Happiness is not only a matter of looking after yourself emotionally and physically. Research shows that true happiness lies also in a further dimension: nurturing yourself spiritually. For us spiritual is nothing to do with religion, or connecting with ‘spirits’… in our book it is about reaching deeper than the day-to-day, having elements in your life that are ‘food for the soul’. Studies show that people who nurture this extra element in themselves – what we would call our ‘soul’ – are the happiest.
One definition of the word ‘spiritual’ is something that affects the human soul rather than the material or physical. In our view sometimes this is nothing more profound than giving yourself permission (and acting on it!) to do things for yourself – just for yourself. Treats, having passions, hobbies and a purpose in life lift you from the humdrum. Finding a little pocket of time and space (head space or physical space) to do something that is deliciously, irresistibly, viscerally fun and satisfying – the kind of activity or pastime that you immerse yourself in where you find an hour (or three…) have gone by without you realising and you haven’t thought about anything else. Trouble is we often feel ‘guilty’ or that we’re ‘indulging’ ourselves or ‘being selfish’ when actually the evidence shows that those who nurture this extra element in themselves are the happiest.
For some ‘spiritual’ does indeed mean connecting with their inner being, or ‘soul’. And perhaps also connecting with other spirits or essences. Many of the practitioners at The Hub feel deeply that this too is a vital ingredient in finding your true self, which in turn leads to discovering true happiness.
Here are some vital ways you can achieve spiritual happiness…
- Make and keep friends
There is multiple evidence that friendship makes us happier. True friends come to your rescue, celebrate your success as if it was their own, and respect the ebb and flow of your life. They show trust, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, commitment, support, enthusiasm and gladness toward their friends without expectation of gain or return. Psychologists have found that those who have regular meaningful contact with same-sex friends have a greater feeling of self-worth.
- Immerse yourself
Psychologist Dr Miyaly Csíkszentmihályi proved that one key to happiness is to have something you can immerse yourself in – being completely involved in an activity for its own sake to the exclusion of everything else. In his book, Flow: the Psychology of Happiness, he describes this total immersion as when we are making, doing, creating or playing using our skills to the utmost and we go into a ‘flow state’. Experiments show that the grey matter density (GMD) of our brains upgrades itself when we achieve this state.
- Do yoga
Studies at Boston University show that yoga increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) in the brain. As higher GABA levels are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety, the scientists have suggested that yoga be used as an alternative treatment for depression and anxiety. And you don’t have to be a yoga devotee – the studies reveal that improvements in happiness are evident after just a single hour of yoga.
- Practise meditation
Meditation has the power to instil a deep sense of calm and serenity in the innermost part of your being (and brain). Numerous studies prove that meditation reduces levels of our stress hormone cortisol.
In one study the software company Compuware offered employees regular group meditation over seven weeks. Using a meditation technique known as Loving Kindness, designed to increase feelings of warmth and caring for yourself and others, they found that meditation led to increased happiness. Participants reported feeling more positive, having purpose in life, better social support and fewer symptoms of illness – their overall level of life satisfaction and depressive feelings decreased.
Studies by the neuroscientist Sara Lazar show that maintaining a consistent meditation practice leads to thickening in a few major areas of the brain, which in turn increases your ability to cope with uncomfortable and difficult situations and stressful occurrences that life throws at you. If you’re naturally more predisposed to being worried or stressed out meditating on a regular basis can quieten overactive areas of your brain and thicken the areas responsible for joy and pleasure. It is thought that meditation shrinks the portion of the brain called the amygdala, which controls fearfulness and anxiety.
- Be mindful
The definition of mindfulness, according to guru Jon Kabat-Zinn, is ‘paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally’. Similar to Dr Miyaly Csíkszentmihályi’s concept of ‘flow’, but being aware that you are immersing yourself in the moment, and trusting (non-judgmentally) that that is totally fine. Increasing research shows that, far from being a 21st-century fad, this is a tool that Buddhists, among others, have espoused for centuries. Proof that being mindful makes you happier is multiple.
When Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth created a phone app that interrupted people at random times to ask how happy they were feeling at that moment, the data showed that we’re happiest when we are mindful of the moment and least happy when the mind is wandering. The 15,000 people involved in the study were from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and ages and spanned 80 countries. What made people happy had far less to do with what they were doing and significantly more to do with whether their attention was fully present in the moment. People whose minds wandered to happy thoughts were slightly better off than those whose minds strayed off to worries or regrets, but those with wandering minds were still not as happy as people who kept their minds in the moment. Even if they found the activity at hand unpleasant people were still happier when they engaged their attention fully in the now.
Our team are passionate about helping people to find soul food. Here are just some of the things we offer at The Hub to bring you spiritual happiness…
Reiki – channelling energy, through gentle touch, to activate the natural healing processes of your body and restore physical and emotional well-being.
Women’s sharing circle – an authentic, caring meeting of minds to nurture the heart and nourish the soul.
Friday night meditation – connect to your source to discover yourself and your purpose.
Lomi lomi massage – deeply healing, nurturing massage, derived from Polynesia and known as ‘loving hands’.
Polarity massage – energy-balancing massage drawing on life energy (prana or chi) to restore equilibrium to mind and body.
Sound therapy – ‘bathing’ in sound you go into a deep meditative state of relaxation that many describe as a spiritual experience.