As I established in my previous blog, I consider mindfulness an important tool to help me be a calm and happy person who enjoys her life (most of the time!).
I hope my children also grow into happy, fulfilled adults - once they pass the moody teen phase! But, as we all know, kids don't always want to listen to their parents. To combat this I'm planning to pass on advice I've picked up along my life journey so far, both from my own experiences and from other people.
Naval Ravikant is one such person. First and foremost renowned for his business successes, of which there are many, Naval is a founder of silicon valley giant AngelList which supports startups by connecting investors and creators. He has also invested in some of the most successful tech companies on the planet including Twitter, Uber, and Udemy to name a measly few, of over 100 in total.
While being this successful in business is nothing short of spectacular, what's particularly interesting are his views and thoughts on happiness. It may come as a surprise, but Naval is actually pretty zen! His advice is clear and achievable and I plan to pass it onto my kids, when they're old enough, to help them work out their own path to happiness.
Happiness can be learnt
Well, I'll admit, when I first heard this my reaction was "Come on, really?!" But, after some thought (and a bit more time spent listening to this podcast.) I realised it's probably true. After all, we can learn languages, maths, rules, etc., so why not how to be happy or happier?
Ways to learn happiness include:
My old friend meditation. I know, I know, stop banging on about it. But seriously, it can and does help.
- Getting outdoors and looking up into the sky with a smile on your face are other, simple exercises he suggests. And I have to say, this also does work.
- Exercise is another good one. Of course, it has to be something you enjoy, or at the very least tolerate. For me it's running. I don't always want to go, but when I do, I really enjoy the freedom I grant my mind to move around, all whilst still experiencing what I'm doing. I can focus on my feet, my breathing, surroundings, think through a problem or even how to structure a piece of writing.
- Exercise also forms part of a healthier lifestyle and as he says, if you have peace of body it's far easier to have peace of mind.
Change your habits
You can break a bad habit or form a good one. This isn't easy to achieve, but it will be worth it. Take smoking. It's a terrible habit that affects your health and mind (addiction, need). It's a lot of effort to break that habit, but once you do, you'll be healthier. It's also a major step towards building a lifestyle you'll feel happier living.
I try to focus on new habits. If I'm fitting new, better and healthier things into my life, there's far less room for bad habits.
The secret habit to trim negativity from your life
If you surround yourself with negative and disruptive people, chances are you'll become a bit like that too. (Jim Rohn claims you are the average of the 5 people you hang around with). But, surround yourself with happy, kind and hard-working people then the likelihood is some of their influence will rub off on you - I like to think of it as borrowing a bit of their shine.
While surrounding myself with kinder, happier people is the ideal, it's not always possible. So I'm also trying to form the habit of finding the good in annoying situations. This isn't an easy thing to do, even Naval found it hard to begin with.
The trick is whenever you hear or see something annoying and begin to make a judgement, stop yourself. Then think "what's the positive angle here" and retrain your brain to go positive even when the obvious direction is negative. This is something I struggle with to be honest, but am assured that with perseverance my brain will soon instinctively seek out the good in every scenarios.
As ridiculous as it sounds, tell people you're a happy person and that's what they'll expect! Lucky for me, I do feel - most of the time - that I'm a naturally happy person. Of course I have sad and grumpy days. But, when someone says "oh but you're usually so smiley" when they see me looking down, I smile and am reminded that actually, yes I am a happy person.
There are times, though, when there is no bright side, the death of a loved one or a shocking discovery that completely changes your perceptions. And at those times it's fine to feel sad and seek comfort or release. Experiencing those things that really matter to you - happy or sad - all help with your overall happiness.
I never thought I'd learn anything from a Silicon Valley investor aside from how to get people to work a 120 hour week, but listen to his work - you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
As well as her musings here, Laura writes on how to raise happy healthy kids at www.poshtiger.co. She'll even advise on the 29 haircuts your child will never forgive you for.