Buddhists have always known that the core Buddhist beliefs can make for happiness and contentment. Now science is suggesting they may be right.
I always find it fascinating when new scientific discoveries prove things that religious and spiritual sources have been saying since time immemorial. Recently, science has found some interesting principles of happiness. And it turns out that they are pretty similar to Buddhist beliefs.
I recently read an article by Bodhipaksa the founder of Wildmind, who looked at scientific research published by Yes Magazine. He found some amazing correlations that suggest that living by a few Buddhist beliefs can make you happy.
Here are the principle Buddhist beliefs that can make you happier and more contented.
1. Be mindful
One of the core beliefs of Buddhism is the idea of right mindfulness. When we’re mindful, we stay in the present moment and really pay attention to what we are doing rather than dwelling on past events or worrying about future ones. This is the real heart of Buddhism. Wisdom will emerge if your mind is pure and calm.
Science also suggests that taking the time to savor the moment can increase happiness. A study showed that when people tried to be present in the moment they felt positive benefits. Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found that the participants “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.”
2. Avoid comparisons
The Buddhist principle of equality says that all living entities are equal. In addition, the Buddhist belief that we are all connected makes a nonsense of comparing ourselves to others. There is no superiority or inferiority when we are all parts of a unified whole.
Studies have shown that comparing ourselves with others can damage self-esteem. Lyubomirsky says we should focus on our own personal achievements rather than comparing ourselves with others.
3. Don’t strive for money
Buddhism says that relying on materialism to bring us happiness is a false refuge. While money is important in that it helps us meet our physical needs, we will not find long term satisfaction in striving for money and material goods.
Scientific studies have suggested the same. People who put money high on their priority list are more at risk for depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, according to researchers Tim Kasser and Richard Ryan. Money-seekers also score lower on tests of vitality and self-actualization.
4. Work towards meaningful goals
Bodhipaksa says that ‘The whole point of being a Buddhist is in order to attain spiritual awakening — which means to maximize our compassion and mindfulness. What could be more meaningful than that?’ The Buddhist principle of right effort tells us to find a balance between the exertion of following the spiritual path and a moderate life.
Again, science agrees. Though it is not necessary for meaningful goals to be spiritual or religious. People who strive for something significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or raising moral children, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations,” say Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener.
5. Develop close relationships
To the Buddha, spiritual friendship was “the whole of the spiritual life. Generosity, kind words, beneficial help, and consistency in the face of events” are the things that hold people together. Buddhism also emphasizes the idea of non-attachment, which allows us to love our friends and family unconditionally without any need or desire to control or change them.
Research has found that people who have good relationships with family and friends are happier. However, it is not a number of friendships we have that matters. “We don’t just need relationships, we need close ones,” says Yes Magazine.
6. Practice gratitude
The Buddha said that gratitude, among other qualities, was the “highest protection,” meaning that it inoculates us against unhappiness. It is by being grateful and appreciative that we begin to focus on the blessings in our lives, which makes us more positive and happy.
Science has studied the concept of gratitude extensively. Author Robert Emmons found that people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis are healthier, more optimistic, and more likely to make progress toward achieving personal goals.
7. Be generous
Buddhism has always emphasized the practice of dana, or giving. As well as giving money or material possessions, Buddhism recognizes the benefit of giving less tangible gifts such as time, wisdom and support.
Make giving part of your life, can help you achieve more happiness. Researcher Stephen Post says ‘helping a neighbor, volunteering, or donating goods and services results in a “helper’s high,” and you get more health benefits than you would from exercise or quitting smoking. Listening to a friend, passing on your skills, celebrating others’ successes, and forgiveness also contribute to happiness,’ he says.
These principles are simple enough to live by and as both spiritual and scientific theories say they can make us happier they are well worth giving a try.
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