Happiness With Mindfulness – How To Practice in 5 Steps
We all want to be happy don’t we?
Of course we do, like it’s written in the Declaration of Independence, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The million dollar question is, how do we find happiness?
There are possibly and infinite amount of ways to finding peace and happiness, but did you know that meditation, and specifically mindfulness, has helped many achieve the ultimate goal?
What is mindfulness exactly?
Mindfulness is simply being aware and accepting the present without criticism or judgment.
In this article, we let you in on 5 simple habits to practice and develop to achieve consistent, achievable happiness.
There are 5 steps to mindfulness, and these are:
- Be mindful of your breath.
- Concentrate on your breath.
- Have an awareness of your body.
- Release the tension you carry.
- Just be.
If you’re new to mindfulness these 5 elements can sound mysterious.
To help you understand, we need to look at the 3 key elements of mindfulness – awareness, acceptance, and non-judgment.
When you’re grounded in these three key elements, you can apply these 5 habits to your daily activities and you’ll be heading in the right direction.
Mindfulness: A Quick Look
Mindfulness is frequently recommended as a starting point for beginners in meditation but as is often the case, it can be challenging for many to stay in the moment.
Our minds have become so used to be constantly distracted that we don’t know how to tune out the noise or quiet our mind.
Mindfulness meditation is being in a state of awareness in the present and accepting our thoughts and feelings without criticism or judgment.
– THICH NHAT HANH
“Meditation is to be aware of what is going on: in your body, in your feelings, in your mind, and in the world.”
This awareness is developed by paying attention to what is happening in your surroundings at the moment, as you experience it.
There are different types of meditation with their own unique style.
Choose a meditation type that you resonate with you.
The long-term practice of mindfulness provides wonderful health benefits, both physical and mental.
Some of these benefits include increasing the brain’s neuroplasticity, boosting the immune system, treating insomnia symptoms, sharpening your focus, and lowering psychological distress.
Check our extensive article, 87 Benefits of Meditation for more insight on the amazing benefits of meditation (along with the studies to back them up).
Mindfulness Meditation Essential Steps
Before jumping into our 5-step how-to for happiness, here’s a quick rundown of the basics of mindfulness meditation, in case you’ve have no idea how to do it.
1. Set aside a time and place to meditate. Sit in a position that comfortable, but not so comfortable that you’ll fall asleep.
2. Set a timer anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes. Many people have found this technique very useful for becoming more present instead of wondering if you’re going over or under the allotted time you’ve set for your meditation practice.
3. Take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Your breaths should be the same duration length for the inhale and exhale, around 3 to 5 counts per inhalation/exhalation. Close your eyes and pay attention to what is happening to your body as you breathe in and out.
4. Let the thoughts flow in and out of your mind. Let your thoughts flow without fear or judgment. Take note of the thoughts that come to your mind. If it is worry, hurt, happiness, that is just that, worry, fear, and happiness.
5. If your thoughts start to take over, as it’s prone to happen, gently refocus on your breath.
6. As the session ends, open your eyes and sit in silence to reacquaint yourself with your surroundings and slowly get up.
Here is a helpful guided meditation video by David Nichtern that you can follow if you need to be walked through the process.
The Keys to Mindfulness
Mindfulness has its roots in religion–Buddhism in particular–but has been adopted by secular society, and has been used as a therapy in the mental health profession.
It’s been used as a basis for other meditation therapies such as MBSR as well.
Three concepts would always repeat in discussions on mindfulness. These 3 keys intertwine and would not function without the rest.
“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”– ALAN WATTS
This is being present in the moment.
Being aware of your body and how it feels.
Awareness of your thoughts and emotions when it crosses your minds or when you feel it.
It could also be an awareness of your surroundings, your physical location.
This awareness is filtered through the lens of the now.
What you are experiencing at the moment is the here and now.
It has no bearing on what happened in the past or what could be in the future.
This is where all the realizations and awareness you encounter as you meditate is acknowledged without judgment.
All the experiences, the emotions, and situations you go through are recognized for what they are at the moment.
If you feel hungry and you can do something about it, address the hunger.
Make yourself something to eat to meet your need.
If getting something to eat is not possible at the moment, you have to deal with the hunger by accepting it until the time arises when you can eat again.
