Advertising
Advertising

Published on June 14, 2018

17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness

Amit Ray, an Indian author who is a master of vipassana meditation techniques said this,

“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

Ray is talking about one of the main reasons you may be seeking to meditate: anxiety.

About 40 million Americans1 — or 18 percent of the population — suffer from anxiety but very few seek assistance.[1] If you do seek assistance, there’s only one mental health professional for every 1,000 people and there are many societal barriers to help.

Meditation is a proven method of self care to help you with your anxiety. Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, meditation can help you maintain a healthy mind-state, which is essential for quality relationships, bodily health and a productive life.[2]

Meditation techniques to boost mindfulness

Here, you’ll find detailed information on meditation techniques, including the basics of each technique so you can start right away.

The purpose of this guide is to help you choose a meditation method. Through whichever meditative path you choose, your ultimate destination is a state of liberation and mindfulness.

1. Basic beginner’s meditation

This is a way to initiate yourself to the practice of meditation without engaging in any of the more difficult techniques. This will acquaint you with the emphasis on breathing, the noting of sensations and the lack of judgement.

How to do basic beginner’s meditation:

  1. Sit or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Breathe but don’t try to regulate your breathing.
  4. Let breaths come and go.
  5. Pay attention to the sensations of breathing, attend to the rise and fall of the abdomen, the chest, the shoulders and the in-and-out of air through your nostrils.
  6. When thoughts go stray, return gently to your breath.
  7. Do this for 3 minutes per day at the outset and gradually increase your time.

2. Zazen

Zazen is the Zen Buddhist practice of seated meditation. Some Zen Buddhists contend that Zazen isn’t meditation, yet other Zen practitioners believe Zazen is the meditative practice at the core of Zen.

Advertising

Zazen involves three intertwined elements that to the Zen Buddhist are a single thing: your posture while seated, your breathing and the state of mind arising from the act of sitting and breathing.  

How to do Zazen:

  1. Sit on a small pillow or folded blanket so that your rear end is slightly raised above the floor. Sit with your rear end on the front third of the pillow.
  2. Assume the posture of Zazen.[3] Depending on your flexibility, you can do any of the following:
    – Sit in the Burmese position with your legs crossed so that the backs of both feet rest flat on the floor and both knees touch the floor.
    – Sit in the half lotus position with left foot resting flat atop the right thigh. Tuck your right leg beneath left leg.
    – Sit in the full lotus position with both of your feet resting atop the opposite thigh.
    – Hold your hands just above your feet with palms towards the sky so that the backs of one hand’s fingers rest on the front of the other hands fingers, while thumb-tips touch.
    – Push your head towards sky. Release tension in shoulders and open shoulder blades.
  3. Close your mouth with teeth together and tongue touching roof of mouth
  4. Breathing through your nose, focus entirely on the rhythm of your breathing. If it helps, count each inhalation. Start at 10 and work your way down to 1, then start over (inhalation 10, inhalation 9, etc.).
  5. Remain in the posture, concentrating on posture and breathing and your state of mind will be one with your body in the moment.

3. Qigong

Qigong is “life energy cultivation.”[4] Qigong is a Chinese Taoist practice that broadly speaking, combines exercises with breathing techniques. For the meditation practice, you’re going to focus your qi, which is your vital energy.

How to do Qigong meditation:

  1. Sit comfortably and balance yourself with your spine straight and centered.
  2. Relax every part of your body.
  3. Clear your mind by concentrating on long deep breaths that expand your lower abdomen.
  4. Bring deep focus to your center, which is the approximately two inches below your belly button. Your qi is the energy that concentrates there.
  5. Even as you continue your focus, feel the force of your qi as it courses through your entire body. As your concentration remains on your center, you will feel this force throughout your body without trying to feel it.

4. Mindfulness

Mindfulness has become enormously popular in the West because you can practice it in any setting and it is a stress-reduction technique. Like all meditation practices, mindfulness focuses on mind-state and body simultaneously.

How to do mindfulness meditation:

  1. Begin by sitting comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts enter your consciousness, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go but don’t focus on thought cessation; rather, focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

5. Loving-Kindness

Also called Metta meditation, Loving-Kindness stems from Theravada Buddhism.[5] Metta is about directing specific feelings and thoughts. It’s great for anyone who suffers from depression, anger outbursts and negative thoughts.

