For many moments of our waking lives we are being told by social media, advertising executives etc. what we lack, and how if we just buy X or Y we will be happier, more content, more accepted by our peers. We are susceptible to this as our brains are programmed to seek out what’s missing, it was an integral part of securing our survival as we evolved.
When we practice gratitude it shifts the mind from ‘not enough’ to ‘enough’, which brings a sense of peace and calm to our lives. As it’s not the default position, we need to train our minds to be grateful—we need to practice it consciously each day. As we do so, like any muscle we train, it will begin to be stronger, and you will start to see the good things in your life more and more easily.
Here's a super simple practice to help cultivate gratitude:
Each night this week, jot down three things you are grateful for in your day. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are, pick anything that made you smile, or feel good inside.
"I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness - it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude." - Brene Brown
Non-striving means being fully present with this moment without needing to change it. This might seem counterintuitive as you may have begun to practice mindfulness as a means to get relief from depression, or anxiety, or pain. However, as we saw with the attitude of acceptance, letting go of the struggle against discomfort frees us energy, and opens up space for new possibilities to arise.
Non-striving takes us out of the habitual ‘doing’ mode and puts us into the more receptive and healing ‘being’ mode. This means we can let go of the constant pressure to be responsible for every moment, and allow life to just show up, whatever form that might take.
“For example, if you sit down to meditate and you think, “I am going to get relaxed, or get enlightened, or control my pain, or become a better person,” then you have introduced an idea into your mind of where you should be, and along with it comes the notion that you are not okay right now. “If only I were calmer, or more intelligent, or a harder worker, or more this or more that, if only my heart were healthier or my knee were better, then I would be okay. But right now, I am not okay.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
The world is moving faster than ever, and with next-day delivery, instant messaging, express service etc, we rarely get an opportunity to practice patience. Even when we do have to wait for something, we can use the time to play on our phones, plan tomorrow's dinner, or worry about that thing we said to our best friend last weekend.
Many of us have gotten out of the habit of being here right now in this moment, and when we consider that life is made up of moments, we have to wonder, how much of life do we miss?
Making the effort to cultivate patience will increase your sense of peace with the natural flow of time, and with your inner experience. The more you can be with your inner experience without having to distract or run from it, the more resilient you will become.
Here's an exercise to help practice patience:
• Pay attention today for times when you are waiting, or have nothing to do.
• Notice if you have an urge to fill the time by reaching for your phone, or some other way of distracting from the now.
• Resist the urge for at least the next minute and:
• Observe what sensations arise in the body.
• Observe what thoughts arise in the mind.
• If thoughts or sensations become uncomfortable, bring the attention to the breath, counting the breaths in and out of the body.
• Return to your observations when you can.
"Patience is a form of wisdom. It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
We trust the natural wisdom of the body, we trust the breath to come and go of it's own accord. We trust the organs to take care of the metabolism and functions of the body without us having to get involved, but do we trust ourselves?
Learning to bring trust to ourselves teaches us to be confident in ourselves, and that we can cope with challenges that come our way. We may have gotten in the habit of looking outside ourselves to our family, society, or friends for reassurance that we are doing ok, which in itself is not a bad thing. But if we forget how to check in with our own self, then we can get be confused by other people's ideas of what is right for us.
Learning to hear and follow your own intuition is an essential skill for your own peace of mind, and will help you know when you are on the right track.
Here is a short exercise to help you practice tuning in to your own intuition:
"Developing a basic trust in yourself and your feelings is an integral part of meditation training. It is far better to trust in your intuition and your own authority, even if you make some "mistakes" along the way, than always to look outside yourself for guidance." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing proven tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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