Yoga and Optimistic Psychology, Half 2: What’s Happiness?

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by Sandy 

The Completely happy Household by Pablo Picasso

As I mentioned in my publish Yoga and Optimistic Psychology, Half 1, for me, yoga has been a happiness follow. Even on days when I’ve to tug myself to my mat, I at all times go away it feeling higher, each bodily and mentally. The invention that, regardless of how my day goes, I’ve some management over each my responses to no matter comes alongside and my temper general has been very empowering for me. It’s additionally clear to me that the higher ease of dwelling in my physique that has come from having a gradual, longtime follow goes far past bodily well being; it elevates my temper and enhances the standard of my life every day. It is a reward my yoga follow has given me, and on the similar time, my follow appears like a present I give myself every time I land on my mat. 


So, as I proceed to discover the connections between yoga and optimistic psychology, it’s price delving into what it means to be joyful. Although happiness is a really subjective state and never a simple factor to outline, one of many targets of optimistic psychology is to just do that: outline and quantify what constitutes happiness. So I’d prefer to take a second to speak in regards to the optimistic psychology view. 

There was a considerate touch upon my earlier publish from a psychologist who touched on the risks offered by a number of the extra superficial takes on optimistic psychology, particularly that there generally is a form of “pushing of the optimistic.” I agree that focusing intensely on happiness could create a way of stress to at all times be joyful or solely have a look at the optimistic aspect of issues, which is hardly life like for human being. There will also be shallow and/or egocentric elements of emphasizing private happiness, particularly when that comes on the expense of others. (These positively are potential pitfalls of the happiness motion, particularly—and that is one more commonality between optimistic psychology and trendy yoga—a number of the extra superficial approaches which have arisen with the makes an attempt to commercialize it.) 

Optimistic psychology addresses these considerations head on by distinguishing between hedonic and eudaemonic happiness. Each phrases originate from Historical Greek philosophy, a serious affect on how optimistic psychology views what it means to dwell properly. Hedonic happiness is outlined as current within the nice state of being in an excellent temper and having fun with life (the well-known time period hedonist typically refers to somebody whose life revolves round their very own pleasures). Eudaemonic happiness, in distinction, describes a deeper expertise of happiness, one that’s derived from dwelling a life centered on achievement, that means, function, and striving to turn out to be one’s greatest self and to contribute to the well-being of others. As somebody who finds quite a lot of enjoyment in atypical pleasures of day by day life—an excellent e book and an excellent meal and I’m fairly joyful—I can attest to the truth that hedonic happiness, whereas nice, is just not essentially fulfilling in the long term. The main target of optimistic psychology is on cultivating eudaemonia, the extra complicated and profound view of happiness. 

Along with my research of optimistic psychology, my yoga follow has additionally influenced my concepts about what happiness is, which have modified and advanced through the years. Japanese and Western ideas of happiness differ fairly a bit. Japanese teachings have a tendency to emphasise calmer states, equivalent to contentment and equanimity. Western tradition alternatively extra usually encourages us to try for larger highs, states of bliss and pleasure, extra exuberant feelings that yoga views as unsustainable and fleeting, and thus a possible explanation for future struggling. It is a distinction between what psychologists would name decrease and better have an effect on optimistic feelings. And it’s true that these excessive have an effect on optimistic feelings are sometimes based mostly on exterior circumstances, whereas the extra serene states of contentment and equanimity could be extra internally based mostly and considerably extra inside our personal management. 

This distinction turned extra vital when, a number of years in the past, I had a critical well being scare, one which introduced me head to head with my very own mortality and the uncertainty of life. Whereas I’m a naturally high-spirited, even ebullient, individual and my follow has usually been a joyous expertise for me, throughout that point it turned extra of a comforting refuge and supply of non secular nourishment. This has once more been true through the international well being disaster and quarantine. Whereas I’ve continued to follow via this time, I’ve gravitated towards a mild, soothing strategy incorporating extra pranayama and meditation quite than an invigorating follow centered on difficult asanas. So, I’ve skilled for myself, inside the context of my yoga follow, the distinction between discovering a state of bliss and a way of cultivating acceptance and equanimity. I feel this will even serve me properly as I proceed to adapt my follow to the pure adjustments that include growing older. 

I’ve additionally discovered the yamas and niyamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras particularly helpful guides for cultivating equanimity. One (barely embarrassing) instance of that is within the second the place I’m tempted to order a brand new costume on-line (or the rest I would need however positively don’t want). Nicely, the reality is I would very properly succumb, however equally I would recall the yama aparigraha, which inspires non-hoarding and non-greed, or that niyama santosha, contentment, and make a special selection. I additionally would possibly remind myself that there’s extra contentment to be discovered on my yoga mat or extra achievement to be present in making a donation or serving to another person than in shopping for one thing I don’t want. Actually, I’ve discovered that working towards reduces cravings basically; I constantly discover myself in a state of higher calm, contentment and acceptance upon the completion of a follow session. Whereas which manner I’m going relies on the day, yoga has given me consciousness of a fuller vary of decisions, and, at the very least typically, the area to decide on consciously quite than reflexively. 

Though it could be a bit trite, I consider within the adage that we’re non secular beings having a human expertise. I’ve at all times gravitated extra towards the Tantric Yoga strategy than classical yoga philosophy or Buddhism, for that matter, which is in style with many trendy yoga practitioners. Tantra Yoga, which is about realizing our divinity and our connection to all dwelling issues, has at all times resonated strongly for me. I consider it as embracing the sacredness of completely every little thing, together with the whole bodily world and our personal bodily embodiment. Whereas the last word aim of classical yoga is to maneuver past the person self altogether, I’ve no want to dismiss the worth of this life. Like most Westerners, working towards as a “householder” for the great well being advantages—each bodily and psychological—is adequate for me. Actually, I’ve some considerations across the suggestion that that means or perfection are to be discovered elsewhere, in another realm past our bodily existence, a promise that has been a pitfall of many philosophies and faith, a rationale for awful circumstances and remedy of others on this one. And though cultivating equanimity helps me on a private degree, I don’t consider we should always prolong that to accepting injustice and struggling on this planet with a philosophical shrug. 

Whether or not we’re alone on a rock hurtling via an enormous, empty universe or our presence right here on earth is a part of a a lot bigger schema that’s invisible to our human eyes, our very existence, individually and collectively, is a miraculous reward. Personally, I can’t see the purpose in being right here if to not benefit from that have, to be totally human in and of the world. This entails working to comprehend our full potential, to be our greatest selves, to take care of one another and work for a greater world—one which decreases the struggling of our fellow people. So, the Karma Yoga path, which is about serving others and dealing to create a greater world, makes extra sense to me than striving for detachment from earthly considerations. Optimistic psychology analysis has discovered that giving to others, whether or not that’s volunteer work or random acts of kindness, advantages the giver as a lot or greater than the recipient, and that the improved emotional well-being the sort of giving may give us even has a optimistic impact on our bodily well being, defending us from the adversarial physiological results of stress and boosting our immune methods. This discovery of interconnected well-being feels very a lot in line with the spirit yoga to me. 

Whereas the last word aim of yoga is enlightenment, additionally it is supposed to lower struggling, and to help each bodily and non secular well-being as a basis for realizing this larger aim. We’ve got extra to contribute once we ourselves are flourishing, and the instruments of each yoga and optimistic psychology may also help with this. Few will obtain enlightenment, however an earthly expertise of improved well-being and genuine happiness could also be obtainable to many.


For details about Sandy’s lessons, writing, and optimistic psychology journey at www.sandy.blaine.com.


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