The little things in life that make you smile can slip by unnoticed if you're not paying attention. Practicing mindfulness can help. Mindfulness practices such as yoga teach us that, with practice, we can develop the ability to choose our focus, to choose what our mind is thinking or focusing on in any given moment.
Play is important. It is necessary. Play is a biological drive as critical to our health as sleep or food. Play can help us solve some of life’s toughest problems. When we take a break from a challenge to play, our minds continue to work on the problem. Play allows our minds to create new neural networks and to reconcile cognitive difficulties. Developing a habit of regular play can actually make all of life go better. The ability to work past difficulty or boredom to find the fun is a skill we all have to develop, but if we can embrace the notion that play is not always “all fun and games,” but can involve some discomfort and hard work, we will be better able to find a sense of play in everything we do – even our work. This perspective is a powerful way to make life more enjoyable.
We humans are social creatures. Our nervous systems are actually designed to pick up on and imitate the emotions of others. We actually leak emotions to one another! In times like this one as we (all of us, around the world) navigate this pandemic, we are feeling the impact of this “emotional leaking” more than ever. Each of can practice being mindful of the emotions we share as we engage with the world around us by making sure the things we say are True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind. This level of awareness will help each of us to stay in the moment, which is the only place we can find some peace and calm. More importantly, when we’re feeling calm (or at least calmer), we will “leak” a little of that sense of calm to the world around us.
If you struggle with small choices such as “Do I want a salad or a sandwich for lunch?”, it is likely that you struggle even more with life's big decisions. Religious and spiritual disciplines teach that connecting with the desires of our hearts is key to understanding our “call” or “purpose in life” or even what makes us special and unique. Learning to tune into what we really want rather than what we think we should want helps us, in the end, to make the best choice of all - to be happy.
If you ever think you can’t make a difference in this messy, grumpy, sometimes mean world, think again. Take it from me, on even the worst of days, your choice to connect in kindness and concern for someone else will create ripples of goodness that will touch people you haven’t even met – perhaps even hundreds of miles away. All you have to do in most situations is ask, "How can I help you?"
Do you feel hurried all the time? Do you sprint through your days? I used to be a fast person (a fast walker, fast talker, fast eater, fast worker ...). Yoga has changed me. I'm now a little slower because I've learned how to immerse myself into my experiences each step along the way. It turns out that slower is a very nice way to be.
Is it possible to eagerly anticipate an event and still stay present to the moments of your life? It absolutely is. In fact, anticipation has been shown to increase happiness levels for up to 8 weeks before an event, which means you're better able to enjoy every single moment in those two months!
UCLA just received a $20 million grant to open its Kindness Institute. The Institute is designed to study the effects of kindness across many disciplines. Daniel Fessler, the director of the new Institute, says that “science shows practicing kindness and compassion has direct emotional, psychological and medical effects.” A yoga mat is a great place to begin or to deepen a practice of kindness that is as good for you as it is for the world around you.
Yoga gives us the space to act like better people. We feel better in our bodies, so we’re pleasanter. We have the space (physically and mentally) to take a deep breath, so we’re calmer and more even-keeled. We’re less distracted so we’re able to be fully engaged and compassionate with whoever is right in front of us. We have some space from our feelings, so we’re less likely to react and more likely to respond mindfully. All in all, yoga helps act like the people we want to be.