Happiness? What even is that?
I study and teach college courses about happiness. That means I’ve always been a naturally happy person, right? Oh, such an assumption is definitely not accurate. No, I study happiness because I spent so long being unhappy that I desperately needed to figure out some other way of going about life...or I wasn’t going to be around much longer.
Here is one of the biggest myths I discovered: happiness isn’t a destination. There’s no “over there” where happiness lives. Happiness, instead, is a skill. I can feel some of you thinking, “That makes no sense. There are legitimate things to be unhappy about and I should be unhappy about them.” Of course you should! The world has cruelty, suffering, and some truly horrible stuff in it. We need to acknowledge those things and actively dedicate ourselves to making the world better for everyone. Happiness doesn’t mean ignoring the bad things about life.
Rather, happiness means not being stuck.
—Not stuck or attached to an emotion (be it anger, sadness, frustration, joy, contentment...you name it)
—Not stuck in what was or what is to come
—Not stuck in lack of control about a situation
—Not stuck physically, emotionally, or mentally
Take, for example, psychologist Daniel Gilbert’s argument in Stumbling on Happiness that most Americans conceptualize happiness as existing in the future: when we get the next promotion, when we lose weight, when we are on vacation, when it’s the weekend, when we get a new phone/car/job/house/etc. Happiness, in this construction, never exists. It’s always in the future and never now, because the minute we get that phone/vacation/promotion/whatever, we immediately plan for the next thing that supposedly will bring the elusive happiness.
Happiness, therefore, is a skill where you drop all forms of being stuck. It’s a skill where you let emotions come and go and feel them all without one emotion being better than the other. It’s a skill where you find contentment with the very moment you are in, even if that moment is uncomfortable.
But don’t worry: none of us have the skill down pat. We just practice it...again and again...moment by moment.
Winter and Ayurveda
Notice that in winter we tend to crave soups, stews, and warm comfort foods? This isn't only because it's colder outside. Winter is kapha season in the Ayurveda cycle: it's damp, cold, and sluggish. But it can also be dry and windy: characteristics of vata. It's important that we balance both our vata and kapha tendencies in winter for our well being. Some tips for balance this season:
• Drink plenty of warm beverages and avoid cold beverages. Ginger tea (try it with lime and honey) is a great option for winter.
• Make soothing soups for dinner and cooked grains like oatmeal for breakfast. Warm foods stoke our internal fire.
• Enjoy some golden milk before bed to help with sound sleep. Golden milk is simply warmed milk (non-dairy if possible, as it's best to reduce dairy in winter months) with turmeric, dried ginger, nutmeg, and a bit of honey.
• Do a gentle massage with plain sesame oil before you bathe to improve circulation and help with dry skin.
• Do yoga daily (even just a few minutes!) to enliven the body and calm the mind
This Week's Classes
If you’d like to learn to get lost during yoga or meditation (and maybe find yourself), I have four opportunities for you to join a class this week.
• Jan. 25–Monday at 6:30pm CST: Music Monday Yoga, featuring Boy Bands. Class is online or in-person at Força in Russellville.
• Jan. 27–Wednesday at 6:30pm CST: Power Yoga. Class is online or in-person at Força in Russellville.
• Jan. 28–Thursday at 6:30pm CST: Music-Based Yoga. Class is online or in-person at Força in Russellville.
• Jan. 29–Friday at 2:00pm CST: Meditation. Class is online.