The Importance of Mindset In Your Journey To Happiness

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Happiness is subjective – it can mean different things to different people. What will make one person happy may not make another feel the same way.

However, there are certain universal habits we can all adopt that will help us along in the journey to our own unique happiness and one of them is mindset.

Life has its ups and downs and we are inevitably going to come across hurdles and challenges – this is the reality of life. But how we choose to look at these times in our life can add to, or take away from, our personal happiness.

Mindset affects our responses to a particular situation or can, for example, determine how much effort we put into something and the strategies we adopt. Since we all have goals in life and situations we come across, mindset is particularly important in how we deal with life in general.

When it comes to our happiness, there are two types of mindset we can have – one is fixed mindset and the other is growth mindset.

Fixed Mindset – This kind of mindset damages our ability to experience happiness. A lot of us have it without even knowing and has been ingrained in us from a young age through the people around us.

A person with a fixed mindset believes everything is measurable and focuses on the goal outcome with an expectation of either success or failure with failure being the worst thing in the world. A person with a fixed mindset ignores the learning process, gets depressed and loses self-esteem easily becoming pessimistic (especially in the way they explain the world to themselves) if the outcome wasn’t as expected. They give up easily if a strategy or anything they set out to do didn’t work out for them.

Growth Mindset – This mindset is key to being much happier in our lives and for many is not a mindset we are overly familiar with.

A person with a growth mindset acknowledges that they will always learn from situations, hard times and challenges and be able to bounce back and be resilient. They believe that they are always growing and learning and that success in life (whatever that may be for you) is a continuous development of their skills. They reflect on strategies or situations and try alternatives if they didn’t work out. In essence, there’s no such thing as failure because it’s all about the journey, learning from mistakes and improving themselves.

 

So how do we adopt a growth mindset?

First of all realise you have a choice to change your mindset. It may not be an instant change but acknowledging you have the power to change your thinking, beliefs and perspectives is key to a happier mindset.

  1. Look out for your fixed mindset voice, it’ll say things like “What if you fail?”. We all have it somewhere – it’s pesky and undermining us!
  2. Recognise you have a choice to change it – we are all capable of changing and replacing thoughts to more positive ones (meditation is good for this!)
  3. Talk back to your fixed mindset with a growth mindset – the key to changing your fixed mindset is to challenge it: “are you sure you can do this?” “I’m not sure if I can do it now but with time and effort I can learn.”
  4. Act with your growth mindset and accept failure can happen and that it’s okay. It’s a process and a learning curve for growth – learn from setbacks and show yourself compassion.

Happiness is all in our mind and it’s our choice and our decision. It’s also subjective to each and every one of us but for everyone it’s important how we look at our journey to happiness. Bad things happen and it’s part of life, but we have a choice in how we look at them and interpret them.

Life can be challenging but with a growth mindset it’s about embracing your negative feelings and emotions but also not letting yourself dwell too much – understand that it’s an opportunity for growth rather than a setback.

Remember happiness is not luck, it’s a way of thinking 🙂

 

 

 

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Happiness Is Choosing How You Respond To Negative Thoughts

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We’ve all heard that it’s all about how we respond to a negative situation that determines how we deal with the outcome but what about our negative thoughts?

I wrote a post a while ago explaining why negative emotions are crucial to happiness. To live a happy and fulfilling life doesn’t mean you need to be positive and upbeat every minute of the day – we need negative emotions to help us work through difficult times and to show us where we may be focusing wrong.

It can be frustrating when you’re having a good period and all of a sudden your mood changes, someone says something offensive to you, something happens that makes you feel you’re back to square one again. It could even be something really serious like illness or suddenly losing your job.

But there’s a difference between negative emotions and negative thoughts. Negative emotions are our reactions to big events or situations – they are there to help us work through the tough times and come out the other side.

Negative thoughts are much more important when we consider our happiness and mental well-being. Our beliefs are a result of our thoughts and when it comes to the beliefs we have about ourselves or the world around us, we can have a whole plethora of negativity going on in our minds. The same negative thoughts can go round and round until we don’t even notice them – they become a negative belief and this is where it gets dangerous.

It’s these thought patterns that can stunt the growth of our happiness and a lot of the time we don’t even realise we have so many of them. We then give them permission to grow by allowing them to come back over and over again cementing the negative belief. So the answer must be to get rid of our negative thoughts, right?

