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A Happy Mind for 2015 by Chris James

How do we achieve a happy mind for 2015?

We can spend years listening to others tell us what's best for us, only to find that when we get our dream home, perfect body, bonus check, we still feel as if something is missing. Finding your purpose and passion in life isn't an overnight thing. But dedicating yourself to happiness, to practicing the art of happiness is a choice.

When you commit to it, your entire life will transform. Have you ever stopped focusing on how your life looks, and instead focus on how it feels? Life, relationships and your career are full of ebbs and flows. And many of us are so busy trying to reach a goal, or get to some destination, that we forget to pause and enjoy the moments of excitement and awe along the way. In my 30 something and a bit years, I have had the good fortune, (oftentimes coupled with dogged determination) to follow my heart.

I haven’t always been in the right place at the right time, but I would like to share with you the following practices that have helped me to become one of the happiest people that I know:

Turn off the noise It's important to turn off the noise because all minds need a break! Learn to schedule time into your busy diary to switch off – you can literally call it switch-off time. Turn off the TV, your smart phone and go back to basics. Light some candles, take a hot bath, bake chocolate brownies, read a new book, write things down. Create space and a time in your day to simply stop.

Morning practice Each day I wake up with the gift of a clean slate and a chance to start fresh. How I begin my day has a huge impact on my mental and physical wellbeing, which goes to show that even the simplest habits can accumulate into huge health benefits over time. So, every day I start by reflecting on something positive that happened to me the day before. I am “grateful” to the experience. I take the positives and move forward. Being grateful creates powerful and positive emotions. My state of mind is immediately enhanced, and I encourage positivity into my new day.

Learn to train your mind (otherwise your mind will control you) January can be a month of glorious introspection, and as such an ideal opportunity to learn how to start training the mind. Here’s how: You can designate just 2 minutes in the first week, graduate to 3, then 5 etc. Find a comfortable place to sit, in a chair or on the floor: Allow the natural breath to settle. Bring your attention to the navel. Observe the gentle expansion of the breath on the inhalation, observe the contraction of the breath back towards the spine on the exhalation. Continue to observe the breath without forcing it at all. When the mind wonders, as it inevitably will, bring the mind back to the breath. Meditation occurs when the space in between your thoughts increases.

Set your intentions When you have experimented with meditation and would like to develop it further, you can try setting intentions. Intentions are the fuel to manifesting your goals and visions. Intention help to create more clarity in your life, especially when the seed is planted right before you start your meditation. An intention cannot be forced. It's a seed that you have to sow: Here are 4 clear intentions to consider:
  • I intend to be open to success and abundance
  • I intend to forgive others, and myself
  • I intend to make someone smile every day
  • I intend to make meditation a more important part of my lifestyle
Remember to keep the intention positive, uplifting, and always in the present tense. Make sure your intention can evolve, like a seed. If you stick with the same intention week after week, your mind will stop responding to it. The best way to resolve this is to make sure your intention or goal can easily be adjusted.

If your intention on your first day is to “invite success and abundance in to your life”, after a few days you may change that intention to, "My intention is to enjoy the success and abundance I create in myself." Try not to dramatically alter your intentions or goals too frequently. The goal is to polish and refine. Aim your intention for the short term. You can still think of the big picture — just divide your long-term intention into few shorter ones instead.

This will help you achieve a grandiose goal in shorter, more powerful segments. Once your intention is set, be sure to use it in your meditation. Start your meditation with a few deep breaths and observe the stillness within. Afterward, bring your awareness to your heart and set your intention. Stick to the same intention for a few days before moving on to the next one.

Keep talking to your body

A very important component of living a happy life is the nurturing and taking care of the physical body. Just as thoughts can affect us physically, the reverse is also true. For example, if you had a bad night’s rest, you might be tired and irritable. Without regular exercise and fresh air, your energy levels can drop and general motivation fade.  So, practice an intelligent form of movement such as Yoga or Pilates, three times a week at least. Both Yoga and Pilates are transformational, focused methods of movement that facilitate positive change in the body and mind.

Practice the art of‘Savouring We eat while we are watching television, while we are working and sitting in front of the computer screen, while we are on the move.  It’s a sad state of affairs; we have become mindless eaters. In 2015, resolve to practice the art of savouring. Just try it once. The next time you have your lunch, stop and give some space to the activity. Pay close attention. The closer the attention, the more you’ll get out of your savouring. Savouring food is just the start: you can savour anything, and you should; it’s wonderful, and it changes everything.

Focus on your achievements Avoid the mistake of only focussing on what’s missing in your life, and focus on the good things. “To lift your morale and gain perspective, make a list of everything that is already great with your life” Although self-improvement is important, going overboard can backfire. To lift your morale and gain perspective, make a list of everything that is already great with your life, and take stock of all that you feel grateful for right now. Avoid the mistake of only focusing on what’s missing in your life. Instead, focus on the changes you want to bring about from a balanced and optimistic perspective. Remember to be realistic! And, balance your drive for change with an appreciation of the here-and-now and your sense of disillusionment will go.

Choose your words mindfully

Our words affects every action and thought we have, either positively or negatively. As our words can affect people around us, the same is true for their effect on ourselves. Positive statements can create a positive mood and therefore a positive outcome. Choose your words wisely. The universe and your subconscious are listening, and it will respond accordingly.

Love your imperfections. This is where the heart lives. In today's society, we are constantly fed information telling us we’re not good enough as we are. In the media, we’re fed photoshopped fairy tales. It has become clear throughout the quest to overcome my neck injury that I sustained in 2000, no matter how hard or often I practice, I am just not going to be able to bend my spine into certain positions that I used to pre-accident. The miracle of this realisation is the recognition that my heart lives in this imperfect body. Embracing my body has helped me to learn how much pushing and striving is not only valuable, but also highly destructive. Dwelling in my imperfect body has made me a more understanding teacher.

Forgive others, including yourself The biggest shift for me came when I stopped looking at past mistakes as mistakes. Instead, I realised how much I'd learned and grown from each blunder. I forgave myself, and realised all is in perfect order. Likewise, when you’ve crossed happily into adulthood, understand that your parents just did their best for you, with what they knew. You will feel closer to them and accept them as they are. At the end of it all, love matters most.

Love your Sleep Probably the most underrated of any of the points listed here. Lack of sleep is a modern malaise. Make sure that you are getting enough sleep! Stick with a routine and control your body’s sleep rhythm - try to get into a daily routine to establish a sleep pattern. “Going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning. The body becomes used to rhythms or routines. If you keep to a pattern, you are more likely to sleep well. Or practice some Pranayama that will engage with your Rest and Relaxation response.

Big Love Chris James

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