Can you choose happiness? And how is mindfulness connected?
For many of us, we live huge portions of our lives on auto-pilot. So that gets us through all our tasks, but it also means we skim over all the good bits too quickly.
Have you ever been in a situation, that in theory, gives you great happiness? But you’re not especially enjoying yourself because you’re distracted by other thoughts or technology, impatience or some other resistance? Would you say that happiness is a choice?
Be all there
Being mindful means to be all there; to be present. This means that you have a choice to really let yourself enjoy the moment as it’s happening. From making love to eating food, to being with family members or experiencing a massage. Whilst your body is present and going through the motions, notice where your mind is.
This is the secret to transforming the potential in that moment
Watch how your mind may be elsewhere, see if you can reel it in, and be totally present. That experience, however short, can become pure joy, or at least far more fun than you might have expected!
Spread your happy options
We’re all different when it comes to what makes us happy. A feeling of joy and happiness can turn up in any area of our lives, and it’s something we can nurture too.
‘There’s an acronym that psychologists use to help people understand how to maximize their well-being, called PERMA. It stands for: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement or accomplishment.
If you think about each of those factors as buckets, then you just need to focus on having one “drop” in each one, says Dan Lerner, MAPP, clinical instructor at New York University, who teaches The Science of Happiness. “We need something in that bucket; it doesn’t need to be overflowing, but you need something,” he says.’
I love these words which come from a short, readable post by Cory Stieg: What Does it Mean to be Happy in 2018? Take stock of which areas of your life are depleted and find ways to address them. In other words, a balanced life is more likely to be a happier one.
Make moves towards happiness
One aspect of Mindfulness is to remember that you are NOT your thoughts.
It can feel easy to identify with anxiety, depression, shame. And believe that it defines you.
You are anxious. You are depressed. Notice that you can choose to shift the language – you are feeling anxious. You are feeling depressed. These emotions are not you. You are experiencing them.
So your choices, however tiny, remind you that you’re in charge. Focus on happiness rather than on your anxiety.
Robert Holden, in his excellent book, ‘Happiness Now’ talks about the ‘inner potential’ within you to make choices about any situation you’re in.
He highlights how important it is to remember what helps you to feel happy. That when you feel ill or unhappy, you tend to move away from the things that help you, strengthen you and inspire you.
Dr Russ Harris calls these ‘away moves’. It’s when you end up doing the things that are most self-destructive. Your choice, should you wish to make it, is to move towards supportive experiences.
You have choices
Go out for that walk for a bit of fresh air. (Your ‘away move’ might be to slump in front of your computer or go to bed).
Accept the invitation to go out with work colleagues. (Your ‘away move’ might be to opt out by saying no).
Plan some time to spend with loved ones (Your ‘away move’ would let it be overridden by work commitments.)
Sit still for 10 minutes with your challenging emotion and your breath (Your ‘away move’ would be to get through some glasses of wine).
When you’re in a situation where you feel far from happy, stop and watch how you may usually react. In that moment of quiet attention, you can choose to respond differently.
A choice that’s more effective and happier! This is the power of a mindful pause! Moves towards happiness!
Notice what you would usually overlook
You can be surrounded by abundance and beauty, yet not see or feel it. Everyone of us will experience challenges and suffering. No-one gets out alive!
But it’s possible to hold both experiences at the same time. The difficult challenge. The love and beauty around you.
It’s how humans get through traumatic events – by also experiencing love and support from friends, family and strangers.
It’s how you can experience loneliness and depression, and yet continually feel full of joy at nature and gratitude for a random range of surprises!
There are plenty of ideas for mindfulness and happiness here in Action for Happiness. And inspiration from these 4 People who Inspire Others to Live Happier Lives.
So it’s up to you to follow any of the above links – your choice!
Wishing you happiness,
Yvette Jane – Mindfulness & Meditation Coach at Place of Serenity