How To Be Happy

If you were to sum up the principles of mindfulness in a few key words, they would be:

Be present Feel good  Get more work done Reject distractions Be patient Make the right decisions

The first of these is a simple practice in mindfulness and meditation. The second can be found in any of the many books about  mindfulness , and is simply the key component in the holistic approach to happiness.

The concept of a habit is well documented by psychologists like Stephen Porges and Martin Seligman in their book, ‘The Power of Habit. ‘ The idea is that any behavior we perform regularly does not become habitual until we do so a certain amount of time and on a certain set of circumstances . The idea is that as we practice our new behavior, it becomes automatic. I like to think of it as like driving a car — you can practice, but then with the same car, the same driver and same set of circumstances, you won’t get good results if you practice the same driving tactics every time.  That is the kind of repetition and consistency required for us to become a consistent driver on the road. The good news is that we can become this kind of predictable driver. I like to think of an important part of mindfulness as being in the “preparation room,” where we sit, relax, and try to find the right combination of relaxation technique and relaxation mindset. There is no need for an “activation room” — as we may have learned in psychology class, we can find this state by simply being there.

The key is to be relaxed but conscious, mindful but concentrated. Be present but aware; focus without distraction.

The purpose here is to create the state of mind where we can find comfort in our habitual mental state of being.  The state of “being present” is like meditation. The more we are in the present, the more relaxed we become — the less we need to fight it. The less we worry, the less we get stressed. We can even use this technique for stress relief! To put it in more practical terms, this means that as we try to perform a task that we’ve become accustomed to, when we feel tense or upset, we can sit, quiet our mind, or let the thoughts or stress flow past our minds to a place where we can simply be there. Once we have found that place, and let go of the tension, we then start the task with that same relaxed state of mind.

That is the basic method. Each time you start trying to focus on one thing, you have to start over at the beginning and try different techniques. At first you might notice yourself getting more and more frustrated with that one thing you’ve been avoiding because you were worried about it being hard enough or you were afraid that what you were doing would not help.  In time you will find some techniques that work well for you and that will help you manage.

I’ve found I’m most comfortable while doing this in a quiet, private place, and I prefer to sit quietly on the floor in some sort of recliner or armchair. You can sit on a sofa, but it seems like it is only the most comfortable place to sit and I feel like you are kind of doing something when you are in a comfortable reclining chair but you don’t really accomplish anything. When you are ready to focus on a technique, make sure your chair is very comfortable. You don’t need to be perfectly comfortable (I have a very weird back), but a good reclinable chair that you can sit in for up to 45 minutes is a must. I personally sit on a cushion with a cushion and some sort of upholstery underneath it — there is a little bit of fabric under the cushion. I find that this helps a lot with my mobility so I can sit without my legs and arms hurting just from sitting in the chair.  This also eliminates any need I have to lift my legs or arms up or down so I can reach the cushion below me. Your chair should feel comfortable to use and comfortable in your hands if you have those, but if not, you can buy a good recliner or desk chair for about $150 and find that comfortable. A reclining chair and armchair with a nice big cushion are also a great investment for those who do a lot of reading or writing.  The only way for me to get into a recliner is if it comes free with someone’s gift card — but I always feel better if I get a nice chair with a good cushion.

As I am writing this article I am writing in my personal recliner, but I will mention here that I recently moved into a better recliner that was specially made for my needs.