Sometimes the most profound statements come out of children’s books. One of my favorite Dr Seuss books is Oh, The Places You’ll Go! It seems to tell the story of what it is like to be human. It brings you through all the experiences in life: the triumphs, the doubts, the confusions, the depressions, the fearful moments and the moments you stare your difficulties in the face and overcome them.
Another fantastic book that goes straight to the truth of it all is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
If you haven’t read it, it’s a picture book where a family goes on a bear hunt and they keep coming across these obstacles from tall grass, to swamp, to spooky forest, etc.. and each time they say, “You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’ve got to go through it.”
This is life.
As it’s said, life is full of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. Try as we might to avoid those sorrows, we often have to allow them to pass through. Optimally we do this as a training ground to build the muscle of self-compassion.
Here are some powerful anti-depressant and anti-anxiety (and happiness) side effects of Self-Compassion:
One of the primary pathways to an enduring happiness is facilitating a sense of connection. When we feel connected we feel balanced, when we feel balanced, we often feel happy. The problem is
as we grow up in this world, we have to learn how to shield ourselves from vulnerability and so we build up walls or put on armor that make connection more difficult.
One of the most powerful (and challenging) practices to do is look into another person’s eyes for a prolonged period of time as it immediately makes us feel vulnerable. It may not matter whether it’s a stranger or someone you’ve been in a partnership with for over 50 years (sometimes this makes it more difficult). But when we do it, it’s fascinating what arises.
Check out this short video from Soul Pancake to see some of the surprising results of people making connection:
Did you know that compassion, the act of recognizing someone else’s suffering with the inclination to want to support them, creates important activity shifts in the brain that are associated with resiliency and well-being?
I recently attended a talk at a fundraiser where the presenter, Amy McLaren, had conveyed her story of going to Kenya with her husband and making a deal with a child there that if he shares his report card with them at the end of the month, they would pay for a month of his schooling.
They didn’t expect him to follow through, but after they returned back to Canada, a month later they received a letter with a picture of this boy holding up his report card.
He followed through and so did they.
Every month he would send his report card and every month they would pay for another month of school. Years later this boy is now in business school and has developed
Tis the season to feel a bit down, overwhelmed and stressed. When the mind is focusing on the negative details of life, it’s practicing seeing things through this lens and what we practice and repeat creates a habit of thoughts, feelings, emotions and sensations. I call this getting caught in a “depressive loop.”
Mindfulness is about being aware of what lens we’re wearing when looking at life, so we can be more intentional. The unintentional act of looking toward the future with a negative lens can really sap our motivation to make any progress toward a more fruitful and positive future. After all, if we’re anticipating doomsday, what’s the point in even trying? This is major fruit for procrastination too.
Feeling depressed lights up the avoidance circuits in the brain. It’s experienced as a disengagement from life. In Uncovering Happiness I go through the science and practice of a handful of natural anti-depressants that live within every one of us.
But when we’re feeling overwhelmed with life, our negative thinking arises again, “What’s the point” or “Who cares.” But these thoughts are not facts, even the ones that say they are.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had some wise words for us about this.
You may or may not have heard by now that our brain is wired to pay attention more frequently, and with great veracity, to what’s negative. This doesn’t mean that the good moments in life aren’t happening, we’re just not wired to pay attention to them.
Because as a human race, we’re wired to survive, not be happy.
I have a theory that in this moment in time we’re going through an evolution as a species where because of the overabundance of things pulling our attention, we’re being thrusted into growing our awareness – the kind of awareness that breeds balance, well-being and a greater sense of what matters.
So people are being turned onto mindfulness more. More spaces are offering it, more institutions are studying it and there’s greater media to
Mindfulness just continues to grow and not only positively influence people’s lives, but is now influencing so many sectors of our society. I can’t help but imagine how it’s going to impact the years that follow (Maybe I’m a bit on an idealist, but I’ll hold that label lightly).
The following is my futurist’s take on The Mindfulness Revolution.
Wikipedia Entry 2050:
“The Insight Age is a period in human history characterized by the shift from a “continuous fractured attention” brought on by The Information Age through technology, to an age based on an expanded awareness, an increasingly ability to harness control of our attention to what matters. The onset of the Insight Age is associated with The Mindfulness Revolution, just as The Digital Revolution marked the onset of The Information Age.
During The Insight Age, the phenomenon is that that the mindful industry creates a present-focused society surrounded by leaders in various sectors spanning their influence on how education, business, politics, healthcare, and other service sectors operate.
In our current culture, the mindful industry fosters insight for individuals to be more aware of their personal needs, increasing
Whether we like it or not, this time of year cues our minds to reflect and think about habits we want to change. If you’re reading this blog, odds are one of those habits are bringing mindfulness into your life more and allowing this to be the year where it sticks. Or maybe you’re also looking to change other habits that run alongside your values like being more self-compassion, living alongside your values, playing more or creating more mastery in life. All of these are basic elements that help uncover happiness.
Whatever the habit is that you want to make, here are a few practical tips to help make your changes stick.
When it comes to our self-critical thinking, Byron Katie has created a brilliant set of four questions to free us from our negative depressive minds. For example, if you say, “I’m such an idiot,” we ask 1) Is it true? 2) Is it absolutely true? 3) What happens when you believe that thought? and 4) Who would you be without that thought? The effect of this is that it objectifies the self-judgment, gives us freedom from it and opens us up to a sense of freedom that’s there. They can be really effective.
When it comes to overcoming longstanding emotional struggles we have to not only get space from the self-critical mind, but also encourage the positive beliefs about ourselves that the critical mind has buried. In one part of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion I share the following four questions to work with in order to open us up to possibility, install these positive beliefs a bit more and even encourage positive neuroplasticity. In doing this we can become more confident in ourselves and ultimately more resilient (and a bit happier).
For years now I’ve been studying about what helps create more resilience and happiness within us. I’ve looked to my own life, the life of my clients and students and toward the psychological and neuroscience research. What I’ve found is that within each and every one of us are a core set of natural anti-depressants that when we intentionally tap into shifts our brain activity in ways that can lend itself to an anti-depressant brain. One of the natural anti-depressants that I’ve come to find that helps break a bad mood and create positive neural activity is Play!
In Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion I describe play as “a flexible state of mind in which you are presently engaged in some freely chosen and potentially purposeless activity that you find interesting, enjoyable, and satisfying.”
Here’s a great video that shows adults playing and the results. Take a look and see what you notice.
Note: There are plenty more, but I thought these top the charts.
Myth #1: Mindfulness if for taking a time-out from life, quieting the mind and reducing stress.
Truth: I think this is the #1 myth out there because it’s my experience that this is how people initially experience the practice. One of the greatest entry points to mindfulness in the West is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). This is a fantastic program with wonderful science behind it, but the name is just for marketing. The ultimate goal isn’t meant to be stress reduction. The goal of mindfulness and MBSR is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes, recognize the connectedness between people and operate in the world with greater self-compassion and compassion.
However, the initial practices can often give people sense of relief from a busy mind and can then be equated with a mental break. While there’s nothing wrong with using it this way, it also minimizes the power of mindfulness.
The paradox here is when we’re able to do just be present to our minds, emotions and bodies, the stressful relationship tends to quiet down, but when we try and quiet the mind down, we often add fuel to the fire.
Myth #2: You need to carve out plenty of time in a serene “mindful” space.