Tag Archives: mindfulness

The quickest routes to unhappiness

 

routes to unhappiness

thoughtsonlifeandlove.com

The quickest routes to unhappiness

We can often be our own worst enemies, engaging in behaviours that lead us down routes to unhappiness. Here are the most common ways that we end up unhappy:

Overthinking

The more time you have to worry endlessly about something, the more likely you are to feel unhappy. Rumination tends to lead us to negative thinking and a whole lot of “what if” thinking. If you find yourself going over the same topic in your mind without looking for an active solution – distract yourself. When you are in your mind, you are in enemy territory. Learn to become a better ‘thought manager’. Distinguish between real (the car has broken down) and hypothetical (“what if…”) thinking. Ask yourself if your worry is something you can/can’t control and take action if there is something you can do. Worry in itself is wasted energy. It’s a myth that it keeps you safe and prepared. Life is uncertain – accept it.

Making comparisons

Comparing yourself to others is never a good idea, especially if you compare yourself in a negative way. You don’t really know what is going on in someone else’s life. Stop focusing on them and focus on your own life and where you want to be. The less you focus and compare, the happier you will be – it’s that simple.

Living by too many rules

The more rules you tend to live by, the more anxious and unhappy you are likely to be. The more rules, which often take the form of “if this…then that”, the more often they will be broken – leading to tension and anxiety. We all have ‘rules for living’. One of mine is: If I don’t please others, they won’t like me. This rule for living leads me to agree to do things I often don’t want to do or don’t really have the time for. This leads me to feeling time pressure and I feel less happy as a result. The more flexible you can be in your thinking the better…let the rules go.

Chasing the wrong things

When we feel under threat, we look for immediate ways to self soothe and feel better. This could be alcohol, drugs, shopping, having illicit affairs and so on. This works for a short while but the original threat usually returns and then we turn to the negative unhelpful behaviour once again. Research suggests that the things that tend to make us happy include experiences, friends and family rather than material possessions. Spending time with others, bonding and connecting, releases the chemical oxytocin – a long lasting ‘happy hormone’ that the body releases. Get your priorities straight and have a plan and a direction.

Living with no purpose

Have you set yourself clear short term and long term goals? A little structure in life and a sense of purpose can do wonders for self esteem and confidence, thereby increasing happiness levels. Make sure you have something to work towards and check regularly that you are on track and going in the right direction. Help others, donate to a charity and spread some kindness in the world. It leads to happiness.

Living in the past or the future

Get back to being present in your life. When we live in the past or we live in the future, we aren’t fully engaged with the current moment and this is the moment of ‘power’. Learn to be more mindful and really enjoy where you are – the physical environment around you.

Try This:

Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Relish the moment.

The above definitely challenge your ability to be happy – make an effort to stop doing them and you might just realise that happiness is possible.

Mandy X

Focus your mental energy where it matters

 

focus photo

Focus your mental energy where it matters

What do you focus on every day? Think about it – do you spend a lot of time thinking about what isn’t right and how annoyed you are with your life and others? The content of our focus determines the quality of our life. It makes sense – if we focus on all the negatives, we are going to feel pretty fed up and miserable and this will translate into someone experiencing a sad life. Not much quality of life. This is why it is important to focus your mental energy where it matters.

If we make a concerted effort to focus on what is good, we can immediately feel better about our lot in life. Of course, it isn’t possible to ignore the negatives but research has shown that humans tend to default to the negative. One theory suggests that when we were cavemen hunting and gathering, we had to be tuned in to danger – hence the negatives in our environment. The nature of that threat has changed now but the same ‘fear parts’ in our brains activate when we feel anxious.

One way to cope with anxiety and negative thinking is mindfulness. Sit quietly for 2-3 minutes and focus on your immediate environment. Feel your toes in your shoes (or wiggle them if you are bare foot) and keep our focus on your body. Can you hear any sounds? Taste anything (if you are eating)…the more we focus our 5 senses in the here and now, the less time our brains have to wander off and cause trouble for us by inviting more worries in.

Focusing on what you can control rather than worrying obsessively over things you cannot control is also a waste of mental energy. Focus on what you can affect.

Becoming an efficient ‘mind manager’ who can dismiss unhelpful thoughts and can exercise psychological flexibility is the key to a happier and more contented existence. Your thoughts will come and go, you can pick and choose the ones you wish to focus on – remember thoughts are NOT facts.

Mandy X

Your own incredible life path

 

path photo

Your own incredible life path

Wouldn’t that be weird, if we were walking along our path and noticed someone nearby on theirs. Thoughts such as “Hmmmn, they have an extra stone on theirs to play with” or “their path kinks to the left before mine does – what does that mean? I’ll bet that goes somewhere amazing while mine continues straight on. I’m missing out…”

Sounds a bit like life, doesn’t it? It may seem simplistic to compare a simple walking path with our lives but in many ways we over-analyse life and read into things, making assumptions far too often that more often than not lead to misery.

