In pursuit of happiness

Happiness, the one emotion we strive to achieve.   What will it take to make you truly happy? To feel content, to feel bliss?

What is happiness?  This state of mind, this feeling tends to be synonymous with success – success with health, with relationships with work and finances. We associate happiness with situations and people.  But why? Why do we give away the power to feel happy when this is a state of mind? A state of mind that is fully in our control.

The general consensus is that when everything is ok, I will be happy, at peace.  But in reality that seldom happens.  When we are at peace, when we are happy, then everything falls into place.  To feel inner happiness, without this being attached to people or situations is the key.  For me, this has been an area of great importance and development.

For me, the pursuit of inner happiness is the epitome of success.  I am happy and content with my life and all the challenges I have faced.  I have all I need and more. This state of mind has been achieved through adopting three specific practices: acceptance, awareness and gratitude.   When we don’t accept a specific situation whether that is related to relationships, career, finances or health, we become stuck and stagnate in a swamp of negativity and helplessness.  This lack of acceptance results in the creation of a negative narrative and it all begins with one negative thought which leads to another and another and before you know it you are tangled in a dark web of negativity.  This conditioned behaviour of overthinking leads to a number of negative emotions from stress and worry to frustration and anger.

However, when you begin to accept a situation, there is no struggle as the brain succumbs to the notion of what is, allowing the healing process to accelerate.  This then results in moving forward with a renewed mind set – where an alternative thinking pattern provides a more positive perspective.

As well as acceptance, be aware of your thoughts – observe them. When you are aware that your thoughts are taking on a negative form, shift this thought pattern.  The most effective method to do this, is through practising gratitude. Focusing on and appreciating what you are grateful for in life begins to create harmony and bliss in your life.  Think, say and most importantly, feel gratitude from your heart. It is when gratitude from the heart is achieved that you feel happiness emanating from within.

The practice of gratitude is very powerful – don’t underestimate the power of being thankful and appreciative.  For me, this practice has created within me a glow of happiness like a warm, glowing fire on a cold night that provides warmth and light.  The first words I utter as I awaken, are always those of gratitude: I am grateful for a good night’s sleep; I am grateful for a comfortable bed; I am grateful for my job which allows me to have these comforts.  Like this, through the day, be thankful constantly for everything and see the glow of happiness expand in your life.

The benefits of meditation

When you think of meditation, what comes to mind?  Sitting in the lotus position in a secluded natural part of the world?  Although that’s wonderful – it’s not always practical. I’d be surprised if you could conjure up an image of an individual sitting on a sofa, eyes closed, meditating – but that’s how simple mediation can be!

And then, there’s all the different styles of meditations you hear about – transcendental, mantra based, mindfulness, chakra mediation, Qigong, Kundalini and that’s just to name a few!   That in itself can be confusing for many. Where do I start? Which one is right for me?

Meditation is simple! This is no longer some esoteric practise that requires you to disconnect from the world.   This has now been modernised to fit in with our current lifestyles.  Escaping to a quieter, more peaceful part of the world isn’t necessary to achieve a blissful mind – that can be achieved quite easily from the comfort of your sofa – and anyway, if you have an over thinking mind, changing the landscape won’t matter, it’s the re-training of the brain that is required, regardless of where you are.

My journey with meditation began decades ago, when I didn’t quite understand what mediation was.  ‘Emptying the mind’ – how was that possible I thought.  However since then, I have learnt that mediation isn’t about emptying or stilling the mind – that isn’t possible!  Just as  the heart will not stop beating until the day we die, the brain will not stop thinking – all we can do, it tame the wild horse of our thoughts so we are able to re-direct our thinking to what we desire.

The daily practise of meditation results not only in reducing the speed of thoughts from gear 6 to gear 1 but – It’s a wonderful feeling when the chaos in the mind is calmed!  In addition to this blissful mind set, I was able to complete work was much quicker! How was this possible? I became efficient, productive and even more creative!  Research echoes this, but to actually experience this is another matter altogether!   I would skip into work like ‘Tigger’, be on top of my workload and leave work with a smile – to say that, as a teacher, is quite a statement!

