anxiety levels. Studies have shown it actually re-wires your brain so that the neural pathways responsible for fear and anxious thoughts are weakened. Take that, inner worrier!
5. Kindness to Others
This is one of the most amazing benefits of meditation – it can make you kinder and open your heart. Studies have shown that people who meditate regularly are more empathetic and compassionate towards other people. What a beautiful gift to the world.
6. A Healthier Body
Meditation is one of the easiest ways to improve your overall health. Studies have shown it can turn on genes that protect you from pain, high blood pressure and infertility, among other benefits.
7. Less Stress
Feeling overwhelmed by a crazy week? Meditation can help you stay calm and centred during challenging situations, and relax after the storm has passed.
8. Mental Clarity
Meditation has been linked to better focus, concentration and attention to detail. Studies have shown that it can re-wire your brain to strengthen the parts associated with attention and sensory processing.
9. Immunity Booster
Drinking green smoothies and going for beach runs, but still catching the winter flu? Meditation has been shown to boost your immune system, increasing your chances of staying well.
10. Greater Happiness
Meditation can increase your levels of feel-good chemicals, like endorphins and serotonin. Studies also indicate it may increase your capacity for happiness and reduce your propensity towards negativity.
The Psychology of Happiness
His shoes rhythmically pounding the pavement. No thoughts enter his mind. Heartbeat and stride in perfect sync. Time doesn’t exist. No awareness of himself or the world around him. Mile after mile, he’s totally immersed in the experience. Nothing else exists. Flow.
In his quest to “reverse engineer” happiness, Hungarian psychologist Dr. Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi interviewed a series of world class mountain climbers, chess players, tennis players, ballet dancers, surgeons, and other “self-actualized” high performers.
He outlined his incredible findings in the book “Flow: The Psychology of Happiness,” becoming an overnight bestseller. So, what’s this flow state all about?
In an interview with Wired magazine, Dr. Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you are using your skills to the utmost.”
How Meditation Increases Happiness
Scientists used to believe that people had a set happiness index. Some people were born with a disposition towards happiness while others were more prone to embracing misery. Time’s article reported that “neither very good events nor very bad events seem to change people’s happiness much in the long term.” Studies indicate that most people “revert back to some kind of baseline happiness level within a couple years of even the most devastating events, like the death of a spouse or loss of limbs.” However, recent studies show that with practice, people can elevate their baseline happiness level. We now know that the brain continues to develop and is capable of change—known as neurocysticercosis.
The good news is that these practices which elevate the baseline of happiness can be done in just a few minutes per day and doesn’t cost a dime . All that is needed to gain the benefits of these practices are: (1) a commitment and (2) regularly doing the practice. Over the next few posts, I’ll share some scientifically proven ways to increase happiness and sense of well-being. We start with meditation.
Practice #1: Meditate
There are many scientific studies that demonstrate the benefits of meditation. In one study, Compuware Corporation, a large business software and information technology services company in Detroit, Michigan, offered its employees six 60-minute group sessions over a seven-week period. The participants learned a form of meditation known as loving kindness. Loving kindness meditation is a “technique used to increase feelings of warmth and caring for self and others.” Participants were asked to meditate at least five times per week for 15-20 minutes.
6-Step Meditation to Invoke Joy
You don’t have to work for happiness. It’s already here to be experienced in every moment.
Use this practice to rediscover your natural connection with joy.
The more you practice invoking states of well-being, the more available they are. Use the following practice to teach your mind and body to experience joy in the moment. As you invite happiness into your life in this way, you will have more access to a joyful life.
1. Get comfortable and, if you wish, close your eyes. Become aware of your breath, and breathe slowly and deeply. Breathe in relaxation and a sense of ease. Let go of any tension as you exhale. Let the warmth of relaxation flow through your whole body, from your head all the way down to your feet.
2. Find your own way to the still, quiet center of your being, with your body relaxed, your emotions calm, your mind peaceful and spacious.
3. Think of a time when you experienced great joy and well-being, perhaps when you were in a beautiful place or with a good friend.
