Are you stuck in negative thinking patterns? Or perhaps you’re not paying attention to you’re thoughts, and are unaware of how your thoughts impact your emotions.
Often times, we approach our thoughts as though we are actors. Our thoughts, those little things that occur inside our heads that we don’t give voice to, often occur automatically and unconsciously. When this happens, we respond to them as if they are our lines to be read, given to us by our mind.
What would happen if, instead of thinking like an actor, you tried thinking like a director or a writer? Before responding to your thoughts, ask yourself “is this thought helpful?” or “Do I really want to be thinking in this way?”
Our mind is constantly comparing our experiences with those of others, or holding others to expectations we’ve created. These judgments happen in our minds, can trigger intense emotions and distract us from the moment.
Mindfulness is spilling into areas beyond medicine, healthcare, psychology and neuroscience. It’s moving into programs in education with children and college students, parenting, athletics, the legal profession and business.
Studies of Mindfulness in a business context have shown that increases in mindfulness are associated with increased creativity and decreased burnout and executive and corporate mindfulness leadership programs are emerging to meet the need. A 2001 FAA study found that multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 20%-40%, while a study with business men in Korea found practicing mindfulness increased productivity. Pacific Investment Management Co and technology leaders, Apple Computer, Yahoo!, Texas Instruments, Nortel Networks and Google have all already instituted mindfulness training and wellness opportunities on-site.
When we talk about mental health, we often talk about problems. We focus on how to reduce anxiety and depression, lessen conflict in relationships or ease uncomfortable symptoms for good reason. But we often overlook the importance of creating happiness. We might even assume that happiness just comes if we decrease our problems.
We forget that happiness is something that we have control over. It’s something we can make a conscious effort to increase.
Happiness, of course, is great. And it goes hand in hand with decreasing problematic stress and other mental health problems. If we’re happy, then we’re not stressed, anxious or depressed. If we’re happy we’re better able to cope with mental health problems.
Each person has a particular set of beliefs about the world. Our beliefs come from our past experiences and natural tendencies of our character. Believing that you and the world around you must be perfect in order for you to be happy is a common character trait.
Doing your best can make you feel competent, proud and in control of your life. But when you believe that perfect is the only road to a happy life, you will find yourself dissatisfied.
The pursuit of perfection doesn’t make us happier or ease stress. In fact, seeking perfection does the opposite. It is linked to increased stress and a number of other emotional, physical, and relationship problems, such as anxiety depression or eating disorders.
How often do you have stress headaches or difficulty sleeping? Does stress ever make you short of breathe, jittery or tense? Most of us experience some of these and other physical symptoms of stress. Clenched teeth, knots in your back, waking at night and queasiness are all common reactions to stress. In fact, many of us go through our days on automatic pilot, barely registering the affects stress has on our bodies.
Physical symptoms of stress are extremely uncomfortable and can interfere with our ability to function on a daily basis. Over time, we can end up exhausted and feeling unable to calm down, relax tight muscles or lessen other aches, pains and physical signs of stress.
Really. It’s as simple as that. And as complex. Mindfulness is not necessarily setting aside time in your busy day to meditate. It is about being present and aware during the moments in which you are living your life.
The challenge is to bring a sense of calm, centered awareness to everyday life. This includes times when you are angry, in an argument, feeling pressure, stuck in traffic, mowing the lawn, watching TV, working, talking on the phone, emptying the dishwasher, thinking about times you’ve been hurt, avoiding problems or eating.
Some activities don’t require a lot of extra effort to bring a sense of calm and awareness. But others, such as difficult interactions and painful thoughts are hard to be mindful of. These are the times when mindfulness in daily life can feel complex.
Strained relationships create stress and can have a negative impact on your mood and your ability to function throughout the day. When you’re in conflict with someone else, you’re more likely to be worried, distracted or highly emotional.
We cannot make other people act as we’d wish, but we can become aware of when we act in ways that lead to problems in relationships. As we identify our own communication problems, we can choose to make changes in how we interact. If you do, you might just find that you’re able to solve intractable problems and that habitual conflicts no longer occur.
Making even small changes to how you communicate can improve the quality of your relationships.
With each breath we nourish our bodies, bring necessary oxygen to our organs and muscles and make life itself possible. Generally, we are unconscious of the ongoing rhythm of our breathing and often it is only when we have difficulty breathing that we pay it any attention.
But this fundamental act of breathing is not only necessary to life, it is also a powerful tool in connecting to our sense of calm and centeredness. Through breathing we can connect to our bodies, our own internal rhythms and the experience of being alive.
But, if you pay attention, you will likely find that there are certain emotionally or mentally painful circumstances that you get caught in. Maybe it’s the angry thoughts about someone who has hurt you or pessimistic thinking about troubles you have faced.
Each of us has a tendency to get caught in certain types of thinking that prolongs painful emotions. Instead of enjoying a relaxing evening, we might find ourselves ruminating on something hurtful someone said, or rather than solving a difficult problem and moving on, you may find you are again and again drawn to thoughts about how unfair your circumstances are.
Sometimes it seems as if the mind just wants to hold on to these painful thoughts and circumstances. Even as we try to get rid of unpleasant thoughts, we may find ourselves rethinking and reliving painful situations.
A child can spend hours splashing in the water in a sink. This is because the child approaches the water coming from the faucet as a beginner. The water is interesting and miraculous. In this case, the child doesn’t approach the water as if it already knows everything interesting about it. It approaches the water as a beginner, as if there is so much to discover.