The Psychology of Happiness Part 4: Being Mindful
The fourth ingredient in our happiness recipe is the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is developed through the use of meditation.
Meditation is used in many of the world’s religions, most prominently Buddhism. However, the benefits of meditation go beyond the boundary of religion. All meditations are about being mindful of yourself and the moment you are in. It is about being right here, right now.
Consider the things that you worry about or get stressed over. Chances are you’re replaying something that has already happened or going through the possible outcomes of something in the future. When you are engaged in the present moment you are unlikely to experience anxiety
There is no such thing as good or bad meditation. It is simply about being with the experience, whatever it is. Mindfulness is about being alert to the present moment. Mindfulness meditations usually get you to pay attention to one thing at a time. Most common is your breath. In our mindfulness section on this website we have articles to help you develop mindfulness.
Yoga and Tai Chi are both forms of meditation. They are movement meditations. If you have practised either of these, you will know that you need to concentrate on what you’re doing. They also have the benefit of fitting in with the exercise element of The Psychology of Happiness Part 3: Being Active.
The benefits of meditation have been very well researched. For centuries, doctors and scientists have known that the left to right dominance ratio of the prefrontal cortex of the brain determines how happy we are. The more activity there is on the left, the happier we are. However, for much of this time it was believed that this dominance was fixed. Using a control group researchers showed that over a short period of time, people who meditate can become more left side dominant.
In his book “Destructive Emotions,” Daniel Goleman talked about the “startle response” whereby long term meditators remained calm when confronted with loud, unexpected noises.
Learning to meditate:
- Decreases anxiety
- Can change your mood
- Positively affects prefrontal cortex activity
- Increases your immune system and help you fight off bugs and illness.
Whether or not you chose to meditate learn to observe your breathing. When we are stressed or feeling anxious, our breathing becomes shallower and faster. If our breathing is shallow and fast out of habit, this will encourage stress. So, you get caught in a vicious cycle. Learn to slow your breathing and make it deeper. Fill your lungs to encourage overall wellbeing.