Note: One of the 10 Principles of Personal Longevity is to have purpose and meaning in your life. The below article describes many ways

to attain those qualities for yourself.

Dandelion for mummy

Dandelion for mummy

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Happiness, resilience, connection, and kindness: these aren’t just central qualities of a well-lived life, but “skills that can be taught and developed over time—with practice,” according to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC).

Now GGSC has made learning these skills easier with Greater Good in Action, a guide that catalogues dozens of “research-based methods for a happier, more meaningful life.” Each practice includes detailed instructions, explanations of the science involved, links to relevant research studies, plus quizzes, pointers and more.

“The practices in Greater Good in Action are for anyone who wants to improve his or her social and emotional well-being, or the well-being of others, but doesn’t necessarily have the time or money to invest in a formal program,” the guide’s authors write. “We hope they serve as building blocks for creating your own happiness regimen.

We’ve highlighted four of our favorite practices from the guide below (see all 41 here):

Raisin Meditation

Difficulty: CASUAL | Frequency: 1X/DAY | Duration: 5 MINS

Why You Should Try It

Many of us spend our lives rehashing the past or rushing into the future without pausing to enjoy the present. Distracted from the world around us, our life might feel only half-lived, as we’re too busy to savor—or even notice—everyday pleasures.

Practicing mindfulness can help. Mindfulness helps us tune into what we’re sensing and experiencing in the present moment—it’s the ability to pay more careful attention to our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, without judging them as good or bad. Research suggests that it can not only reduce stress but also increase our experience of positive emotions.

One of the most basic and widely used methods for cultivating mindfulness is to focus your attention on each of your senses as you eat a raisin. This simple exercise is often used as an introduction to the practice of mindfulness. In addition to increasing mindfulness more generally, the raisin meditation can promote mindful eating and foster a healthier relationship with food. Try it with a single raisin—you might find that it’s the most delicious raisin you’ve ever eaten.

How To Do It

1. Holding: First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb.

2. Seeing: Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention—imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.

3. Touching: Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture. Maybe do this with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.

4. Smelling: Hold the raisin beneath your nose. With each inhalation, take in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise. As you do this, notice anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.

5. Placing: Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the raisin in your mouth; without chewing, noticing how it gets into your mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments focusing on the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.

6. Tasting: When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in your mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment. Also pay attention to any changes in the object itself.

7. Swallowing: When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.
8. Following: Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise.

Evidence That It Works

Praissman, S. (2008). Mindfulness-based stress reduction: a literature review and clinician’s guide. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 20(4), 212-216.

A review of research published between 2000 and 2006 concluded that theMindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR), an eight-week training program that includes the raisin meditation described above, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is an effective treatment for reducing the stress and anxiety that accompanies daily life and chronic illness.

Why It Works

By increasing awareness of internal mental and physical states, mindfulness can help people gain a greater sense of control over their thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the present moment. Paying closer attention to the sensations of eating can increase our enjoyment of our food and deepen our appreciation for the opportunity to satisfy our hunger. Mindfulness can also help people become more attuned to hunger and fullness signals and therefore avoid overeating or “emotional eating.” In the words of mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, “When we taste with attention, even the simplest foods provide a universe of sensory experience.”

Why You Should Try It

It’s easy to feel bogged down by daily routines and mundane concerns, stifling our sense of creativity and wonder. Feeling awe can reawaken those feelings of inspiration.

Awe is induced by experiences that challenge and expand our typical way of seeing the world, often because we sense that we’re in the presence of something greater than ourselves. Research suggests that experiencing awe improves people’s satisfaction with life, makes them feel like they have more time, makes them feel less self-conscious, and reduces their focus on trivial concerns.

But in our everyday lives, we might not regularly encounter things that fill us with awe. That’s where this practice comes in. It’s a way to infuse your day with a dose of wonder even if you can’t make it to an inspiring vista or museum.

How To Do It

Set aside four minutes to watch the video below. Put the video in full screen mode and try to give it your full attention.

Note that this video is just one example of a visual experience that can elicit awe; there are countless others, and being exposed to them can have similar effects. The videos and other stimuli that inspire awe tend to share two key features:

1) They involve a sense of vastness that puts into perspective your own relatively small place in the world. This vastness could be either physical (e.g., a panoramic view from a mountaintop) or psychological (e.g., an exceptionally courageous or heroic act of conscience).

2) They alter the way you understand the world. For instance, they might make your everyday concerns seem less important, or they might expand your beliefs about the reaches of human potential.

Evidence That It Works

Rudd, M., Vohs, K.D., and Aaker, J. (2012). Awe expands people’s perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science, 23(10), 1130-1136.

In three experiments, participants were induced to feel awe—such as by watching an awe-inspiring video—as well as other emotions. People who experienced awe felt that they had more time available to themselves, were less impatient, were more willing to volunteer their time to help others, preferred having positive experiences over material products, and reported greater life satisfaction.

Why It Works

Taking time out to experience awe can help people break up their routine and challenge themselves to think in new ways. Evoking feelings of awe may be especially helpful when people are feeling bogged down by day-to-day concerns. Research suggests that awe has a way of lifting people outside of their usual, more narrow sense of self and connecting them with something larger and more significant. This sense of broader connectedness and purpose can help relieve negative moods and improve happiness.

Savoring Walk

Difficulty: MODERATE | Frequency: 1X/DAY | Duration: 15 MINS

Why You Should Try It

In our daily lives, we don’t always notice or acknowledge the pleasant and positive things around us. We may be in a rush, distracted by other thoughts, or busy checking our phones. As a result, we miss opportunities for positive experiences and positive emotions—the building blocks of long-term happiness.

Research suggests that we can maximize the benefits of the good things around us by consciously savoring them rather than letting them pass us by or taking them for granted. This exercise offers one basic way to start savoring the bounty of goodness around us—not by going to some exotic destination but by paying more careful attention to the sights, smells, and sounds we often neglect.

How To Do It

Set aside 20 minutes to take a walk outside by yourself every day for a week. Try to stick to this schedule unless the weather is extremely bad. You can still do this exercise in a light rain—provided you have a decent umbrella and rain jacket.

As you walk, try to notice as many positive things around you as you can. These can be sights, sounds, smells, or other sensations. For example, you could focus on the breathtaking height of a tree you never really noticed before, the intricate architecture of a building on your block, the dance of sunshine off a window or puddle, the smell of grass or flowers, or the way other people look our for each other as they navigate crowded streets.

As you notice each of these positive things, acknowledge each one in your mind—don’t just let them slip past you. Pause for a moment as you hear or see each thing and make sure it registers with your conscious awareness, really take it in. Try to identify what it is about that thing that makes it pleasurable to you.

Try to walk a different route each day so you don’t become too accustomed to any of these things and start to take them for granted.

Evidence That It Works

Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Participants who were encouraged to maintain a positive focus during daily walks for one week reported a greater increase in happiness at the end of the week, compared to participants who were encouraged to maintain a negative or neutral focus during their walks.

Why It Works

Taking the time to “stop and smell the roses”—what researchers call “savoring”—can enhance happiness and boost feelings of appreciation and gratitude. Savoring helps us deepen the impact that positive events have on our emotional lives—rather than just slipping from our awareness, or failing to register in the first place, these events sink into our minds and stay with us long after they are over. By becoming more attuned to our surroundings, we may also be more likely to connect with the people around us, even if it’s just to share a smile.