Spring-clean your mind with these Zen happiness tips
by Sarah Bladen
Spring is on the way at last – so it’s the perfect time to dust away those winter blues and get yourself into spring mode, bursting with energy to enjoy the brighter days.
These happiness-boosting, energising tips stemming from the ancient Japanese art of zen are the perfect remedy. First practised over 1,000 years ago, zen is the original source of the meditation and mindfulness trend that has swept the West. We guarantee they’ll detox your mind – lifting you if you’re feeling down, energising you if you’re feeling a bit sluggish and zapping any stressful thoughts.
Presence and Awareness
In essence, Zen places an emphasis on mindfulness – being aware and being present in every moment. This helps to boost our happiness levels since we can start to move out of our head (away from any overthinking or negative, doubtful thoughts swirling around) to being fully present and engaged in every given situation.
This might sound simple, but it takes practise for us to drop old patterns of behaviour so we can leave the past behind us and let the future unfold without anxiety. This present-moment living allows us to start enjoying every moment.
If you find it challenging to focus upon the present or you find your mind wandering, simply focus upon your breathing. Start allowing your breath to be deeper and longer – this instantly calms the nervous system and enhances our happy hormones.
Goodbye Emotional Pain
For many people, painful emotions have a more prominent place in life than physical pain. Guilt, lack of confidence, grief, anxiety and despair can colour our life. The Zen secret to working with emotional pain is found in the acronym AA – awareness and acceptance.
When we stay with our emotional pain, without avoidance or judgement and replace it with a sense of compassionate awareness, extraordinary transformation and healing can happen. It’s also useful to view pain as a messenger trying to communicate with us and point out something about how we are living. And naturally, taking any necessary action relating to your suffering is also crucial.
With Zen, we simply treat our emotions like floating clouds that go right through us.
Don’t hate, meditate!
In Japan, there’s a long tradition of people going to Zen temples to learn meditation and mindfulness to equip them with success and happiness in life. While we can’t all disappear to a Zen monastery, we can easily implement Zen tools into our everyday life and gain amazing results.
Make meditation a daily practice. Worldwide studies have shown that meditation decreases the stress hormone, cortisol and increases the release of dopamine (the chemical associated with feelings of pleasure) and also boosts our serotonin levels.
Depleted serotonin levels are associated with depression. So regular meditation acts like a natural anti-depressant and unlike prescription pills there are no nasty side effects. Plus with meditation, you get to know yourself on a deeper level. And the inward connection can sometimes lead to states of elevated consciousness. Naturally blissful experiences that hardcore meditators sometimes refer to.
In Zen, there is an emphasis on cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful and focusing upon the blessings in our life. Helps to change our perspective about how we see life in general.
If we just focus upon our challenges and hardships. Then this can have a negative impact on our health since thought follows attention. Instead, if we bring our attention to all the positiveness in our life, then that will attract more of it.
So spend a few minutes per day thinking about what you’re grateful for in life. This will elevate your happiness levels. We have to learn to be grateful. For our most uncomfortable circumstances in life too as they ultimately show us what we need to heal and how we can grow. And as the Zen proverb goes, ‘No mud, no lotus’.
Practical Zen for Health, Wealth and Happiness by Sarah Bladen and Julian Daizan Skinner is out now in paperback and ebook and priced at £9.99.