Anxiety isn’t an uncommon condition. Between the stresses of work, family, relationships, career building, finances, and physical health, there isn’t always much time to focus on oneself. Recreation has become something mostly reserved for weekends and vacations, and even those can bring their own anxieties with them.
But there are ways to ease anxiety, and more people are making the time to focus on their mental well-being. Happiness training describes the ways in which people improve their capacity for happiness and optimism through mental and physical exercise. Through methods such as gratitude lessons, meditation sessions, and spiritual training, one can reduce and better control their anxiety and lead happier lives. Let’s break down these three methods of happiness training.
If there’s one thing most of us are guilty of, it’s taking the good things in our lives for granted. Indeed, Thanksgiving is right around the bend, an entire holiday dedicated to taking a step back and remembering what we’re so grateful for. It’s pretty common to feel better than normal after the holiday. Though the food is certainly part of this, there’s another reason for this feeling. As it turns out, being consistently mindful of our blessings (and not just one day out of the year) makes us feel better and reduces anxiety.
This is why today there are gratitude coaches and teachers who can help people keep track of the things and people for which they’re grateful. One exercise a gratitude teacher might employ includes writing in a gratitude journal. This involves writing down a list of five to ten things one is thankful for. This can be anything from some stranger’s act of kindness to an enjoyable view passed on a road trip. Studies show that this practice, if kept up for months, can lead to increased optimism, better sleep, and more drive to exercise.
Meditation has been practiced by humans for centuries in various forms, under many names. There’s a reason why this form of mental exercise has stuck around for so long. A majority of those suffering from anxiety (60%) show signs of significant improvement after just 6-9 months of meditation. Meditation has a significant impact on people with insomnia as well. Of those insomniacs who meditate regularly, 75% of them are able to fall asleep in just 20 minutes or less.
These findings lead to another important point about meditation and happiness training. These exercises have physical ramifications. Getting better sleep, for instance, improves muscle ability, focus, and general energy throughout the day, which can lead to more time spent on working out. Beyond these effects, people who meditate are 87% less likely to encounter coronary disease and 55% less likely to get cancer. Happiness training via mediation is a powerful tool for not only the mind but also the body.
Gratitude lessons and mediation can be closely linked to spiritual training, as all three resemble a sort of religious experience. Indeed, most religions encourage a type of gratitude practice through prayer and kind actions, and meditation is a major part of many religions. This isn’t to say spiritual training is necessarily religious, but for some it can be.
In essence, spiritual training is a way of connecting the individual to a higher source of power, be it the universe, God, nature, energy, etc. Whatever one decides to call it, this higher power is something that can be accessed through mindful meditation and other means over a period of time. Just the act of reaching out to something greater is an act of expressing gratitude, which harkens back to the first kind of happiness training discussed here.
Seeking happiness is a goal we seem to universally share. It just isn’t easy in the face of so many stress inducing distractions. But there are several ways to work on our mental well-being. It’s also important to remember how closely linked our mental and physical health are. By focusing on one’s happiness, one starts a positive feedback loop of better mental health and better health. After all, a healthier body also leads a happier outlook. So before Thanksgiving begins start writing down what you’re grateful for, meditate on it, and tap in to the larger world around you. Your mind and body will thank you.