The COVID-19 causing virus has created fear, anxiety, anger and other emotional disturbances in people across the globe like never before. We could either simmer in these emotions and get trapped into a downward spiral of mental unrest and disharmony or we could bring in contentment and happiness even while experiencing life’s difficulties. If we accept that there is a purpose behind this turbulent situation and cultivate acceptance and be contented, it will help us find peace amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In the Yoga philosophy, one of the five niyamas is santosha which means contentment or true happiness. In the present crisis people are looking for ways to bring that santosha in their lives and so not surprisingly santosha seems to be the most sought after "principle" in the world today.
In Section 2 of The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali-verse 42 explains the highest effects of santosha as Santoshat Anuttamah Sukha Labhah-“Through contentment, the highest happiness is attained”. Edwin Bryant in his commentary explains santosha as “Whatever happiness there may be in enjoyment in this world, and whatever greater happiness there may be in the celestial world, they do not amount to one sixteenth of the happiness attained from the cessation of desire.” Your own test for santosha would be about whether you can be calm while listening to your inner voice and not react to the opinions and changes coming from all directions.
There are several ways of expressing santosha. One visible way of showing that you are happy and contented is through a SMILE. A smile whether it warm, beautiful, welcoming or heart melting lifts the spirits of others, brings happiness along and attracts more people. A person with a smile boosts up someone else's depressed state, even if it is for a fleeting moment. A smiling individual lightens up the room and people tend to trust individuals who sport a smile.
What could someone possibly achieve by expressing santosha? Scientific studies suggest that people who sport a true smile are
1. Happier in their marriages, have better cognitive and interpersonal skills.
2. More optimistic, satisfied, hopeful and exhibit other positive emotions
3. Physically more stable due to optimal blood pressure levels and high immune response
4. Add years to their life as they age gracefully
Thus, a simple smile triggers several positive changes as it helps to boost the immune system which provides resistance against infections and many other diseases. Smiling triggers the release of endogenous neurochemicals that elicit changes at the level of emotions, moods, mind and body for the better all of which keeps the individual stable and calm under any circumstance. So despite being in the midst of a pandemic situation how about bringing that santosha in your own life? I am reminded of Bobby McFerrin’s popular hit song “Don't Worry, Be Happy” and especially the last two lines that sum up the need to cultivate santosha “Now listen to what I said, in your life expect some trouble, When you worry you make it double, But don't worry, be happy, be happy now”