How much more do you get done in a day when you are happy? I’m talking free of stress, free of fear (just another word for stress), and free of anxiety (again, stress). Don’t you feel more willing to get up and get out? When I’m happy, I’m more apt to get my workout done, get the laundry started, clean up the living room, plan fun stuff to do…but when I’m negative I don’t want to do anything. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, an object stuck on the couch in a funk tends to stay on the couch. It’s a cyclical system that feeds back on itself.
How do we break the cycle? I don’t know about you, but I want to feel better and get more done today. In a word: meditation. Now before you think I’m going all new-age kookie-dooks on you, hear me out.
There are more than 3,000 scientific studies qualifying the benefits of meditation so you can read up on those if you like. Most notably, a consistent meditation practice increases concentration (1), reduces depression (2), reduces anxiety (3), relieves chronic pain (4), prevents dementia (5), reduces junk food cravings (6), and generally improves happiness as a result.
You don’t have to practice for hours a day or dedicate your life to the pursuit of deeper planes of consciousness to reap the benefits, either. The key to a successful meditation practice is consistency. Find a time that works for you each day and stick to it. Start with 2 minutes, then 5, then 10…you are in charge of how long you sit.
Then, increase your mindfulness throughout the day. Notice things that you wouldn’t normally notice. Pay attention to tasks that you usually put on automatic pilot. Another way to put it is to be present in the moment. Not on your phone, not thinking about what to make for dinner, not lamenting the poor choice you made for breakfast, or the what you should have said to the rude person at the store–the key to happiness is the present moment.
Meditation and generally being more mindful throughout the day increase happiness. The mechanism behind the phenomenon is that mindfulness breaks the habit of negativity which is innate in all of us. We are evolutionarily pre-programmed to focus on the negative aspects of a situation. This tendency probably served us well when we needed to determine whether someone (or something) was about to kill us, but in modern times negativity is just a bummer.
Mindfulness brings us back to the present moment and allows us to see what is truly going on, which is probably not as bad as you had originally thought.
So, how do you do this thing?
- To start, simply choose a time and place where you are unlikely to be distracted.
- Find a comfortable seat either on the floor or in a chair with your back comfortably straight and your feet on the floor.
- Lightly close your eyes or unfocus your vision.
- Rest your hands comfortably on your knees or in your lap. Don’t worry about a hand mudra as a beginner.
- Begin by focusing on your breath. Take 3 slow, deep breaths in and out to focus your attention. Then breathe normally as you mentally watch your diaphragm move up and down. Listen to the whoosh of your breath in your ears. Feel your breath fill up your belly.
- When your attention wanders, bring your focus back to your breath. Notice I didn’t say “if your attention wanders,” I said “when.” Even expert meditators like Buddhist monks get “monkey mind.” That’s why I really like this technique and use it often. Your breath is always with you, so you can always focus your awareness on it.
- Be sure you don’t judge thoughts that pass your mind. Simply notice them and let them move on. They are nothing more than little fluffy clouds floating by in the sky. You don’t let clouds bother you, right? Same with thoughts. In the beginning, it might be like cloud, cloud, cloud, cloud, but once you practice for awhile it will start to be more like cloud……cloud……cloud.
There are several apps available to help you get started meditating (like Headspace). Some people like guided meditations like this Gratitude Meditation from my friend Nina at Mindgourmet. There are also several guided meditations, tips, tricks, and techniques online. Google knows where to find a bunch of them; so does Pinterest.
If you find this useful, there’s a good chance your friends will, too. Share this with your friends right away while you are thinking of it. Thanks for reading!
For more motivation delivered straight to your inbox each week subscribe to my newsletter. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for valuable daily content such as recipes, helpful products, morning thoughts, inspirational books, and influential people.