One of my favorite things to do is watch students' faces go from stressed to serene, right there during their meditation. They rush into the studio straight from Los Angeles traffic hell, looking hassled and harried, and practically glide out of the meditation room 45 minutes later looking as if they just spent a week at a spa.
But it's what happens to them over a few weeks—or for some, even a few days—that really gets me. People are just happier. They're sunnier and lighter. They stand up straighter. They smile more. The increase in joy is tangible in how they look, how they sound, how they walk, and how they interact with people around them.
This hit of happiness is real. Even better, it lasts, because we're reconfiguring our capacity for happiness by rewiring our brains. Little happiness boosters like vacations are nice, but they've got no staying power. Researchers in the Netherlands discovered that the effects of a "very relaxing" vacation wear off after just two weeks. Meditation is so much cheaper than flying off to a beach somewhere, and there are many scientific studies showing it makes us happier in the long term. You get to keep the glow going for as long as you want.