“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
– quote attributed to the Buddha (SiddhÄrtha Gautama)
Buddhism teaches that life is full of suffering and from our daily experiences we know that negativity can creep up on even the most happy-go-lucky person. However, just as suffering is a reality of life, so is joy. This week at the Rubin, we’re embracing the emotion of happiness in conjunction with the kickoff of Brainwave 2016: Emotion.
If you’re feeling down, here are six things you can do to make your day happier:
1) Find happiness in giving to others
Sometimes, unhappiness is the result of paying too much attention to your ego and you might not even be aware you’re doing it! Fortunately, dedicating time to helping others actually makes you a happier person. The seemingly selfless nature of good deeds are rewarded through our brain’s psychological reward system. In other words, what goes around comes around; devoting time to others is a healthy and natural way to boost your mood.
Keeping yourself happy can also influence the moods of those around you—at least according to top researchers from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego. Their study found that when a person becomes happy, next door neighbors have a 34% chance of also getting happier; a friend living close by has a 25% chance of becoming happy; siblings have a 14% chance of becoming happy; and spouses have an 8% chance. All the more reason to devote time to your own mental health and happiness.
2) Change your diet
Good news for all the foodies out there: it has been scientifically observed that you can eat your way to happiness. Certain types of food produce serotonin—a chemical that helps induce feelings of calm and happiness. One of the food sources that induce an especially high level of serotonin in the brain is the nut family. According to Health Magazine, a recent study found that those who ate a daily 1-ounce combination of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds had more serotonin than a nut-free control group.
Not a fan of nuts? Foods such as chicken and milk can produce serotonin as well, bringing joy to your tummy and your life. If you’ve been feeling a little down lately, maybe it’s time to do a little food shopping!
3) Build a better relationship between your body and mind
Maybe you’re not one for run-of-the-mill self-help books, but if you’re looking for more happiness in life, mindfulness leaders like Sharon Salzberg have been teaching the age-old practice of meditation for over three decades, helping people make authentic and meaningful changes. You can catch Salzberg at the Rubin, where she’ll often lead our weekly Mindfulness Meditation sessions. Whether you’ve never meditated before or are a seasoned practitioner looking for some community, join us at one of our upcoming programs. For those outside of New York or always on-the-go, download our Mindfulness Meditation podcast.
4. Pay attention to the little things
It is in the Earth’s green covering of grass;
In the blue serenity of the Sky
In the reckless exuberance of Spring;
In the severe abstinence of gray Winter;
In the Living flesh that animates our bodily frame;
In the perfect poise of the Human figure, noble and upright;
In the exercise of all our powers;
In the acquisition of Knowledge; in fighting evils”¦
Joy is there
““ Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Nobel Prize in Literature, 1913
When we’re constantly trying to achieve big goals in life, it’s easy to forget that little steps go a long way. Sometimes, the small things can bring us life’s biggest joys. Instead of rushing to the subway station for your usual morning commute, get up early and take a leisurely stroll to your workplace. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the view from your bedroom window, the aroma of your morning coffee, the laughter of people on the street, or the comfort of the couch. Making time for yourself and being mindful of the little things can make a surprisingly big difference to your emotional well-being.
5. Find a New Environment to Decompress
Maybe you feel stuck or uninspired. Try breaking out of your normal environment; finding a personal place of calm and solitude will provide the ideal atmosphere for you to reflect on your emotions.
Need a suggestion? Check out the Rubin Museum’s Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. The artwork in the shrine room instills a calmness that is sometimes hard to find in the big city.
6. Know what makes you happy!
Sometimes it’s ok to kick back and indulge in your favorite TV shows, turn on your favorite tunes, or cuddle up with your favorite book. Pamper yourself with your comfy PJs, maybe some popcorn, and your go-to mood busters!
Explore more of your emotions at our next Brainwave talk!