Most of the time we lack awareness of the assumptions and evaluations we constantly make about ourselves, others, and the world at large. We go through life being mindless and unaware of our thinking patterns, feelings, and motivations.
In mindless states our emotions are driven by our unconscious beliefs and interpretations of the world, which in turn impacts our behavior. We encounter a new situation or new person and immediately begin to evaluate in terms of “good” and “bad” or “right” and “wrong.”
This dichotomous thinking provides a critical and judgmental view of ourselves and the world around us, and ultimately leads to destructive emotions, such as envy, resentment, shame, and greed.
Learning to be mindful or our assumptions, beliefs, and evaluations can lead to a more positive state of mind by disciplining the mind and gaining awareness.
How, specifically does mindfulness lead to more positivity?
Mindfulness leads to less worry. When we are mindful we are able to be in the present moment, and are more focused on what we’re doing, instead of being incessantly worrying about future plans and desires. Mindfulness is a process of developing the cognitive capacity to regulate what we’re attending to, which can help to cope with stress and manage turbulent situations where there is significant change and uncertainty.
Mindfulness helps us be more open-minded and less critical. Understanding that our interpretations of events are what drive our emotions, and that our interpretations may not always be rational is a major part of learning to be more open-minded and accepting. We no longer need to constantly make social-judgments and comparisons, and can instead learn to simply experience what comes without always critically evaluating.
Mindfulness offers a sense of control. When we are able to experience the moment and not have to be focused on what is to come or how our current experience will impact our future, it provides great emotional relief. A sense of control leads to greater faith and peace of mind, where we can accept our experience without resigning to it, and be more optimistic by not worrying about all the possibilities for loss and pain that could happen.
How to be more mindful
Mindfulness Meditation – Mindfulness meditation is a specific practice that helps us to be immersed non-judgmentally in the present moment. It offers a chance to calmly and peaceful experience the present without constant evaluation and comparison. Here’s how to being meditating.
1. Assume a comfortable position sitting down or lying on your back.
2. Start by focusing on the breath and giving full attention to the breath as it flows in and out.
3. You can also bring attention to your belly and notice your abdomen rising and falling with each breath.
4. When your mind begins to wander, simply notice this is so and bring your attention back to the breath.
5. Work to practice this exercise for 15 minutes each day for one week.
Begin to focus on your breath during different times in the day. These principles can then be applied to everyday activities, such as driving your car, washing dishes, and eating.
As you start to feel more comfortable maintaining mindfulness move toward focusing on your thoughts and feelings. Recognize how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking about during these times. Gradually, you will begin to experience emotions consciously, and little by little you’re perceptions will begin to change and you will experience less moments of agitation and more moments of serenity.
Photo credit: JBo