The happiness trap
In a way, we can all use some mindfulness in our life. Society places much of its value on our social status, salary, and material possessions. We spend most of our time tapped into social media, constantly comparing ourselves to others, who outwardly present a life that is perfectly in order. When a friend gets that big promotion or another is getting engaged, and all the while you’re living on noodle soup and can barely remember to feed your cat or water your plants.
No matter how successful we are in our lives or careers, there will always be somebody with a bigger house, a nicer body or a newer car. We are constantly measuring ourselves against the accomplishments of others because we have an image in our minds of who we are supposed to be or do, and what our lives should look like. When we come to the seemingly inevitable conclusion that our reality doesn’t match the perfect picture, we start to feel restless, unsatisfied, discontent and even depressed. The wider the gap between what our lives look like and how we want it to look, the worse we feel. We are all longing for happiness, but most of us are searching for it in the wrong places – outside of ourselves. We find momentary happiness when we get a new car, a promotion, a bigger home or even when we fall in love. But this sort of happiness is fleeting, momentary – It doesn’t last. It loses its shine and leads us to wanting something better, bigger and newer. The vicious cycle continues.
If this sounds familiar, you are in the right place! Mindfulness is a combination of insight meditation, Cognitive Psychology and Buddhist teachings. By practicing Mindfulness we can change our perspective, our mindset and overall attitude towards our life. We can’t control all of external factors affecting our lives; we can’t even control our own thoughts. Most of the time, we are living on automatic pilot, lost in thought, which makes it difficult to break our pattern of behaviour. We do what we always do, and so we get the same results we always get. Practicing mindfulness regularly teaches us how to live in the present moment, to accept what we cannot change and take action in our lives from a point of acceptance – instead of resistance
What is Mindfulness?
The common definition of Mindfulness is the one by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.
By practicing Mindfulness you basically train your mind to be happier. You will learn how to be more present and become aware of your own thought patterns and habits. This will enable you to recognize the automatic tendencies of your mind and to consciously choose to respond differently.
Participating in the mindfulness training will result in the following:
- You will have more energy and feel overall happier
- You will better be able cope with stress and anxiety
- You will have a more positive view of yourself and the world around you
- You will be better able to focus
- our confidence will increase and you will experience life and work as more meaningful
- You will be less consumed with your thoughts and thus better able to live in the present
- You are able to improve communication, by listening to yourself and others
Just like you go to the gym to train your muscles, it is essential to practice mindfulness to train your brain. You learn how to focus your attention to what matters at that moment and do that for longer periods of time. Because of this you live less in your head and you waste less time being lost in thoughts. Because you are less occupied with being stuck in your head you will have more space to work and function more efficiently.
A lot of people still have associations with mindfulness that include weird humming and purple clothes. Even though the roots of mindfulness are in Buddhism, mindfulness is nothing mysterious, spiritual or religious. It is actually quite the opposite, it is about acquiring clarity in your own thoughts and behaviors and getting to the core of our being.
Fortunately, more and more people are discovering the benefits of mindfulness and it is becoming more mainstream. Major corporations such as Google, Deutsche bank, Apple and PwC are offering mindfulness courses to their employees to help them handle the pressure and work more efficiently.