Mindful Happiness

Mindful Happiness

The pursuit of happiness has long been the goal of humankind. But, what is happiness?  For us, it could be a feeling of calm and security. For others, it may be a feeling of success on a professional and/or personal front. Happiness is truly subjective! One of the keys to unlocking the path to being happy is to practice mindful happiness.

Mindfulness is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as, “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” So how does mindfulness increase our feelings of happiness?

By utilizing the power of awareness of the present moment, we allow ourselves the opportunity to connect with our heart, mind, body, and spirit with crystal clear transparency. When we allow our thoughts to be focused on the “now,” we invite our clarity to serve as a compass, guiding us toward the happiness that may have eluded us in the past.

When practicing mindfulness, we pay close attention to the signals that our bodies are sending us, those pangs of guilt, shame, regret, and learning to bless and release them through allowing those signals to remind us that we are a work in progress. Through the mindfulness practice of breathwork, we empower our bodies to cleanse some of the adverse biological reactions that our bodies and minds have created in reaction to our perception of the lack of happiness. 

Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice! Our bodies and minds have a natural tendency to fight stillness. If you have tried meditation and find your mind racing with that list of “to-dos” or constant distraction, it’s not your fault! Our brains are designed to be the operating system that we rely on both consciously and subconsciously. Taking some small steps in quieting your mind will lead to training your brain to power down temporarily. Here are some steps to try when working on quieting the mind:

  1. Find a space that will allow you solitude and quiet
  2. Start with an intention of a short time period, perhaps 5 minutes. You can always increase this as you increase your skill level!
  3. Pay attention to your breath. Using this awareness as a focus increases the release of stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, and increases the “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine: both of which are “happiness hormones.”
  4. Notice your body: find a seated position that is comfortable to you and that will allow you to relax.
  5. Allow your mind to wander. Remember, when your mind is sending you messages, it’s doing its job! Work on recognizing the thought without judgment.

Mindful happiness occurs when we align our mind, body, and spirit with our unique strengths. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey of the authenticity of our truth, a lifelong practice of pursuing a wholeness that is genuine and unique to each of us. Each moment in our life gives us the opportunity to be keenly aware of the path to follow, even if it’s one that you need to create. By following your individual journey through mindfulness, you will own the key to creating a life of fulfillment, which in my view is “happiness.”

Looking Ahead to 2021

Looking Ahead to 2021

There is so much to love about this time of year. One of my favorite things to do in December is to reflect on the past year and begin anticipating the months ahead. Goal-setting is my jam, but if I’m honest, I easily lose momentum when it comes to resolutions. In hindsight, I’m grateful I didn’t put pressure on myself back in January 2020. Who could have known what a crazy year we’d all face?

While this certainly wasn’t the year anyone expected and we’ve all had to make adjustments, I can still say I learned a lot. Here’s what stands out as I reflect on 2020 and look ahead to 2021:

What I Will Keep

I’m grateful to say that despite the chaos in the world around us, my personal mental health blossomed this year. I chose to take a few months off of work, slowly re-built my hours, and now work a part-time job that brings me enjoyment and involves little stress. I learned to be gentle with myself, letting go of the pressure to live a life that looks like everyone else’s and instead embrace what works best for my family.

I also took on new hobbies: how to garden, how to cross-stitch, and how to paint with gouache (okay, I’m still learning that one). I became more flexible, a necessary skill to survive this year! And best of all, through a therapy session and much prayer and reflection, I learned to accept and appreciate my spouse instead of focusing on what could be different. 

What I Will Leave Behind

I’m grateful for the opportunities to leave some things behind and start fresh in 2021. If you’re like me, you felt the pull of the news and social media more than ever this year. The pressure to be connected at all times has worn me out and threatens to dismantle the inner peace I’ve worked hard to protect. 

I also want to leave behind the negativity and temptation to complain that has seemed inescapable. I imagine it will be some time before our lives all go back to “normal” (or whatever our new normal will be). Acknowledging the grief caused by the pandemic is necessary and valuable. We are allowed to mourn the many losses we’ve experienced. But as much as I can, I want to move forward with thankfulness for what I have. That leads me to my goals for 2021!

New Goals for the New Year

In 2021, I want to continue prioritizing health, self-growth, and gratitude. I want to hike with my daughter (I just purchased hiking boots for both of us), do another stitching project (also purchased), and go on a writing retreat, among many other things. I am trying something new and starting my goals this month so that I will hopefully have already created new habits before the New Year hits. 

What good from this year will you carry with you into 2021? What will you leave behind? We’d love to know!