I won’t waste your time trying to define happiness or tell you what it means. From a very tender age, we all learn what being happy feels like without being taught. Tolani has asked me to share tips on the things I do that keep me happy, I think it’s important that she’s doing this. In my opinion – a lot of people expect happiness to happen, but I’ve learned that we must work for that happiness and it takes effort- more for some than others. A key theme in my pursuit of happiness is mindfulness, so I’m going to share some tips on being mindful of our effort. (What I’ll be sharing is in summary form as a supplement to, and NOT a substitute for the knowledge, skill, and judgment of qualified psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians and health care professionals. Should you have any health, medical or disability questions or concerns, please consult a physician or other health care professional).
There are many definitions of “mindfulness”, but a simple way to explain it is that it is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Growing up Muslim, I learned about mindfulness in worship for spiritual reasons. Since then, I’ve learned more about it and over the last few years, I have started to apply it to other aspects of my life. There are many uses to it and I’ll share some ways I have applied it as I go.
The primary things I’m mindful of are my thoughts. You see, I’m what you might call an overthinker. Sometimes, I’m thinking about things that concern me and other times, they are completely none of my business, but my mind still wanders (lol). I have no control on how far or wide my mind might go from one thought till I have different scenarios in my head about something which always include the best and worst of them. The first thing I try to do is not judge myself for my thinking: I accept it and use it. For instance, while thinking about something I’m looking to do, I see all the ways it could possible fail and at the same time, I see many ways it can go right as well. I get stressed and feel anxious when I think about these bad outcomes and it can be quite exhausting, especially as I can’t turn it off. So, I focus on the good outcomes and put the energy I’ve saved from worrying excessively into working towards the outcome I want. Mindfulness also helps to deal with the outcomes, whether good or bad.
I mentioned earlier that my mind wanders away a lot so one of the things I’ve had to work on is remaining in the present instead of doing things on autopilot. There’s a lot of repetitive tasks that make up just the first few hours of my day – waking up, taking a shower, cooking, cleaning, eating, etc. These are some of the things I did without being mindful. I have learned to be intentional and see many of these things as acts of service to myself and I started to take some pleasure from doing them for myself. There is a purpose for which these tasks are done, I believe in the purpose, the need for it, and take pleasure from the task because I know I intended to serve myself and the outcome will be rewarding. I try applying this to as any tasks as I can in my day even something as small as putting lotion on my whole body after shower (one of my favorite parts of the day, lol).
I’m also working on my discipline with mindfulness. I have some habits I would like to stop or reduce the frequency of and others I would like to pick up. All our habits of thinking and acting are stored in our subconscious mind. It has memorized all our comfort zones and it works to keep us in them. Being mindful makes it possible to leave that comfort zone and make changes. I used to find myself in a lot of arguments about issues I’m passionate about and would feel exhausted after. Now, I ask what the purpose is and if there is need is to engage someone with a contrary opinion before I get into it. All of this has helped me reduce how often I’m in arguments significantly. I have done the same for habits I’m trying to pick up and have positive results as well.
Some other things I try to be mindful of are my relationship with friends and family and the work I need to do to make it healthy, caring for myself, seeking adventure amongst other things. I know at this point you might be wondering if I do anything fun to be happy and the answer is yes. I enjoy a wide range of things, from intense adrenaline pumping activities to just sitting outside to watching local football. I try to make time for the big ones and do as much of the little ones whenever I can without becoming (too) lazy in the name of self-care. These are things like food, TV, sleep, and spending time with my friends. Being extroverted is one of my biggest strengths, I enjoy people’s company and enjoy the feeling of love and friendship – thankfully, I’ve been blessed with amazing people as my friends and loved ones. I even get to do some of my favorite things with them.
Learning to be mindful has helped me a lot and I recommend everyone else try practicing it. Applying mindfulness to many aspects of our lives can help us be better and find happiness in things we might have ignored or not paid attention to. The big events that bring huge levels of excitement may not come every day, but you can find happiness in the small things that occur frequently: thank people for small things, smile at a stranger, appreciate yourself for small things, live in the moment and appreciate little things, make effort in your friendships and relationships. Doing this is easier said than done but starting is the biggest step there is to take. I hope that you find mindfulness to be useful for you as it has been for me and I wish you all the happiness in the world.