“Happiness doesn’t come from tomorrow, it comes from today. Your life is what’s happening right now.” – Stephen M. Pollan
Living in the present is Mindfulness. More precisely, it is living in the moment while non-judgmentally observing the events around you unfold. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center – a program that is offered in more than 700 centers around the world – explains it in these simple words: “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
The Power of Mindfulness
Throughout the existence of humans since thousands of years, people have used mindfulness practices—techniques to build awareness into the present moment with a calm acceptance—to deal with the stressful facets of life.
“This is the beauty of mindfulness. It’s not about ﬁxing what’s broken. It’s about discovering that nothing is broken. That we’re not broken.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness activates the brain region (dorsal medial prefrontal cortex, right anterior insula, anterior cingulate cortex) associated with more adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations (Cahn & Polich, 2006; Davidson et al., 2003). Activation of this region corresponds with faster recovery to baseline after being negatively provoked (Davidson, 2000; Davidson, Jackson, & Kalin, 2000). Mindfulness, in effect, reduces your focus on the past and future, and this shift of focus leads to less negative emotions. It, therefore, helps you get back to your peaceful self much faster than otherwise.
Recently, researchers at Oxford University found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) halted as many people from going back into depression as antidepressants. The study, called PREVENT, followed 492 severely depressed adults over a period of two years, half of whom received mindfulness training, and the other half stayed on anti-depressant drugs. It found that 44% of people practicing mindfulness meditation slipped back into major depression as compared to 47% of people on medications. (PREVENT: a randomized controlled trial, by Willem Kuyken and others, The Lancet, Apr 2015).
You are not Your Thoughts
You are not your thoughts. Mindfulness creates a distance between you and your thoughts, so that you are more in contact with the real world, rather than living it through your prejudiced thoughts. You, in essence become less judgmental.
1. The present is not just a moment in time. Instead, it is an experience – of living. Live today in fullness.
2. See the wonder in today. We fail to see the wonders of today, as we busily plan about a fulfilling future life.
3. Even if you’re sure that the tomorrow will take away all your troubles, let yourself be a little happier today.
So, start living in the now. Because, tomorrow might be too late.
Technique Capsule – Sit in silence. And be aware of whatever is moving through your mind – thoughts and feelings, dreams and plans, images and memories – all coming and going. Let them be; don’t get caught up in them, don’t struggle with them, don’t get fascinated by them. Project a sense of acceptance toward whatever passes through the open skies of your awareness.
Further Reading – The Practicing Happiness Workbook: How Mindfulness Can Free You from the Four Psychological Traps that Keep You Stressed, Anxious, and Depressed, by Ruth Baer, 2014.
About the author: Sandip Roy is the Founder of ‘Happiness India Project’ (http://happyproject.in/). Positive Psychology Writer. Blogger, Speaker, Seeker, Dreamer. Also, a GP.