Cultivating Happiness the Yogic Way

Kara Bauer Health Guide
  • The yogis are known for looking at things from a practical perspective and their insights on happiness are no exception. Santosha or contentment is one of the 5 niyamas, which are part of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (over 1,700 years old), offering guidelines for living a life of peace and purpose within ourselves. The desire to cultivate happiness is an innate part of all of us, however the belief about what makes us happy is where we’ve gone astray in our thinking and ultimately been left tired and defeated. 


    So why have so many of us failed at being happy? When yogis speak about happiness, they are not referring to pleasurable circumstances. Moments of getting what we want only provides the illusion of happiness, a temporary state of being which comes and goes based on whether things are the way we want them to be. True happiness is something much deeper than that, something that goes beyond external circumstances and lives inside our being rather than what we have or what we do. Being content exists in the present moment and is a mental decision or intention that takes effort and work. Left on its own, the mind will constantly wander, oscillating between thoughts of the past and thoughts of the future as a reason for avoiding happiness right here in the now.

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    The following suggestions for cultivating happiness are drawn from the yogic teachings and must be practiced consistently, sometimes for months or for years, to reach an unwavering inner state of contentment. For those who make the commitment, results will be achieved and the rewards endless. However, to be successful, one must reach a level of maturity that allows he or she to stand apart from societal norms and ask the questions of one’s purpose and existence with a willingness to do what it takes to rediscover the happiness that is our birthright.


    1. Don’t worry be happy

    Inspired by the Indian mystic sage, Meher Baba, the song titled “Don’t Worry Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin became a huge hit in the late 1980s. Baba was known to speak these words to his disciples as a reminder to do your best, but then detach yourself when there is nothing more that can be done to change an undesired outcome. At the end of the day, the choice to be happy is a powerful one and much more desirable than the emotions that come with resisting something that you can’t do anything about.


    2. Evaluate your “inner frequency”

    Everything you attract to you comes from the energy you are emitting outward into the Universe. The more emotional you are about aspects of your life, the more of the same you draw towards you. If you don’t like the circumstances in your life, check in with yourself to find out what thoughts and emotions you are giving your energy to and make alterations where necessary.


    3. Don’t wait to improve your life

    Most people are operating in the world like robots, just going through the motions until something bad happens in which they are inspired to make changes in their lives. However, things are always changing and when little or no effort is made to flow with those changes, they typically are not changes for the better. Those committed to happiness, should always be seeking out ways to improve their lives, inner self and overall consciousness. This is even more important when things are going well, as impermanence is a basic universal law that cannot be avoided.


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    4. Be what you want

    This relates to the first suggestion about being happy. The idea is to act from what you want, rather than wait until you have it. For example, if you want peace, be peaceful. If you want love, be loving. If you want success, embody the being of someone who is already successful. By being what it is you seek, even faking it until you make it, you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by what you exude from within.


    5. Look for what’s “right”

    Our first instinct is usually to look for what’s wrong, to pass judgment either towards others or ourselves. However, what we see is always related to our perspective and what we are choosing to focus on. By instead looking for what is right we begin to see the beauty around us, which results in a natural state of optimism that we can practice each day.


    6. Act from acceptance

    One of the primary reasons for unhappiness is the belief that something isn’t the way it should be. No matter how much you fight what is, you cannot change anything without first accepting that it is what it is. By practicing acceptance, you’ll be able to obtain a centered and balanced position from which to decide what’s next without any disillusion, denial or emotional distress. This is again about living in the present moment rather than being haunted by the past and the future, which only exist in the mind.


    7. Ask enlightening questions

    True happiness does not come from external circumstances. By committing to a life of self-reflection and increasing your awareness, you begin to experience an inner state of bliss that is unconditional and everlasting. Asking questions of yourself such as “who am I?”, “why am I here?”, “what is my purpose?”, “what is the meaning of my life, of existence, etc.?”, you begin to develop priorities centered around love, forgiveness, spirituality/self-actualization and more. Instead of taking your life for granted, you’ll begin to shift your consciousness and perception of what happiness truly is. Your actions will then line up with what’s most important to you rather than those insignificant matters that don’t convert to authentic feeling of contentment.


    8. Make goals, but be present

    Studies show that making goals and measurable progress towards them leads to positive emotions, satisfaction and better wellbeing. It also keeps us motivated to act, which is a necessary part of living a full life.[1] However, when goal setting it’s best to look first at the desired outcome and then look at the present moment to determine what needs to happen today to reach that goal by the desired amount of time in the future. Keep your focus and your mind concentrated on the present, because by living happily today, you all most certainly will guarantee a good future.


    [1] Pychyl, T. (2008, June 7). Goal progress and happiness. Retrieved from 

Published On: January 28, 2013

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