We all begin at the same starting point and end in the same place too. Some of us take longer to get there, others get there quicker. To some extent, we can’t choose what will fill our paths although we do get to choose most of the direction (especially as adults) and we also always have a choice over what we want to choose and want to believe along the way. We can fill our heads with assumptions about life and others and criticize ourselves endlessly but neither will really end up a productive strategy.

Instead, choose to be mindful – engage with the path rather than focusing on other people’s paths – you do too much of that and you’ll trip because you aren’t looking at your own path!

Learn to make the most of the rocks, flowers..yes, and weeds that appear before you as you proceed. Stop and listen to the sounds instead of racing ahead to get to the end. You may get to the end sooner than expected and then wished you taken more time to enjoy the sights. That’s a fundamental rule of the game – you can’t ever retrace your steps!

You are just as valuable and worthwhile on your path, whether you are running ahead, walking slowly or sitting down in the grass for a while. Life has unfortunately been set up in a way that programmes us to be busy, to be looking ahead constantly and this serves society well as it keeps the shareholders reaping in the profits. Our worth is falsely tied up in our achievements. Don’t fall for it.

There is plenty along your path to sustain  you if you look for it. If you choose to ‘programme’ yourself this way. Friends and relatives and experiences are where it’s at. Stopping for a picnic or to play in the rain and have a giggle while star gazing with someone you love. That’s what brings contentment. Slow and steady does it.

Mandy X

3 ways to embrace and reduce stress

 

peace photo

 

3 ways to embrace and reduce stress

I find life very stressful these days. There seems to be less time to enjoy life and most of my time is spent rushing about trying to complete chores and ticking off items on my to-do list. I know I am not alone as many people that I speak to seem to be sharing a similar experience. When did we let it get to this? Stress seems to be an integral part of modern day living. I have found a way that helps me to feel less stressed in the moment and here it is:

1) Acceptance

I have often found myself resisting what is happening in my life. I get angry at the injustice as I see around me, I feel sorry for myself at times and feel frustrated when life doesn’t turn out as I hoped it would. In the past I have spent countless hours resisting ‘what is’. I am getting better at accepting what is going on in my life rather than wishing I had a different life. This does not mean that I have become passive but it does mean that I have stopped resisting the reality that I am experiencing. Acceptance has a lot to do with acknowledging what is going on. Once we accept the true nature of our experience we can begin to create a realistic plan.

2) Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a tricky skill to to master. It requires that we calm our busy brains and focus our attention on the present moment. I find this incredibly hard to do because my mind is always wandering off. Mainly I worry about the future and can get myself into a right tizz over possibilities that may never come to be. Mindfulness ensures that we enjoy the present moment and the present moment is all that we really have. Touch, taste, see, hear and smell everything around you. Engage your senses in the present moment.

3) Detach from negative thinking

Our thoughts create our emotions. If our thoughts are negative and full of worry, our behaviour will be in line with this thinking and our focus will be on our fears and insecurities. Learning to detach from our thoughts is a skill that can be learned. When you find yourself thinking a negative thoughts such as, “I will never find someone to love me”, immediately challenge it. Ask yourself where the evidence is for this thought and check whether there is an alternative way to view the particular problem or issue.

There is a saying: “when you are in your own mind, you are in enemy territory”. This saying is so true. Our thoughts can lead us to heaven or hell. Learn to separate your thoughts from the reality. Thoughts are often based upon our own insecurities and false assumptions.

I have found the above three strategies very useful. When I am in the middle of an anxious phase I stop myself and I mentally go through the above three strategies. I have found them to be very effective in lessening my anxiety and I hope you receive the same benefits.

Mandy X

Why you need to smile right now

smile photo

Why you need to smile right now

Right here right now, things must be okay because you are sitting down reading this blog. I don’t mean that you should automatically be happy when reading this blog…(well…..eheh), what I mean is – in this very moment there isn’t a major crisis going on.

It’s possible that you are sad or overwhelmed but the fact is that you can cope – even if it is moment by moment. When all those moments of coping get added together you will see that actually what you are doing IS coping! We underestimate our abilities and our resilience.

We can tell ourselves that we won’t cope and that life is awful but often, we find that we do cope and that each small moment is somehow bearable. This is living, this is life.

Smile because some one some where cares about you.

Smile because right now, your body is working for you – your lungs are giving you oxygen, your organs are doing their jobs and your brain is allowing you to engage with your surroundings.. and read this blog.

