Both scientists and philosophers agree the key to happiness is not acquiring material goods or achieving specific goals, but rather it’s the extent to which we are aware and can appreciate what we have. That awareness and appreciation is where mindfulness comes in.
Here are five mindfulness practices that can help you feel happier each and every day.
1. Conduct your own personal gratitude experiment.
Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment, without judgment. But it’s also about having a good mindset—one that embraces compassion, kindness, and gratitude. “More than 11,000 different studies show that developing a grateful mindset significantly improves mood, health, and relationships,” says Nataly Kogan, author of Happier Now, How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments, who was recently featured on Meditation Studio’s Untangle Podcast.
To conduct your own personal gratitude experiment, write down three good things about your day every day for 30 days. By looking for little moments of happiness each day, you’re training your brain to get off autopilot (especially if you’re prone to negative thoughts) and to focus instead on the good that’s already in your life, whether it’s a warm cup of coffee or a text from a friend when you need it.
2. Be as compassionate with yourself as you are with others.
When you’re practicing mindfulness, you not only learn to be more compassionate toward others, you also learn to see and communicate with yourself through a compassionate lens. The simple act of self-compassion can boost happiness as you practice being kind to yourself when things go wrong. You know that inner critic that lambasts you when you’re already feeling down? Letting that critic go is the best thing you can do for your overall happiness. When you’re compassionate with yourself, you’re quicker to forgive yourself and move on.
3. Ask yourself: How do I want to show up in the world?
Kristen Noel, founder of Best Self magazine, says she found happiness when she learned how to “happen to life” instead of letting it happen to her. To get to that point, it’s important to tune out external noise and your monkey brain, and then find a quiet space in which you can listen to your own internal wisdom. That is when you can answer the question, “How do I want to show up in the world and how do I want to show up for myself?” Once you’ve answered these questions, you can move forward with more fulfilling goals.
4. Make your positive experiences “keepers.”
Rick Hanson, author of Hardwired for Happiness, described in a recent Untangle podcast how being present can help you both fully experience good moments while they’re happening and turn those into memories to save for later. In this way, positive experiences become “keepers, so they really sink in and increasingly grow your inner strength,” he says.
5. Learn to untangle your negative thinking.
Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our feelings and recognize that we all get stuck on negative thoughts sometimes. This kind of rumination has been linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression. To get unstuck, you first need to label those negative thoughts and realize they are bad habits that usually have little to do with reality. Then you can loosen their grip on your mind and retrain your brain to be more positive.