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Even in the best of circumstances, the holidays can trigger all kinds of unsettling emotions and responses. Given that many of us are already stretched to our limits in our everyday lives, additional gatherings, gift exchanges, company parties, and often stronger feelings of loneliness, can push our stress over the edge.

By cultivating friendliness towards those who are happy, we too experience happiness

Numerous studies now show that yoga can positively impact our mind and body, and even help in the prevention and treatment of medical conditions. Yoga can help regulate blood glucose levels, improve musculoskeletal ailments and keep the cardiovascular system in tune. These studies also show that yoga has strong psychological benefits. It can increase your energy as well as decrease feelings of aggressiveness, depression and anxiety.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Sutra is the Sanskrit word for aphorism) teach us that “By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the non- virtuous, the mind and heart can remain calm and undisturbed.”

The four keys embedded in these words help to unlock your happiness in challenging times. By deepening our understanding of each, I believe we can gain vital tools to manage our everyday responses to what is happening around us and within us.

1. Friendliness Towards the Happy

If we cultivate feelings of friendliness when someone is happy, it allows us to avoid getting lost in jealousy or bitterness. We can all remember those feelings we had as children when someone else received something that we wanted but didn’t have. This feeling of jealousy can keep us from experiencing our own happiness. If we go through our lives always wanting what others have, we will never find our own happiness. We also end up missing the important and meaningful moments in others’ lives. By cultivating friendliness towards those who are happy, we too experience happiness and this protects our inner sense of calm.

2. Compassion for the Unhappy

When someone is unhappy, or even suffering, cultivating compassion is like putting yourself in his or her shoes. It is feeling what it must be like to be that person in their moment of pain. For many of us, our instinct may be to shield ourselves from those who are unhappy or to secretly rejoice in the fact that it isn’t us that has to endure their discomfort. But shielding or secret pleasure, which is a normal human defense, also keeps us from sharing deep and meaningful relationships with those around us. We all experience suffering at some time in our lives. Being able to sit with someone and feel a sense of compassion teaches us how to feel for others. It also teaches us how to sit with our own discomfort and have compassion for ourselves in difficult times.

3. Delight and Joy for the Virtuous

Feeling delight for the virtuous is another way to protect our inner peace. Envy keep us from appreciating the virtues of others. When we can find a sense of joy when we see others acting in honorable and noble ways, we feed our own nobility and integrity. It helps us to remain balanced and inspired.

4. Disregard for the Non-Virtuous

In some ways, this may be the most difficult key to unlock. When people are acting in ways that seem egregious, or even unethical, we feel the need to fight back or do something that draws even more attention to their behavior. Yoga teaches us to disregard, and even turn our attention completely away, from these kinds of behaviors. By engaging in battle, we give energy to these situations and cause them to get bigger. We all know too well that anger and violence breeds more anger and more violence. This has been the stance of so many of our great and powerful leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi and the Dalai Lama. When we turn away and don’t give energy to these kinds of behaviors, we stop feeding them. They then lose their power over us. We stop giving away the power to control our happiness to someone else.

Try using these four keys to unlock your own happiness and share that with everyone around you. This is the best gift you can give others.

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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