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Neil Pasricha

September 26, 2017 by Paul

How to Practise Your Way to Happiness

One of the most popular TED speakers of all time, Neil Pasricha has dedicated himself to highlighting routes to happiness. His infectious talks draw on the latest happiness research and blend with his authentic exuberance to show how we can live happier lives at home and in the workplace.

In his latest Toronto Star column, Pasricha focuses on yoga as an example of how to approach practicing happiness:

Do you remember your first yoga class?

I do. It wasn’t a pretty sight. I nervously peeled out my sticky mat at the very back corner of the class. I wanted to make sure nobody could see me. My tight muscles and achy joints prevented any beautiful warrior poses, so I ended up a wobbly mess of knees and elbows for most of the class.

But I remember the end of the class the most.

The instructor said: “Namaste. Thank you for sharing your practice with us.”

Practice?

That word jumped out.

Someone said to me the other day, “Neil, when did you make the decision in your life to be happy?”

I paused for a second. I thought about it. I looked them in the eye . . . and I realized they were looking for an inflection point. A big moment! A fork in the road. Maybe they were expecting me to say after my divorce, losing one of my closest friends from suicide or right when The Book of Awesome took off.

But . . . it wasn’t any of those things. And what I ended up recognizing was that happiness is like yoga. It’s a practice. The goal is not to be perfect. Because there is no perfect! The goal is just to be better than before.

It’s a practice.

There’s a famous model put forward by professor Sonja Lyubomirsky from the University of California where she suggests that happiness looks something like this pie chart:

Fifty per cent genetics, 10 per cent circumstances, 40 per cent actions and thoughts which come from what you do in your daily life practice.

So, don’t think about happiness as an inflection point in your life. There isn’t going to be “the day” you decided to be happy. That’s setting yourself up for failure because if you have a bad day after that, you’ll think even more poorly of yourself.

Instead, think about the 40 per cent you can control. What are the activities you can do to drive these actions and thoughts? We’ve talked about a number of them in this column: A 20-minute nature walk. Journaling about a positive experience. Meditating for 10 minutes using an app such as Headspace or 10% Happier. Turning off email for a day. Writing a three-sentence thank-you note to an old boss or co-worker. Or simply going around the dinner table with your family at night playing Rose-Rose-Thorn-Bud where everyone shares a couple highlights from their day.

Happiness is a practice.

If you can only control 40 per cent of it, and all the little tiny things you do in your life add up, then slowly work to add in the routines, habits and the behaviours to help yourself move forward inch by inch, day by day.

Neil Pasricha/Toronto Star/September 2017