8 ways to be more mindful and happy, according to psychology

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There’s a clear distinction between merely existing in the world and truly living in it.

This difference lies in mindfulness. Simply put, mindfulness is about being present, being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reacting or feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening around us.

As Lachlan Brown, founder of Hack Spirit and a keen student of Buddhism and mindfulness, I’ve spent years delving into the psychology behind happiness. And guess what? There are certain proven methods to increase mindfulness and thus, enhance our happiness.

In this piece, I’m going to share with you 8 actionable ways to be more mindful and happy, rooted in psychology.

And don’t worry, I’m not here to lecture you—just to share some insights from my journey, and hopefully help you on yours. 

Let’s dive in. 

1) Embrace the present moment

When it comes to mindfulness, the first and perhaps most crucial step is learning to embrace the present moment.

I’m sure you’ve heard about it before; it’s a common buzzword in many self-help books and wellness blogs. But what does it really mean?

Being present is about allowing ourselves to fully engage with what’s happening right here, right now. It’s about letting go of past regrets and future anxieties, and anchoring ourselves in the current experience.

It’s not always easy, I’ll give you that. Our minds are notorious for wandering off, getting caught up in unnecessary worries and what-ifs.

Research by psychoologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert of Harvard University found that the more people tend to mind wander, the more they’re likely to be unhappy.

But according to numerous psychological studies, training our mind to stay focused on the present can significantly enhance our happiness levels. It helps us appreciate the beauty of life as it unfolds, rather than being constantly preoccupied with other things.

How can you practice this? Start by paying more attention to your surroundings. Notice the sounds, the smells, the sights. The feel of your feet touching the ground. The rhythm of your breath.

By doing so, you’ll not only be training your mind to be more mindful but also paving the way towards a happier and more content life.

Life unfolds in the present. So why not make the most of it?

2) Cultivate gratitude

Another powerful way to boost mindfulness and happiness is by cultivating gratitude.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Lachlan, I’ve heard this a million times.” But trust me, there’s a reason why it’s repeated so often.

Gratitude helps shift our focus from what’s missing in our lives to the abundance that’s already present. It reminds us of the good things, the small joys, the moments of peace and love that we often overlook.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.

As Thich Nhat Hanh, a renowned Buddhist monk and mindfulness expert, once said: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

For me, this quote encapsulates the essence of gratitude. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating the beauty in every step we take, every breath we draw.

How can you incorporate this into your life? Begin with simple things. Before you go to bed each night, jot down three things that you are grateful for. They don’t have to be big; even the smallest pleasures count.

When we make an effort to recognize and appreciate these moments of joy, we’re not just being mindful; we’re also training our minds to focus on positivity and fostering a deep sense of happiness.

3) Accept impermanence

If there’s one thing that’s constant in life, it’s change. This is a core principle in Buddhism, known as the concept of impermanence.

We often resist change. We cling to our past experiences, our successes, and even our failures. We hold onto our relationships, our jobs, and our identities. We crave for things to stay the same. But the truth is, they never do.

Embracing impermanence can be a tough pill to swallow. It requires us to face the reality that nothing lasts forever – not the good times, nor the bad ones.

Yet, there’s something oddly comforting in this acceptance. It reminds us to cherish what we have while we have it. To appreciate every moment, every experience, because we know it won’t last.

Impermanence also teaches us resilience. When we understand that everything changes, we become better equipped to handle life’s ups and downs. We learn to navigate through life with a sense of grace and fluidity.

Change is not something to be feared or resisted. Instead, see it as an opportunity for growth and transformation – a stepping stone towards mindfulness and happiness.

4) Practice non-judgement

When we talk about mindfulness, a key component that often gets overlooked is the practice of non-judgement.

Our minds are constantly labeling our experiences as good or bad, right or wrong. This constant judging mode of mind can be draining, often leading us to unnecessary stress and anxiety.

It’s not about turning a blind eye to the wrongs around us. Instead, it’s about observing our experiences, thoughts, and feelings for what they are, without attaching any labels or judgements.

Practicing non-judgement allows us to see things from a fresh perspective. It helps us to accept things as they are, rather than as we think they should be.

Furthermore, research has found that a non-judging attitude makes you happier. 

Non-judgement isn’t about passivity or inaction. It’s about giving ourselves the mental space to understand and respond to our experiences effectively.