How to do Loving-Kindness meditation:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
  2. Direct thoughts and feelings of complete well-being and unconditional love to yourself.
  3. After you’ve directed loving-kindness to yourself during enough sessions to begin feeling joy, choose a close friend or relative and direct loving-kindness to them.
  4. Direct loving-kindness to a neutral acquaintance.
  5. Direct loving-kindness to someone you don’t like.
  6. Move outward until you’re sending loving-kindness to the universe. You’ll experience joy and will be devoid of anger.

6. Chakra meditation

In Sanskrit, chakra means “wheel” or “disk”.[6] A chakra is a wheel of energy. There are seven of them and they start at the base of the spine and move up to the crown of the head. Each chakra corresponds with bundles of nerves and major organs.

Chakra meditation is about aligning and opening the chakras. Each chakra has a sound (mantra) and a color associated with it.

Advertising

Begin by learning the basics of each chakra:[7]

    How to do chakra meditation:

     

    1. Sit comfortably cross-legged on a pillow.
    2. Breathe evenly and steadily.
    3. Close your eyes and concentrate on your root chakra by envisioning a red wheel of energy. Concentrate on the bodily location of the chakra. Repeat the corresponding mantra. Picture energy flowing. Continue until you have a clear picture of the red chakra energy flowing in a wheel shape.
    4. Work your way up to the crown chakra. Give ample time to each chakra.
    5. Spend time learning more about each chakra and continue meditation and self-awareness until you can tell when an individual chakra is blocked. Then, you can meditate on individual chakras.

    7. Gazing meditation

    This yogic meditation is a externally focused.

    How to do gazing meditation:

    1. Sit comfortably with your gaze focused on a single object, such as a candle, waterfall or symbol. For as long as you’re able, don’t blink; maintain relaxation.
    2. Maintain focus until your eyes begin to feel uncomfortable and then close your eyes.
    3. Keep the afterimage of the object in your mind’s eye for several minutes, then open your eyes and start again.

    8. Third Eye meditation

    With this practice, you’ll focus exclusively on the ajna chakra, which is the third eye on your forehead between your eyebrows.

    How to do Third Eye meditation:

    1. Sitting cross-legged, direct your focus to the spot between your eyebrows.
    2. Continue redirecting focus to your third eye each time any other thought arises.
    3. After some time, your mind will experience stillness and the space between thoughts will lengthen.
    4. You can also try it with eyes closed, repeated the SHAM ajna mantra, directing your concentration to the spot between your eyebrows, and picturing the indigo wheel.

    9. Kundalini meditation

    Kundalini yoga will release the snake-like energy coiled up at the base of the spine. That energy will rise up through the spine and to the crown. This practice adheres to dieting practices, breathing exercises and specific movements.

    How to do Kundalini meditation:

    Advertising

    1. Block your left nostril and inhale long and deep. On your next inhalation, block your right nostril. Repeat and let your mind clear as you concentrate on breathing.
    2. Know that Kundalini is a yoga system that takes studying and regular adherence.[8] There’s a lot to it but proponents claim that Kundalini changes your physiology, brain waves and energy levels.

    10. Nada yoga

    Nada Yoga is sound meditation, which helps it fit very well with the growing practice of music therapy.

    How to do Nada yoga meditation:

    1. Simply assume a comfortable meditative position, close your eyes and concentrate on an external sound. You could choose ambient alpha wave music, the sound of a rushing brook or any other calming, steady sound.
    2. After you’ve mastered listening to an external sound, focus on listening to your body and mind.
    3. Eventually, you’ll hear the sound that has no vibration: the sound of the universe — the OM.

    11. Self-inquiry

    This meditation questions the “I” or what it is you’re speaking of when you say “I do this.” It originates from the Sanskrit atma vichara, to investigate the self. Self-inquiry is about oneness of the body and mind.

    How to do self-inquiry meditation:

    1. Assume a comfortable meditative position.
    2. When a thought or feeling arises, ask “who is feeling that feeling?” or “who is thinking that thought?” The answer is naturally “me.”
    3. Ask yourself “who am I?” without attempting to to answer the question. This way, you direct you focus inward, redirecting to the question of the self each time something else arises.
    4. Through this focus on the self as subject, you achieve pure existence and awareness of the self in space and time.

