Happiness is a mental state that is measured differently for each individual. And, while many people desire happiness, the pursuit of happiness can run counter to the mindfulness idea of observing and accepting what is. Rather than actively pursuing happiness, we may benefit by intentionally noting emotions of contentment and exploring how mindfulness can help us achieve a happier state of mind. Here are some helpful ways to cultivate your positive mind states.
Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation for something wonderful that has happened to us (or hope to experience). There is mounting evidence that practicing thankfulness improves welfare and functioning by directing our attention to the positive and therefore helping to rewire the negativity bias.
Keeping a Thankfulness Journal is a typical gratitude activity. For example, throughout the next week, at the conclusion of each day, you could reflect on the day and write down three things you were grateful for.
They can be significant or tiny occurrences; what matters is that you pause and reflect on them rather than simply taking them for granted and continue to focus on negative events at a 7 to 1 ratio.
To fully boost thankfulness, it’s helpful to reconnect with the experience in the body. This is something that a lot of appreciation study overlooks. For example, you may take a moment right now to reflect on your day so far. What is one item that went well or was pleasant for which you are thankful? If nothing comes to mind, consider some suffering that you are not now experiencing, such as chronic pain or the death of a loved one, and be grateful for that.
Concentrate on what you’re thankful for and feel the wonderful sensations in your body. Concentrate your attention on these feelings and stay with them for 10 seconds (or more if you like). Take note of how wonderful this is.
You might want to do this throughout the day, whenever you have a pleasant encounter. If you choose to do so, take note of the impact it has on your day (mood, motivation, etc.). Also, if you think about your day before going to bed at night, you will be able to recollect the positive events much more easily. And then you can take some time to enjoy it (i.e. the experience of having had a good day).
Even if something you would normally consider unfavorable happened today, how can you approach it with gratitude? Can you, for example, learn something from it? Did it push you to reveal a side of yourself that you value? Did it make you aware of something about yourself that you need to be conscious of and improve on?
We often cease tasting our food, noticing the surroundings, hearing the birds, or appreciating our relationship when we are unmindful; in short, we take life for granted and miss out on what it has to offer. We begin to notice these things more as we practice mindfulness, but we can also positively grow our ability to perceive and enjoy life as it unfolds.
Savouring refers to intensifying and prolonging pleasurable experiences and emotions. This can be accomplished through both thoughts and actions that direct our attention to the positive experience. Simply said, it is noticing and ‘hanging out’ with happy experiences.
This can be accomplished by anticipating pleasurable experiences, paying full attention to them while they occur, and reflecting on them afterward. Mindfulness contributes to this effect by allowing us to focus our attention on pleasant feelings.
We can savour a pleasant meal by anticipating it, actually savouring the flavours, scents, and textures while we eat, and enjoying the aftertaste. Unfortunately, we are often too quick to move on to the next thing. However, we might practice savouring just by intending to do so. Take some time to savour your next meal and observe the effect it has on you.
And savouring isn’t limited to food. Any positive experience can be savoured. For example, the next time you do something nice, take a moment to appreciate the good feelings in your body. The goal is to employ awareness to completely feel the positive sensations, so magnifying the experience.
According to psychologist Rick Hanson, if we stay with happy sensations like this for 10 seconds or longer, the experience is transferred from short-term to long-term memory, making it easier to recall later. It becomes imprinted into our minds. This rewiring causes us to notice more pleasurable things in our daily lives on the spur of the moment.
Then, if we savour them, they become hardwired in – and the consequences multiply exponentially. Here are some ways you might practice savouring in the next week:
- Savour your food on purpose (anticipating, fully experiencing, and then enjoying the aftertaste).
- Throughout the day, pay attention to positive experiences and spend time with them.
- Look for pleasant things to add to this.
- Pause after you complete a task and savour the sensation of accomplishment/mastery (particularly minor things like paying bills and sending emails, which we usually don’t notice due to our proclivity to move on to the next thing).
3. Cultivating kindness
Cultivating kindness entails having positive ideas, both for ourselves and for others. It is something that we can cultivate with consistent practice.
A cultivating kindness meditation, also known as the Lovingkindness or meta meditation, is an effective technique to do this.
As the name implies, this simply refers to observing and savouring aspects of oneself that we like. Many of us have a natural aversion to doing this, although it may be really beneficial. It is a natural extension of savouring and gratitude and is similar to self-compassion for pleasurable experiences.
Take a moment now to think of three things you enjoy about yourself: traits you have or things you have done well. Consider what a good friend or someone close to you may say about you. Feel and savour the delightful sensations in your body. Perhaps you should be glad for having these qualities or having experienced these experiences.