The last impediment to happiness in life is to ignore the course within us. This refers to the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the state when we are not distracted by something else in life other than the present occurrences of life.
A lot of us don’t focus on what the present has brought to us. When we are studying for exams, our mind tends to get diverted to other stuffs like play, soccer match, social media updates, messenger messages and other myriad of things. This is referred to as the state of loss of mindfulness. Mindfulness occurs when we are totally focused on what’s going on in the immediate present.
Our mind keeps on wandering to all the other things except to thee ting that we should be focused on. And this is the reason why we don’t experience flow in whatever we do many a times. In the previous chapters, we found that flow experiences are necessary to be happy in life. Unless we experience flow, we cannot find meaning in any of our experiences. Research shows that people are less happy when their minds are wandering.
No one likes to work in office when their mind is wandering in the golf arena. Or a student will not experience a flow moment when he is worried about his exams the next day. This is the problem with most of us and this is what makes a lot of us unhappy. Loss of focus from over the present leads us nowhere between experiencing the present, the past and the future. This is why mindfulness is seldom achieved by people. And when mindfulness is not achieved by people, then it leads to a distracted mind, a mind which is overburdened by a lot of thoughts and the mind takes a lot of time to process all of it. This is the reason why our mind feels overworked and over occupied when it wandering a lot and when mindfulness is not there in place.
It is important to stay focused on one thing at any moment. Mindfulness helps us to be observant and attentive to what all is happening around us in a non-judgmental way. Mindfulness also helps us to find out the emotions or goals that are triggered in our minds at a particular thought.
This is the reason why the loss of mindful state leads to over-burdening of the brain and leads to unhappiness.
What are the benefits of mindfulness? It has been observed that mindfulness makes us more focused towards our work and helps us experience the flow moment while performing any task that we do with mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to be calmer and to respond to situations with a greater presence of mind. The emotional intelligence involved while responding to situations with mindfulness is far greater than when we have a distracted mind. Mindfulness also helps us to be more acquainted with the present, rather than to dwell in the past or in the tensions regarding the future. Being focused more on the present helps us to develop more curiosity for things happening around us and makes us feel that we are in control of time.
Research shows that the changes in external conditions, like changing bank balance, number of cars in the garage or even number of fixed money deposits in life doesn’t add much to our happiness. What matters is what is there inside our minds. This is the reason why many opulent people suffer from depression even though begging monks and saints are satisfied and happy with life.
According to Richie Davidson, the structure of our brain can be modified if we train it to be mindful. This is the reason why experts believe that we can increase our concentration levels by meditating and with practice. Meditation helps in strengthening those parts of the brain that are involved in attention, generosity, reflexes, focus and emotional aptitude. As a result, even those who feel depressed in their lives can have the hope of growing happier by improving their brain’s structure for mindfulness.
By strengthening these parts of the brain, we can slow down ageing of the brain as well. Moreover, we also feel less stressed out when we do meditation because of the strengthening of those parts of the brain that are related to attention, generosity, reflexes, focus and emotional aptitude. Another benefit of mindfulness is that it improves the health of our cardio-vascular system. The improved health of the heart is beneficial for the longevity of our life. The benefits of mindfulness also include improved blood pressure and vagal tone.
Moreover, with mindfulness, the health of our body improves and ageing happens slowly. It can slow down the onset of cancer, it makes us less frustrated and it improves our health holistically. Mindfulness reduces stress levels, makes our brain focused because of which we feel less burdened and hence, it reduces our blood pressure levels to normal levels as well. Moreover, in the state of mindfulness, a man is able to find and is also many a times successful in making others find interest in every activity being done. What makes a thing boring is the lack of interest in it. But when the mind is thinking about and is focused on one thing only, then the interest begins to build up for that activity. Hence, it helps us to add and find meaning to the tasks that we are doing. Finding a meaning in the things that we do helps us to be happier in the long run.
Mindfulness has also been found to make us emotionally intelligent and compassionate.
The road to mindfulness is not that easy however. There are a lot of cognitive and motivational hindrances to mindfulness. In this chapter, we will study the obstacles that we may face on the road to mindfulness.
The first impediment that people face while being mindful is that they don’t grasp or believe in the concept too much. They think that being extremely focused on one task at a time is way too impossible to achieve. This is the prime reason why most of the people give up on becoming mindful even before they can try for it. However, evidences from studies show that with practice, one can train one’s mind to be capable of focusing on just one thing. Meditation can help us in this regard.
Many people also think that being mindful is equivalent to being weak and sentimental, which is actually not the case. Being compassionate does not make us weak from within. One can be as bold and fearless as ever even with compassion and generosity in heart. Social workers across the globe are benevolent for humanity at large, but they are bold and courageous from their soul and heart. There is hardly anything that can bog them down. Yet, they approach their job with full mind and heart. This is the essence behind being mindful. Even revolutionaries like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela were compassionate yet they were a fierce force against the oppressors.
In the state of mindfulness, a person changes his or her relationship with those thoughts. It’s about deciding which thoughts are needed at the moment and which are not, and then accordingly filter them in or out of the mind.