Three Simple Ways to Cultivate Sustainable Happiness

There’s no question in my mind that we all want to be happy. For some people, happiness comes easier than others, but what we’re starting to understand is that happiness—that sense of connection and ease in appreciating the good moments and being more graceful and resilient during the difficult ones—is a skill and strength that we can all build and make sustainable.

Here are three simple ways to increase happiness in daily life. Set all judgments aside when you read this, and try practicing these techniques for yourself. Also, know that making any habit stick takes time. There are no shortcuts, but be forgiving when you stray, learn from the obstacles, and come back again and again—let experience be your teacher.

  1. Relax your nervous system. We live in a world that moves more rapidly than ever. It’s no wonder that stress and anxiety are on the rise. It’s important to literally relax your body a few times a day. Take a deep breath, scan your body, and soften or stretch the muscles that are tense. Make this a practice throughout the day. You’ll be surprised how much this can help.
  2. Be tender with yourself. If there’s one constant in life besides death and taxes, it’s stress and pain. We all experience it, it’s inevitable, and it’s common to all humanity. The key here is to learn to get better and better at knowing what you need in the tough moments. Our brains usually trend toward self-criticism, but really what we need is caring and tenderness. Just think of how you would treat a physical wound: You would attend to the pain, be gentle with it, and apply the proper care. Emotional wounds are no different, and tenderness is the fastest route to healing.
  3. Practice happiness for other people’s happiness. When you see others doing good things for themselves, such as exercising, laughing with a group of friends, or experiencing an accomplishment, practice being supportive to them in your mind. Say things like, “Good for you for taking care of yourself” or “Glad you’re having a moment of joy.” Smile in your mind at them, or just say, “Yes!”

What’s going to make this sustainable? Finding other people out there who want this for themselves, and creating more connection with them. Mentorship and community provide our brains with the positive social cues they need to be more naturally inspired to do this work. If you have friends who share these intentions, find time to connect with them more often in some way (in person, or by phone or text). If you don’t have friends with these intentions, look for a like-minded group in your area or online. Nurturing relationships takes time, but creating this supportive and inspiring web is key to sustainability.

Of course, there are all kinds of other things we can do to support happiness, such as sleeping, exercising, getting out in nature, play, etc. Although these are all important, and it’s good to know that there are many things we can do to support our well-being, the ones we’re focusing on here are habits that take no extra time out of your life.

Here are the simple instructions that come with this formula: Practice these three things for one week, and then see what you notice at the end of the week. As you do this, imagine the ripple effects.

Find out about upcoming programs with Elisha Goldstein at Kripalu.

This article originally appeared on Elisha’s blog