"What makes you happy?"
I've been thinking about this question this week. What really makes me happy? Before, I used to dream of beautiful beaches far away and think, "If I could live in a place like that, then I'd be happy."
Over the last three years I have travelled far and wide, and spent time on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but didn't magically feel happier. Yes, it was different and exciting for some time, but after awhile, I felt isolated.
What I missed when I was traveling was a sense of purpose. I wasn't sharing my full self with the world. I wasn't helping or supporting anyone with my gifts or talents. On top of that, I was not cultivating longterm relationships because all of my friends were transient travellers.
Since being back in the States, I've realized it's not the beach that will open my heart, it's the people I help and the relationships I foster.
I wrote this list of 5 practices to bring more happiness into your life right now, wherever you are:
1. Be of Service
When you are helping others and doing honest work in the world, it will warm your heart. Some of my happiest moments are after teaching a yoga class. I feel so much joy watching my students rise from savasana. Even if I was having a bad day, showing up and being of service to my students brings me back to my purpose of what's important in life.
2. Express Gratitude
This video explains the value of expressing gratitude in your life. When we focus on what we do have rather than what we don't we fill ourselves with happiness. When we express our gratitude to the people in our life who we admire, it is scientifically proven to improve our mood, sense of well-being and connection.
3. Cultivate Relationships
Make time for the people that really matter in your life. Be the first person to reach out to others to create new friendships. I began making new friends at the yoga studio where I work by asking questions to the people I met in passing or in my classes. When I became curious about the people around me, I created more relationships in my life.
4. Make Time for Spirituality
It's so easy to get burnt out when you don't make time for yourself. A spiritual practice can be anything from 5 minutes a day of focusing on your breath, to taking a bath, to going to a class you enjoy. My partner has developed a breathing practice he does each morning, and on the days where he doesn't make time to do it, he feels depleted. When we take time to honor ourselves and our natural rhythms, we can be more present to those around us.
5. Be Creative
I have the opportunity to be creative in designing my classes, through my writing, and my photography. Because of facebook and social media, I can now even receive instant feedbac when I create something and put it out into the world. Making space to use your right brain can be so satisfying. Try writing morning pages (3 pages of writing anything first thing in the morning), take some time to draw, play an instrument, or sing. You can foster relationships at the same time by inviting a friend to collaborate.
So after travelling far and wide, I found myself happy after all with my cold winters and little cottage in the country. I know I can find joy and happiness wherever I am if, first and foremost, my needs of teaching and utilizing my gifts are met first.