Actually, no. Your goal isn’t to get rid of negative thoughts, it is changing your response to them.

We’ll never truly get rid of our negative thoughts so there’s no point putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to rid them altogether.

Instead, when you next have a negative thought – either about yourself, someone else or a situation you face, just stop, acknowledge it and choose your response. You can either choose to change the thought and therefore react in a different way or choose to continue the negative thought until it affects your mood and even contribute to your core negative beliefs.

This is why meditation is so wonderful for teaching you how to notice your negative thoughts and giving you the space to do this. It teaches you to:

  1. Be more aware of your thoughts both negative and positive.
  2. Notice when a negative thought arises and don’t pass judgement on yourself or blame yourself for the thought. (remember self-compassion!)
  3. Acknowledge the negative thought and note it.

By getting into the habit of doing this, you’re gradually giving yourself the power to respond to these thoughts – whether that’s getting to the root cause or changing it to a more positive thought. After a while you will actually start to notice the negative thoughts start to fall away more easily and you will definitely notice a difference in your mindset.

So next time you have a negative thought, stop and acknowledge it. Ask yourself how this is contributing to your overall happiness and choose to take the power back 🙂

 

8 Ways To Create a Positive Day From Your Morning Routine

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We all know that starting the day on a positive note can set us up for a more positive day. But how often do we do this? How often do we intend to get up 15 minutes earlier but once that damn alarm goes off we reach out for that snooze button?

A lot of the time we can end up rushing too much in the mornings which can inadvertently cause us unneeded stress, anxiety and panic. But is this really necessary? Do we realise how much a structured morning routine can help us with our day and overall happiness? Don’t get me wrong, I know how hard it can be sometimes to get the strength to get out of bed especially if you’ve had an unrestful night sleep or you have trouble sleeping in general. But there’s a great power in getting up a little bit earlier.

1. Appreciate and enjoy your morning shower. We can enjoy a slightly longer shower that wakes us up better. It’s a small price to pay for getting out of bed earlier. If you’re really brave, then try a cold shower – many, many health benefits but in truth one of the worst yet most invigorating experiences I’ve had! (Not for the faint-hearted!)

2. Make time for a good breakfast. The act of not rushing around results in us being more mindful. We have more time to make a decent, healthy breakfast and actually savour it setting our body up with a good injection of fuel instead of grabbing the easiest or unhealthiest breakfast – or worst still, no breakfast at all 😮

3. Meditate. A great thing to do is actually meditate every morning. I started doing this about a year ago (no, I’m not a mediating guru – my mind wanders all over the place!). Now I’ve somehow managed to make it well and truly part of my routine – it clears my head, sets me up for the day and puts my brain into mindfulness mode which carries on throughout my day. I really noticed how much it changed my outlook and helped me cope with the day ahead.

4. Don’t expose yourself to negative news. Cut out listening to or reading the news. In an earlier post Is The News Having An Impact On Your Happiness? I talked about how listening to the news (which is primarily negative) can deplete your happiness. If the news is the first thing you immerse your mind in then perhaps stop. Read more positive news – you want to protect your positive vibe as much as possible.

5. Don’t check emails and social media. I’m sure most of us are guilty of this. You wake up and the first thing you check is Facebook, Twitter, WordPress 😉 or emails. I’m not saying to stop checking but try not to let this be the first thing you do when you wake up. At least try to reduce it. Facebook especially can sometimes be a downer which we don’t need first thing in the morning.

6. Spend time outside. If it’s a nice morning, spend time sitting out in the garden or porch. Maybe eat your breakfast out there. Go for a quick walk and just appreciate being out in the fresh air.

7. Exercise. The morning is a perfect time to do your exercise routine. It gets it out of the way and releases those endorphins that carry on all the way through the day. Whether it’s running, cycling, yoga or just going for a walk. It will do wonders for your outlook.

8. Be present with the people you live with. Some of us have kids to deal with in the mornings which can cause us to rush, get stressed or frustrated. Get up a bit earlier and allow yourself to enjoy the moments you have with them. With more time you can appreciate the little conversations you have with others instead of frustration-induced rushing. You’ll be more relaxed and create a much more positive atmosphere which will rub off on those around you.

