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How to Stop Struggling & Start Living July 9, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness.
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In The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living, Russ Harris offers proven tips and techniques based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to help you accept yourself, as you are, while working to: reduce stress and worry; handle painful feelings and thoughts more effectively; break self-defeating habits; and find true satisfaction in life.

ACT focuses on six core principles: Defusion; Acceptance; Contact with the Present Moment; The Observing Self; Values; and Committed Action. The first four principles are collectively known as “mindfulness skills” ~ a mental state of awareness, openness and focus, similar to that espoused by many Eastern religions and practices such as yoga, and meditation.

The author emphasizes that ACT is a scientifically based approach, with no religious or spiritual beliefs attached to it, that teaches mindfulness skills rapidly and effectively:

Mindfulness + Values + Action = Psychological Flexibility

Instead of prescribing ready-made values, like most religions, ACT asks you to clarify and connect with your own values and beliefs. ACT is about creating a life, not becoming enlightened. While ACT is not a religious, mystical, or spiritual path, there are many parallels: accepting what is offered; staying in the present moment; and acting on our core values.

Our brains were designed to protect us from danger, real and potential. As a result, our thoughts are constantly evaluating the scenery around us, and judging situations as good or bad. At the same time, we are struggling to fit in with the group, because our odds of survival in the past increased when we banded together.

In other words, our minds are pre-programmed to worry about things that, more often than not, never happen, and to seek approval and acceptance from others, rather than being true to ourselves.

Since it is difficult to control what we think and feel from moment to moment, it makes happiness an elusive commodity.  However, when we start to view our thoughts and feelings with detachment, we learn to peacefully co-exist with unwelcome thoughts and feelings.  We learn to fuse with helpful thoughts, and defuse unhelpful thoughts (such as self-limiting beliefs and harsh criticisms).

Thoughts are just words, which may or may not be true.  If we treat them as the absolute truth, and give them all our attention, we have fused with them.  If we see them as distorted, we can choose to disregard, or defuse them.

We don’t actively try to chase them away . . . we just observe them, and turn our attention to something else, until they disappear.

Once we realize that the words and images streaming through are brain are not real, we find that unpleasant feelings and sensations dissipate more quickly.

We are both a thinking self and an observing self. The thinking self plans, judges, compares, imagines, analyzes, thinks, and daydreams. The observing self is pure awareness. It observes what is happening, right here, right now. If your observing self pays attention to the running commentary of the thinking self, you lose direct contact with the moment.

Our thinking self is like a radio, or TV, playing constantly in the background, broadcasting “stories,” often filled with doom and gloom. While it is hard to turn it off, it is relatively easy to tune it out.

Mindfulness teaches us to tune in to the thinking self when it is broadcasting something helpful, and tune it out at other times.

Unlike positive thinking, which tries to drown out the doom and gloom station, mindfulness encourages us to let the radio play softly in the background, while we focus our attention on what we are doing.

When we practice mindfulness, we connect with the world directly, rather than being caught up in our thoughts, judgments, complaints, and criticisms.

We learn to accept things as they are. We are mindful of our thoughts and feelings, without getting attached to them.

We are fully aware of our here and now experiences, instead of being lost in thoughts broadcast by the thinking brain. It’s about waking up, noticing what’s happening, and appreciating what’s offered.

Through connection with the present moment, we can experience joy and find lasting happiness.

No rules. Just write!

What about you?  Have you ever used mindful awareness of your thoughts to help defuse them?

Do you T.H.I.N.K. ~ by asking whether your thoughts are True, Helpful, Informative, Necessary, and Kind? 

Related posts:  The Serenity Principle * Zen & The Art of Happiness * C.H.A.P. (Carl D’Agostino) * Attack of the Killer ANTs * Watch Your Thoughts

Pack Up Your Troubles July 9, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Meditation, Mindfulness, Nature.
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Stressed out?

Need a vacation?

Can’t afford to “get away from it all” right now?

No worries, mate!

Pack up your troubles in that old kit bag” and enjoy a stay~cation!

Worries, cares, and unruly emotions add to the daily stress in our lives.  We can give ourselves a much-needed break (without breaking the bank) by maintaining present moment awareness.

We may not be able to “get away,” but we can set our troubles aside for a time by reminding ourselves to let go of the past, stop worrying about the future, and focus on the here and now.

When we immerse ourselves in things we enjoy so much that the world stands still, we’ve given ourselves a relaxing and rejuvenating stay-cation.

A few techniques:

Creative visualization * Meditation * Playing the Piano * Listening to Music * Dancing (like no one’s watching) * Painting * Playing with a child * Laughing * Reading a good book * Taking a Nature Walk * Cooking a favorite meal * Focusing on  sights and sounds and aromas

Anything that absorbs us fully in the task at hand can give us a much needed break from thoughts which are not “advancing the ball.”

No rules.  Just write!

What about you?

When do you feel most “in the moment” (rather than lost in thought)?

Related Posts: The Zen of Cooking * Meditation 101 * Silence the Inner Critic * Find a HobbyCreative Visualization

Artwork by Marlane Wurzbach ~ available at Marlane Wurzbach.com.