Happiness Habit #3 – Mindfulness MeditationAugust 16 , 2012

In the crazy, overstimulated world we live in, we are constantly bombarded with things that want our attention.  The beep of incoming emails, phone calls and text messages compete with conversation and attempts at focused effort.

Our brains are single processors and, as we split our attention into two or more simultaneous activities, our performance on each task drops precipitously.  One of the keys to productive work is focused attention.  The best way to practice this focus is with meditation.

Meditation directly stimulates the part of the brain that is devoted to happiness and over time even increases the size of this area of your brain.

How to Do It

For 21 days in a row, take a break sometime in your day to simply watch your breath go in and out for 2 minutes.  The goal is to quiet your mind by simply focusing it on the feelings of your breath going in and out.  You might feel it in your nose as the air passes through or in your chest or belly raising and falling.  Your mind will wander off the breath, when it does gently bring it back to the sensations the breath.

At first people often find it easier to start with a guided meditation.  You can try it right now by clicking on the link below.

Guided Mindfulness Meditation 4 min

Know that the practice is NOT about being perfectly focused for the duration; instead, the practice IS the noticing and the bringing it back.  “Oh, there my mind went again; where do I feel the breath now?”  It is in this returning to the breath that the learning and training happens.

It’s also important to not to try to implement too many of these happiness habits at once.  If you are already implementing a Gratitude practice or expanding your exercise, don’t try to simultaneously start meditating too.  Give these other habits some time to get more established, then look to add this short meditation.    For more tips on how to make this new habit stick, look at this post.

How It Helps

  • Meditation trains your brain to do one thing at a time.  With practice, this concentration will make you more able to focus on any task you do.
  • Regular meditation makes people happier, more engaged, more resilient and promotes feelings of ‘having enough.’
  • Meditation is also a great way to counter stress.  By putting energy into focused breathing, the mind can’t ruminate on all its normal stresses, challenges and problems.
  • Deeper belly breathing in meditation also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the mind and body.
  • Finally, meditation gives you more awareness of your own physical and emotional reactions to stimuli.  Over time, this awareness can give you more freedom to decide how you want to respond.

My experience

I’ve been practicing regular meditation for over 3 years.  It’s my calm, safe place to go when I feel myself spinning out of control.  It provides a break from my go-go-go way of being and can help provide some perspective.  And I often  (though definitely not always!) feel happier while I’m sitting and for a time afterwards.  The insights I’ve gained about my own actions have really contributed to a sense of wisdom.  I don’t sweat the small stuff as often nor get as angry or impatient as much as I did before.

Meditation is another topic I’ve written about extensively in this blog.  If you want to learn more about the science behind this helpful practice or how to expand your meditation beyond the simple two minute exercise described above, look here for more information:

·         Mindfulness:  A Proven Tool for Increasing Happiness and DecreasingStress
·         Mindfulness and Meditation II:  Expanding the practice 
·         Silent for 10 Days ?!?!
·         What You Get from 10 Days of Silence
·         Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program
·         Loving-Kindness Meditation
·         Loving-Kindess to yourself

Eric Karpinski
The Happiness Coach

P.S.  Please send some loving energy or prayers to the people of the Phillipines who are suffering from such awful floods.  Paola Sisa, my virtual assistant who usually sends out my weekly email has been evacuated from her home in Manila because of over 15 feet of flooding.  She’s ok, but the entire capital city is under water.

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