4. Recall your experience with as much detail as you can. If possible, bring an image of that moment to mind. What was happening? What was the environment like? Were you alone or with others? What sights or sounds can you remember?ADVERTISEMENT
5. Remember how the experience of well-being or joy felt in your body. Did your body feel light? Energetic? Expansive? What did joy feel like in your mind? Did your mind feel open? Present? Clear? Take a few moments to let your awareness feel the sensations in your body and the mood in your mind. Let them fully register as you breathe in this feeling of well-being. Relax into it with each exhalation.
6. Practice calling up this image and the feelings of well-being regularly each day for one week. At times, you may find you can simply invoke and sustain those feelings of well-being without having to re-create the specific memory.
Use this practice whenever you are feeling stuck and want to shift to a more uplifted state of mind, or simply want to open yourself to joy.
Why Meditation Makes You Happy, According To Science
I used to be so, so resistant toward meditation. Honestly, I would have rather gotten a root canal done than sit in silence for an extended period of time, alone with my thoughts. *Shudders*. Flash forward a few years, and meditation is one of the few things that keeps me sane. If you’ve ever experienced the healing powers of mindfulness yourself, you can probably attest to the fact that just a bit of meditation makes you happy, when practiced consistently.
Meditation has been defined in many ways by many people, but when it comes down to it, the practice simply involves turning inwards and being able to observe all of your thoughts and bodily sensations, without judgment.
Engaging in a daily meditation practice, whether it be for a quick five minutes in the morning or a lengthier hour in the evening, does incredible things for the human mind, such as relieving
To understand how including meditation into your daily routine can truly affect your happiness and joy towards life it helps to understand a psychological phenomenon called your “happiness set point.”
According to the American Psychological Association, in 1978, a team of psychologists from Northwestern University and the University of Massachusetts published a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that revealed that lottery winners actually weren’t all that much happier than hospital patients suffering from spinal cord injuries.
If you’re like, OK what the actual f*ck, that right there is some BS, allow the “happiness set point” theory to enlighten you. The scientists discovered that the amount of happiness you have within you is based on genetics. Happier people naturally have more activity in the front portion of the brain. So, even when unfortunate, stressful, or life altering events happen, their brain chemistry will shift back toward their innately joyful nature within a few months.
Meditation can actually help rewire your brain.
built up anxiety, quieting mental chatter, improving focus, and increasing self-esteem and feelings of confidence.
According to Psychology Today, meditation is the strongest mental practice that has the power to reset your happiness set point, thus turning you into a more joyful person and literally rewiring major areas in your brain.
Neuroscientist Sara Lazar’s studies show that maintaining a consistent meditation practice leads to a thickening in a few major areas of the brain, which in turn increases your ability to cope with uncomfortable and difficult situations and stressful occurrences that life throws at you. If, according to the happiness set point theory, you’re naturally more predisposed to being overly worried or stressed out, meditating on the reg can quiet those overactive areas of your brain, and thicken the areas responsible for joy and pleasure.
According to Mindbogglingly, Lazar’s studies also show that meditation shrinks the portion of your brain called the “amygdala.” This is the section of your mind which controls fearfulness and anxiety, so the smaller that bad boy is, the happier you’ll be as a whole.
Yet another study published by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health tested 30 medical students to measure their cortisol levels before meditation. Cortisol is the hormone in your body responsible for stress, and too much of it can lead to sleep trouble, anxiety, and mood swings (AKA way less happiness, friends). Well, the study revealed that after just four days of mindful meditation, the students’ cortisol levels decreased significantly. Just four days, people.
The bottom line is: Meditation has the power to instill a deep sense of calm and serenity in the innermost part of your being (and brain). With a daily practice, it doesn’t even matter if you believe in the happiness set point or not. You’ll be able to communicate better in your relationships, better cope with tricky curve balls life throws your way, and have a deeper sense of self-worth and understanding of your thoughts and tendencies.
Now that’s a prescription for some major joyfulness right there. Happy meditating!