Our morning routines are really so crucial for our happiness. Having that extra time in bed may seem like a good idea at the time but at what price? We are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to have mindful moments, chances to set up a proper structure to the rest of our day and ultimately screwing with our happiness levels. It might not seem like much but implementing a solid, relaxed routine will help you in many ways and increase happiness much more than you realise 🙂

The Happy Documentary :)

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As a sucker for a good documentary, I sat down the other day and watched The Happy Movie. I realised I was a bit late in seeing this as it was made in 2012 but what an eye-opener it is. If anyone hasn’t seen this and has an interest in what makes a happy life and likes a bit of science thrown in to back it up, I would completely recommend this.

It’s a wonderful documentary that gives a fascinating look at the science behind happiness – following people from all walks of life from the slums of Kolkata to Tokyo and seeing who is happy and what elements in our lives create this widely sought-after emotion. I think you can probably guess what these are but if you have a spare 1hr 15 mins then it really is worth a watch (I’ve posted the trailer below) 🙂

“The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone, but the good news is that the things we love to do are the building blocks of a happy life: play, having new experiences, friends and family, doing things that are meaningful, appreciating what we have – these are the things that make us happy and they’re free. With happiness, the more you have, the more everyone has.”

 

Mindful Walking: Step by Step

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What do you think about when you’re walking? We all walk for different reasons…to get somewhere, to take a break, to clear our heads. And yes, a quick walk can do wonders for our minds; we all know the endorphins can get us into a better state. But have you ever really been mindful whilst walking?

I published an earlier post on mindful eating which talked about really thinking about the food you eat, where it comes from, the tastes and the textures; really getting your mind to be aware of what is in front of you and the same can be applied to walking. We all have busy lives and seemingly need to rush from one thing to another. When we walk we tend to be distracted with all the thoughts that are swirling around in our heads and rarely aware of the sensations of walking and breathing.

Mindful walking can be a really amazing exercise to do. Of course, it’s not easy to be mindful every time you walk somewhere but I encourage you to try it out at least once especially on a beautiful, sunny day 🙂

Before you start walking just take a minute to stop and be aware of the sensation of the soles of your feet on the floor, notice where the weight is strongest (on the toe or the heel, the inside or outside of the foot). Also notice what you see around you, what sounds you can hear or any strong smells. Take some deep breathes and really be in the present moment.

Begin walking at your natural speed with no need to rush. Just maintain the awareness of what’s going on around you.

Begin to notice how your body moves as you walk; how your arms, legs, hips and feet move. Notice how your right and left leg moves, how your feet lift off the ground, experience the physical sensation of the soles of the feet on the floor. Maintain the sensations of your body’s natural movements.

Notice your breathing. Feel the air entering your lungs and slowly release it. Really feel the sensation of your chest expanding and your muscles relaxing. When you become distracted by thoughts, just bring your focus back to this continuous motion of breathing

Continue this for 5-10 minutes (or the duration of your walk). It’s absolutely normal to get distracted by thoughts but when you’re aware of this happening just focus your attention back to the breathe and the physical sensations.

At the end of your walk just take a few moments to notice your surroundings, the sights and smells again taking in the space around you.

Mindful walking can really make a huge difference in our day. It has endless benefits like getting you out of that fog of thoughts, opening you up to a more universal mind shift, getting to know your body, connecting with the environment around you, strengthening your concentration and much more. And, of course, it’s really important for our well-being and happiness to take time out and just be in the present moment. Whether you’re taking your dog for a walk, walking to the bus stop or to the shops, in your lunch break or finding a specific time to try this out, you can incorporate this into your busy life. Even if you try it a few times it’ll be well worth it 🙂

 

 

Getting Happy And Healthy Through Meditation

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I briefly touched on what meditation was in an earlier blog post. Meditation has become more and more popular in the western world over the last two decades and due to this popularity spike, scientists have been keen to find out what the health benefits are, if any.

From my experience of meditation, I’ve noticed a change in my own emotional well-being and my mind has become less busy and more calm. So what are the health benefits to meditating? For thousands of years, Buddhists have claimed the long-term positives to meditating on a regular basis. Continued mindfulness contributes to less stress, less worry, increase of focus, less relationship problems, reduction in addictions and more. It also has an effect on the body so here’s a list of the most common benefits.

