Happiness Hacks are exercises and concepts that you can try in ten minutes or less! The worst that can happen is that you used ten minutes to try something new. The best that can happen is developing a new skill or technique that can have huge rewards in the future.
My last post discussed the benefits that deep breathing can have on your life. Keep good deep breathing in mind. Today I want to talk about another important concept that you can try that can lead to lasting positive results: Meditation.
As you read this post, I encourage you to listen to this recording. It should help you relax and start to develop the mindset to meditate.
Meditation was first recorded as an everyday practice around 1500 BCE. Since then, different cultures have used it to develop philosophical models of the universe. People use meditation to find peace, balance, and harmony. I believe that the most important consequence of meditation is mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the ability to be present in mind, body, and spirit. Being fully present means being aware of where we are and what we are doing. Another important aspect of mindfulness is to be in a state of mind that is explorative, ever searching for deeper understandings of the world around us and nonjudgmental of any thoughts that we may experience. The practice of mindfulness allows us to experience the world in ways we’ve never dreamed of before and helps to keep us centered. Mindfulness will be the topic of a future happiness hack.
If mindfulness is the ultimate goal of meditation, which it may also be for you, we need to develop some strategies and techniques that can expedite this goal. The most powerful thing about mindfulness is that we can practice it on a daily basis to reach higher cognitive and spiritual levels when we have the right skillset to do so.
In my last happiness hack, I discussed deep breathing. Deep breathing is one simple and powerful tool that we will be using for meditation. If you would like to refresh your mind or practice deep breathing with guided examples, click here. Now take three slow, deep breaths into your stomach and clear your mind.
Remember, when you effectively meditate, you should be aware of your thoughts as they happen in the present moment. Notice each thought and appreciate that it crossed your mind. Then let the next thought pass through. It is important to notice, but not dwell on each and every thought. Be aware that the thought came to pass and move on to the next one.
Since many people meditate best with closed eyes, I will outline some steps for a basic meditation. Read them through and come back to them as needed while you practice.
- Sit in a comfortable position. As we did with deep breathing, sit in a position where you feel supported against the earth. Let your tailbone keep you upright, but not rigid. There is no reason to oppose the natural curvature of your spine.
- Relax into the ground and be aware of your body. How are your legs positioned? Are they comfortable? Are they crossed or placed firmly on the ground? What about your spine? Is it uncomfortably stiff? Does it feel like it belongs? Now move to your arms. How are they positioned? Are they doing anything?
- Move your arms so that they rest on your legs in a natural way. We need to be physically comfortable in order to more easily access our mental capacities. Make sure your body is comfortable and supported.
- Notice your breathing. Are you taking shallow or deep breaths? Experience each breath as it continues to provide oxygen to your body. Slowly make sure that each breath you take is a deep one.
- Soften your face. Drop your chin and let your eyes focus on nothing in particular.
- Feel your body. Experience what your body is doing. Your tailbone is supporting you against the pull of the earth. Your legs are maintaining stability from falling over. Your arms are relaxed. Your spine is naturally curved yet feels like it can keep you upright. Your forehead and eyes feel calm and relaxed. Your breathing is deep and constant, sustaining life with every breath. Eventually, your mind will wander away from your body. That is good — and normal.
- Notice every thought. This is the most important component of meditation. Be aware of every single thought that passes through your mind, regardless of what it means. Notice that it arrives in your mind and let your brain think something new, without determining what it means. Be appreciative that you experience every thought, no matter how briefly.
- Be kind. Do not judge any single thought. Allow your thoughts to consume you as you experience what it means to be living in the present. Let time stand still.
- Slowly come back to reality. When you are ready, open your eyes and slowly begin to notice the sounds around you again. Bring your mind back to your body. Notice your posture, breathing pattern, and where you exist in your environment.
- Notice your thoughts and emotions. How does your body feel? What did you experience? How can you use this experience to feel more at peace with the world?
This simple meditation exercise can be performed with as many or as few minutes as you have to give it. Personally, I find a maximum benefit around 20 minutes. It puts me in a mindset that is calm, collected, and ready for the next thing. I hope that it does the same for you.
Now, this is only one meditative exercise. There are many to choose from. If you do not like this one, find another that works for you. Many people post guided meditations on YouTube and personal websites. For example, another common type of meditation is focusing solely on your breathing, directing your thoughts back to your breathing when it strays. Others use music as a way to access a meditative mindset. Again, my goal with this post is to give you a second practical skill to build up towards achieving mindfulness whenever you need it.
As with deep breathing, meditation can and needs to be practiced in order to develop fluency with the skill. Trying meditation once may not bring you everything you desire, but continual repetition will allow you to more quickly and easily attain the fully present mindset for which you strive.
Thank you for reading about this important happiness hack! You are on your way to achieving a mindset that cannot hold you back. Stay tuned for another soon…