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Can Mindfulness Make Us Happier?

Happiness is sometimes hard to come by, especially in the current state of the world.  Some of us are under various degrees of lockdown, home schooling children, or feeling stress and anxiety over a current job or lack of a job.  It is a difficult time in our lives, but the circumstances also offer us a window of time for reflection and growth.

Mindfulness is one of those techniques that can help guide you.  In this post, I will help you understand mindfulness, how it can be used by you and your family and provide you with 10 ideas for starting your mindfulness practice at home.

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of focusing your attention on the present moment without judgement.  It is a state of being where you can relax and notice what you think, see, hear, smell, taste, and feel. Examples of mindful activities not only include meditation and breathing exercises, but may also include walking, reading, exercise, or other normal daily activities.

How Will It Make Us Happier?

Anything, done mindfully will quiet the chatter in your head and allow you to calmly breathe in the happiness of the moment.  Like Tony Robbins and others have quoted, “Where thoughts go, energy flows.”  We also know that what we feel is largely determined by what we think and do.  So, by slowing down our thoughts, our energy flows more peacefully, and we tend to feel happier and more optimistic.

Life is a blessing.  It’s easy to realise this when a baby is born, or a loved one passes away, or a global pandemic changes our whole way of life.  Mindfulness is the act that can change the way we look at everything, and it won’t take a life-changing event to help us make the change.

I used to think of mindfulness as meditation, and meditation as something that only monks or yogi’s practice.  But I had it all wrong.

Mindfulness isn’t reserved for monks or yogi’s or even adults for that matter.

My daughter was born 8 months ago.  When she was 5 months old, I enrolled her in a mum and baby yoga class.  One of the mum’s in our Mother’s Group arranged it and I thought it would be a fun activity we could do together.  It wasn’t really yoga, at least not what I imagined yoga to be.  Instead, it was a time of mindfulness with some simple yoga postures mixed in.

At yoga class we did a simple exercise of walking while holding our baby to our chest.  It sounds simple and almost pointless.  But the exercise done mindfully, provides a completely different and transformational experience.

As instructed, I held my little darling to my chest and just rocked forward and backwards.  We had not even started walking yet.  At first, I felt warmer.  She was like a little heater warming my body.  But then I noticed her heartbeat.  I could see her pulse in the soft open space where her head hadn’t fully closed up yet.  I could hear and feel her breathe.  Once my breathing slowed, she took a deep breath and sighed.  We were told to walk slowly forward, feeling our feet against the wooden floor.  I felt strangely unbalanced.  Why was is so hard?  Maybe because I hadn’t done it before.  I wondered if I had ever really felt my feet on the floor.

Taking that mindful walk allowed me to truly focus on my daughter, her heartbeat, her pulse, her warmth, and my feet on the floor.  The world slowed down in that moment and I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude and happiness.

It just takes one mindful moment to slow down your thoughts and fill your heart with happiness.

10 Mindful Moments for Happiness

Here are 10 mindful moments you can easily experience alone, with your partner or spouse or with your entire family.  Some of these can be done in one minute and others may take you up to an hour.  Set aside a specified amount of time for one or more of these mindful moments.  I have divided the mindful moments below into time blocks so you can easily choose one that fits into the time you have available.  You can also adapt any of these techniques to take more or less time, depending on your circumstances.

Choose one or more mindful moments that you can incorporate into your daily life to fill you with happiness.

Mindful Moments In Less than 10 Minutes

  • Breathing. Breathing is one of the more powerful mindfulness exercises I have used.  If you take 14 breaths per minute, you take just over 20,000 breaths per day.  Most of these breaths are automatic and unconscious.  Just 5 mindful breaths can bring a sense of peace and calm to an entire room.  There are dozens of breathing exercises, but here is one you can do in just one minute.  Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.  Focus on breathing in through your belly and then expand the breath into your chest.  Hold for a count of 2.  Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 4 and hold for 2.  Repeat this 5 times.  Take a moment and appreciate the relaxation that comes from this one-minute exercise.
  • Holding Hands. This is a simple exercise that can fill you with happiness and appreciation.  If you are alone, then clasp your hands in front of you.  If you are with a partner or friend, then face each other and hold each other’s hands.  If you are with your family or multiple friends, then sit or stand in a circle and hold hands.  Sit or stand quietly for 60 seconds.  Pay attention to the way the other hand feels in yours.  Can you feel their pulse, their warmth, their age, or their youth?  Notice the emotion in that moment.  Feel the love, friendship, and gratitude for the ones around you.
  • Affirmation Beads. The most common beads I have seen used for mindfulness and meditation are mala beads.  While they have strong cultural roots, they can also be used by anyone looking for a tool to help them focus.  For this technique, prepare 5 affirmation statements.  For example, “I am beautiful,” “I am strong,” “I am smart,” “I am happy,” and “I am healthy.” There are typically 108 beads on a mala necklace, so you will repeat each affirmation 5 times.  Touch one bead at a time and repeat your first affirmation, then touch the second bead and repeat your second affirmation and so on.  Go around the string of beads until you reach the end.  You will have 3 beads left.  For the last 3 beads, state, “This is a beautiful day.”