    12. Tantra

    Unlike the popular conception, Tantra is not necessarily about sex. Vijnanabhairava Tantra prescribes over 100 dharanas or “things to meditate on.”[9] Most of them are advanced meditations that already require you to be familiar with basic meditative practices.

    Here’s a Tantric meditation that stems from the Tantrika belief that the body is made of divine light.

    How to do Tantra light meditation:  

    1. Assume a comfortable meditative posture. Pay attention to your bodily sensations and breathing in a mindful state.
    2. Focus on your right foot and imagine it is golden light. Think: “My foot is golden light.”
    3. Work your way through the rest of your body, from your left foot, to your ankles, to your calves, thighs, pelvis, hips, buttocks, genitals, lower abdomen, lower spine, stomach, solar plexus, so on and so forth until you’ve reached your brain and the crown of your head. Breathe golden light into each part of your body.
    4. As you go, repeat the assertion that each part of body is golden light. At the end, think: “My whole body is light. I am light.” Breathe in golden light and breathe out golden light to the universe.

    13. Taoist Emptiness meditation

    The Chinese Taoist tradition of Emptiness Meditation emphasizes letting go of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as they arise.

    How to do Taoist Emptiness meditation:

    1. Sit in a cross-legged position, spine erect, eyes partially closed and looking at the tip of the nose.
    2. When any thought, emotion or sensation arises, don’t follow it. Let it go as easily as it came up.
    3. Sit in a place of quietness. Continue focusing on the quietness with no desire to take up thoughts, emotions or feelings.

    14. Vipassana

    Vipassana is a traditional Buddhist meditation practice from which Western practitioners derived mindfulness. Like mindfulness and other meditations, it starts with the breath.

    Advertising

    How to do Vipassana meditation:

    1. Like Zazen, sit on a cushion, back erect, spine straight and legs crossed.
    2. Concentrate on breathing and the movement of breath through the nostrils; or concentrate on the rise and falling of the abdomen.
    3. As emotions, sensations, thoughts and sounds arise, let them do so without paying attention to them. Continue focusing on breathing and let other things become background noise.
    4. If a perception does capture your attention, note it and label it. For example, a barking dog is “voice.” A car’s honk is “traffic.” A thought about something sad in your life is “thinking.”
    5. After you’ve labeled something, let it go and return to your breath.

    15. Mantra Meditation

    A mantra has no meaning. It is merely a word or symbol you repeat in order to reach a meditative state. Each mantra is a vibration that puts your brain waves in tune with the rising and falling waves of the universe (light waves, sound waves, radio waves, ocean waves).

    How to do Mantra meditation:

    1. Sit in the posture of meditation.
    2. Choose a mantra. Om is the most well-known, and there are other options, such as om namah shivaya, ham, yam, and rama.
    3. In your mind, repeat the mantra. Do this for a set amount for time, say five minutes at the outset.
    4. You can coordinate the mantra with the rhythm of your breathing if you so wish or you can whisper it.
    5. Ultimately, the goal is to release all thoughts except for the internal sound of the mantra.  

    16. Guided Meditation

    Guided meditation appeals to the same need that Transcendental Meditation (TM) appeals to: the need for an instructor. However, TM requires you to spend a great deal of money on a guru while guided meditation can be as simple as downloading an app.

    How to do guided meditation:

    1. If you’re a smartphone user, look into meditation apps available for download.
    2. You can also access guided meditations on YouTube. For example, Kundalini Awakening has a Guided Kundalini Meditation
    3. Follow guided meditation instructions to a T, without judgment. Then, once you’ve mastered guided meditation, beginning meditating on your own.

    17. Body Scan meditation

    In this variation on mindfulness, you’ll note what every part of your body is doing. Berkeley University recommends you try this for 20 to 45 minutes per day, 3 to 6 days per week.[10]

    How to do Body Scan meditation:

    1. Begin by sitting, standing, or lying down and close your eyes if that helps increase calmness.
    2. Whatever surface you’re touching, note the feeling of your weight against it.
    3. Take several deep breaths through your nostrils, noting your relaxation as you exhale.
    4. Now note the sensations present in each part of the body. You can note whatever occurs to you first or begin with your feet and move upward.
    5. If there is any tension in any part of your body, release it with your exhalations.
    6. Note your entire body. Take a breath, experience total relaxation and when you’re ready, open your eyes.

