The secret to happiness is known for 3,000 years. Discover how to be happy following just one of the many yoga teachings.Why do you do what you do? Or let me put it in another way. Who doesn’t want to know the secret to happiness? Everything we carry out in our everyday life had one purpose: to be happy! What if this search for happiness could trigger others behaving, like greed, antagonism, desire, attachment? Differences among humans rise because of wealth, race, belief, and education but, these differences, often create discord, disharmony and the mind becomes distracted, robbed of its peace because too attached to its goal, in this case, the chase to happiness. The need to do more, to have more, to buy more, to be slimmer, to be whiter, comes from the constant yearning to be different. The happiness we get from material things is only temporary. We need to continually find new possessions to maintain this sort of happiness. But this is not what yoga teachings are sharing for thousands of years. Ancient yogis were happily living on the mountain with just the basic to survive, but they were blessed, at ease with themselves and in harmony with nature, sharing their Yoga teachings. We can break free from the glum mindset of not ‘enough’ or ‘I want more’ being grateful for the little things and believe that perfection is everywhere, anytime, all around us.
Santosha: the secret to happiness
In my previous article about the eight limbs of yoga, I mentioned Yamas (universal moral and ethical discipline) and Niyamas (personal conduct) and how to apply yoga teachings into everyday life.
Santosa (pronounced: Sahn-to-sha) is one of the Niyamas, and it means contentment.
B K S Iyengar brilliantly describes it as: A mind that is not content cannot concentrate. By cultivating santosha, the yogi feels the lack of nothing, and, so, he/she is naturally content. Contentment gives unsurpassed bliss.
Contentment according to yoga teachings, means being satisfied, happy, and gratified for what one already has, and for how already is, without seeking happiness from external sources; the experience of unconditional bliss, a state that allows us to see happiness in any situation.
True contentment is the secret to happiness and joy because independent of external conditions.
Cultivating contentment and keeping a positive attitude in everyday life and during difficult times (do the words pandemic, covid and lockdown ring any bell?) helps learn to embrace and be grateful for what already is right there and stop to wish for what is missing.
Contentment in everyday life
According to yoga teachings, and modern science endorses, contentment is the secret to happiness. Why? Because it means to be satisfied with what you have, who you are, and where you are. Right now. Being grateful for what you have and where you are in life.
It seems that today life is a competition where you must be the most skilled at everything and valued by your possessions. We might want a bigger house, more money, the latest smartphone, a newer car. The moment we win the race and achieve that thing, a new ambitious race starts.
In some cases, ambition becomes greed and people might believe that once achieved all their goals and satisfied their needs for an ideal lifestyle, they will be satisfied with what they have— unfortunately this is rarely the case. After all the achievements have been ticked off the goal-list, they still don’t feel at ease with a feeling that something is still missing. And what is missing is contentment.
Sometimes, contentment is confused with a lack of desire or ambition. Contentment doesn’t mean not having ambition or willpower, simply means you are satisfied with your now and you have faith that the shifts your life takes, will be for the best.
Maintain awareness of the present moment is the key to practice santosha. It is at this right moment, that your mind is free from desire, from fears of the future, and past regrets.
Yoga teachings recognize that the practice of Santosha frees the mind from frustrations, concerns, anxiety, and sorrow, leading to an overall improvement of mental state and vital energy.
How to practice contentment
Gratitude is the embodiment of contentment and practicing gratitude encourages people to feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
Two psychologists, Dr Emmons of the University of California and Dr McCullough of the University of Miami have done researches on gratitude. They found out that, after ten weeks, participants who wrote about gratitude are feeling more positive and felt better about their lives. They have also demonstrated that managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find that their employees are motivated to work harder.
Appreciate what you already have, instead of always reaching for something new in the hopes it will make you happier, or thinking you can’t be satisfied until each material and physical and need is met. Gratitude will help you refocus on what you have rather than what you lack.
Spare just a minute of your everyday life follow yoga teachings and relax. Think of all the extraordinary big and little achievements you attained and be grateful. Be grateful just for being alive or for having a loving family, or a roof on your head, food on your table. Do you celebrate the little things in your life? I bet very rarely. The human mind likes life-drama and tends to focus primarily on negative aspects. Ah! Human mind! But try this out for one week, and you will see what changes!
The practice of contentment encourages you to enjoy the happiness of now, to be grateful for the little things in everyday life; to let go of unfulfilled desires, that trap you in sufferings, allowing you to experience a feeling of completeness.
Gratitude for this right moment, whatever your possessions are, and whatever your mood is.
Writing about gratitude
Lately, I looked for a way to survive this situation to give the best possible positive tone to a pandemic scenario.
Reading about Ayurveda, the science of life, I discovered that the Ayurvedic morning ritual, starts by thanking the universe for waking up.
I practice this morning ritual in my everyday life, and it has a positive effect on me. Before I leave bed, I say thanks universe, to let me see this day. Life is a great gift. Why not be grateful for just being alive?
Writing a gratitude diary is another secret to happiness and well-being. Scientific research at the University of California observed that people who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health than those who didn’t.
I tried it on myself, and I got the benefits the same day! Just the enthusiasm of writing it, made me come back in time, when I used to write a diary every night, in the bed.
That is how I practice gratitude:
- Every night, I sit quietly on my bed.
- I practice a few long, relaxing breaths.
- I write down three things (or a list) that happened in the day, or that I already have, for which I am grateful.
- I then spend a couple of minutes more in silent, keeping a gentle smile on my face and contemplating about those things.
Take some time off for yourself and write down a few things you are grateful in your life. They don’t have to be big things; It is enough to feel gratefulness for a delicious dinner, for having a roof, or for your cats making you smile or for the smile in the street by a stranger.
Do this at least 3, or more, times a week and you will perceive an immediate positive impact in your everyday life.
I want to end this article with a simple quote by Plato the Greek philosopher, who says it all:
“The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”
Yoga taught me that happiness comes from within; it is the product of a life well-lived.
Happiness is the results of how I react to things! Even a rainy day can be lived with contentment because I have a roof, books to read in a nice, warm house, and two cats purring next to me.
This is the real secret to happiness.
Do you agree with these yoga teachings?
Let me know in the comments if you have your gratitude practice and how it helps in your everyday life.
If you want to start practicing gratitude, click below to download your Gratitude Diary for FREE