5 Steps to Uncovering Happiness


Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self Compassion

Did you know that science has uncovered natural anti-depressants in the brain that not only protect us against the difficult moments, but inspire a deeper, more enduring happiness? This isn’t a pleasure-seeking, and ultimately, fleeting happiness, but a core sense of well-being that allows us to be grateful for the good when it’s here and to act gracefully when the inevitable challenges arise. This kind of happiness gives us the confidence to know that no matter what comes our way, things are going to be okay.

Neuroscience has long recognized that when we intentionally practice and repeat things, neurons fire and inevitably wire together.

Here are five simple things to try daily from “Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion” that can forge a path to a happier brain.

1. Practice mindfulness
The habit of being fully present to life as it is instead of spending too much time living in the past or the future can really shift your perspective. If you catch your mind ruminating on the past, complaining, or worrying about the future, ask yourself, “Is there something I’m grateful for right now?”

2. Nurture self-compassion
Become your own best friend. The inevitable difficult moments in life are breeding grounds for self-criticism and self-judgment. However, what you often need is the opposite – a sense of understanding and caring about yourself. Say to yourself, “This is a difficult moment, in life there are difficult moments, so how can I be kind to myself?” Focusing on self-compassion will create a sense of self-love and inner confidence that grows happiness.

3. Think beyond yourself
Get involved in a cause that is greater than your own. Being of service to others is a key insight that wisdom traditions across the world share. As you become more aware of other people and develop compassion for them, you not only create positive neural shifts associated with resiliency and happiness, but you will feel more connected (an essential happiness ingredient) and develop a sense of purpose and a deeper appreciation for what you have in your life.

4. Go out and play!
As we grow older we often forget what this word even means. It’s seen as a luxury to play, but studies show that playing is essential to happiness and even productivity. It’s engaging, enlivening, and is a natural stress reducer. Make a date with yourself or with a playmate a couple hours a week and do something you might not normally give yourself permission to do. In other words, make sure to intentionally add some fun into your day. Enjoy!

5. See life as a classroom
In our culture, we’re programmed and encouraged to focus on performance. We now know that adopting a learning mindset—where everything is something to learn from—not only helps us achieve more, but is essential to positive brain change. See life as an experiment; be curious. When you succeed at something, notice what helped you. When you fall short, investigate the obstacles and build on that. This mental shift helps us bounce back sooner from disappointment and appreciate our successes more deeply.

Bring these five “natural anti-depressants” into your daily life and begin to uncover the happiness that is ready and waiting for you.

This article written by Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D originally appeared on MariaShriver.com


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