Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions--page 10by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Watching birds at a bird feeder is a simple, yet mindful activity. Mindfulness is something that is available to us at all times. We don't need any special equipment. We don't need to make the time. We simply need to be aware of the moment.
As simple as mindfulness is, it may be difficult initially when you are not used to doing it. However, there are times when mindfulness is more natural and it may be easier for a person to begin mindfulness practice by seeking out those natural times.
For many people those natural moments of mindfulness occur with nature. Watching birds or other animals as they fly or play, noticing the colors of nature such as the contrast of the sky and the trees, watching a sunset, listening to the ocean waves or rain drops on a metal roof can all be moments of mindfulness.
Some people are more mindfully aware when they are exercising or when they are focused on a complicated task. Whatever the situation may be for you, allow yourself to seek out those natural moments of mindfulness. Or to be aware of when they occur and to allow yourself to fully experience them.
Our feelings can often be modified through physical means. Simply the way that you stand can increase your sense of confidence and well-being. Try a simple experiment right now. Stand up, lift your chin, put your shoulders back, breathe deeply, look forward. Do you notice how you feel differently emotionally? Do you feel more confident? If you do, this suggestion can be particularly effective for you.
Whether you are alone or in public, focus on standing or walking with this physical attitude. If you access this attitude frequently, it will become more natural for you and you will begin to feel more confident. It is difficult to feel negative emotions at the same time we feel positive emotions so this exercise is a physical method that can help you change your emotional state.
A method to help improve self-esteem, self-confidence or motivation is to talk to yourself in front of a mirror. If you are like many people, you already talk to yourself in front of a mirror. How many times when you look at yourself in a mirror do you make a comment about yourself (even if it is a thought)?
The problem with many of these comments is that they are negative for many people. The idea of mirror talk is to help you change how you talk to yourself. The power of mirror talk is that you are using several different parts of the brain. For example, if you are trying to motivate yourself with a "You can do this!" you not only are hearing the thought internally but you hear it out loud and you see another person (yourself) saying it to you. The more parts of the brain we use to reinforce a thought, the stronger the thought becomes. This is also why it is a really bad idea to say negative things to yourself in front of a mirror.
If you tend to do that but have trouble changing it by saying something positive, if nothing else just try to refrain from saying anything to yourself so that you don't reinforce the negative.
Another health behavior that can be an obstacle to happiness is what you eat. Eating nutritiously affects overall well-being and long-term quality of life. Eating nutritious foods nourish the brain and help to create more positive moods.
If this is an obstacle for you, initially you may want to focus on small thingsthat can help make a difference. For instance, if you tend to eat unhealthy snacks, try making sure you have healthier snack choices available.
Or, if you tend to go long periods without eating because you are too busy, you are more likely to make the wrong choices because you become too hungry. So having a healthy snack available may prevent you from getting to that state.
Your body functions best when you eat nutritiously and is able to combat the effects of stress more effectively. Make a commitment to taking small steps in the right direction.
Smiling activates areas of the brain that counter-acts negativity and elevates mood. Smiling stimulates a different part of the brain which releases uplifting chemicals. When we smile memories of pleasant events can be more easily elicited. Sometimes these memories can even be a physical sensation of well-being. Smiling will trigger these different connections and pathways in the brain making them more easily accessible.
As mentioned previously, our visual, auditory, and even tactile or sensation memories are interconnected in the brain through pathways of nerve cells. For instance, with stress, a pathway related to negative events and negative emotions becomes over-activated and reinforced through the ongoing focus on these thoughts, memories, and sensations. As a result, the pathway becomes associated with other things to the point that innocent events can become connected to the negative emotions. For instance, if you tend to dwell on how bad you feel while you are taking a shower, taking a shower can become a trigger for the negative thoughts about feeling bad. Therefore, even on a day when you might not feel particularly bad the shower can trigger some of those associated feelings.
However, the same is true of other behaviors. Smiling, for instance, is most often associated with positive events and feelings. Therefore, when you smile, even if it is deliberate, those positive associations are closer to the surface of your memory and more easily elicited. The more you smile, even privately, the more you are likely to experience those positive memories and feelings. READ MORE: page 11
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Dr. Monica Frank