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How to be happy: finding more Sukha

Translated as ‘happiness’, ‘ease’ or ‘good space’, Sukha is a Sanskrit word you’ll see written in yogic texts from the Vedas, to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and Ayurvedic literature too.

In the earliest texts, Sukha is often used as a contrast to the word Preya. Preya refers to a temporary, fleeting feeling of pleasure – like the pleasure you might experience from winning a competition or eating an icecream – whilst Sukha truly means a state of authentic happiness. We can also understand the word Sukha to mean ‘good space’, with su meaning ‘good’, and kha meaning ‘opening’, or ‘space’, and in the Yoga Sutras, Sukha is often contrasted to Dukkha, a state of suffering or more literally ‘bad space’. Within our bodies, minds and environment, we may feel states of Sukha, Preya and Dukkha, which are all a natural part of life; it’s totally ok to feel the pleasure of eating ice cream, it’s 100% fine to feel low or down, but we tend to feel our best when we’re in a place of authentic happiness. Read on for tips on finding more Sukha or ‘good space’ emotionally, physically, and at home too…

Sthira Sukham Asanam

Sutra 2.46 of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is most commonly translated as ‘Posture (asana) should be steady (sthira) and comfortable (suka)’. Today, these words are often thought of as a reference to yoga postures like warriors, planks and hand stands. In truth however, the original meaning of this verse is thought by many to simply mean the posture taken for meditation; a steady, comfortable seated position. In order to focus the mind and cultivate a state of relaxed awareness to facilitate meditation, it’s important to make sure the way you’re sitting is a balance of steadiness and ease, allowing for that ‘good space’ to occur in the mind. Meditation cushions, bolsters and Zabutons are effective meditation props to help maintain a steady spine and relaxed hips, so your breath can flow freely and your mind can relax. For a more spacious mind, try using a string of mala beads along with a mantra. As you move each bead through your fingers, chant a word or phrase that helps your mind relax and focus. Traditionally, the mantras are repeated 108 times.

Good Head Space

If you were to describe the space in your mind at the moment, which words would you choose? Busy? Calm? Scattered? Clear? Sometimes just taking a moment to tune in to how we feel is enough to help us realise whether we need to slow down, take a break, or start diving into projects again. It’s no secret that many of us have experienced mental health challenges over the last year, with the prevailing mental state right now resembling a sense of ‘languishing’, a word used to describe a dull, foggy state of limbo – not quite depression, but not quite happiness either. If you feel like you’re languishing too, it’s time to remember those things that truly bring you authentic happiness. Try spending more time in nature, which was this year’s theme for Mental Health Awareness week in the UK, and get out into the sunlight for its natural mood-boosting properties. To find more Sukha in everyday life, grab your journal and write a list of ten things that make you truly happy – it could be gardening, listening to music, laughing with friends, or anything that really helps you feel a sense of authentic ‘good space’ in the mind. Once you’ve written the list, challenge yourself to engage in at least one of those things each day.

Happiness at home

No matter how independent we may feel, we’re always living in relationship with our environment. The colours we see, the sounds we hear, and the scents we smell all make a real difference to how we feel each day. Pause for a moment and look around you; does the room or space you’re in feel good? Does it help you feel authentic happiness? The ancient wisdom of Feng Shui and the Ayurvedic Vastu teach us that each room holds a specific energy, and we can make changes to enhance, balance and calm that energy. If your room feels less-than-suka consider bringing in colours like gold, yellow, white or turquoise, which all have a simultaneous calming and mood-boosting effect. Bring nature indoors with house plants, create more zen with all-natural candles, and even invest in a diffuser so you can drop in calming essential oils and inhale their benefits.

Self-Care for more Sukha

Our bodies are a temple, but sometimes they can feel a little more like an old house in need of renovating… Just as our environment can change how we feel, the foods and self-care practices we choose can elicit a state of Dukkha or Sukha too. To give your body and mind a break, choose a restorative yoga practice that allows you to completely let go. Postures in Judith Hanson Lasater’s book Relax and Renew are a great way to find inspiration for creating your own at-home practice. Grab your eye pillow and prepare to unwind. To give your muscles some Sukha, practice the Ayurvedic art of abhyanga, which refers to ‘self-massage’. This is a great self-care practice to really show yourself some love, and if your muscles are aching, the ginger, rosemary and lemongrass in Tisserand’s muscle ease massage oil can help revive tired or sore limbs.

How could you find more Sukha in your body, mind and environment? To create more ‘good space’, sometimes the best way to start is by releasing what we no longer need. Check in with how you’re feeling throughout the day, and notice when you feel that sense of authentic happiness.

 

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