    Choose what calms you

    Meditation helps release you from your tendency to brood and dwell on negative thoughts. It increases your discipline, improves your focus and observation skills, decreases anxiety and helps increase awareness of your body, thoughts and surroundings.

    Whichever meditation technique you choose, repeated practice will move you closer to liberation, mindfulness and enlightenment.

    Featured photo credit: Twenty20 via twenty20.com

    Reference

    [1]Regis College: Mental Health Care in the United States
    [2]Healthline: A Single Session of Meditation May Reduce Anxiety and Help Your Heart
    [3]White Wind Zen Community: Posture of Zazen
    [4]Live and Dare: Types of Meditation – an Overview of 23 Meditation Techniques
    [5]Berkeley University of California: Loving-Kindness Meditation
    [6]The Chopra Center: What Is a Chakra?
    [7]The World is All Yours: Beginner Meditation
    [8]Sri Swami Sivananda: Kundalini Yoga
    [9]Shiva Shakti: Vijnanabhairava Tantra
    [10]Berkeley University of California: Body Scan Meditation

    More by this author

    Daniel Matthews, CPRP

    Daniel Matthews is a Certified Psychosocial Rehabilitation Practitioner and freelance writer with an extensive background working with clients on community-based rehabilitation.

    10 Essential Steps to Success to Actually Reach Your Dreams 15 Telltale Signs of Narcissistic Behavior (And How to Deal With It) What is Psychotherapy? How It Can Help You Achieve Your Dreams 17 Types of Meditation (Techniques and Basics) to Practice Mindfulness Why Happiness is a Choice (And Why It’s a Smart One to Make)

    Trending in Restore Energy

    1 Transform Your Memories: 10 Best Photo Editing Apps 2 15 Natural Insomnia Cures That You Haven’t Tried But Actually Work 3 Feeling Overwhelmed? Best 5 Meditation Apps to Destress During the Day 4 19 Youtube Children’s Videos That Will Help Make Your Kid Smarter 5 Working in the Third Trimester (The Complete Survival Guide)

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on September 12, 2018

    How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

    How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

    When you look at your own life, maybe you’re thinking about how time has gone by so quickly and you have no idea how you got to where you are at. You might begin to feel sad because you’ve drifted so far from where you wanted to be at your age. Life was much more difficult than you expected it to be, so you just settled and decided to accept that this is just how life is. You’ve given up and your goal now is just to get by.

    However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Cultivating much more happiness in your life is a very real and close possibility. You just have to put in a little work.

    Here are 13 proven ways to shake off your sadness and feel happy again:

    1. Do what brings you meaning

    We’ve all been there. A feeling of boredom and being stuck in our lives without knowing what to do. Rather than trying to figure out such heavy questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” it’s much easier to turn on the television and let the day go by.

    “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl

    Many affluent people are experiencing unhappiness no matter how much money, respect, or fame they have because of one big reason: Our unhappiness stems ultimately from a feeling of meaninglessness.

    Frankl has developed a process called Logotherapy to help people build more meaning in their lives. He was put in charge of the mental health department of the Viennese hospital system because they were losing too many patients to suicide. His practices were what prevented tens of thousands of these patients from killing themselves. He did this by helping instill a sense of meaning to their lives.

    What you can do right now:

    In moments when you are struggling with unhappiness, you can start applying Frankl’s Logotherapy in your life by doing the following:

    • Work on a project that demands your skills and abilities. If you have trouble coming up with one, then look for something important to work on that will help someone in need.
    • Immerse yourself fully in your experience and share it with people who love you in an authentic, non-judgmental manner.
    • Find a redemptive perspective towards your suffering. Meaning comes in our lives when we change our perspective about our hardships in a way that it improves our lives rather than bringing it down. For example, I met a woman in Thailand once who ran an orphanage with children who were affected by the AIDS virus. She also suffered from cancer, but rather than viewing the illness as something that is ruining her life, she shared with me “It’s kind of like a death sentence when the doctor says to you ‘you’re HIV positive’ or ‘you have cancer’ and it gives me an ability to identify with these children that are HIV positive, so I’m grateful for cancer because of it, if nothing else.”

    Recommended reading:

    Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

    2. Start killing your options and get crystal clear on what you want

    “Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together.”[1] Keep your options open” may be advice you’ve heard often. But if you keep your options too open, it usually makes you more unhappy, stressed out, and tired from having to choose between too many things.

