I believe that there is a strong connection between the science of happiness and mindfulness meditation exercises. Matthieu Ricard teaches us that learning to meditate may be the first step to understand the psychology of happiness.
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How to be happy? Who is the happiest man in the world? How to properly meditate like him?
Matthieu Ricard, 69, is a Tibetan Buddhist monk who has been called “the world’s happiest man.”
That’s because he participated in a 12-year brain study on meditating and compassion led by a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson. Davidson hooked up Ricard’s head to 256 sensors and found that when Ricard was meditating on compassion, his mind was unusually light.
“The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — ‘never reported before in the neuroscience literature’, Davidson said.The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, allowing him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity.”
Ricard — who says he sometimes meditates for entire days without getting bored — admits he’s a generally happy person (although he feels his “happiest man” title is a media-driven overstatement). He spoke with Business Insider at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Here’s his advice for how to be happy.
Stop thinking “me, me, me”
To Ricard, the answer comes down to altruism. The reason is because thinking about yourself, and how to make things better for yourself all the time, is exhausting, stressful, and ultimately leads to unhappiness.
“It’s not the moral ground,” Ricard explained. “It’s simply that me, me, me all day long is very stuffy. And it’s quite miserable because you instrumentalize the whole world as a threat, or as a potential sort of interest [to yourself].”
If you want to be happy, Ricard says you should strive to be “benevolent” which will not only make you feel better, but it will also make others like you better.
(That’s not to say you should let other people take advantage of you, Ricard warns, but you should generally strive to be kind within reason.)
“If your mind is filled with benevolence, you know — the passion and solidarity … this is a very healthy state of mind that is conducive to flourishing,” Ricard says. “So you, yourself, are in a much better mental state. Your body will be healthier, so [it] has been shown. And also, people will perceive it as something nice.”
That all sounds great in theory, but how does a person actually become altruistic and benevolent and not let selfish thoughts creep in?
Start training your mind like you’d train to run a marathon
Ricard believes everyone has the ability to have a lighter mind because there’s a potential for goodness in every human being (unless you’re, say, a serial killer, and there’s something actually chemically abnormal going on with your brain).
But like a marathon runner who needs to train before he or she can run 26 miles, people who want to be happier need to train their minds. Ricard’s preferred way of training his is meditating.
“With mental training, we can always bring [our level of happiness] to a different level,” Ricard explains. “It’s like running. If I train, I might run a marathon. I might not become an Olympic champion, but there is a huge difference between training and not training. So why should that not apply to the mind?… There is [a] view that benevolence, attention, emotional balance and resilience are skills that can be trained. So if you put them all together, you could say that happiness is a skill that can be trained.”
OK, so how does one train their mind to be happier?
Just spend 15 continuous minutes per day thinking happy thoughts
Start by thinking happy thoughts for 10 to 15 minutes per day, Ricard says. Typically when we experience feelings of happiness and love, it’s fleeting and then something else happens, and we move on to the next thought. But Ricard says instead, concentrate on not letting your mind get distracted and keep focused on the positive emotions for the next stretch of time. And if you do that training every day, even just 2 weeks later you can feel positive mental results. And if you practice that for fifty years like Ricard has, you can become a happiness pro too.
That’s backed up by neuroscientists by the way. Davidson found from his study that even 20 minutes of daily meditation can make people much happier overall.
Here are some mindfulness quotes that will inspire you more:
“The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.” – Eckhart Tolle
“Meditation is to be aware of what is going on: in your body, in your feelings, in your mind, and in the world.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
The idea has come to me that what I want now to do is to saturate every atom. I mean to eliminate all waste, deadness, superfluity: to give the moment whole; whatever it includes. Say that the moment is a combination of thought; sensation; the voice of the sea. Waste, deadness, come from the inclusion of things that don’t belong to the moment; this appalling narrative business of the realist: getting on from lunch to dinner: it is false, unreal, merely conventional.” – Virginia Woolf
“Each step along the Buddha’s path to happiness requires practising mindfulness until it becomes part of your daily life.” – Henepola Gunaratana
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” – Sharon Salzberg
“Meditation is essentially training our attention so that we can be more aware— not only of our own inner workings but also of what’s happening around us in the here & now.” – Sharon Salzberg
List of Best Meditation Classes
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Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation
Learn the principles and techniques of meditation and enjoy the deep and lasting benefits of this ancient practice on your mind and body.
A very difficult and important subject dealt with in an easy to follow, thorough and intelligent manner. I watched the whole thing in 3 days, all 24 lectures, the equivalent of not being able to put down a book. I have no doubt it has changed my life.
Concepts in this series are vital to living a full and happy life, and the foundation of every religious and semi-spiritual practice. It helped me work better, drive better, and relate better to the people I deal with in everyday life.
It presents the material with the objective of teaching you how to embrace mindfulness and mindfulness meditation such that you will get the greatest benefit from it in your own daily practice. This course offers a new perspective on the world and on how to live one’s life, which I think almost anyone would find valuable.
Explore new spiritual paths in this introduction to the precepts of Buddhism—an intriguing world religion that is utterly unlike any other.