Meditation has resulted in me feeling happy and content – I do have moments when I feel ‘stressed’ but these dissipate quite quickly.  More recently, I have noticed the regulation of my emotions to quite a high degree.  When you feel psychologically well, this cascades to a physical level.  With the multitude of ‘feel good’ hormones that are released, including serotonin and dopamine, the impact on physical health, although not fully scientifically substantiated, can only be described as beneficial. I have been free from all crohns symptoms – which I was told wasn’t possible without surgery, due to the complications I was diagnosed with. But, if the brain can ‘re-wire’ with meditation, then can it also ‘re-wire’ the body? How else can this physical wellbeing be explained?

Meditate at least once a day, every day.  Make it a daily practise and immerse yourself in the myriad of benefits meditation has to offer.

 

To worry or not to worry – that is the question!

Worrying – we all seem to do it and accept it as ‘normal’ behaviour.  But is it? Is it really normal to worry?  I used to worry a humongous amount.  Worry about lesson observations, about my health, not having enough money, time or sleep! Situations haven’t changed but my mind set has, my perception has. I don’t worry anymore or if I do, it’s a minuscule amount. It has almost become a forgotten habit! And I’ve never felt better!

What is worry?  Worry is the distress we feel around an anticipated or specific situation.  We create a story, a narrative around a single situation and blow it out of proportion.  We then apply this distorted thinking to more situations and it becomes a hard wired thought process. Worrying never alters a situation – just our minds!  Research suggests worrying leads to an increase in size of the amygdala or fear centre (not good) and reduces the mass in the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for higher order thinking (definitely not good).

I recently attended an informal celebration event.  Some guests were running literally four minutes late! The host, worried out of her mind, was ringing these late guests (family of hers) and began to worry even more when they didn’t answer their phones – ‘Why aren’t they answering? What’s happened to them?   What if….’  I was utterly shocked at the extent of her worry – it had unfortunately taken over her.  As a result of this constant worrying, her health was beginning to suffer and symptoms were manifesting physically.  This got me thinking. We worry so much about needless things to the point of mental exhaustion and physical detriment, yet we carry on!

However, this can be reversed as research has demonstrated – through the simplicity of mindfulness. Mindful activities allow us to tame the wild horse of our thoughts.  Our thinking is brought back to the present moment thus allowing the mind to redirect it’s thinking to the calmness of what we are doing at that moment. That could be breathing, eating, movement or meditating.  It really works wonders! But you have to try it REGULARLY for it to be effective.

Give it a go.  Close your eyes and just focus on your breath.   Breathe in and out, without altering your breath, without judgement, become aware of the sensations. Continue this for a few minutes.  Yes, it really is that simple!

Try it and feel the blissful mind that I feel…

The Over Thinker

I used to be the worst over thinker there was! I would mull over everything; overthink every decision and constantly think things.  This was unfortunately mostly negative.  The worst thing of all was because I’m a perfectionist; I did it to the best of my ability.

What is overthinking all about?  It’s about complaining, about doubt and fear, about making generalisations, it’s about the ego – regret, resentment, guilt, anger….. It’s about reinforcing the negative over and over and over until it takes over.

It just takes one negative thought which leads to another and before you know it, you’re pulled deep into a negative spiral. The different aspects of overthinking all entwine into a tangled mess of negativity – leading from one aspect of overthinking to another. This becomes habitual and this habit is hard to break!  The result of this?  Unable to sleep, mental tiredness, headaches – sound familiar?

What helped me scramble out of the overthinking web?

To observe my thoughts –   to think about what I was actually thinking about – being aware of my thoughts; being the observer.  It was only when I became aware of my thoughts that I was able to realise how wrong my thinking was.  This then became a catalyst for change, enabling me to take the initial step towards rebooting my system.