Peace Comes from Within and So Does Happiness
I spent last week on a yoga retreat in Cahuita, Costa Rica. It was amazing. I haven’t felt so relaxed and detached in quite a while. I really needed a good break to help me unwind, let go and find my center again. The last few months have provided to be somewhat challenging for me professionally and personally leaving me feeling a bit off my game. Last week provided some good space to get back into my groove.
A common thread of discussion arose on the second half of our trip, “Oh I wish I never had to go back. I’ll never be able to feel so relaxed and happy when I get back to Boston…” Now that I’m back in Boston myself, I understand why people might have been so worried. Boston and Costa Rica are very different in a whole number of ways.
I, however, made a clear intention to bring that sense of calm and relaxation back to Boston with me, and so far it’s worked. While I was still in Costa Rica, I reminded myself, happiness is just a state of mind. It’s not Costa Rica that’s making me happy, I’m making me happy. I’m responsible for my happiness, not Costa Rica. While warm weather, two yoga classes a day, and Ayurvedic massages certainly don’t make me any less happy, I was still the one allowing myself to detach, be in the moment and let go of all the stress in my life.
A co-worker mentioned a TedTalk to me today about this very subject. Shawn Achor, CEO of Good Think Inc, presented on positive psychology at TEDx Bloomington, Indiana. He cited his experience studying happiness at Harvard University when people would ask him, “What could Harvard students possibly have to be unhappy about?” Achor pointed out, however, that the fundamental flaw with that question is the assumption that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels.
Achor claimed if he knows everything about your external world, he can only predict 10% of your long-term happiness because 90% of your happiness is defined by the way your brain processes the world around you. No matter where you are, if you’re bogged down by negative thoughts and habits, you’ll always be miserable. If you’re in paradise or hell, if you know how to create the conditions for happiness in your life, you’ll be unfazed.
So how do you create those conditions for happiness? Achor outlines 5 habits that increase the positivity in your life and create what he calls the happiness advantage. If you do the following things for 21 days in a row, you will re-wire your brain to look for positivity instead of negativity:
– 3 Gratitudes: Every day find three new things for which you’re genuinely grateful
– Journaling: Writing about one positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours allows you to relive it
– Exercise: Engaging in physical activity teaches your brain that your behavior matters
– Meditation: Taking time to sit in silence counteracts our cultural ADHD and helps resist the urge to be in two places at once
– Random Acts of Kindness: Praising one person in your social support network is one example
When we’re in a happy, positive, optimistic state of mind, dopamine floods our neurons and we open up like a flower in bloom. We are more likely to want to learn, grow and reverberate happiness and love throughout the world.
It’s not rocket science to understand if you’re happier, you’re healthier, but I find it compelling to know there’s science to back up what the Buddha told us centuries ago, “Peace Comes from Within, Do Not Seek it Without.”