Mindful Moments In 10-30 Minutes

  • Eating. How many times do we rush to eat our food?  Weeks go by and I wonder if I ever eat my breakfast sitting down.  Choose one meal in your day to focus on eating mindfully.  Start with preparing your food and make your plate look as beautiful as you can.  Sit down at a table.  Consider putting out a tablecloth or placemat.  Turn off the TV, put your phone on silent and leave it out of sight.  Take a deep breath and notice the beautiful meal in front of you.  Focus on the colours, textures, and taste of your food.  You can take smaller bites, chew more slowly than normal, or eat with your non-dominant hand.  Use one or more of these ideas to help you focus on the meal in front of you.
  • Reading. We are constantly reading e-mails, text messages, and social media messages. It is usually a race to see how quickly we can get through these messages and on to the next one.  Mindful reading is different.  First, find a comfortable place you can sit down with a book.  Not an electronic book, but an actual book or magazine.  Set aside some time for your reading exercise, even if it is just 10 minutes.  Sit with your book in your lap and notice something about it.  It can be an image, the font, texture, size, or weight of the book.  Find something to notice and be thankful for the moment.  Open the book and start reading.  Pay attention to the words, the sentence structure, the images that come to your mind, or the rhythm of the story.  If your mind starts to wander, then bring it back to the book in front of you.
  • Journaling. This is another one of my favourite mindfulness techniques.  Journaling is an easy way to sort through your thoughts and calm the chatter in your mind.  You can use a simple notepad or find a beautiful journal.  Start with something easy, like a chronicle of your day to start the writing process.  Use this opportunity to write five things that happened in your day that you are grateful for.  Then pick one moment and write down as many details as you can.  Pay attention to what you saw, heard, smelled, felt, or tasted.  Recalling these details can magnify the gratitude and happiness you felt in that one moment.
  • Meditating. Meditation is a common mindfulness technique.  But there are so many forms of meditation and it is hard to know which form is best.  You just need to find something that works for you.  My mind is like the ticker on the bottom of the news channel.  It is always running in the background.  Because of that, I use mantra meditation as it gives my mind something to focus on.  A mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated during meditation.  Deepak Chopra provides my favourite mantra meditations.  He provides an amazing 21-day free meditation experience several times each year.  Go to https://chopracentermeditation.com/ and listen to Day 1 to experience a mantra meditation for yourself.

Mindful Moments In 30-60 Minutes

  • Exercising. This is my favourite mindfulness moment.  I love running, walking, and weight training.  But how do you make exercise mindful?  I recommend finding a rhythm and count.  If you are running or walking, you can count 10 or 20 steps.  Then start over for another 10 or 20 steps.  Continue this for the duration.  At the gym you can count a tempo for each exercise.  For example, count one second for the contraction, one second for a hold, and three seconds for the release.  Count to this tempo for each exercise.  Then move to the next exercise and start counting again.  If you enjoy swimming you can count the number of strokes or breaths, you take.  Whatever form of exercise you choose, find a rhythm and use counting as a method of relaxing your mind.
  • Art. There are so many art forms and ways that mindfully creating can bring happiness to even the most troubled person.  Colouring, drawing, painting, or crafts can help anyone relax and lose themselves in the beauty of the moment.  Everyone has seen the beautiful colouring books that have been created for both adults and children.  Just find some pens or pencils and create your own piece of art.  Focus on the colours you are using, the feel of the pen or pencil in your hands, or the meaning behind the picture you are colouring.  Any art form becomes mindful when you can focus on and appreciate the process of creating.  Like with the other techniques, set aside some time for your art.
  • Gardening.  Gardening can be as simple or as complex as you would like it to be.  Mindfully gardening can apply as much to someone growing a succulent as someone growing a greenhouse or estate garden.  For this exercise, choose one plant, tree, or flower.  Focus on one part of the plant.  Pay attention to the colours, smells, textures, and shapes that nature has given you.  Mentally gather as much information about the plant as you can.  Take photos or make a sketch that will help you remember the most beautiful parts.  Alternatively, you can use a journal to record your observations and gratitude for what nature has given you.  Gardening is one of those activities that can give you years of mindful moments.

So What Next?

Start by choosing one or more mindful moments depending on the time you have available.  Mindful moments do not need to take a lot of your time.  Remember that mindfulness is simply the act of focusing your attention on the present moment without judgement.

Mindful breathing, repeating a set of affirmations, or holding the hands of a loved one for just one minute can help relieve stress and anxiety and bring you a sense of peace.  Twenty minutes spent enjoying a nice meal, reading, meditating, or journaling can calm you even further.  Forty minutes gardening, creating, or going for some exercise can help quiet the chatter in your mind so you can appreciate the beauty of nature and art.

These mindful moments will not only help you relax but also fill your heart with happiness.

I invite you to look at the Emotional Wellbeing and Mindfulness course I have on offer for parents and their school-age children.  This course allows you and your children to practice mindfulness techniques in a calm and supportive environment.  Your children will learn to recognize a range of emotions, why they occur, and how to manage them in a positive and constructive manner.