Mindfulness: A path to happiness

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” -- Jon Kabat-Zinn*

This is one of my favorite definitions of mindfulness, as it sums up all of the important parts on how to practice mindfulness effectively:

1) Purposefully. Be intentional in your practice of mindfulness. By doing so, you can learn to control your own mind rather than it controlling you. You are then able to live out your life by experiencing each moment fully.

2) One-mindfully. Be aware of the present moment. Don’t get trapped in the past or the future. Mindfulness allows you to experience your life as it is happening, rather than what it was or what it might be.

3) Non-judgmentally. Keep to facts; don’t interpret or label thoughts or feelings. Interpretations and labels include statements with “should/shouldn’t,” “good/bad,” or “worthless/worthwhile” in them. Remember, a thought is just a thought; for example, thinking “I feel unloved” does not mean, “I am unloved.”

So, how does practicing mindfulness lead to happiness?

Well, if you’re caught up on thoughts of the past or future, how can you be aware of all the good things that are happening now? Paradoxically, when you’re mindful, you’re not trying to feel better or solve your problems and, as a result, you begin to feel happier. In other words, you’re not missing out on the present and the very things that can make life pleasurable and worth living.

Next up: Two simple mindfulness exercises that I love. Let these exercises lead you on your path to happiness.

*Jon Kabat-Zinn is one of the most recognized teachers of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. He teaches mindfulness meditation as a technique to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness.