One of the big lessons I learned over the last two decades is that happiness and inner peace are not something that happens automatically. or something that is easier to for people who have a “perfect” or “easy” life. There is no such thing as an ideal life, “stuff” happens to every one of us, and everyone is busy in one way or another. No one on this planet is special enough to escape this fact. I often hear, “if I had your lifestyle, then I could do what you do to be at peace and happy.” However, they don’t understand that it is the other way around; it is because I work every day at being at peace and happy that I can create the lifestyle that I have and adapt quickly to the life stresses that come my way.
So waiting until your life changes to take action towards inner peace and happiness is not the answer. Happiness is a skill that can be learned, like learning a new language or playing an instrument. It is a skill of the mind, an ability to mold how we see, process, and interpret our current situations and the things around us. It can be developed like any other competence. But you have to take action every day to achieve it.
So why is it important to achieve inner peace and happiness?
An essential step towards healing both your mind and body is to learn how to manage negative emotions. In particular, anxiety, resentment, anger, criticism, depression, and guilt not only cause stress and anxiety but also damage our health. So much that new scientific discoveries are now classifying unforgiveness as a disease. Ouch!
According to Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, refusing to forgive makes people sick and keeps them ill. As a result, forgiveness therapy is now being used to help treat diseases such as cancer. Standiford explains that “It’s important to treat emotional wounds or disorders because they really can hinder someone’s reactions to the treatments, even someone’s willingness to pursue treatment.” In the same way, studies have found that the act of forgiveness can improve your health by lowering your risk of heart attack; improving your cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure, and anxiety, depression, and stress.
Moreover, according to research by Dr. Michael Barry, harboring the negative emotions associated with unforgiveness, such as anger and hatred, creates a state of chronic anxiety. However, unforgiveness is not the only factor that contributes to anxiety. Chronic stress and negative emotions such as worrying, work stress, or keeping up with a packed schedule, amongst other things, are also vital contributors. In addition, constant anxiety very predictably produces excess adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells, which is your body’s foot soldier in the fight against cancer and other chronic diseases.
On the other hand, positive emotions such as happiness, compassion, engagement, purpose, positive accomplishments, and optimism protect from physical illness and predict lack of depression and anxiety, higher achievement, and physical health. These feelings not only are profoundly healing and soothing, but they also help people face the many challenges that may come their way.
Therefore, the only path to health and a good life is to create peace and harmony in our lives. So how can we achieve this? Peace and harmony are generated from positive emotions, such as appreciation, joy, and excitement. There are a few simple things that you can do daily to ensure that you are continually experiencing positive feelings:
- Release negative emotions as they come up, whether through a conversation with a friend, writing, drawing, or some form of artistic expression. Process them and let them go. The longer you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more you will see anxiety come up and affect your health.
- Practice mindfulness meditation regularly (daily is better). Meditation not only helps you be in the present moment, it also dispels negative thinking and rewires your brain for positive thoughts. Remember, every thought you think and anything you say throughout the day is an affirmation. Therefore, it is essential to be mindful of our thoughts all day long.
- Emotions are contagious. Therefore, surround yourself with positive people. Allowing negative people into your life will only bring you and your energy vibrations down and hurt your spirit. Therefore, keep the company of those who inspire, uplift, and encourage you to live the best life possible.
- Find ways to gain spiritual awareness and connection to the divine, such as meditation, mindfulness, stillness, creativity, walking in the park or beach, etc.
- Find joy in the present moment; being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections. Enjoy the little things, such as your well-being, your pets, listening to the rain, etc. Moreover, the only way to create a new healthy future is to focus on and appreciate the present moment.
- Develop an attitude of gratitude. Make a habit of expressing gratitude and appreciation in all parts of your life daily, be grateful for both the big and small things alike. Also, I have found that thinking of why I’m thankful for a particular item, person, or situation makes me deeply appreciate my gratitude.
- Thru meditation, send peace and love to the world (love and kindness meditation). Good feelings towards others release oxytocin, endorphins, and other biochemicals in the brain that generate warmth and euphoria. It also contributes to the improvement of the planet. Volunteer work also promotes these feelings.
- Find your purpose and live it. When you feel your life has meaning, research shows that you may be less likely to develop sleep problems, have a heart attack, or die prematurely.
- Use process affirmations and visualization daily. Affirm positive beliefs about yourself and the life you would like to experience and visualize and feel what this life looks like.
- Be mindful of what you watch on tv and the music you listen to. The news, negative shows and movies, and negative song lyrics generate low vibrations that may contribute to experiencing overwhelm, anxiety, sadness, clutter, addictions, control, anger, etc.
- Make time to read a positive book or article each day even if is only for twenty minutes.
- Dedicate an hour a day to do an activity that brings you joy. It could be painting, writing, playing music, dancing, etc.
Always remember, that authentic, lasting joy and inner peace come from making a conscious choice to be happy consistently, regardless of the circumstances surrounding us. This takes practice and daily actions. Therefore, by performing one or two intentional activities daily, such as the ones mentioned above, you can improve your enduring levels of happiness and overcome hedonic adaptation.