“In today’s rush, we all think too much — seek too much — want too much — and forget about the joy of just being.” Eckhart Tolle
The practice of Mindfulness dates back to the early teachings of the Buddha and has become a popular technique for the relief of stress and anxiety. Mindfulness is a state of mind that helps us to focus on the present moment, it’s the practice of being conscious of how we are both perceiving and reacting to our thoughts and our environment. If practiced regularly it brings calm and peace to our lives, reduces our tension and enhances our awareness and mental capacity. There has been a boom of mindfulness meditation courses, taken up by everyone from burnt out parents, patients suffering from chronic pain to stressed out executives, who all report improvements in their mood, stress and happiness levels.
Here are 4 ways that mindfulness makes us feel happier and enhances the quality of our lives:
“There are times when we stop, we sit still. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” —James Carroll
1. Mindfulness helps break the cycle of negative thinking
It is our thoughts that affect our feelings, and it is our feelings that generate certain types of behaviour. For example, if we dwell on a past failure or negative event, we start to feel negative emotions such as sadness, hopelessness and despair and this leads to even more negative feelings. This process propels us into a downward spiral and becomes a vicious cycle. Mindfulness meditation is a form of mind training which helps us to observe negative thoughts as they creep in, accept them, recognise how we experience them physically and then shift our attention away from them to something that is healthier or more important. It helps us cultivate a more positive mindset and opens us up to greater happiness. Rather than being slaves to our minds, we learn how to be masters of them.
How do you deal with your critter brain?
2. Mindfulness helps us learn to appreciate the simple things in life
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
Practising mindfulness requires that we pause and take notice of things that we may not have noticed before. In this moment, we learn to appreciate the smaller, more simple things in life such as the warmth of the sun, the sound of a child laughing or the beauty that surrounds us. Mindfulness helps to engage our senses, feel, taste, touch, sound and sight to help us truly experience and relish the moment.
Take a focused look around you: what do you notice for the first time in a long time about anything within the environment you live – inside your home, your garden, street, village, park, field etc?
3. Mindfulness improves sleep
We’re all aware of the dangers of sleep deprivation and how it can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness may be a healthier and more natural alternative to sleeping pills for those who struggle to switch off at night, especially if practiced at bedtime. Increased focus on the present moment prevents us from feeling regret over past events and hinders anxiety caused by hypothesising about future events. The result is a calmer, peaceful state of mind.
What ritual do you use to enable a smooth transition from your daily routine to bedtime and sleep?
4. Mindfulness enhances gratitude
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
By focusing on the here and now and learning to appreciate the smaller, simple things, we are enhancing our ability to express gratitude. Gratitude goes hand in hand with mindfulness since it encourages us to stay present in the moment and appreciate what we have now rather than desiring more. This process helps to reprogram our mind to think positively and to alleviate negative thought patterns. Gratitude releases more positive emotions such as joy, love, happiness and releases the negative emotions such as depression and anxiety. In turn these positive thoughts generate more favourable behaviour and better, more successful outcomes.
When is the most recent time you expressed gratitude to someone because you genuinely appreciated them and/or what they had done for you? If nothing comes to mind, then I challenge you to say a genuine ‘thank you’ to the official road sweeper/ rubbish collector in your neighbourhood for keeping the environment you live in clean and tidy!
If you’d like to learn more about how mindfulness can bring greater happiness to your life, please contact me.