    When you have too many choices to make, you begin to make more poorer decisions as you make each following one throughout the day. This is what’s known as decision fatigue.

    The most important thing you can do to increase your level of happiness is by effectively reducing the amount of any unnecessary decisions you have to make in a day.

    What you can do right now:

    Set up routines to help you accomplish the following:

    • Make the most important decisions earlier in the day when your mind is more fresh.
    • Try to plan out your day the night before whenever possible.
    • Choose your meals in advance.
    • If you have to make an important decision but you’re hungry, eat first.
    • When you have too many choices, try to narrow it down to choosing between a select few.
    • Automate your life as much as possible by doing the following:
      • Set up automatic payment functions on any bills you have
      • Use free software If This Then That , to automate your life . For example: instead of watching and refreshing to win an auction on Ebay or get that coveted item on Craigslist, have an email notification sent to you, so you can be one of the first to jump on the deal.
      • If your budget allows, hire a virtual assistant or a company like Fancy Hands to take a lot of menial tasks off your plate.

    3. Create safe spaces to find yourself and beat the feeling of shame

    We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need to look, act, or be a certain way in order to be happy and successful.

    The average person gets exposed to over 10,000 advertisements a day and most of these messages are total nonsense.[2]

    All of these false promises given to us each day are what causes us to portray ourselves in a way we think others want us to be so that we can fit in. The sad part is that many of us do find ways to fit in, but we never actually feel like we belong.

    When we don’t feel loved and understood for who we truly are, there is no way we can ever be happy. The reason we are often reluctant to be our most authentic selves is because of shame.

    At some point in your life, you will run into shame and it will make you feel like there is something wrong with you. Whether it was getting teased at school, not meeting up to your parents’ expectations, or being harshly judged by a peer, shame makes you hide your true self and wear a mask to show someone else.

    Advertising

      Learning to have the courage to stay true to yourself is one of the keys to longer lasting happiness.

      Dr. Brene Brown, an amazing vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED talk that she once took put a poll on social media asking “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”:

      Within an hour and a half, she had 150 responses. Here’s what some of them said:

      • Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married
      • Initiating sex with my husband / wife
      • Being turned down
      • Asking someone out
      • Waiting for the doctor to call back
      • Getting laid off
      • Laying off people

      Vulnerable moments like these are when we are most prone to feeling shame. Learning about how to handle that shame is what will enable you to recover from it in a healthy way.

      What you can do right now:

      Practice vulnerability.

      Start by looking yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself “I’m not perfect, but that’s ok”

      Take Dr. Brown’s simple advice that she gave on the Oprah show. When you experience shame, talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.[3]

      Recommended reading:

      I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brene Brown

      4. Engage your curiosity to supercharge your personal growth

      Some of the greatest things that exist in our world today were a result of someone’s curiosity. It’s the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford created some of the most innovative products of all time.

      Satisfying your curiosity releases dopamine in your brain.[4] This is also why we absolutely have to finish a great movie and watch it till the end. You want to know what happens and when you finally do, you get that rush of dopamine and get pleasure from it as a reward. The same applies with any habits we’ve formed, such as checking our social media feeds and emails.

      While these kind of things may give you a short moment of happiness, there is a type of curiosity that will give you a more longer lasting happiness. Dr. Todd Kashdan explains it in the terms of being a “curious explorer”.

      “Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.”

      By using your curiosity to help you get better at something, become more knowledgeable or see something in a new perspective, you’ll find life to be much more enjoyable.

      What you can do right now:

      Kashdan’s suggestions on how to become “Curious Explorers” are summarized in Kari Henley’s Huffington Post article in the following way:

      • Try to notice little details of your daily routine that you never noticed before.
      • When talking to people, try to remain open to whatever transpires without judging or reacting.
      • Let novelty unfold and resist the temptation to control the flow.
      • Gently allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds or smells that come your way.

      Recommended reading:

      Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan PhD.

      5. Help yourself by helping others

      The happiest people are ones who make a positive impact on others.

      “No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

      Every individual has something they can contribute to the world. The hard part is figuring out what that is. And the truth is, we’ll never figure it out until we actually do something about it.

