The key to happiness is “At the moment”.
To be “at the moment”, you need to control your thoughts and your emotions
Meditation is the first step to becoming more in control of your mind, your emotions and the way you choose to feel, think and act. Once you learn to use meditation, you’ll create a ‘safe place that you can escape to any time you choose. This will allow you to become completely relaxed and to ‘detach’ yourself from the petty concerns that you might have and all those not so petty ones. Because at the end of the day, constantly thinking about your debt or about your relationship problems isn’t going to help. It’s certainly not going to help on the bus on the way into work in the mornings. So if you can learn to tap into a calm and relaxed state, you can give your mind and body the rest they need in order to attack the day ahead with the most energy and the most vigour.
Studies show us that meditation can help us to enter ‘the flow state in our brain, where many of our brainwaves will start to slow down, showing reduced activity. This is very good for us and can help to lower blood pressure, improve mood and generally help us to become calmer, happier and more focus. Instead of worrying and stressing, we are simply ‘existing’.
At the same time though, meditation is also useful for other reasons. That’s because it’s training. What you’re effectively doing is training your brain to learn how to focus and you’re training yourself to learn how to direct your attention the way you want to. Now you’re teaching yourself to avoid the temptation to think about certain things and to decide where and what you want to send your focus.
This actually creates more neural connections in the brain and it leads you to become smarter, improving your memory, your IQ and your attention. But at the same time, this also teaches us that we are not slaves to our emotions or to our thought processes. Rather, we can control them at will in order to ensure that we’re always in the most productive and useful mental state for the given scenario.
And that’s when we’re going to introduce our second skill and our second technique: CBT.
CBT is ‘cognitive behavioural therapy and is basically a psychotherapeutic technique. That means that it’s a toolset used by psychologists to help us overcome various different types of mental health problems, anxieties etc. Ultimately, this works by teaching us to change our thought processes and to take control of them and it shows us how to detach ourselves from unhelpful ruminations.
Using CBT, you can decide that you’re not going to think ‘what if I fall’ anymore and that instead, you’re going to think ‘I’m perfectly safe and secure’. And likewise, this can be applied to any other area of your life. Instead of thinking ‘there’s so much I need to be stressed about right now, you can instead think ‘I’m going to take this one step at a time’ or ‘I love a challenge. You haven’t changed your situation but you’ve changed your response to the situation. Suddenly, life has more meaning, more colour and more excitement.
THAT is how you become happy.
Two Types of Meditation to Get Started With
To begin with then and to set you off on the right path, allow me to introduce you to two types of meditation you can start using to be happier, more relaxed and less stressed.
The idea behind transcendental meditation is simply to focus your mind and to remove all thoughts. This is perhaps one of the most widely known and recognized forms of meditation and is a great place to start as a result. The idea is that you’re going to make that ‘inner voice’ completely quiet. You’re trying to lose all those nagging doubts and concerns and instead just allow your brain to enjoy a little piece of quiet. This is immediately beneficial but in the longer run, it will also train you to improve your focus. Not thinking is actually very hard and can require a lot of willpower! So how do we start practising this form of meditation?
To start with, you want to sit somewhere quiet with your eyes closed. A lot of people will sit with their legs crossed and the idea here is to prevent you from falling asleep!
The next thing you can try doing is just focusing on something that will allow you to hush those thoughts. Simply ‘not thinking’ is very hard but conversely, if you can listen to a certain sound or focus on a certain point then you may find that it’s easier to keep your head empty.
For this reason, a lot of people will try using ‘mantras’. Mantras are phrases that you can repeat over and over again or single words. By focusing on that word, you can remove other thoughts.
Another option is to focus on the sound of your breathing.
Now what’s very important here is that you don’t be too strict on yourself. A lot of people will find themselves thinking things like:
“I haven’t thought for a long time… darn, that was a thought! Now I am thinking about thinking! Don’t think!”
This can be very frustrating and it leads many people to end up giving up. As it happens, it also happens to be completely unhelpful as far as the process goes. Don’t hope for miracles in the first few weeks or even years. In fact, don’t hope for any kind of ‘sensation’ or ‘goal’. Just practice being quiet and taking control of your thoughts!
Another kind of meditation that you might be interested to try is ‘mindfulness’. And mindfulness meditation is particularly useful because it plays a big role when it comes to CBT and will be very useful for changing your thought patterns. Whereas the idea with transcendental meditation was to make your thoughts completely disappear, here that is not the aim at all.
In this case, the aim is rather to invite those thoughts and allow them to pass by. The difference is that you’re not going to be focusing on those thoughts or engaging with them emotionally. Instead, you’re simply going to let your thoughts ‘appear’ and then ‘drift by’. You’re not letting the thoughts dictate to you how you should feel, instead, you’re just noticing them and remaining completely detached.
That’s where the ‘CBT’ part of all this comes in. But for now, just watch your thoughts drift by like clouds and don’t let them affect you.
Introducing Meditation to Your Routine
So now you know a bit of the basic when it comes to meditating, how are you going to introduce that to your routine and actually start getting some of the benefits?
One good way to start is by meditating for just 10 minutes each morning. This is a great strategy because you’re not creating too much of a challenge for yourself and you’re not setting your expectations too high. 10 minutes is a short amount of time that almost anyone should be able to fit into their routine and this means you’re more likely to be successful in introducing it than if you start trying to meditate for an hour every day.
At the same time, be easy on yourself in terms of expectations. Start by just sitting quietly and don’t worry if that’s all you ever manage – even just a bit of ‘quiet time’ is incredibly good for you.
Eventually, once you start to get good, you can try introducing ‘moving meditation’ into your daily activities. This might mean taking ten minutes of calm when you’re on the bus, or even going for a walk while experiencing the world around you.
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