Cultivating Happiness!

Mindset is everything, being in the right headspace, having the right outlook on life, positive thoughts and nurturing feelings. It helps motivate us or keeps us from perusing our dreams.

Probably the biggest challenge we face is that modern day life is far more complex and demanding than it was for our ancestors of not so long ago. The fact that we haven’t fully adapted to this new environment or evolved genetically over the past 40 thousand years provides some foundation to the argument that todays life is something that we are not that well designed to handle.

Lets face it, our great grand parents and the entire human race that came before them never faced the level of complexity that we do today.

Bills, money, jobs, family, an intensely competitive social environment that practically forces you to go into debt to pay for school and get that car and home that you cant afford. Modern day society adopted a structure that makes you feel inadequate unless you obtain these things while trying to keep up with the latest fashion trends and other social stigmas.

This environment tends to stress us out for sure, but what it also does is influence our consciousness in a negative way. Ever wonder why change is so difficult? One reason is that we form “bad habits”, we create thought patterns that are so deeply ingrained in us that it practically takes a traumatic event to shake us out of it. Believe it or not, sometimes these repetitive thoughts can even convince us of things that aren’t even true. We actually lie to ourselves. We play “mental movies” in our head imagining possible outcomes of a future situation and embrace them as truth. We even tend to mentally relive the past and are capable of manifesting events that didn’t even happen and insert them into the story. How bizarre!

You must admit that at one time or another you’ve probably gotten your emotions really fired up by your thoughts of the past or imagining future events.

A positive mindset and ability to be aware of the present moment are huge influencers of our overall health. They establish a baseline of our thought patterns that dictate our overall sense of wellbeing.

Although I am not a professional in the field of psychology, these are actual phenomena and need to be recognized as areas of concern in our lives.

What is your overall sense of wellbeing? Would you consider yourself an optimist or pessimist? Are you happy overall or do you feel that life owes you and often state to yourself “why me?” Do you focus on the positive or negative aspects of life?

Well, to get to the point of all of this, I simply want to share what many professionals in the field of psychology as well as many other disciplines consider to be one of the top methods of correcting and treating these issues, meditation.

I personally have found a whole new outlook on life and have greatly altered my thought patterns through meditation. Reducing stress and anxiety and developing the ability to create some mental space. Turning emotional reactions into thoughtful responses.

By adopting a daily mindfulness practice into your life, you teach yourself the ability to release stress and anxiety. To not get so wrapped up in all of this chaos and create some “space” for you to function and not become so attached with your worries and relentless thoughts and in turn shift your mindset for the better.

You see, I think the problem is that we are living too much inside our own heads. Spending so much time there that we begin to believe the stories we tell ourselves. This repetitive and relentless imagination of fantasies that either falsely raise our hopes or keep us dragged down by our fears.

Ever send an email or leave an important phone message only to not get a reply in a timely manor? How often does this lead to negative or worried thoughts that you did something wrong or that the other person or party is disrespecting you?

Emotions are remarkably powerful, positive or negative. Did you know that all disease is made significantly worse when we are stressed, depressed and anxious. In fact many of our diseases are manifested and originate from our stress.

Stress significantly lowers your immune system and allows illnesses and disease to flourish.

In the “4 Pillars of Health” only three, nutrition, sleep and movement, are tangible. Fortunately, they can easily be manipulated by our lifestyle choices. But the fourth, mindset, is more intrinsic and is greatly influenced by these other three pillars. The inflammation, hormone disruption and changes in our gut flora caused by poor lifestyle choices can create chaos in the brain (and body) making life’s challenges far more difficult to manage.

I’m not going to address lifestyle choices in this post, rather, I am going to talk about the variety of stress reducing techniques that are available to you. In my experience, just like diet, there is no “one size fits all” mindfulness or stress reducing practice. I realize that this term is widely overused and can be a very general statement, but I am going to do my best to diversify the range of options.

A recent post on Sarah Ballantyne’s site, The Paleo Mom, addressing this topic, inspired me to speak up and say something on the topic.

The following recommendations are mostly foreign to me with exception to things like finding peace during moments of creativity. In short, what all of these methods have in common is the practice of making time for yourself everyday to engage in something that nurtures your spirit and mind. Spoiler alert, your TV is not nurturing.

Practices such as:

  • Transcendental meditation
  • Drawing, painting, knitting
  • Walking meditation (paying close attention to what you are doing)
  • Bio & neuro feedback
  • Centered Prayer
  • Guided meditation
  • Eastern faith based methods such as Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • Chan or Zen
  • Yoga – Vipassana

Keep in mind that each one of these practices are presented and taught in many different ways. So it is always important to not give up and to keep trying to learn and understand the process. Its difficult at first, but quickly becomes easier with each passing day. Diversify at first so that you can find something that speaks to you and intrigues you to learn more.

I think the primary benefits of a meditation practice are:

  1. Learning how to calm down the nervous system, relax and develop attention to the moment. In time you get used to this feeling of mental and physical calm.
  2. Learning how to recognize and acknowledge physical and mental tension and stress throughout your day at home and at work. In turn realizing how uncomfortable that feeling is.
  3. In moments of stress and tension, be able to release this tension and relax your body and mind instantaneously and effortlessly.
  4. In time your mindset slowly changes course to more of a position of calm, peace and happiness.

Although this doesn’t happen over night, each time you begin your day with some type of meditation or mindfulness practice, you arm yourself with the ability to rid yourself of mental and physical stress. Or at least to be able to arm yourself with the mental tools to combat these moments more effectively. If you have difficulty falling asleep at night, try doing this before bed. It helps you drop all of the mental baggage of the day and calms the mind.

For additional information, books and podcasts on this topic, check out the resources page on my website, mattkansy.com