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10 Things You Can Learn From the Dalai Lama to Become a Happier Person

10 Things You Can Learn From the Dalai Lama to Become a Happier Person

In his book, The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama shares his secrets to a life of contentment. In this post, you’ll get a quick overview of his insights on how to achieve lasting happiness, why compassion and intimacy are so important, and how you can overcome suffering and negative states of mind.

1. Don’t focus on external circumstances.

External events can affect a person’s happiness in the short-term, but our level of happiness tends to revert back to a certain baseline soon after the event. Winning the lottery only produces a short-lived happiness “high,” which subsides quickly.Our mental state, however, constantly affects how we perceive the world. It’s possible to train your mind so that you identify and cultivate positive mental states while eliminating the negative ones. This eventually brings a calmness that allows you to live a happy, joyous life no matter what the external situation.

2. Cultivate universal compassion.

Compassion is a state of mind that is non-aggressive: a wish to see all other living creatures free from suffering. The mental and physical benefits range from experiencing an emotional “high” after helping others, to gaining a longer life expectancy yourself. To cultivate compassion, try to be empathetic towards others and actively try to understand things from their perspective. An effective method for this is to understand their backgrounds and focus on the commonalties you share.

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3. Build close, intimate relationships.

Having close relationships with other people promotes both physical and mental well-being. The Dalai Lama himself said he felt an intimate connection with a wide array of people around him (for example, his tutors and cooks). He even went as far as discussing state affairs with a cleaner sweeping the floors. By embracing the countless opportunities to connect to other people every day, we can lead happier lives.

4. Find your way to spirituality.

The benefits of a strong religious conviction are well-documented in numerous studies and range from happier families to better health. But spirituality is not dependent on any specific religion; the Dalai Lama believes any of the world’s major religions can offer people a happier life. In fact, there is also a kind of spirituality that exists completely outside of the sphere of religious belief: it comprises basic human qualities like goodness, compassion and caring for one another, and it is therefore attainable by atheists and religious people alike.

5. Accept suffering as a natural quality of life.

Westerners tend not to understand that suffering is a part of life and often see themselves as victims of some malignant force when something goes wrong. But suffering is inevitable; all of us will grow old and die. Trying to avoid or ignore this fact is only a temporary solution. When you inevitably do encounter suffering in one form or another, your mental attitude becomes of paramount importance. If you fear suffering as something unnatural and unfair, you will feel like a victim and assign blame when you should be trying to eliminate the mental root causes of suffering.

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6. Eliminate negative attitudes and feelings.

Negative states of mind like anger and fear are obstructions that stop us from achieving our natural, happy state. They are poisons. But certain positive states of mind—love, compassion, patience, generosity—can act as antidotes to them, eliminating harmful emotions, attitudes and behaviors. Hence, to eliminate negativity, positive emotions and behaviors should be habitually cultivated.

7. Find the good in every situation.

When people encounter a negative situation, they tend to see it rigidly as 100% negative. Generally though, most situations contain both positive and negative elements and can be viewed from several alternative angles. For example, you might consider having to sit next to an annoying, flatulent person on a plane as a purely negative situation, or you could see it as an opportunity to practice patience and tolerance.

8. Get rid of negative feelings.

Of all the negative mental states, anger and hatred are the greatest obstacles to happiness. When a feeling of anger or hatred arises in us, it rapidly destroys our peace of mind. It also obliterates our judgment, often leading us to take actions that only worsen the situation and make us even angrier. Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated that tendencies toward anger, rage and hostility have negative health effects, too; for example, they substantially increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

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9. Replace them with positive feelings.

Anger and hatred cannot be overcome by suppression. On the other hand, venting anger (i.e. raging and shouting) tends to increase negative feelings, not reduce them. Hence, the correct response to anger is to learn how to use the antidotes of patience and tolerance against it, and to cultivate them—for example, through meditative exercises. When you feel angry, simply take a time-out: pause to analyze the situation. Where did the anger come from? What factors created it? Is it destructive or constructive?

10. Get rid of anxiety and low self-esteem.

Excessive anxiety is often related to poor self confidence, and the Dalai Lama feels the antidote for this is to be honest with yourself and others about your capabilities and limitations. If you’re comfortable with your own limits, you can confidently admit when you cannot do something or do not know something, without losing your self esteem in the process.

Sometimes low self esteem can reach the extreme of self-hatred, where a person feels completely unworthy and may even contemplate suicide. The antidote to such an extreme mental state is to remind yourself of the marvelous intellect and potential for development within every single human being, including you. Tibetans contemplate this routinely in their daily meditations, which is perhaps why self-hatred is a virtually unknown concept in their society.

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More of a science person than a spiritual one? Take a look at these 29 scientifically proven ways to be happier.

Featured photo credit: Jonas Nilsson Lee/Unsplash.com via unsplash.com

More by this author

Sebastian Klein

Sebastian is the co-founder of Blinkist, a serial entrepreneur, consultant, speaker and writer with a passion for management-free organizations.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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