Smile because it is a new day. Whatever has gone before has taught you something and you are STILL here. Give yourself a pat on the back right now…or go give yourself a kiss in the mirror if you feel up to it.

Smile because, actually, you are quite marvellous. Yes – take a few minutes to think of things you have done in your life that have made you feel proud of yourself. There must be at least one thing you can think of.

Smile because even though life can be tough, you still have compassion in your heart and hope for the future. Even if at times you feel all hope is gone…it must be in there somewhere –  a little ember is burning brightly.

Smile because you have more choice in life than you realise. Look at your options and opportunities, think about the choices you do have in life and where you can have control over what you do. Choose to live in line with your priorities, not the priorities others try to shove on to you.

It’s okay – life supports you and it is unfolding as it is meant to. It may be a gray dreary day wherever you are but there are still reasons to smile. Sometimes we just have to focus that bit harder to find them.

Mandy X

How to appreciate each day

 

butterfly photo

How to appreciate each day

It is easy sometimes to act as if we will live forever. Our own mortality is not exactly a cheerful subject and the thought of the end-of-life is a scary one. But the beauty in remembering the finite nature of life is that we hopefully appreciate and fully engage in the moments we experience. I know that I’m guilty of wishing my life away and of looking back and wonder whether time has gone. I went to a funeral today and that always brings it home how we should make the most of each day.

Here are a few tips on how to appreciate each day:

1) Wear your favourite perfume or cologne

What are you waiting for? Each and every day is special so use your favourite products every day. Don’t save your favourite items for a special day in the future. Enjoy it now and revel in the thrill of using it right now.

2) Say what you feel

If you are feeling soppy and want to tell someone your thoughts… Don’t hesitate. There is no time like the present. Don’t live a life full of regret-rather feel slightly embarrassed and wonder “what if”. The

3) Get out of your comfort zone

Try something new as often as possible, it’s a great way to feel alive. Often, I don’t enjoy being out of my comfort zone as I do not feel safe and can often feel slightly anxious. The upside to this is the tremendous sense of pride that I feel when I have pushed myself to do something that I feared-no matter how small. You don’t have to try big things every day, just a small thing now and then to show that you are progressing in the right direction. The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone the more confidence you will have.

4) Slow down

Take the time to slow down and really be in the moment. Really listen to the person you’re with and put away your phone and any other distractions. Engage your senses. The more we are fully in the moment the slower the time passes. Limit your wayward thoughts about tomorrow or the day after and emerge yourself into the present experience that you’re having. It’s a tough task slowing down our busy brains. Train yourself to try and focus on one thing at a time for at least an hour every day. Whether that is meditating, watching a movie or reading a book or spending time with someone.

5) Have short-term and long-term goals

A sense of purpose is a good way to keep focused on where you are going in your life. Instead of mindless rushing about, short and long-term goals can keep us focused on what is important and worthwhile for us personally.

6) Take time for special people

Make time for the important people in your life. Spending time with friends and family is where it’s at. Connect with those around you and be open and honest about life. Treat each person as if they are the most important person in the world and if you may never see them again.

7) Forgive and don’t hold grudges

It takes emotional energy to be mad at someone and it saps the joy from the moment. Clear the slate of negative energy. Either make amends with the other person or find a healthy way to be at peace with the situation.

8) Appreciate the small things

Don’t expect much and keep a childlike wonder about the world with you at all times.Notice beauty and kindness wherever you go -when you look for it you will see it in abundance.

Life is fleeting and it seems to be speeding up at a rapid pace. It is so easy to be distracted and diverted from what is really important. Appreciating the present moment involves detaching from the future and enjoying what is going on in your life right now, today. You can’t rewind and do it again, life is not a dress rehearsal. Live a life with integrity and don’t be afraid to tell people how much they mean to you.Don’t procrastinate, be brave and seize the day.

Happiness emerges most when you are ‘present’ in your life – that fleeting feeling of contentment. Happiness isn’t something to be pursued, rather it happens upon you when you are fully engaged with your surroundings in an appreciative way.

Mandy X

Be at peace in your mind

peaceful mind photo

Be at peace in your mind

The key to a happy life is the ability to calm your mind and be an effective ‘thought manager’. This can be easier said-than-done, especially when the world around us presents continuous ‘triggers’ that can set us off emotionally. We all have insecurities and other people and circumstances can easily bring these unpleasant emotions to the surface leading to a feeling of loss of control.

There are ways to reduce the thought turmoil in your mind:

1) Live in the present moment

A mind with too much time to think is often a mind in turmoil. Living in the present moment, without overthinking the past or worrying about the future can lead to a happier existence. The power is in the present moment, focus on it and use it wisely.