      Science has shown data that supports the evidence that giving is a powerful way to lasting happiness. If done in the right way, giving can feel great and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[5]

      Advertising

      “Happiness is only real when shared.” -Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild

      What you can do right now:

      Intentionally begin contributing to something or someone in your life.

      Check out these 20 small acts of kindness to do something bigger than just for yourself.

      6. Get out of your comfort zone to rewire your brain

      Chances are you are unhappy because of the routine. Simply put, you’re bored but at the same time, maybe you’re a little afraid of trying something new. Or, in a more extreme example, you might hate your job but you are too afraid to quit because you’re worried you may become broke with nothing better ahead for you.

        Whatever the case may be, bringing yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible can result in a  much more satisfying life.

        Scientists have found evidence that if a person steps out of their comfort zone just enough, then they can increase endorphin’s in their brain, which creates increased feelings of happiness.[6]

        What you can do right now:

        • Create more experiences in your life that you can’t back out of. Think of a big goal in your life you’ve always wanted to accomplish, then create a situation that brings you out of your comfort zone that you’ll follow through with.
        • Travel more. Neuroscience has shown that new experiences can build new neuropathways in the brain.[7]When this occurs, it promotes mental health as a result. There is a joy that comes from traveling and whether you’re visiting a foreign country, a nearby city, or even a staycation to a new local restaurant, discovering and experiencing new things can do the trick.[8]

        7. Kick materialism in the face and invest in experiences

        I can’t remember the number of times I was excited to buy a new toy, game, or piece of technology for myself only to get bored of it not too long after. This goes to show material things usually only bring out a temporary amount of happiness at best. Happy experiences last as a happy memory forever.

        While owning material possessions can be nice, they can never be a part of you like great experiences can be a part of you. This is why you should invest more in experiences rather than things.[9]

        “Part of us believes the new car is better because it lasts longer. But, in fact, that’s the worst thing about the new car,” he said. “It will stay around to disappoint you, whereas a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory.” — Dan Gilbert

        What you can do right now:

        Rather than spending your money on buying something a material possession that you’ve always wanted, try these options instead:

        • Invest in a class you have always wanted to take.
        • Book a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to visit.
        • Get tickets to a popular show that you might like.

        8. Meditate regularly

        Self-realization has been shown to have many benefits and this can be achieved by regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.

        Taking a moment to get yourself untangled from all the messy thoughts and emotions you experience can be just the thing you need to be happier. Meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion. It also reduces gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

        These are just a few of the many benefits meditation has been shown to give you.

        What you can do right now:

        Download the no-nonsense Headspace meditation app. All you need is 10 minutes and a comfortable chair. If you find yourself thinking you don’t have 10 minutes, then let the truth of Tony Robbins’ words settle in:

        “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

        9. Change your attitude to gratitude

        This is something that’s commonly said, but it comes from a place of truth.

        The Journal of Happiness published a study where the 219 men and women participants involved wrote three letters of gratitude over a three week period. The results showed that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.[10]

        Your brain cannot simultaneously focus on positive and negative things at once. Because of this, practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.

        Advertising

        When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[11] This activates the happiness center of the brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work; so, you could think of gratitude as a natural antidepressant.

        What you can do right now:

        • Start a habit of writing down three things you are grateful for each day.
        • Regularly write a thank you card to someone you appreciate or to someone who has done something recently for you.
        • Inject things you are thankful for in your daily conversations instead of focusing on negative topics.

        10. Create better habits

        One of the biggest difference between happy and unhappy people are the habits they have. Over 40% of your day isn’t spent on making active decisions but is a result of habit.

        The truth about why it’s so hard to break out of old routines is simply the fact that it is a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit. Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit how the basic structure of habits consists of a cue (trigger), the routine, and the reward.

          For example, stress can be your cue to engage in your routine of smoking a cigarette, which rewards you with the surge of nicotine to relieve your stress. Duhigg teaches the key to turning bad habits into good ones is to figure out how to change the routine. Rather than smoking, maybe you can go for a nice walk or meditate to achieve the same stress relief.

          If your habits are not making you healthier and happier, that means you may be automatically spending almost half your day doing things that make you more unhappy.

          What you can do right now:

          Changing your habits is much easier said than done, which is why you also need to modify your environment as much as possible to increase your chances of success. After doing so, try and tackle the routines which will help you to replace the bad habits with good habits.

