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Roko Belic’s documentary Happy ventures to understand the true meaning of joy, satisfaction, and purpose, exploring various locations across the globe in an attempt to derive a universal definition of happiness. Through intimately engaging with societies as distinct as the swamp lands of Louisiana and the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, the documentary suggests that lasting happiness takes root in community and mindfulness. Notably, the documentary draws on research insinuating that while fifty percent of happiness directly relates to one’s genetic makeup, as much as forty percent is derived from new actives and mindful living.

In a world riddled by change, where a pandemic has profoundly impacted the nuances of daily life, I find solace in remembering that I can control my emotional state, at least to a degree. I have dedicated time to researching how I can cultivate and nurture joy on a conscious level, contributing to the forty percent of happiness that stems from intentionality. In particular, I have found that mindfulness, the art of living fully and presently in any given moment, significantly enhances one’s ability to lead a fulfilling life.

 

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Practicing mindfulness can take many forms, including meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, gratitude journals, positive affirmations, and nature walks, to name a few. The goal is to achieve a state of mind where you can pour attention wholeheartedly into the present moment, observing your physical, mental, and emotional bodies without judgment. This allows for a period of heightened self-awareness that, over time, can profoundly impact your perception of and interactions with the outside world.

Recent studies show that incorporating a regular mindfulness practice into your daily life can actually rewire the brain’s neuropathways! Through encouraging intentional thought and action, mindfulness helps strengthen regions of the brain such as the pre-frontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala. Together, these three neural areas facilitate emotional regulation, self-awareness, decision making, memory, and concentration. Mindful activity strengthens these processes and empowers the body’s mental and physical functions through reducing depression and anxiety, regulating the cardiovascular system, combating addictive behaviors, enhancing work and academic performance, building resilience, increasing self-worth, and even diminishing implicit biases.

 

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From a personal standpoint, dedicating myself to regular mindfulness exercises has been invaluable in extending compassion to both myself and others. Through practices such as meditation, breathing exercises, and nature walks, intentional living has offered insight into forgiveness, change, and acceptance. On bad days, I remind myself that we can all tangibly impact our lives through little, loving rituals, through curiosity and awareness, helping us to express comfort, meaning, and peace in a chaotic world.

Chandler is a senior at UT double majoring in English and Chinese while pursuing a Certificate in Global Management. She currently serves as one of HerCampus Texas' Campus Correspondents and adores live music, dogs, friends, and mindful living ♥
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