Is Happiness important?

I guess that if you think about your loved ones you would agree that their happiness is important to you, after all you probably feel good when they are happy. What about you? Is your happiness important? I mean, does it matter to you if you are happy? Does it matter for our society if you are happy?

Because of everything that is happening specially in Greece and Europe I was really interested in the scientific perspective that answers these questions.

Well, there is an increasing amount of research that is giving really good answers to these questions. To such an extent that in 2012 the United Nations established the International Day of Happiness on the 20th of March of each year.

What researchers have found is that people that are generally happier or have higher levels of well-being are more sociable and have more energy than people that report being less happy. They are generally more charitable and cooperative, and perhaps not surprisingly more liked by others.

In fact there is evidence that the thinking process of people that are generally happier is substantially more flexible and ingenuous. In relation to work they show greater levels of productivity, they are better leaders, better negotiators and possibly as a result they earn more money.

In terms of health and the ability to face difficulties happier people also have a considerable advantage. They are more resilient in the face of hardship, have stronger immune systems, are physically healthier and live longer.

So it is an advantage to be a generally happy person! But I have to wander, are these people happy and therefore they experience these benefits? Or: some people have these characteristics anyway and because of that, they experience generally happier lives?

So what I really want to know is this: If I increase my happiness levels in general, do I start experiencing higher levels of these characteristics? Short & Simple answer: YES!

So, what do you think? In light of this knowledge is it relevant for you and me to be happier in our lives for the improvement of our society?

Here is the Mothership of all questions: Can we increase our happiness? YES! HOW?

The answer to that is not as simple as one may think but we will start to explore it on the next blog on this topic.


(Original version of this article was published in it´s Greek version on the newspaper Ανατολή)

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a practical philosophy emphasizing all aspects of human life. There are no requirements to practice yoga, no specific believes or physical attributes. It´s content is universal and vast in techniques.  That is probably why yoga has become so popular and also why there has been so much misunderstanding in our society and with religious authorities. Yoga is not a religion and it does not oppose religion.  Yoga is one of the six Indian systems of thought. As such it is described in the text “Yoga Sutra” (500BCE-500CE) although the word yoga and its practices are found across older texts with some scholars placing its origins around 9000 years ago.

The confusion comes from the wide variety of schools that teach yoga. Many of these schools come from a monastic tradition and teach yoga from within the perspective of a specific religion or philosophy, that tend to focus on a limited type of practices. These may range from physical exercises, to meditation, support groups, community service, chanting, drawing, etc. The difference is not in the yoga itself but in the belief system that the teacher or school has. In the west there are many schools coming from a monastic tradition but the majority come from a family lineage that teach yoga without mixing other perspectives allowing the student to develop the yoga practice within his/hers own believe system.

Simply put Yoga practice develops a state of mental clarity from which we act. These actions lead us to and help maintain a state of deep inner happiness. In order to bring these about there are many techniques and variations. You can learn you either in group classes or by working individually with a teacher. In group classes the most common techniques used tend to be physical postures to bring equilibrium and health to the body and promote mental stability. Breathing exercises to work the mind more directly to develop emotional stability and the meditation process to sharpen the mind and go beyond it.

When working individually with a teacher the practice is developed taking into consideration how you are physically, mentally, spiritually and what your purpose for the practice is. If all you want is to deal with back pain the practice may, involve simple physical postures to balance your body physically and energetically and simple mental exercises.  If you would like to develop your body and mind to their full potential then your practice will develop into more complex techniques that would not be possible within the general group setting. Yoga can help as a complementary therapy with many issues (e.g. weight loss, stress, depression, concentration, physical pains, constipation, poor digestion, anger, etc).

The benefits of yoga are tremendous but highly dependent of what you do and how you do it, it is not a simple formula that you apply to every person. My suggestion is for you to try different classes or teachers and choose the one you connect better with at this moment in time. Group classes have great energy and allow you to develop a support group while individual sessions really optimize your potential regardless of your starting point.

Ivan P.B.doAmaral (Originally published article in Aνατολή newspaper in Greek)