11 May 4 Great Ways Mindfulness can Boost your Happiness
– Disha Mangsuli, Bangalore
Happiness is a universal idea that is embedded in your mind as soon as you’re born. We go looking for happiness because we believe it to be the end result of effort and hard work: the well-paying job, the loving and perfect partner, the class topper, buying your first house. The list is endless. So many times, we believe that ticking off each of these on the happiness checklist can lead us to greater happiness and even better quality of living but somewhere, most people realize that happiness is not always available at the end of these events.
With the turn of the 21st century, people are looking for new ways to find happiness and peace in themselves. Mindfulness and meditation have fast become one of the preferred methods to improve one’s well-being, both physical and emotional. With even science backing the benefits of mindfulness, people are finding peace and solace in these practices.
Here are four ways in which mindfulness helps you be happier:
- It can help you get rid of negative thought loops
So often what gets in the way of our happiness is the tendency of the mind to fall into unhelpful loops of negative thinking. This can propel us into a downward spiral and affect our lives in many unhelpful ways. Mindfulness meditation is a form of rigorous training of the mind which helps us to become more familiar with the nature of the mind and more skillful in noticing when our minds are getting caught up in these unhelpful patterns of thought. When we learn to observe this, we can actually choose to disengage and move our attention in ways that support us rather than pull us down. Whether it’s loops of worry, planning into the future, replaying events from the past, or caught up in self-judgment — when we develop the skill of mindfulness and bring this quality of awareness to the working of our own mind, we open up a whole new possibility toward greater happiness. We begin to have the power to be the master rather than the slave of our mind.
Next time you catch yourself in a negative thought loop, see it for what it is, the mind caught up in a wheel of thinking, and realize that at any moment you can simply disengage from that pattern of thinking and move your attention to something else. Try redirecting your attention to the body by engaging in some kind of physical activity. This may short circuit negative thinking and ground you back to the here and now.
2. It can connect you to an inner sense of contentment
Many of us can get caught up in the hedonistic treadmill, constantly needing stimulus from the outside world to give us a hit of happiness and pleasure. Whether it is money, relationships, approval, or success, this kind of happiness is dependent on external factors which are transient and over which we have no control.There is another form of well being and happiness, eudaimonic happiness, first explored by Aristotle. This type of happiness and flourishing is not dependent on external circumstances but rather emerges from an inner sense of well being and a living in alignment with ones values. Mindfulness is a practice which can help us cultivate a sense of inner well being which allows us to feel content and well without needing to obtain anything from the outside world. It’s a rare feeling in this age of consumerism but it is available to all of us at any moment.
- It can help you feel more connected to others
We are social animals that have evolved to be in relationship. From a very young age the healthy development of our own brain requires interactions. Loneliness has now been suggested to be a risk factor for diseases ranging from cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s. In order to flourish we need to feel connected to others. Mindfulness can deepen and enrich our relationships as we bring a quality of present moment attention to the people around us.
- It helps you enhance your gratitude
The practice of mindfulness helps us to slow down even if just for a few moments and reconnect with what is happening from moment to moment. This slowing down enables us to notice more of what is present both in our environment and within ourselves. As we notice more of what is happening around us and within us, wonder and gratitude can spontaneously emerge. Whether it’s being more present to the tastes of a home-cooked meal, or connecting with something as simple and miraculous as the breath — mindfulness can infuse our lives with gratitude and enhance our appreciation of the ordinary things which can so often pass by unnoticed.