Delightful, insightful, and well rounded. One of the best storytellers I’ve heard in a while. I have long been interested in Buddhism and have read books, etc., but I really wanted something to pull it all together in a complete overview. So, this course was an excellent choice!
Explore how the brain creates your experience of reality with an award-winning Professor of Philosophy.
An absolutely fascinating lecture on philosophy! With many ideas and concept,s I’d never even heard before, explained in such a manner that I felt like I could easily understand and follow.
As someone who has finished more than 100 (currently at about 123) classes on Skillshare, I’ve seen both the best and the worst of the courses offered on the site. Luckily, there are very few of the latter – Skillshare is bursting at the seams with quality content. Unfortunately, this means that sifting through all of those excellent courses can be a bit intimidating. To get you started, I’m sharing my absolute favorite courses for meditation. They’re in no particular order. I’ll keep this up to date as I take new courses, so check back and have fun learning!
By the way, Skillshare is a community of learners. It is also a community of wonderful teachers who can show you how to create monsters from ink blots or shoot photos from a helicopter.
Modern life can be complicated. Simplify it with these classes. Claim your 2 free months of Skillshare Premium to see following classes and you can cancel your subscription after that.
Learn the Peaceful Practice of Breath Meditation by Lauren Lapointe
Why I love this class: This is a lovely, calming short class with a very effective guided meditation set to beautiful music! I love how Lauren emphasizes that there is no right or wrong way to meditate. Short and easy to follow – try it and be pleased
Why You Should Take This Class:
Are you curious about meditation but aren’t sure how to start?
Do you want to reduce stress and have more clarity, focus, and overall joy in your life?
Or maybe you’re an experienced meditator looking for a refresher or a new style of meditation?
In this class, you’ll learn a classic meditation technique that focuses on the breath. In addition to learning what breath meditation is and getting some good tips on preparing for meditation, there will be a ten-minute guided meditation with clear, accessible directions.
Join this class while you still can & See results now!
Drawing Mandalas (Easy, Fun, & Creative Art to De-Stress Yourself) by Kate Friedman
So what is mandala? Would you be surprised to learn that mandalas have existed since the beginning of time and that you probably witness and experience their beauty every day? Simply stated, a mandala is a sacred circle.
The word mandala comes from the ancient Sanskrit language and loosely means “circle” or “center.” It’s a simple geometric shape that has no beginning or end. Within its circular shape, the mandala has the power to promote relaxation, balance the body’s energies, enhance your creativity, and support healing. The great news is you can achieve all of these benefits while having fun with your mandala coloring pages.
Why I love this class: This was a great, short tutorial on how to get started in creating mandalas. I’ve been wanting to start drawing mandalas and using watercolor, so I found this super helpful. This is one of those art classes where all you need is a paper and a pen and you can get started immediately, anywhere, without a lot of fuss. I really enjoyed applying the tips Kate shared. I really enjoyed this class! I also love the idea of giving them away to spread happiness.
Why You Should Take This Class:
Release your emotions onto the page in this mandala drawing class that will add reflection and meditation to your day and give you a creative outlet. No experience necessary. No special tools needed. De-stress yourself and make some art!
Amazing as it sounds, by simply coloring mandalas, you can accomplish the following:
- Relax & enhance your meditation
- Balance your body, your mind, and your spirit
- Make a spiritual connection
- Expand your creativity
- Increase your self-awareness
- Encourage your self-expression
- Just have fun, alone or with your friends
Join this class now and enjoy!
Fun! Flow Painting Meditation by Sharon Lemay
Why I love this class: What a beautiful concept! I love the combination of meditation and painting! Sharon begins with a meditation accompanied by nature images and sounds, then demonstrates a very easy, meditative technique for creating gorgeous abstract paintings. There’s no way you can make a mistake with this approach, which makes this a great class for students who may want to learn to paint but feel intimidated by the process.
Also, the technique shown in this class allows you to make a painting without any special mediums or equipment. I learned something new and will try it out very soon!
What will you learn in this class?
- How to relax 5 min. meditation.
- How to paint a flo ofw abstract painting.
- Unlock your creative energy.
- Meditation can control stress and pain
- How to be 10% happier and think more creatively.
What are you waiting for? Let start now, This class is just 17 min.
This class was awesome, a great and short introduction to get you started, in a comfortable way
This is a much-needed class for most people.
Learning to meditate is far easier than most people think.
In this class, Ken walks you through a simple 10-minute meditation, that is ideal for beginners or those still having trouble meditating.
It’s a simple technique that can be practiced by anyone, without having to silence your mind.
5-Day Meditation Challenge by Phil Ebiner
The course offered a very positive approach to starting my day. It helped me to recognize the things that caused anxiety, and it gave me the tools to deal with it. It definitely helped me to focus on my goals for the day.
Do you want to increase focus, boost productivity, and achieve your goals?
This 5-day meditation challenge is the perfect way to start off your day. This challenge helps you focus more on whatever you are working on today.
You will be more productive and accomplish your goals quicker. Don’t worry, you don’t need any experience meditating. In fact, we created these meditations for people with little or no experience.
This offer may not last long. So start 2 free months of Skillshare Premium right now. After all, with so much to gain—and with absolutely nothing to lose—shouldn’t you at least take a look?