How to Be Happy, According to Ayurveda
By Rippan Sandhu
2020 is the kind of year you tell your grandkids about — the kind which reset the board, so to speak. Not just in broad terms for countries, or businesses — but on a personal level, for your family, and for yourself, mentally and emotionally. Crises teach us what’s important to us, what we can and can’t live without, what we’d grab first in a house fire. More than anything, they take us back to some of the simplest touchpoints in life. For us here at Spa Ayurda, it’s got us reflecting a lot on happiness — what is it and how do we achieve it, especially in this day and age?
‘Happiness’ is a nebulous word — it might mean one thing to one person, and something totally different to another. However, through its 5000 year history, the health science of Ayurveda has identified key components to what we call ‘happiness’, all of which are designed to help you live a longer, healthier, and more meaningful life by anchoring you more in your body, and helping you create a greater sense of interconnectedness to the world you live in.
Modern life is fast paced. Our news come in soundbites, our foods come in packages, and there’s an app and a service for everything you can think of that promises to cut time and cut cost. Yet despite all this convenience, we’re still struggling to keep on top of our schedules, our work, our friends, and ourselves. All this rushing around can take a toll, especially compounded over months and even years.
In these times, the nerves are stressed and your mental overtaxation can begin to bleed over into your body: insomnia, loss of appetite, trouble digesting, and fatigue are common. In these times, Ayurveda advises you to slow down in every aspect of your life. No need to take an extended vacation (not that you can right now anyway!) — but slow down the minutiae of your everyday life.
Take at least an hour enjoying your meal instead of rushing through it as just another item to tick off. Rather than rushing to check your emails and socials in the morning, set aside half an hour, either for breakfast or a walk, to simply be. By slowing down, you can focus on being inside your body, creating a greater sense of groundedness which will carry over into the other aspects of your life and ultimately help you make better, sounder, and more thoughtful decisions.
Happiness is not a state of being, but a continual journey: to have pleasures you must do the things you find pleasurable; to be healthy, you must live a healthy lifestyle; to have a good relationship, you have to put in the work, the sacrifice, the emotional labour. So the act of being happy is actually made up of a number of different, small, everyday acts, which ‘happy people’ pursue because they know these acts make them happy.
They know what brings them pleasure. They know how to nurture and feed and move their bodies. They know when to take it easy, and they know when to go hard. They know what they deserve from people they love and aren’t afraid of asking for it. These are people who have gone through periods of unhappiness and defeat, who now know themselves well enough to navigate their emotional landscapes without self-harm or neglect.
If you find yourself stagnating in your career, your relationships, or even yourself, it’s worth it to get to know yourself as a person again — take yourself out to dinner, find new things that you enjoy, carve time out for yourself to rediscover who you are, what you love, and what brings you joy. After all — how can you expect your career, your partner, or your friends to give you what you need if you don’t know what it is yourself?
GIVE, GIVE, GIVE
According to science, not only are happy people compassionate, but compassionate people are happier. In other words, not only is there a correlation between happiness and compassion, but studies show that acts of kindness actually directly boost happiness in the short and long run.
Think about the last time you did something nice for somebody, for no reason, just because you felt like it — there’s something so ineffably uplifting about treating the ones we love, that is somehow more of a rush than buying ourselves a treat. This can be as simple as buying a friend a coffee, or donating to a charity, or paying forward a meal at a restaurant. It’s a positive feedback loop which taps directly into our natural subconscious desire for harmony and positivity — tapping directly into the striatum, or ‘rewards centre’ of our brain.
MAKE IT A ROUTINE
In Ayurveda, the concept of ‘Ojas’ refers to the end product of ‘perfect digestion’. No, that doesn’t refer exclusively to your gut — though it does factor! An abundance of Ojas in the body is the result of nourishment, both physical (such as good food) and mental (such as good energy, good experiences, and good acts.) According to the science of Ayurveda, an abundance of Ojas helps to restore health and prevent illness through positive energy and positive choices. There are several things you can do to increase your Oja which have been lauded by Ayurveda for centuries, and backed up by modern science.
Mindful meditation and moderate yoga are key components which, practiced in the morning, can help you ground yourself for the rest of your
day and focus your mental energies where they can be best utilised. Another act is pranayama, or breathing exercises. These have been
scientifically proven to reduce accumulated stress, ease muscle aches, and even help with sleeping issues. However, these Oja-increasing
acts can really only help you if you are diligent about your routine.
Performing your yoga or breathing exercises once a month will do little to help you with stress, insomnia, or muscle pain — relief, whether mental or physical, is found in the accumulated routine. Therefore, we advise you to make a promise to yourself, even if it’s small: rather than deciding to jump into a long morning yoga session you know you can’t maintain, opt instead to take a simple ten minutes out of your morning to breathe deeply, meditate on your day, and perform a single yoga stretch. Keep this up for a month, and you’ll be surprised at how easy it’ll be to maintain a routine you’re in love wi