Acceptance is not passive submission. You deal with the situation as the moment allows.
Resisting or complaining about the emotion, sensation, or experience without addressing it only creates negativity.
This is when you do not put meaning or value to the emotion, sensation, or experience you’re aware of at the moment.
Non-attachment does not mean you ignore and repress your experiences and emotions.
All emotions and experiences are valid.
What non-attachment does is to free you from the negative complications of thoughts and emotions.
You find peace and calm despite the unpleasantness.
The Path To Happiness And Peace
Happiness is an end goal and mindfulness helps us to achieve it by focusing on the present.
How is meditation correlated to happiness?
Are we happy because we are mindful, or are we mindful and then become happy?
This question is answered in a study done by Matt Killingsworth from Harvard through his app, Track Your Happiness, that periodically sent out questions about happiness to 15,000 participants of varied backgrounds, ranging in age between 18 to 80, and from over 80 countries.
The results showed that people whose minds are focused on the present are happier compared to those whose mind frequently wandered.
Focusing on one task or being in the present produced feelings of contentment and purpose; while mind wandering tends to take your thoughts to memories and other unpleasant remembrances that cause feelings of regret and anxiety.
Even when the mind wanders to happier memories, the people were less happy compared to those who focused on the task at hand, or the present, no matter what they were doing.
Going back to the correlation question, remember time goes forward so the assumption is that the unhappiness is brought about by mind wandering and not the other way around.
People’s minds wander half of the time, 47% think about something else while doing another task.
It does not matter what you are doing, the mind is disposed to wander.
It wanders when you shower, it wanders when you take a walk, it wanders when you listen to music, it wanders when you work, it wanders when you are reading, it wanders when you are in prayer, and it even wanders when you’re being intimate with your partner…your mind is wandering a LOT.
So if the mind wanders this much, what can you do to achieve the happiness and peace that you seek?
“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it.– RAMANA MAHARSHI
What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”
Mindfulness meditation helps us recognize the instances of happiness in our lives when we are open and present at the moment.
Staying in the present moment and concentrating on the task at hand brings us a sense of accomplishment and purpose when we achieve the goal (task).
Reach within yourself to find peace and happiness because relying on external factors to be happy will only lead to disappointment.
You cannot control circumstances, but you can choose how you respond to the changes in your situation.
Here are 5 habits to practice to achieve peace and happiness.
1. Focus on your breath.
Be mindful of your breath.
Feel your breath as you inhale and exhale.
Feel the air as it fills your lungs and chest.
Enjoy the sensation of the breath as it flows through your nose and out your mouth.
You are alive!
This is an exercise that you need not learn. You already know it.
Breathing is natural.
The only thing you need to pay attention to is to keep your breaths even and timed equally.
Breathe in and count, one, two, three, four, five seconds.
Breathe out and count, one, two, three, four, five seconds.
If you can only manage shorter than 5 counts, it’s all right.
Don’t force it.
As long as you can regulate your breaths–in and out–and be mindful of your controlled breaths, you are doing great.
2. Meditate on your breath.
Say what? What the heck does that mean?
As you breathe and establish a pattern of equal breaths begin to stay with your breath and notice the rhythm.
Staying with your breath will help keep your focus and attention.
This awareness will help you to cultivate mindfulness, which in turn further increases your concentration.
Sustained concentration helps you to stay in the moment and minimizes the distractions.
When you get distracted, just focus on your breath again.
As you continue focusing, your concentration becomes stronger and there will be ease that comes over you.
3. Understanding of the sensations in your body.
As your concentration deepens you’ll be more conscious of how your body feels and the sensations your body is experiencing at the moment.
You embrace the moment, the here and now, and recognize the sensations of being alive.
When you slow down and acknowledge the sensations your body feels, your senses become more receptive.
You revel in the scents in the air, notice the changes in the temperature and its effects on your skin, you take note of the sounds in your surroundings.
This awareness of your body, mind, and feelings grounds you in the present moment and brings you calm.
As you practice more, you’ll be able to recall and sustain this new level of calm better and better.
4. Free your body of tension.
Full recognition and awareness enable you to notice both good and bad sensations.
The body carries so much stress that it naturally just accepts and adapts.
These mindful exercises will start to bring peace to the mind and body as a whole.
