Life with Jen #11
Some people think that happiness is not the sum of happy moments but rather a specific lifestyle or a way of looking at life in general.
There have been studies showing that on average you spend 46% of your time thinking about things not related to what you are currently doing. That same study found that the people whose minds wandered the most were not as happy as the ones who focused on what they were currently doing.
This had me thinking about last year at this time when I went to a mindfulness retreat in Colorado. This was a Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness based retreat. If you haven’t heard of Jon Kabat-Zinn, he is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Here I am in the meditation room.
I went to this retreat to learn about mindfulness and meditation as a way to relieve stress and create more happiness within my life. This retreat was a wonderful experience. In fact, I would like to do another meditation retreat.
Reflecting on this time spent at the retreat last year has me feeling like writing about the connection between mindfulness and happiness.
Some may ask — what is mindfulness? There are lots of wonderful ways to define mindfulness. Here is Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” In other words, paying attention “on purpose”. It is a wonderful practice that increases awareness of what is really happening in the current moment……without any feelings of the past or the future.
There was a great exercise we did the first day as we headed into our learning about mindfulness. It was called “The Raisin Experiment”. Click here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2Eo56BLMjM) to see a youtube about it and try it. It will change your awareness when you eat….a lot of people use this when dieting as it helps you slow down your eating and helps you enjoy or savor every bite instead of rushing through your meal. People who do this tend to eat less. During our retreat we had to eat an entire meal like this and it was really amazing. I find myself all the time using this awareness when I eat….especially if I am eating something I would consider a “treat”.
Happiness is not something that just “happens to you”….it is a way of life that you must consciously choose. Practicing mindfulness allows you more opportunities to choose that. Being mindful allows you to make more conscious choices that are aligned with your goals. You have your full attention to the present.
Think of mindfulness as yoga for the brain. Meditation I have found helps with mindfulness. It teaches you how to be present and how to slow your mind down. One of the most important things I learned was that mindfulness is non-judgmental. That is what they call awareness and acceptance.
The practice of mindfulness is achieving a sense of happiness, peace, contentment and acceptance with how things are. With that acceptance comes happiness.
There are lots of interesting studies that show even people that engage in what you would call “happy” activities all the time did not have as much “happiness” in their life if they were not mindful. It matters more what you think about than what you are actually doing.
Positive thoughts have been linked with happiness, health, longevity and an overall general well-being. You must be “present” to feel the joy and happiness of every step in your life. Be mindful of your life and your experiences and enjoy them.