When you find yourself judging an experience, pause. Observe your thoughts without engaging in them. With practice, this can become a powerful tool for fostering mindfulness and happiness in your life.

5) Let go of the ego

Ego can be a tricky thing. It’s what drives us to achieve more, to prove ourselves, to be “better” than others. But at the same time, it can hold us back from truly experiencing life and being happy.

In my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego, I delve into the concept of ego in Buddhism and how it influences our lives.

The ego gives us a false sense of self, it makes us believe that we are separate from others and the world around us. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness.

But when we learn to let go of our ego, we begin to see the interconnectedness of all things. We start to appreciate the beauty in every moment, every interaction. We start living mindfully.

Take a step back, observe your ego-driven thoughts and actions. Practice letting go of the need for validation and comparison. Trust me, it’s liberating. And it’s one of the most powerful ways to cultivate mindfulness and happiness.

6) Embrace compassion

In the journey towards mindfulness and happiness, compassion plays a vital role.

Compassion, both towards ourselves and others, is a fundamental teaching in Buddhism. It’s about acknowledging the suffering that exists and having a genuine desire to alleviate it.

But let’s face it: practicing compassion can be challenging. We live in a world that often values strength and independence over empathy and kindness. We’re quick to judge, quick to blame, and slow to forgive.

Yet, being compassionate doesn’t mean being weak. It doesn’t mean letting others walk all over you. In fact, it takes immense strength and courage to be compassionate in the face of adversity.

When we practice compassion, we not only contribute to the happiness of others but also our own. It helps us connect with people on a deeper level, fostering a sense of belonging and love.

Make a conscious effort to be more compassionate. Start with yourself – be kind to yourself, forgive yourself for your mistakes. Then extend this compassion to others. You’ll be surprised at the positive impact it can have on your mindfulness and happiness levels.

7) Find peace in silence

Silence. For some, it’s uncomfortable. For others, it’s a sanctuary. But one thing is certain – silence holds immense power.

In our noisy, fast-paced world, finding moments of silence can be a challenge. We’re constantly bombarded with information, distractions, and expectations. Our minds are always busy, always planning, always worrying.

But what if we took a moment to just… be still? To just… listen?

Pema Chödrön, a renowned Buddhist nun and author, once said: “The more we witness our emotional reactions and understand how they work, the easier it is to refrain.” And that’s where silence comes in.

Silence provides us with the space to observe our thoughts, emotions, and reactions without any judgment or distraction. It allows us to connect with our inner selves on a deeper level, fostering mindfulness and inner peace.

Try to incorporate moments of silence into your daily routine. It could be during your morning coffee, your commute to work, or before you sleep at night. 

8) Embrace discomfort

Now, this might sound counterintuitive, but bear with me. Embracing discomfort can actually be a powerful tool for cultivating mindfulness and happiness.

You see, discomfort is a part of life. Whether it’s physical pain, emotional distress, or mental unease, we all experience it at one point or another.

But here’s the thing: often, it’s not the discomfort itself that causes us suffering. It’s our reaction to it. Our desire to escape it, to avoid it, to resist it.

When we practice mindfulness, we learn to lean into our discomfort. To observe it without judgment or resistance. To accept it as a part of our human experience.

This doesn’t mean we enjoy the discomfort or seek it out. It simply means we acknowledge its presence and allow ourselves to feel it fully.

By doing so, we take away its power over us. We learn that discomfort is transient, that it comes and goes, just like everything else in life.

When you find yourself in a situation of discomfort, instead of running away from it, embrace it. Observe it. Learn from it. You might be surprised at what you discover about yourself and your capacity for resilience and growth.

Conclusion

Each of these practices are stepping stones on the path towards a more mindful, fulfilled life.

Remember, mindfulness isn’t a destination, it’s a journey. It’s about cultivating an ongoing relationship with yourself and the world around you. It’s about living fully in each moment, embracing both the joys and the challenges that come your way.

If you’d like to dive deeper into some of these practices and explore more insights from Buddhism, I invite you to check out my book, Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego. It’s a guide to help you navigate through life with greater ease, resilience, and joy.

In the end, the key to mindfulness and happiness lies within you. Take a deep breath, step forward, and embark on this beautiful journey. You’ve got this.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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