Use the breathing techniques will empower you to be able to release some of the pain and discomfort in your body.
You’ll become more relaxed.
When you find yourselves in situations where you are not in control and can’t do anything, accept with non-attachment and you will find freedom with mindfulness.
Mindfulness isn’t always done in a set time and place where you have the luxury to contemplate and be still.
Real life often gets in the way.
When you can not sit and take a break, remember your breaths and focus on it.
You can focus on your breath while doing the dishes.
Understand the sensations in your body while shopping for groceries.
Just remember to use common sense, and don’t do this when it’s dangerous to do so.
5. Just be.
All this talk of steps to mindfulness make it seem larger, harder to accomplish, giving it a sense of foreboding.
If you find it tough to get to the state of mindfulness try this approach and remember to…just be.
Breathing is innate, you just do it.
The same applies to mindfulness. Just be, let it flow, let it be effortless.
Enjoy the sensations, the experiences, the emotions of just being.
Mindfulness doesn’t offer magic solutions or pills to your problems.
The magic happens when you allow life to move around you, enjoying the routine of living your daily life.
The miracle is discovering the aroma of your morning coffee or the wind in your face on your daily jog.
Happiness is in the moments of mindfulness and concentration, the miracle is in finding these moments in the mundane, daily life.
Simple Ways To Include Mindfulness In Daily Activities
Practice makes meditation easier. The more you practice, the more effortless doing it becomes.
Here are a few daily activities where you can apply mindfulness meditation:
Eating mindfully. Eating with awareness instead of just consuming food will let you enjoy the meal.
During the meal, tune out all distractions. Set your phone to silent and put it out of reach.
Focus on the dining experience.
Take a pause to look at your food.
Savor the tastes, the textures, and the scents of your food.
Enjoy every bite and chew carefully to relish the experience and be present in the moment.
Pro tip: Small bites and chewing carefully will help you not only be mindful of the eating experience but also help you be healthy and not overeat.
Do tasks one at a time. We live in busy times. The level of busyness is often measured by the number of tasks you are currently juggling: eating breakfast while driving and navigating an icy road all while talking on the phone.
Attending to tasks one at a time ensures that you finish the task without lapses and errors.
Multitasking contradicts the concept of getting work done at a faster rate. You may get work done but the work quality might suffer.
Do a task with full attention and awareness; mindful awareness of your task ensures efficiency– fewer mistakes–and most importantly, fulfillment at accomplishing a task instead of just getting it over with.
Mindful walking. Similar to being mindful of your breath–inhaling and exhaling with awareness, you are alive and present at the moment–put one foot forward and take a step.
Walking is natural and enjoyable. Aside from the mindful awareness you get, you also get physical exercise.
Your mind, as well as your body will feel more refreshed.
Take in your surroundings. Let yourself be aware of the sensation of standing and the ground under your feet.
Move one foot and then move the other.
Take slow, deliberate steps.
Pay attention to the route you are taking, the house or buildings that you pass, the greenery and the people you encounter.
Every step is an experience that grounds you in the present.
“Each step along the Buddha’s path to happiness requires practising mindfulness– HENEPOLA GUNARATANA
until it becomes part of your daily life.”
Mindful sessions with household chores. Household work is boring and repetitive. The tediousness puts off people from doing the tasks or rushing to finish it.
Think of your chores as a ritual.
The little act becomes more, keeping you in tune with your space, the moment, and seeing the world around you in a more harmonious light.
Vacuum the house to vacuum the house, not as a chore to tick off your to do list.
Feel the hum of the motor as you guide it through the floor and the hallways.
Take note of the clean swathe of the floor after each pass of the vacuum.
The combination of moving and awareness of the present grounds you in the here and now.
These are samples of daily activities that you can work mindfulness into. By adopting a mindful habit, you are learning to create moments of happiness. These moments not only impact you but others around you as well. Open yourself to mindfulness to recognize your own sources of peace and happiness.
The Greater Good staff. (n.d.) What is Mindfulness. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
Selva, J. (2017). What is Mindfulness? A Psychologist Explains. Retrieved from https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/what-is-mindfulness-definition/#home-message
Killingsworth, M. (2013). Does Mind-Wandering Make You Unhappy? Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/does_mind_wandering_make_you_unhappy