5 Science-based Practices for Daily Happiness

Settling in one of the most busstling cities in Southeast Asia, aka Saigon, teaches me valuable things every day about life. One of the things is the idea of living it full as everything is happening all around you, which, without short notice, will lead to an unbalancing routine of chasing personal and professional interests. When I came across this article by Elisha Goldstein, psychecentral.com, I thought, aha, here comes the practical, proven Western approach to achieving hapiness on a day-to-day basics. Love it. Embrace it. 



Be Playful

One of the first scientists to embark in the field of neuroplasticity, Marion Diamond, showed how rats that have toys and playmates inevitably ran mazes more efficiently and also showed growth in an area of their brain (the cerebral cortex) involved with cognitive processing. Play enhances social bonds and social learning, key areas for generating happiness.


My regular practice of Active meditation involves playfulness as an essence. Whenever I do a technique, such as Osho's Gibberish or Laughing drums, I simply allow my body to move and express myself freely as a child. The practice works miracles to me, as in my professional life, facilitating adult learning requires an element of play and humor. And that, thankfully, can be attained via adopting a playfulness mindset and maintaining some useful practices. You can find more information about active meditation in Saigon here.



Be Mindful

Among other articles you have read in this website and elsewhere, Elisha reminded us of Dan Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth out of Harvard who created an app called trackyourhappiness.org. This app pinged you to see if you were paying attention to what you were intending to pay attention to and how you were feeling (this is a general description). Thousands of people went through this and found out that on average our minds are wandering 46.9% of the time. It also found that the more the mind wandered, the unhappier we were. Now there are a variety of studies pointing the happiness effects of mindfulness on the brain. 



Be Forgiving

We’re all imperfect at practicing what makes us happy. But the better we get at forgiving ourselves for our mistakes, the less dwelling there’ll be and the better we will also get at getting back on track. In her book, Uncovering Happiness, Elisha suggests the practice “Forgive, Investigate and Invite”. 

Forgive yourself for the time gone by, it’s the past,


Investigate what brought you off track so you can learn from it, and 


Invite yourself to begin again.


Also, the better we get at forgiving others, apparently the higher our happiness quotient can go. If you want some more evidences, watch the fun video below by Soul Pancake.





Be Compassionate


The act of recognizing someone else is suffering with the inclination to want to support them has plenty of science-based correlations to a meaningful and purposeful life. Creating social connection is a major happiness booster, makes important neural shifts in the brain and giving makes it even that much better.

Commit to smiling more, saying thank you, or letting someone merge in front of you in traffic. You can also give financially or volunteer your time. Recognize you are part of a larger network and as my late Grandmother in-law Margie Lipman said in her Ethical Will “Reach out to those who ache for some comfort, search for ways you can lighten their load.” This is a beautiful poem to know:


How can I tell you, my children, and yours
The lessons I’ve learned in a lifetime of years?
How can I recount my triumphs and failures,
The insights I gained through my joys and my tears.

What should I give you of wisdom and vision
The truths that now seem so clearly to see?
I view the world from a whole new perspective,

Perhaps I can share it, a small gift from me.

Keep your sense of awe at the wonder of nature,
Look each day at the miracles God has bestowed.
Reach out to help those who ache for some comfort,
Search for the ways you can lighten their load.

Look for the good that is there in each person
Don’t dwell on their failing, your efforts are vain.
Spread joy and laughter though you may be hurting’
The joy will come back to you over again.

Live as God planned so you help one another
Let the world be better because you are here.
Do all of God’s mitzvot (good deeds) with caring and pleasure
Your reason for being, then is surely clear.


Eat, Sleep, Exercise, Rest (a.k.a the basics)



As Elisha said, the science seems to be very clear on these (along with probably millions of testimonials). But isn't it true that we are the ones who stand in the way of our happiness, starting from the basics? That's why whenever someone asks me, how do I learn to meditate, I often tell them to start first with getting yourself healthy and ready, by the basics, eating, resting, sleeping, and exercising. You're the source of your own happiness. 


These are all keys to not only happiness, but healthy brain development. Focusing on these basics can create an internal sense of personal control which is correlated with happiness. 


Date: 14 Aug 2015
Author: Tien Luong

Once a creative advertising copywriter and winning writer of a public contest on the Youth Newspaper, now an aspirational blogger on various topics with a deep passion for life and human potentials. 

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