How To Use Mindfulness To Cultivate Happiness

 

 

Is negative thinking clouding your happiness? Mindfulness may be able to help. Scientific studies have confirmed that we all hardwired with a ‘negativity bias’ - an evolutionary function that was once necessary for our survival. This means our brains are built with a greater sensitivity to unpleasant news and a tendency to embed negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. As Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of Hardwiring Happiness, puts it: The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” But the good news is we can break this bias. Studies have shown that mindfulness can help to rewire the brain and increase our capacity for happiness and wellbeing. Read on to find out how…

Mindfulness short circuits negative thinking

In mindfulness, we learn to be on close terms with the nature of the mind. As we hone in on our present moment experience and observe our mental activity, we become more skillful at noticing when our minds are getting caught up in negative and discouraging patterns of thought. In observing this, we can choose to break the circuit and shift to a self-compassionate mode of thinking that is supportive and nurturing instead.

Mindfulness promotes gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful antidote to negative thinking. To be mindful means to be aware of what is happening around us, and within us - and this is the first step towards being grateful for what we have. Cultivating an awareness and appreciation of the things that are going well in our lives and developing a daily gratitude practice prevents negativity from clouding our vision and reinforces positive connections in the brain that increase our capacity for happiness. It’s simple and transformative.

Mindfulness rewires the brain

What we think, feel and do all sculpt our neural networks. This is neuroplasticity in action - the brain‘s ability to constantly change throughout life and rewire itself in response to our feelings, thoughts and experiences. Research has shown that every time we use a particular pathway of thinking - either positive or negative - it increases the likelihood that we will do it again. Happily, mindfulness can be used as a tool to dislodge deep-rooted negative thinking patterns over time and chart new pathways in their place, which are more positive and nurturing. By bringing mindful awareness to everyday positive experiences, noticing when something feels good and actively taking in that feeling, we can weave the experience into the brain. The more we establish and exercise these pathways for happiness, the stronger they become.

Mindfulness builds inner contentment

One of the greatest gifts that mindfulness can bring to our lives is a sense of inner happiness and calm. It is often said that states of anxiety and depression stem from our ways of thinking - if we’re anxious, we’re spending too much time thinking about the future and if we’re depressed, we’re ruminating too frequently on the past. Of course, there are other factors to consider here - both biological and environmental - but the simple act of staying present keeps us more centred, teaches us acceptance and gives us a greater appreciation of life. In mindfulness, we also train ourselves to observe the world more objectively - which gives us the power to see things as they are, not as we are. This allows us to respond to situations and interactions without projecting our own mental model onto them, and frees us from the tendency to live in our own minds.

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MEDITATIONS:

Gratitude Meditation

Love Meditation

Animal Affection

COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

Cultivating Happiness Workshop

Self-Compassion Workshop

8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

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