How to get happy and stay that way
After spending the holidays learning from Buddhist monks along with hours of self-study and practice, here are a few happiness soundbites to ensure 2015 is your best yet…
On the first Saturday after Christmas I reluctantly dragged myself from bed, pulled on an array of mismatched layers and made my way to a day of Mindfulness and Meditation with Ajahn Amaro, an English Buddhist monk who promised to show me the way to a happier and stress-free life. As I arrived at the picturesque Kingly Court in Soho amidst a kingdom of fairy lights and sales shoppers I resisted the strong urge to turn around and raid Topshop, remembering how last year I’d been so stressed-out that I’d suffered from bouts of insomnia, nearly snapped my partner’s head off morning after morning and developed troubling tummy niggles. I really needed to take action and not buy another fake Burberry cape.
Ajahn Amaro sat regally cross-legged in his burnt orange robes dressed with a smile from ear-to-ear was quick to humbly state that while the day wouldn’t change our lives the practices that he teaches, when done with love and patience, most definitely can. “The more mindful you are, the less you will suffer”… and so it began.
So, what exactly is this buzzword mindfulness all about? It’s simple really, the more connected you are to the present moment, the less time spent remembering or worrying about the past (I really shouldn’t have eaten that muffin this morning), planning the future (I need to clean the bathroom, look on ASOS and wash my hair when I get home) and creating imaginary dream-like scenarios in your mind (and we fell madly in love, got married in Bali and had four beautiful children) the more you will be able to enjoy life as it is actually happening with less stress and friction. You could compare it to driving a car; if you have your eyes open and are paying attention then you are less likely to crash (or have a nervous breakdown).
As the day progressed I realised that the beauty of living mindfully is its absolute simplicity. Living Mindfully it’s something you can start right now, wherever you are, whoever you are with, whatever age, whatever religion, whatever your health - it can work for you and here are my five favourite Buddhist sound bites to help get you on your way to a more mindful, less stressed and happy 2015.
1. Healthy body, healthy mind. Your body and mind are connected and a healthy mind has no chance of surviving within a toxic body. While Buddhism does not buy into the gym-culture and I highly doubt Ajahn Amaro will be seen pumping weights any time soon it simply suggests that you make friends with your body, treat it kindly and keep it healthy with a good diet, daily stretching and walking.
2. Stop. Pause. Replay. If you have a negative thought, for example “Oh, my day has been completely ruined”, stop, pause and then replay the thought to yourself until eventually you realise how ridiculous the thought was and it falls apart all by itself.
3. Do I have to make a problem out of this? Ask yourself this question and the answer is probably always- no.
4. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean it’s true. While your mind might like to trick you into thinking that your colleagues are talking about you, your boyfriend is flirting with his secretary, they are just your thoughts and not reality, let them go.
5. It’s OK to be imperfect. Nobody is perfect so stop beating yourself up for your so-called mistakes or regrets. Life is a journey and we absolutely need to make mistakes to grow.
With all these pearls of wisdom safely tucked in my pocket I headed out onto the snowy streets of London with a feeling that 2015 was going to be a happy one (and just for your information, no, I didn’t go to Topshop.)