Caveat: Mindfulness should NEVER be proposed as a band-aid for getting people to suck it up when dealing with toxic situations, even though it can help us as individuals deal with those situations in the short term. If you notice somebody doing this, call them on that shit. It’s unethical and speaks volumes about their character (and none of it good).
You may have heard of mindfulness and thought it was only about being calm or helping us deal with stress. Did you know that mindfulness can help us lift our mood and become a happier person more of the time? Happiness isn’t the goal, of course, but it can be an excellent gauge for how things are going in our lives, and having more opportunities to engage with our values, our passions and our priorities in life creates more space for happiness to show up.
It’s easy to get stuck in a negative mindset and stay focused on the things that aren’t working in our lives. Our self-talk can become all about our weaknesses or failures. Negativity becomes an addicting, habitual way of thinking. Mindfulness can help us turn that around and get into a more positive thought pattern. As a bonus, mindfulness also has positive health benefits by reducing stress and enhancing our resilience and mental capacity. Here are three ways mindfulness can help us reverse that negativity spiral and start our journey into a happier state of mind.
1. Stay in the now (even just for a little while) Real talk time. “Now” is the only place we have ANY opportunity to actually DO anything. Practicing mindfulness can help us refocus our attention on the here and now instead of anxious fast-forwarding to future problems or brooding over past mistakes. Mindfulness slows us down and reconnects us with what is happening at the moment. We can notice and appreciate the good things that are in our life right now. Being mindful can also help us stop being reactive and instead be more thoughtful in how we respond to people and situations. What a great stress management technique!
2. Be more connected Science supports the crucial part relationships play in our lives, so let’s get the absolute best bang for our buck by building strong, healthy ones, and then nurturing them as often as possible. Mindfulness brings us into a deeper connection with ourselves and with others. It gives us time and mental space to work out what matters to us and figure out and embrace our values and beliefs. We often learn that happiness lies in knowing ourselves and being comfortable with who we are.
When we can embrace and simply BE our authentic self, we can begin to connect honestly, openly, and straightforwardly with other people. Relationships can become more profound and more heartfelt. More importantly, these relationships can lead to a ton of really positive outcomes like better quality of life, decreased suicide risks, and healthier hearts, just to name a few!
3. Enhance contentment and gratitude One of the beautiful effects of mindfulness is the release from the treadmill of consumerism. We stop investing in externals for our happiness. Money, external approval, worldly success, and possessions no longer hold sway over our self-worth. We know these things don’t actually create happiness. Not just because we’ve been told that “money can’t buy happiness” but because researchers continue to dig into this, and have a mountain of data showing exactly WHY this is a non-starter. Mindfulness focuses our attention on what we can control. Living an authentic life, attuned and aligned with our values encourages and supports our inner wellbeing. And as we continue to re-connect with the things that really matter to us on that deeper level, we can identify immediately when something is creating friction in our world, and adapt or redirect our energies right away. We might just notice that we’re feeling “happy” (or happier!) more often. Mindfulness is like a regular check-in with ourselves!
Cultivating mindfulness can open our mind to feeling gratitude for where we are and what we have right now. ‘I am enough’ is not just a slogan, it is a powerful affirmation and reminder that contentment is within our reach, and really, it doesn’t take much effort to change the way we think about this. We just need to make the decision, and then surround ourselves with people who support us on this journey called “Life”.
(Originally published on Medium.com. Follow me there, too!)