As humans, we all want to be happy and to be at peace with ourselves, and hopefully each other.  However, many of us seem to place our values on material objects or specific goals that do not fulfil our actual needs.  

Establish and maintain actual values in life is more about cultivating awareness of ourselves and our environment, building personal resilience, and honing the ability to find a higher level of inner peace even in stressful times.  Many of us seek the external approval of others and lack awareness of our authentic inner values.  We are unconsciously walking through life with very little awareness of the real world.

Money won’t buy happiness.

Many people think that winning the lottery would make them happy. You could own all of the material things you have ever wanted.  It might sound surprising, but researchers have found that people who will the lottery have an initial spike of happiness, but generally one year later they are back to their baseline level of happiness.  Researchers have also discovered that people who suffer from a terrible accident or who are diagnosed with a life-threatening disease typically go through a considerable dip in happiness, but a year or so later, they too are back baseline.   Even if you work hard and get that dream job or become a  multi-millionaire, although you might be happier for a while, these outcomes are still not going to change your baseline level of happiness.

External events are not linked to long-term happiness. To increase happiness, we must learn to cultivate the ingredients that are needed for us to experience contentment in our lives; increased attention, knowledge, self-awareness, empathy, compassion and love.  Our minds are beautiful, sophisticated tools that can be the source of creativity and joy, or they can be a prison of bitterness, grief, despair, or anything in between. 

Why is mindfulness important? 

Through mindfulness we can shift our levels of consciousness over time, we can learn to wake up and be more present with self and others.  We can learn to alleviate stress and to find a more profound sense of meaning in our lives.  Mindfulness practices help us train the mind and the heart, and to learn valuable skills that can help us to become healthier, mentally, emotionally, and physically.  It’s not our external circumstances that determine our happiness.

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Mindfulness is the key to understanding and cultivating both health and happiness.  We become what we practice, and we have the choice to feed the wolf that creates stress, conflict, and suffering, or feeds the wolf that is naturally whole and healthy.

The “more is better” approach seems to be very common in our modern lifestyles.  We focus on making more money, owning more things, taking on more responsibility, increasing physical activity, working more hours, dieting more, consuming more, and the list goes on. We are always looking into the future, and we are often told to "dream big” and chase unrealistic goals. On the other hand, we reflect on the past and worry or complain about things that we are unable to rewind. When do we STOP and think about the present moment?  We can not change the past, and we do not have control over the future, we live in the NOW, and this is the only thing that matters.

“We can become supremely happy by just doing one thing - become present.” ~ Eckhart Tolle (author of the Power of Now)

Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.  Mindfulness practice has been employed to manage stress, reduce anxiety, to elevate pain, promote emotional health, increase self-awareness, increase focus and attention, reduce age-related memory loss, generate gratitude, help fight addiction, improve sleep, and decrease blood pressure. Mindfulness programs have been applied to healthy aging, weight management, athletic performance, and helping children with special needs.  Research studies have consistently shown a positive relationship between mindfulness and health. Many studies have also shown that rumination and worry contribute to the onset of a variety of mental disorders and that mindfulness-based interventions significantly reduce both rumination and worry.

You are never too old to learn something new, to change your habits and to have a growth mindset.  Neuroscientists (focus primarily on the study and research of the nervous system) have confirmed that our brains have what's called neural plasticity - the capacity to adapt, grow, and change at any age. The brain can reorganise itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or changes in their environment. 

Mindfulness does not need to come from sitting on a meditation cushion and meditating for hours.  Mindfulness can be a part of every single action we take.  Stop for a few seconds and focus on your breath.  Notice how the ground feels under each walking footstep.  Pause in the shower and feel the water on your body.  Take in the environment around you, listen to the sounds, smell the air, notice the coloraturas of the sky and the shape of the clouds.  Learn to slow down and be present in your day.  

Mindfulness Practices:

  1. Meditation

  2. Bodyscan and Yoga Nidra

  3. Mindfulness Breathing - following the breath

  4. Walking meditation - pay close attention to the feeling of each step, the temperature, your breathing, the smells, and the colours

  5. Mindfulness observation - study an object within your immediate environment 

  6. Mindfulness awareness - slow down during one of your daily tasks and appreciate the moment.  This could be wasting the dishes, taking a shower, folding your clothes, every single task can become a chance to be more present and practice awareness.

  7. Mindfulness Listening - stop, sit still and pay attention to the sounds both close and far.  What can you hear? Listen to music and try to feel the notes and appreciate the space between notes.  

  8. Mindfulness Appreciation - ask yourself what you are grateful for?  What was the best part of your day?  Who did you help today?  Who helped you?  What did you learn today?  How did you grow?  Take yourself off autopilot and start to connect with your daily actions and hopefully start to question your values and your impact on the world.

The path to change is not always easy, but it's possible to set out on new roads by consciously choosing to rewire your brains.  Leaning to juggle, learning to play an instrument, learning to play a new sport, learning to cook, learning to draw, learning any new skill can open your mind and your heart and help build compassion and self-love. In this way, we can experience greater mental, emotional, and physical health.

“Happiness can be trained because the very structure of the mind can be modified.”  ~   Richie Davidson (neuroscientist University of Wisconsin) 

Starting a meditation practice can be as simple as taking 1-2minutes out of your day.  You can practice many different forms of meditation, most of which don't require specialised equipment or space. You can practice with just a few minutes daily, and there are plenty of guided meditation apps to choose

Meditation apps:

Insight Timer

Headspace

Calm

Stop, Breathe & Think

10% Happier

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