          Recommended reading:

          The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

          11. Learn how to predict happiness more accurately

          There are plenty of things in life that aren’t as pleasant as you thought they would be.

          You may have always wanted the nice expensive car, but now that you have it, you’re constantly stressed out about any new scratches and annoyed at all the extra unexpected expenses involved with keeping it well maintained and in good condition.

          You may have always wanted to be married, but now that you are, you didn’t realize the immense amount of work it takes to build and maintain a loving relationship.

          Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert argues one of the reasons for our unhappiness is by wrongly predicting the types of things that will make us happy.[12]

          “If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I would find someone who is already living that future. If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who have actually done these things and see how happy they are. What we know from studies will increase the accuracy of your prediction, but nobody wants to do it.”

          Simply investing the time and energy to learning more about what you are getting yourself into can increase your chances of accurately placing yourself in happier situations.

          What you can do right now:

          Reach out to people that are living the lifestyle you want or possess something you want to have; get on a call with them, or take them out for coffee. Ask about their experiences, both good and bad, and observe if what they have makes them happier, and then decide if it is something you want as well.

          Speaking to a friend who owns a new piece of technology that you want or is currently involved a career that you want to pursue is easy. Yet, if the person of interest is a celebrity or a highly respected individual, then getting in touch with them will be much harder. In this case, scour any public information such as blog posts, interviews and social media posts to get to know them and help you make a decision whether the life they are living is one you want to pursue.

          Recommended reading:

          Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert

          12. Treat yourself with compassion to boost your self-esteem

          Imagine sitting down in a cafe and overhearing a conversation between two girls at the next table.

          “…and you’ve gotten fatter as well. It’s terrible…”

          Advertising

          “Don’t you feel horrible right now?”

          “With those large thighs and your horse’s hips?”

          Fortunately, this conversation was staged by the personal care company, Dove. But the conversation was one that actually happened, except it was with one’s self. The script for the actresses were written from actual self-dialogue from women who were documenting the thoughts that they had about themselves each time the thought came to mind.

          Dove ran this campaign to illustrate this point: if we wouldn’t talk to others in this negative manner, why would we talk to ourselves in this way?

          Here’s the video:

          People who practice self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. So the next time you are feeling low and start nitpicking at yourself, come to your own defense and give yourself a break.

          What you can do right now:

          Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion:

          • Treat yourself as you would your own child.
          • Practice non-judgmental mindfulness (i.e. meditation, yoga) to quiet your inner-critic.
          • Remind yourself of the fact that you are not alone.
          • Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
          • If you struggle with having self compassion and find yourself in need of help, consider hiring a supportive coach or therapist.

          13. Give yourself time to be sad

          Most of the time, people try to avoid negative emotions because they are afraid of the pain and grief they will experience or of the vulnerability it will require. But unless you let those tears come, you will never be able to let go of the emotions. They will stay stuck inside of you.

          It gets even worse when you try and numb your sadness with negative behaviors such as overmedicating, excessively drinking or distracting yourself by overworking. What happens when you numb your negative behaviors is that you are also numbing your positive behaviors.[13]

          Fully experiencing your emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, is important for your own well being.

          “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie

          What you can do right now:

          Get into a habit of identifying your emotions. For example, when you start to feel sad, simply tell yourself “This is sadness.” Once you begin calling your emotions by name, it helps you realize it is an emotion and doesn’t have to define who you are. This is the simple process that lets you ride the wave of emotion and let it pass without letting it take hold of you and controlling your behavior.

          The next time you start feeling sadness, let yourself feel it. Don’t let your fear find an excuse to avoid it. Just like a roller coaster becomes fun after the initial drop, let the discomfort of sadness come through you so you can go back to enjoying your life again.

          The important part of feeling your sadness is to make sure you don’t cross the fine line of dwelling on it and victimizing yourself. Let the feeling come, and when it wants to go, let it go.

          Recommended reading:

          Happiness marks the spot

            Unlike in fairytales, there is no such thing as happily ever after. Instead, it’s similar to there being a variety of scattered treasures buried in a huge field called life. You will need to dig a little to find each treasure as you walk through different points in your life.

            As you continue to go through the daily grind, make the choice to invest time and energy into using the methods outlined here to uplift your spirits. You’ll be happy you did.

            Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

            Reference

            Read Next