A quick walk down the street or a flick of the TV would suggest we find happiness in material possessions. Adverts everywhere tell us that we need to buy this product or another appliance. That we also need these clothes or that food. The promise is always that these things will make us happy.
Yet sooner or later though the things become redundant. Now the adverts tell us we need the latest version, or the newest fashion. And the goals of happiness seems as far away as ever.
Not enough money to buy these things?
Then you need to work a little harder.
Or do you?
Research suggests that giving is more important than receiving. Getting things does not make us happy. As long as our basic needs are met we are able to live relatively comfortably. Any more money after that counts for little.
Getting more gives us pleasure. And brain scans show giving gives us as much pleasure, if not more.
Anxiety and depression are often caused by focusing a lot on our thoughts about ourselves. Most often negatively. What has gone wrong. What may go wrong. By turning the focus to others and what we may be able to do for them, then we take the attention off ourselves. Our lives, happiness and well-being increase.
Even simple acts matter. Letting someone in front of you in a queue, for example. Or smiling at a stranger. Or helping someone with a problem at work. All these acts mean you are putting someone else before you. You are showing them a very basic level of compassion.
A popular Mindful meditation is called Loving Kindness.
The first part asks us to offer ourselves a little love, good health and well-being. Sometimes we forget how important we are in our own lives. It’s nice to remember how deserving we are.
The second task us to focus on someone else. Someone we have seen that day, perhaps. Someone we don’t know very well. In our thoughts we wish them good health and compassion, just the same as if we knew them well.
Finally, the part that can sometimes be quite difficult: to offer the same kindness, compassion and goodwill to someone we have difficulty with.
The journey through this meditation can be surprisingly self-healing for many people.
It’s nice to remember to be compassionate to yourself, stranger and even the difficult people in your life.
As a result, it may just be the happiness boost that you need.
Matt is a trained and licenced Mindfulness teacher and Stress and Anxiety Reduction Counsellor operating in and around the Peterborough area. After overcoming his own stress and anxiety he's found his purpose teaching others to do the same.
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