Improves immune systems 

Long-term stress can have a bad effect on our immune systems and makes us more susceptible to illness. Numerous studies have been carried out demonstrating that mindfulness meditation helps to reduce stress on the immune system: American Psychosomatic Medicine Journal. Not only this but also chronic arthritis, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease: Medical News Today. Amazingly, researchers at UCLA have even found that it helped slow down the progression of HIV: ScienceDaily.

Reduces blood pressure

High blood pressure is on the increase with our stressful and hectic lives. Exercise can make a real difference here but we aren’t always able to go for a run when we feel stressed in the day. Regular practise in meditation, however, has been found to help reduce blood pressure: NPR News. And since this is essentially contributing to a calmer mind all round, it will last far into your day and help you cope with stressful situations a lot better.

Lessens heart problems

Stress also puts a lot of strain on our hearts and regular meditation has been found to be a prevention to cardiovascular disease. Due to lower blood pressure, the risk of stroke and mortality from other cardiovascular problems are consequently lessened: American Heart Association. Aside from this, studies have also shown that it reduces heart rate and respiratory rate for up to eight months after meditation training: KoreaScience.

Reduces pain

Although not an outright cure, meditation has been found to reduce pain significantly. In some studies, pain has been reduced by up to 40% in individuals practising mindfulness meditation as the result of changes in certain areas of the brain: The Atlantic. These brain mechanisms are further explained in this article published in Elsevier.

Reduces risk of Alzheimer’s

Again, although not claiming to be any kind of cure for this debilitating disease, medical research has shown that meditation can help with both prevention and reduction of the progression of symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s. Of course, this also has a positive effect on the loved ones who care for Alzheimer sufferers: Hindawi.

Improves your mood and emotional well-being

Meditation is well-linked with emotional health and studies have found that regular meditation practice significantly reduces depression: Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and research has even discovered it is more  effective than pharmaceutical interventions: The Lancet. Eradicating the need and reliance on medication for certain depressions can only be a good thing.

Even though the scientific research is relatively new, Buddhist monks have been claiming meditation to be a life-giving necessity for years. To me, it’s a no-brainer. For anyone who has pre-conceived ideas about meditation and why people even bother to practise it, well, I’m inclined to say if you’re looking for ways to improve your life in mind or body or just wanting a deeper sense of contentment and happiness (and who isn’t?!) then why wouldn’t you bother? 🙂

 

Meditation: What Is It and Should I Be Doing It?

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I have to admit I was always a bit sceptical about meditation. It never really entered my awareness and when it did, I just thought I’d leave it for the hippies and Buddhist monks halfway up a mountain in Tibet. I mean, what good does it really do?

Then about a year ago, a friend of mine mentioned a mobile app called Headspace. I was having a bit of a stressful time and decided to give it a go. This really is a great little app. For newbies like me it takes you through 30 days of guided meditation sessions for 10-20 minutes a day, building it up and teaching you the basics of focusing the mind.

Fast forward a year and yes, I’m still using this app. Am I any better at meditation? I’m not so sure but I do believe it’s made a really huge impact on me since I started.

Meditation has been used by Buddhist monks for centuries and for the last few decades it’s been making its way over to the western world. It seems to be a popular way to take some time out and just focus the mind on something that’s not going on around you.

It’s all about being in the present moment which sounds silly because aren’t we always living in the present moment? Well, actually no we’re not. At least our minds aren’t. How often can you say that you’re not thinking about something in the past or something that’s going to happen in the near or distant future?

Meditation gives you the chance to really be in the moment. Sitting quietly and hearing the sounds going on around you, feeling the weight of your body in the chair and noticing and feeling each breathe that you take. You are essentially connecting yourself to yourself and this really isn’t something we consciously do enough.

I’m not going to lie, it’s really really difficult to sit there and not really think about anything. Your mind is going to fight you on this. One minute in and you realise you’re thinking about what you want to have for dinner this evening or that you really must get around to fixing that door NOW. This is usually the point where people give up and decide meditation’s not for them, it doesn’t work or that they’re just crap at it so no point carrying on.

I was one of those people, still sort of am but I’ve kept at it. Just 15 minutes a day, everyday and now I’m definitely better at it. It’s given me a greater appreciation of what’s going on around me, my mind doesn’t seem to be racing around at 100mph like it used to. Both leading to a happier vibe all round.

Meditation is essentially exercise for the mind. It transforms our minds from negative to positive. There are definite scientific benefits to meditation but that will be saved for a future blog post 🙂  So… why not start today and give it a go?