In this guide, we’ll look at meditations that you can use to feel a little bit happier. We’ll also discuss the science to see why people who meditate are happier than the rest.
Take your time reading this, and try each of the methods. That way you will find the best meditation for you as an individual.
Best Meditation For Happiness
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You can also watch this meditation on our Youtube channel .
1: This script
- Get comfortable in a relaxing room. Sit with good posture and a straight but relaxed spine. Gently lower your chin to elongate your neck.
- Close your eyes and focus your mind on your breathing for a few minutes.
- Continue to focus on your breath. Thoughts will arise in your mind. Simply observe them. Do not fight them or repress them, and do not attach to them. Just observe them and let them go where they go.
- Continue watching your thoughts and tell yourself that they are only thoughts. See their true nature. See that your thoughts are not real. They’re just like little smog clouds that arise in your mind. This will make you less reactive to your thoughts.
- Begin to focus on each of your senses. Meditate on taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight, one at a time, spending at least one minute on each sense.
- Now focus on your body. Be aware of all the sensations you are experiencing.
- Continue to meditate in this fashion for 108 breaths.
- Open your eyes and continue to be mindful.
2: Guided Meditation 2
Also use these techniques for positive thinking.
Vipassana is the practice of monitoring and labelling your thoughts and emotions. And it is scientifically proven to make you feel more positive.
To do this, you focus on your breath. Then when you experience a thought, feeling, or external stimuli, you label it. For instance, you’ll say, “This is just a thought/feeling/external sound”. This reduces reactivity, which in turn reduces stress and anxiety according to Vipassana teacher S. N. Goenka.
Jared B Torre at the University of California says that this method helps us manage our emotions
4: Loving Kindness
You may have heard about Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) from Buddhist meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg. It’s a technique in which we visualize sending and receiving compassion.
Loving Kindness increases pleasant emotions like joy and cultivates confidence. It makes us happy because it makes us feel closer to other people.
Neuroimaging scans from Stefan G. Hofmann, PhD at the University of Boston show that Loving Kindness Meditation changes the structure of the brain. Plus, it increases warm feelings like kindness, love, compassion, and happiness.
Pratyahara is a type of yoga described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is the fifth of the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
We use Pratyahara to eliminate negative influences in our lives and to increase positive influences. This tips the scales in favour of happiness and removes many of the causes of unhappiness.
To do this, remove anything from your life that makes you feel negative. Meanwhile, increase things that make you feel positive. This could include objects and possessions as well as other people.
6: Mindful CBT
Do you experience a lot of negative thoughts? If so, you should try Mindfulness-Based-Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. This is a psychological therapy created by Jon Kabat Zinn. It is based on the theories of Dr Aaron T. Beck. It helps us handle negative thoughts. We can then change those thoughts to more positive ones.
When I was at one of the lowest points in my life, I started using MBCBT to make myself think positively. This gradually made me feel better about my life and the world in general, and I began to feel happier.
7: Mantra meditation
Mantras are specific words or phrases with spiritual properties. They are similar to affirmations or spells but are backed by science. Notable teachers of this method include Deepak Chopra and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (creator of Transcendental Meditation).
When we meditate on a mantra, we relax the mind. We also get special benefits based on the mantra we use. One good mantra meditation to feel happy is “Om.”
- Sit cross-legged (or on a chair).
- Begin to chant “Om” slowly
- You should feel the sound resonating around your nose and your mouth, and your throat should be completely relaxed. Do not worry if you occasionally cough as this is just a sign of your throat adjusting.
- Focus on the sound.
- Continue chanting Om, the mantra for happiness, for as long as you like.
This exercise creates reverberations in our organs that help the body to relax. Plus, it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which makes us feel calm.
You can use affirmations too. One happiness-affirmation that I use is “Life is good”. Reciting this mantra trains my mind to see the good in the world.
It has been scientifically proven that gratitude makes us happier. Plus, it helps with problems like depression, stress and anxiety. Indeed, gratitude is one of the “Character Strengths” of Positive Psychology, the branch of psychology created by Martin Seligman that investigates the psychology of happiness and success.
By practising gratitude, you will develop positive thoughts and joyful feelings.
Research from Dr Robert A. Emmons of the University of California shows that gratitude makes us happier.
Try this meditation for gratitude.
Why meditation makes you happy
In 2010, psychologists at Harvard University studied the link between present-moment mindfulness and happiness. They found that the happiest people are those who live in the moment. [READ: Meditation For Being Present In The Moment]
To understand the link between meditation and happiness, we need to look to neuroscience.
According to Positive Psychology expert Rick Hanson, happiness has a lot to do with the negativity bias.
The negativity bias is the human mind’s habit of paying more attention to the negative than the positive. We’re more likely to dwell on negative thoughts than positive thoughts. And so, this causes negativity to grow more than positivity.
Not only do painful events create negative thoughts, but we make things words by ruminating on them.
The Second Dart
There is a parable called the “Second Dart.” In it, Buddha says that life is full of painful moments, which are like the first dart that hits us. But then, through self-inflicted wounds (thoughts), we throw a second dart at ourselves. We double the pain.
But we can fix this.
We can deliberately remember positive times in our lives. When we do this, those positive events form neural structure. It literally makes our brains more positive.
One reason meditation boost happiness is that it helps you to notice when you’re experiencing negative emotions in response to events.
When this happens, we can deliberately make ourselves relax. In turn, this activates the parasympathetic nervous system and reduces the effect of the sympathetic nervous system and the “fight or flight” response.
We can do this by mindfully breathing through painful events. And this helps us to be more resilient.
As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh said, “My breath is my anchor”. When we go through rough times we can breathe mindfully, and this will make painful events more tolerable.
Meditation reduces dwelling. We become aware of times when we are ruminating on this. And when we are aware, we can change.
When we notice ourselves dwelling on the negative, we can choose to think more positively.
Change Your Brain
The insula is part of the cerebral cortex folded deep within the lateral sulcus. According to neuroscientist AD Craig, the insula is highly involved with feelings and emotions [Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 2009].
Exercises like yoga and meditation make the insula thicker according to Sara W. Lazar [Harvard University].
When we meditate, we develop more neural connections. In turn, this helps us to be more aware and more in control of our feelings.
Happiness Set Point
There’s also a link between meditation and what psychologists call the “Happiness Set Point”.
This is a fascinating psychological concept discovered by researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Massachusetts, and published in 1978 by the American Psychological Association.
Basically, we have a happiness set point. This “set point” is our general overall level of happiness. It is usually fixed. Indeed, researchers found that even people who win the lottery don’t actually become happier. Why? Because they were born with low set points.
But guess what? According to neuroscientist Sara Lazar, meditating actually raises our happiness set point so we become generally happier.
Research shows that meditation reduces amygdala activity. And this reduces anxiety and fear—you know, the opposites of happiness. It also reduces cortisol, according to research by the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
Clearly, if you want to be happier you should start meditating. And it all starts with focusing on the present moment.
As Eckhart Tolle described in The Power of Now, focusing on the present moment is an excellent way to boost health and wellbeing and to create positive emotions.
- Focus generally on the present moment. To do this, focus on your senses. What can you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? The senses connect us to the present moment. By being mindful of the senses, we start to enjoy life.
- Focus on one single aspect of the present moment. Choose one thing around you that makes you feel glad. It could be a sound, a smell, a memory. Focus on that one thing absolutely for a few moments. Meditate on it.
- Continue being mindful of the moment all day. This will cultivate happiness.
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison