I came across the results of a very well known study published in the highly respected journal “Science Magazine.” In this post I will share the findings of this study on mindfulness or “being in the present moment” & how you can begin to maximize your happiness based on this practice.
“Being in the Present Moment,” is not new. It is an ancient teaching found across cultures. More than a teaching, it’s essentially a basic building block for anyone on a journey of spiritual enlightenment or self mastery. I’ve shared this before but I have to restate, there is an interesting courtship happening between the fields of science and spirituality that, when approached with an open mind reveals that there are more similarities than not.
I’d like you to consider this - how does science obtain its ‘evidence’? It happens through trial & error, study, application of principles, and experimentation over time. This process is not reserved for only those in labs or white coats. YOU can be your own scientist, in fact, you NEED to be. It is through your own experimentation of what works or doesn't work for you through your own experience that will make it real. I say this because I believe it is of utmost importance that you do not rely solely on scientific publications to provide you with the ‘truth’ nor should you rely on a spiritual guide or guru. This is a time of sovereignty, of being self responsible, of being spiritually mature. That means, taking what you hear or learn, discerning whether you want to test that ‘truth’ and then deciding if it is something that lands true for you through your own experience. You can check out my previous post on truth here.
So how does ‘being in the present moment’ affect your happiness? The 2010 study by Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert found that a person's ability to be in the present moment was a strong predictor of their level of happiness. The article states, “people were less happy when their minds were wandering than when they were not.” This is a pretty straight forward statement but to add some context this is in mind wandering from any activity such as taking a shower, drawing up proposals at work, or in conversation with someone. The study found that people reported being less happy (when their mind wandered) regardless of whether or not they were engaged in an activity they found pleasant. The data also showed that people reported feeling less happy even if their mind had wandered to more pleasant thoughts.
Now, I don't want you to beat yourself up about this or freak out about your mind wandering because we ALL do it. Literally. Everyone’s mind wanders. And there is good news. Mindfulness or “being in the present moment” is a skill that anyone can learn.
Here are a couple of ways you can begin developing this skill of being in the present moment:
Eliminate (or at the very least reduce) distractions while you’re eating
Keep the phone in the other room
Save the reading for another time
Don’t eat with the TV on
Be fully present with your meal
Notice the flavors of the different spices
Notice the texture
Are the flavors complex? Etc
Take several breaks throughout the day to just focus on your breath
Pro Tip: Schedule the breaks and set an alarm. This will greatly increase the probability of you actually doing it.
A great conscious breathing practice is ‘Box Breathing’ where you inhale for a count of 4, hold the breath for a count of 4, and exhale for a count of 4.
Bonus: This also teaches you to regulate your nervous system
You can download my guide to regulating your nervous system here!
I know, this doesn’t sound ‘sexy’ and it definitely sounds ‘new age’ but remember, mindfulness was seen as ‘new age fluff’ until low and behold - they found out it’s not, but I digress
Don’t over complicate this and go with a simple meditation practice to start
You can start with 1-3 minutes of meditation that involves slow conscious breathing and focusing on one thing, like visualizing a color or a shape in your minds eye
There is another indicator the study revealed and I’ll be sharing that in another post! For now, take in what’s been shared here and start exploring how you can begin to be more mindful in your own life.
Until the next time, “be here now”