You know, I happen to be Buddhist, but one with an inquisitive mind. We have what we know as the Buddha’s First Noble Truth and that is: “Life is Suffering.” However, it’s a misnomer to just stop there and concede to a life of misery. I think a lot of students and even some teachers feel that we just need to wake up to the that fact this life is hallmarked by sense of misery and dissatisfaction. One even wrote a book called: “Not For Happiness,” depressing. However, leaving this first noble truth truism as a final statement, in my opinion, would be the antithesis of what the Buddha had intended with his teachings and realization. Why? Because his subsequent teachings say… there is indeed a way out of suffering- we don’t have to be miserable! That was his very quest. That’s the entire point of what it means to be a Buddhist; we believe that at some point, we will not be forever bound and controlled by a mind that makes us unhappy.
Some teachers talk about our need to be comfort seeking and seek pleasure and use our Buddhist practice as sort of a health and mental improvement task, an ego boost and an effort to make “samsara comfortable,” but I beg to differ. I ascribe to the theory that “pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” Have you ever had a backache or headache, and it didn’t feel great but maybe inside you felt such a sense of warmth and well-being or were doing something super fun, that you were just able to ignore it and didn’t let it ruin your day? That is pain but not suffering; our difficulties can take place in a larger space of accommodation.
I recall one day, I was feeling particularly depressed and anxious and just didn’t feel like getting out of bed. It was a sunny day, I could see the white and pink magnolia tree outside and morning birds chirping, but I was miserable. A lot of hopeless thoughts and negative self talk was swirling around in my mind and making me really sad, without any energy. I started to just imagine in that moment, is there anything beautiful that I can recall? Then I remembered one of my friends, he used to be a pretty close Yogi friend who lives on what might be, lifetime retreat. During the warmer months, he wakes up every morning and makes some tea and does meditation and yoga outside on a colored, hand-loomed woolen Tibetan carpet on his porch, greeting the sun. Just the memory of him, sitting in the sun inspired me and I jumped up out of bed, took a shower did little bit of yoga and meditation myself, and all of the mind-made depression and anxiety completely dissipated, like a cloud clearing!
I know it’s hard for a lot of us to do hours of sitting meditation we have a very movement and “doing rather than being” oriented society- get up and go and always be busy, distracted or doing something… anything! You know the old work ethic Christian proverb: “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Maybe a lot of us aren’t cut out to be super disciplined yogis and mindfulness, this panacea that will heal all woes. I checked with a lot of my friends and in all honesty, a lot of them admit to not really practicing meditation very much, a lot of us are Buddhist in name or theory only. So even if you’re not destined to become a yogic mahasiddha or totally liberated and enlightened in this life, I think we can borrow from a lot of the exceedingly simple and powerful healing modalities that can make great improvements toward our happiness, reduce anxiety and increase well-being… every single day! I don’t think that any religion, even Buddhism has the only way or copyright- patent-and trademark on one particular route toward spirituality or human well-being. I actually think the Buddha would endorse this approach, after all, the third and fourth noble truths clearly say that we don’t have to live forever, bound by mind-imposed suffering, and it can be as easy as changing a thought. Here are a few tips to cheer up and indeed use this “Life For Happiness.”
Simple Practices to uplift your mood and start and finish your day feeling refreshed, happy and be more joyous:
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is required for positive mood. Serotonin production happens whenever we get sunlight through our eyes and feel the warmth the on top of our head. Ensuring that we go out for one half to one hour per day is an inexpensive, nutritive and easy method to increase our mood. Be sure you take your sunglasses off for fifteen minutes.
Forest bathing–sitting quietly among trees–has been proven to have many mood-boosting benefits. In Japan “forest bathing” is prescribed by doctors and even covered by medical health insurance!
“Earthing,” that is simply putting your bare feet on the earth where there’s some moisture and coolness for contact. This can re-calibrate and regulate your entire energetic system and lead to wellness and well-being. Release any stress, pain, sadness, anything into the earth that you are ready to let go of, when you contact the ground. It might take some time to ground entire body, but you only need about fifteen minutes every day.
Exercise, as we know is a fantastic mood-booster. Walking, hiking and running could be easily done by almost anyone and doesn’t even require a lot of special equipment. To reset your mood and get the greatest health advantages, 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day is ideal, but every little bit is helpful!
Standing or sitting up straight and holding your head up actually provides a neurotransmitter activity increase to your brain, and opens the whole energetic system. So check your posture regularly and ensure you’re not walking around with your head hanging down, sulking or staring at your phone! Observing your posture will also assist you to prevent or reduce chronic pain.
Not getting enough water will increase your fatigue and drain your joyful mood. Make sure to keep a glass of water besides you at all times and drink through the day. I love to drink 16 oz. of warm water with a packet of orange emergen-c each morning before I do anything else. “It’s got electrolytes.” This provides a bit “mini-cleanse” each morning.
Obviously, if you think about it, all of these things may be done at the exact same time, take advantage of where you live, the mountains and foothills, or your local park, and go on a walk or climb. If you can, just be sure to take off your shoes and dip your legs in a mountain stream!
Getting the maximum out of sleep and having an effective morning and evening routine, 15 minutes of meditation, journaling and eating antioxidant fresh fruits and vegetables are additional areas which will greatly improve your happiness joyful disposition and endurance.
So you see, there are many simple of ways to increase your well-being, which can be easy, natural, free and safe. One hour per day, out of 24 toward self care could be the difference between a joyous life- or not! You owe it to yourself, integrate these six powerful steps into your daily routine, Just for Happiness!