Most of us have now realized from our parents that buying material possessions won’t bring us lasting happiness. We have all experienced the rush of euphoria right after buying a new car, new clothes, or the latest gadget. However as time goes on and new, even better things come out, our enthusiasm begins to wane over what we have just purchased. This leads us into a cycle of buying newer and newer things in hope that we can ride that euphoric high just a little bit longer. The ultimate example of this is when you see a middle aged man driving around in a yellow sports car with the top down. Otherwise known as the mid-life crisis, the previous generation has succumbed to the idea that money buys happiness. In today’s, slightly saviour generation, we have realized that is clearly untrue.
There instead is a new trend emerging where millennials have decided to spend money on experiences instead of things. Albeit a noble idea, trading paychecks for memories still has its defects. The issue with placing your happiness in exotic experiences is that inevitably those adventures have to end at some point. This means that your excitement about life will end shortly after you get back and all you’ll be left with is pictures, stories, and memories that become more and more faded as time goes on. I believe that in 20 years a mid-life crisis won’t be a yellow sports car but instead an around the world plane ticket. Middle aged people who are unhappy with their lives will set out into the world in search of happiness. Yet, when they get back they will ultimately be left with the same feeling as the guy with the new car; emptiness.
The problem with placing your happiness in the novelty of the world is that at some point those things will get old, end, or die. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy new things or travel the world, all I’m saying is that you shouldn’t expect those experiences to give you lasting happiness. There is only one place lasting happiness can be cultivated and that is with your own mind.
There is a misconception that to be happy you have to be in some sort of heightened state at all times. In reality, happiness is an acceptance of all things in your life, good and bad. When you stop clinging to the things that make you feel good, running away from the thing that make you feel bad, and instead accept them all as just another aspect of the human experience, you will discover a new, much more stable sense of happiness; one that isn’t determined by things or experiences but is instead just a quite acceptance of what is. There are a few proven ways to develop this ability and most of them involve being alone with yourself. When you make being alone with yourself one of the most enjoyable places you can be, you will you experience a great sense of relief because now there isn’t so much expectation of the external world to make you happy. Instead you are generally happy with yourself and where you are in life so positive experiences become a bonus instead of the cause. Here are 5 proven ways to hack your happiness.
“After meditating for some years I began to see the patterns of my own behaviour. As you quiet your mind you begin to see the nature of your own resistance, struggles, inner dialogue, the way in which you procrastinate and develop passive resistance against life. As you cultivate the witness (the mind), things change. You don’t have to change them. Things just change.” – Ram Dass
This quote by Ram Dass perfectly describes meditation. In term of happiness there have been numerous studies throughout the years showing a strong correlation between consistent meditation and long lasting happiness. When you are able to sit quietly with yourself you start to develop a better relationship with your thoughts. Thinking is natural and it is just what the mind does. Yet we often give our thoughts too much power over our lives and they start becoming the driver instead of the passenger. Meditation can be a difficult habit to build and to keep up but if your able to stick with it, it will start to become the most pleasant part of your day and the calming effects will begin to bleed into the rest of your life.
If you are new to meditation then be sure to pick up a free copy of my Beginner’s Guide to Meditation. All you have to do is subscribe to our newsletter.
If you don’t already know what flotation therapy is then I would highly recommend watching this short Vice documentary because it is a little difficult to explain. Basically floatation therapy involves get into what is known as an isolation tank or pod which is filled with about two feet of water and 800 to 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt. You then close the tank or pod and float weightlessly in the dark and in silence. The main goal of floating is to limit or turn off your five senses which are sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste. So once you are floating and your senses have been dulled down, all that’s left is you and your mind. This very unique experience allows you to fully focus on the internal for the first time in your life. And just like meditating, you don’t have to really do anything. Things just change.
Floating is essentially like meditating on steroids. The goal of meditating is to use your focus and discipline to shut off the outside world so you can go deeper into yourself. However with floating, the tank is trying to shut you off so with no real effort on your part you are able to dip in and out of very deep meditative states even if you’ve never meditated before in your life.
A new academic study published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine backs up what many have learned through firsthand experience: floating helps relieve stress, depression, and anxiety, and insomnia.
To conduct this sensory deprivation research, psychologists from Sweden’s University of Karlstad partnered with a workplace wellness program to study the effect of floatation therapy in generally healthy adults. The participants were all retail employees or managers who volunteered to take part in a wellness program sponsored by their employer; all filled out questionnaires about their levels of energy, stress, anxiety, physical pain, sleep quality, and optimism.
Approximately half of the individuals were randomly selected to participate in a series of 12 floatation therapy sessions (about two per week for seven weeks), while the other half were placed in a control group that did not include floating.
At the end of the seven-week period, all of the participants completed a second round of questionnaires—and the results were very noticeable in five areas. Individuals who had experienced floatation therapy reported significant increases in sleep quality and optimism, while their levels of stress, depression, and anxiety levels dropped notably compared to those who did not float.
And beyond the numbers, as many floatation enthusiasts can identify with, the participants who experienced floating loved it. The authors write, “Many of the participants wrote comments, without being asked to do so, on their individual questionnaires. They continuously emphasized how their pain…was practically gone after the 12-session floatation program. They mentioned further how they felt relaxed, slept better, and were overall happier and healthier.”(1)
Clearly the benefits of floating can be immense. If you’re someone who isn’t into meditating then I would suggest investing some time in your local float center because I believe it is one of the best investments you can make.
Mindfulness is like taking your meditation practice and applying it to your entire life. Essentially what you are trying to do is stay as aware and as focused on the present moment as you can. In this Ted talk Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth discusses the results of a massive study he did on the links between mindfulness and lasting happiness. It turns out that when we let our minds wander we become less happy. Even if we are thinking about positive things we are still less happy then when we are fully focused on the present moment or whatever task we are engaged in. This makes practicing mindfulness a key component is developing long lasting happiness.
Book and Podcast Recommendations
Over the years there have been a few pivotal books and podcasts that I have come across that have completely changed the way I view my mind and the world. These people have truly found where lasting happiness lives and how you can get there on your own. These resources might take a while to digest but they will certainly show you the right path to take.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass
Mindfulness by Joseph Goldstein
The beautiful thing about these hacks is that all you really have to do is show up and pay attention. They don’t require a lot of leg work or planning, things will just change on their own. And once they do change you will notice a profound shift in the way you think and feel and those realizations will become the seeds to your lasting happiness.