Mindfulness Leighton Buzzard

The Key to Happiness?

I recently posted the quote below to my Facebook page about the key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be.  It obviously struck a chord for lots of people as it received more reactions and shares than average so I thought you might like a post that expanded on the subject.

My last blog was about the differences between CBT and mindfulness but this is one of the areas where they both agree!  CBT as an approach believes that feelings of sadness and depression are often linked to thoughts about the past or loss while feelings of anxiety and fear are often linked to thoughts about the future, threat and danger - trying to change things and make them different to how they are by spending more time in the past or the future than in the present. 

Mainstream mindfulness is generally practised without any religious elements but it is originally a Buddhist practice.  In Buddhism, it is believed that we have a human tendency to crave things that we want in order to keep ourselves safe and happy and that we grasp and hold onto what we do have.  It is this constant craving and grasping, trying to make things different from how they are which Buddhism believes leads to suffering. 

Please don't misunderstand; neither CBT therapists, Buddhists nor mindfulness teachers are going to suggest that we shouldn't improve dangerous situations for ourselves or others.  This is relating to the parts of our daily lives that we constantly wish were different - such as wanting the latest thing we can't afford, wishing things could just be a bit more perfect, thinking everything will be different or better when this or that happens.  

Practising mindfulness involves being aware of what is happening in the present moment - avoiding or interrupting getting carried away or caught up in only thoughts about the past or future or thoughts about craving and grasping.  

The present moment might include negative or difficult thoughts and feelings, but it can also include broadening our attention to include what else is also present using the senses - touch, sound, smell, sight and also the breath.  This broader attention gives a sense of space so that difficult thoughts and feelings are no longer the only things that you are aware of.  Noticing how it is, without trying to change anything, acknowledging that's just how it is right now.

Do I still get lost in thoughts and feelings about the past and the future?  Yes, of course, I do - it's part of being human!  However when I notice that's what I'm doing and how that may be negatively affecting my mood I generally choosing to be mindful as a way of interrupting those thoughts, come back to noticing how it is, right now, in the present moment. 

So next time you catch yourself caught up in a spiral of thoughts wanting the small stuff to be different and feeling unhappy why not give it a try?