2) Stop trying to figure others out

This is wasted energy as most of our time spent making assumptions about others leads to incorrect conclusions. Instead, focus on yourself and what you DO know.

3) Take personal responsibility

When we take responsibility for ourselves we stop playing the blame-game and take back control of our lives. Blaming others for our troubles in life essentially means we are giving them the power over our lives. Is it really true that someone else is responsible for your unhappiness? Are they in your brain planting all those awful thoughts about you and your life or are you choosing to think that way? Stop being a victim and start taking control.

4) Don’t believe every thought you have

The nature of our thinking is tainted by our backgrounds, our childhoods and past experiences. You really don’t need to believe every thought you have especially if they make you feel miserable. You can actively reframe thoughts and find ones that work for you rather than make you feel helpless, useless or that your life is a mess. These thoughts will more than likely be clouded by strong emotions leading to even less rational thinking.

I am not saying you should lie to yourself but there are ways to talk to yourself that will lead you to feeling more hopeful than desperate and depressed.

5) Ask yourself what the lesson is

Sometimes being philosophical helps is to see things differently. When life is tough, we learn from these experiences and often we become stronger as a result – this is known as “post traumatic growth”. Learn to focus on the bigger picture and try not to get caught up in the moment. In a year from now you won’t remember what you were thinking as much as you’ll remember what you did.

There are many strategies to help us feel happier and to create internal buffers to keep our inner happiness thermostat constant. At times, we need to put emotions and thoughts aside, focus on the here and now and be kind to ourselves in order to get through.

Mandy X

 

 

Savour the moment

the moment photo

Savour the moment

The easy path as an adult is to let life rush by, focusing all our energies on achieving, working, consuming and constantly ‘doing’. While this can be fulfilling, it makes the business of tending to your ‘inner world’ very difficult and ultimately, I believe, this is where true fulfilment comes from. Not the houses, the jobs, the cars or the trophy spouse but rather from connecting with others, having meaning and purpose in life and feeling we are making a positive, long lasting difference to the world we live in.

A life spent dealing with health problems has always forced me to tend to my inner world. When the business of doing gets too much, my body sends me stern reminders to slow down and remember what is truly important. This doesn’t mean that I never enjoy achieving but each achievement only means something for me if it is useful in some way. I don’t enjoy hollow victories like winning a contract that involves a lot of money but does little to enrich the lives of myself or others.

I am always able to see the bigger picture and not get hung up on the trivial misnomers of life. We can all be easily led down the path of thinking we are spending our time wisely when in effect, we are on ‘auto-pilot’ going through the motions yet not really feeling any satisfaction with our lives.

If you are constantly busy yet feel something is missing, this may be because you have bought into the idea that making money, constantly doing and being busy is the way to go. In my view, I would rather be doing less but achieving more by helping others, supporting charities and trying to make the world a better place. Most people who follow money and possessions find out in the end that they chased the wrong things to find fulfilment. I currently work in an old age home and as I pass their rooms, I see the residents lying in the same position in their beds day after day. I ask myself whether they had high flying jobs, whether they frittered away their precious time chasing short-lived business deals, getting too caught up in the monotony of life whilst neglecting their inner world. Now, all that is left is their one room with their bed…and of course many many photos of family and friends. Yep – people, not cars, houses, certificates or pictures of where they worked.

So if you want more fulfilment in your life, if you want to be in that single bed one day with a smile on your face thinking of all your escapades, I advise the following:

1) Be selfless – give to others and make others feel as they are the most important person when you are with them.

2) Understand what it is that you need to feel you are spending your time well. Even if you have a full time job, you can still take time out each day to reconnect with yourself and re-assess every now and then whether the path you are on is the right one. I use an app called “Headspace” to help me tune out the busy world and reconnect with myself and my core values.

3) Tune out the constant noise from others. If you aren’t assertive, your time will be taken up fulfilling other people’s lives and not your own. Learn to say “no”.  Stay away from the news at times, enjoy a day every so often where you shut out the constant information directed at you. Enjoy your surroundings instead.

4) Connect with nature. Get away from the concrete jungle every so often.

5) Connect with others. Find like minded people who inspire you.

6) Be mindful – be in the moment. The more present you are in your life, the more fulfilled you will be. Try to engage in all that is around you instead of being on social media or living a parallel life in your head. We often let precious moments pass thinking about what life will be like in the future. Redirect your focus back to now.

7) Remind yourself of what makes you happy – really happy. Not the short lived stuff but the things that stay with you. For me, it’s connecting with others, hearing their stories, learning from their actions – whether they were successful or not. I enjoy learning and I enjoy sharing my life experiences with others.

Tune into your inner world. They say that your inner world mirrors your outer world. The more harmonious and at peace you feel inside, the quicker your outer world with follow suit.

Mandy X