Are you looking for happiness?

Many people these days just don’t feel happy. Often unhappiness stems from a discord between the way we want our lives to be, the way we think we should be and the way things actually are. Many people feel that they would be happy if they just had more money, if they were thinner or more beautiful…

We find ourselves judging and comparing the “real” world with the world as we would like it to be in our thoughts and dreams. This draws our attention to the gap between the two and we can end up with a toxic tunnel vision that only perfection will do. Sometimes it can be our own thoughts and expectations that prevent us from being happy.

The Evidence

New techniques in scanning mean that we are able to see the parts of the brain associated with positive emotions such as happiness, empathy and compassion. Research shows that these areas become stronger and more active in people who meditate. You don’t need to spend years meditating to benefit. Committing yourself to a daily practice over an eight week period is sufficient to see the positive changes.

Emotional thermostat

For many years it was assumed that we all have an emotional thermostat which determines how happy we are in life. We all know people who are upbeat no matter what life throws at them and others who behave more like Eeyore, the morose donkey in AA Millne’s Winnie the Pooh. Although major life events like a lottery win or the loss of a job, can significantly affect mood for weeks or even months, it was always assumed that there is a set point to which we always return. Bad news for the Eeyores amongst us!

How lucky we are.

My youngest son (age 5 years) recently did a project at school which involved making footballs out of bits of rubbish, such as newspapers and string. The class were shown a video about children living in the poorest paces in the world, using rubbish to make toys for themselves and playing football with a make shift ball. I asked my son on the way home what he had learned and he dutifully explained. On asking him if he realised how lucky he was, he replied, “Well I’m not that lucky mummy, some children have a private jet!” Sadly I think he had missed the point of the project. His answer, however illustrates my previous point beautifully.

How can Mindfulness help me?

Mindfulness invites you to temporarily suspend judgment and briefly stand aside to watch as the world unfolds. Observing and accepting the way things are in the present moment does not mean rolling over and giving up. It can stop expectations seizing control of your life and blighting your mood.

Six things you can do to be more mindful:

When you first wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed. Take three breaths in and think of something you are thankful for.

Whenever you hear a phone ring, a bird sing, laughter, a bell, a horn, a whistle or any sound you choose – use this as a bell of mindfulness and really listen and be present and awake.

Take a few moments through the day to bring attention to your breathing – bringing attention to your breath.

Whenever you eat or drink something, take a minute to breathe. Notice the food and realize that the food was connected to something that nourished its growth. Can you imagine the sunlight, rain, the earth, the farmer, the truck that delivered our food? Pay attention as you eat, smelling, tasting, eating slowly, notice how you chew and swallow your food.

Focus your attention on your daily activities such as brushing your teeth, showering or walking the dog.

Before you go to bed at night, take a few moments to bring attention to your breath and spend five minutes breathing and observe five mindful breaths.

To find out more please visit my website: or contact me Suzanne Shendery on 07769892376.

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