Mindfulness and “My” Depression

On Sunday, an old, familiar friend dropped by my house to say hello. I knew he was coming so I had some time to prepare. This old, familiar friend commonly goes by the name Depression. I prefer the name Melancholia but refer to him as Depression. Depression is a feeling of despair, a kind of “what is the point?” Depression feels similar to when you lose a game that you cared about winning. It is a feeling of ultimate defeat, a pain-filled turning inward into oneself because there is no place else you want to go.

There is an aspect of depression which is genetic. Depression runs deep in my family lineage. My grandfather did not leave his home the last twenty years of his life. He sat in his recliner listening to classical music and pretending to play a violin. A defeated classical musician no longer feeling any sense of purpose in the external world.

Depression is also situational. There is much to be joyful and grateful about but there is also equally as much to be depressed about. Depending on which direction the mind leans in will often determine how a person feels. For many like myself, life can be a continual seesaw ride, back and forth between depression and gratitude.

I don’t mind depression. There is a lot of beauty which can be found in this state. Sometimes I feel like it is a very honest assessment of the state of things. Depression can be very fertile creative ground. But sometimes depression can create as much physical pain as any bleeding wound would.

This is where I found myself on Sunday. Why was not nearly as important as the awareness that I was experiencing depression (emotional pain) and then the acceptance of it.

My practice of mindfulness is not about being a happier or better person. Thankfully I don’t have the expectation to feel more happiness, less depression and anxiety in my life the more I practice mindfulness (I did when I first started though). I think that the moment a person has an expectation that any practice will make them a happier, less anxious and less depressed person is often the moment a person gets discouraged with any kind of practice.

In its foundational form, mindfulness is the ability to keep our attention planted in the present moment. To be here. To live in the here and now rather than in the illusory future and past. The present moment is the terrain of mindfulness practice and the more a person practices the more they can hang out in the present moment, no matter what is happening.

Being present does not mean expecting things to be a certain way in the present moment. If I am anxious or depressed in the present moment and I do not like it or fight against it, this will only make things worse. Being present means being aware of whatever is arising in the present moment and accepting it as it is. Not attaching to it more than need be. Like a rainy day, since it is already here why not just accept it? Once we can accept, we can begin to move towards our baseline (a more grounded state of being).

Depression, anxiety, anger and many other difficult emotions tend to be very sticky. They stick to us and cause us to deeply identify with them. We refer to them as My depression, My anxiety, My anger and on and on. The very word My implies a future and a past. My is always attaching to every emotion and thought it has. My is the opposite of acceptance. What a dreadful state My can be!

The moment we are able to bring our attention into the present moment, My loosens its grip on whatever emotion it is carrying around. It realizes, “Oh things are not as terrible as I think,” and then it begins to loosen up.

Saying it is My depression is as inaccurate as the sky saying, “It is My cloud.” Nope! Just like emotions, clouds are continually moving across the sky. I suppose a cloud could somehow be blocked for a bit by the sky, but eventually it would dissipate. No matter how hard it tries, the sky can not hang on to clouds. Same with My and emotions! The moment we call it My depression or My anxiety, we block the emotion and keep it around for A LOT longer than need be. But eventually it passes no matter how attached we want to be. Are you still feeling the same emotion now that you felt last Saturday afternoon? Most likely not (unless you are still attaching My to it).

All emotions eventually pass. Whether it is the most painful depression or the greatest joy, it passes! I often think of mindfulness as a practice of hanging on in the present and letting things move through. Mindfulness is the ability to let emotions move through just like the sky allows the clouds to move through (sorry for the cliché analogy but it is early and my mind is not coming up with anything better). Mindfulness has nothing to do with being a happier and less depressed person. Ironically though- a sense of well-being and calm is what tends to happen more often when we are not attached to My emotion.

Ps…..I don’t feel depressed now.

How To Save Your Life Right Now

 

“Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” –John Lennon.

There is a sentence in the novel The Bathroom by Jean-Philippe Tousaint where his protagonist says, “I am compromising the quietude of my abstract life for what?” This sentence resonated with me so deeply that I have had it posted above my desk for many years. All of us are continually compromising the quietude or calm of our lives for so many things. Many are probably doing it right now! Things such as relationships, money, jobs, status, things that other people do that we don’t like, things that we have to do but do not want to do, the state of the world, the state of our situation in the world and on and on. One word that is often used to describe what happens when we compromise our quietude is stress.

Chronic stress is mainly caused by a mind that wanders. Our brains are not well-tuned mental machinery as much as we might wrongly believe they are. Instead, they wander off into reactive territory at the slightest trigger. Most of us tend to be lost in random thoughts all day long, unfocused on whatever it is that we are doing as we are doing it. Some of you may have heard about the psychologists at Harvard who started the Track Your Happiness app. What they found was that a wandering (unfocused) brain was the cause of unhappiness. What people were thinking was the cause of their stress/unhappiness not what they were doing (even if what they were the most unpleasant situations or performing boring chores).

Make no mistake about it, chronic stress is the cause of more illnesses (mental and physical) and early deaths than anything else on planet earth. As science becomes more and more conclusive with regards to the serious effects of chronic stress on the human body and brain, we will have doctors prescribing meditation (relaxation-responses) in the same way that they currently prescribe medication. Chronic stress is no joke. It is not to be taken lightly and it is important to realize that it is almost always the result of a wandering brain that is not focused in the present moment. Chronic stress literally turns off the switch that illuminates our lives.

In scientific terms that switch that illuminates our lives is referred to as telomeres. Telomeres are the stretches of expendable DNA at the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres act like the stiff plastic sheaths that prevent the ends of shoelaces from fraying. Over the course of a lifetime, cells divide so many times that telomeres wear down to such an extent that the integrity of the genes carried by the chromosomes is threatened. To protect our bodies when undergoing various stresses, the cells stop dividing and gradually undergo apoptosis, otherwise known as cell suicide. Telomere length is thus an effective measure of a cell’s biological age, and people with shorter telomeres seem to have a lower life expectancy.

There is currently solid evidence that chronic stress shortens telomere length and accelerates everything that comes along with the aging process. Conversely, there is also solid evidence which shows that mindfulness meditation (or any kind of daily relaxation response) rebuilds telomeres and combats the effects of aging at the cellular level by promoting the activity of a gene that makes an enzyme called telomerase. By ramping up the activity of telomerase, evidence suggests that we can slow down cellular aging. Still more research and evidence is needed, but once this happens (which, I think it certainly will within the next decade) doctors will be recommending meditation as a way to keep the Grim Reaper at bay.

The single reason why mindfulness techniques (or anything that promotes a relaxation response) are so effective at combating the negative physiological and psychological effects of stress is because it interrupts the train of our regular thoughts. Mindfulness tempers the stress response in our bodies by breaking the chain of everyday thinking (the wandering mind) and aligning the mind with what is happening in the present moment. As a result of being able to remain more present and focused with whatever we are doing as we do it, the adverse clinical effects of stress are counteracted and possibly we can end up saving our own lives.

 

Six Honest Ways To Create Mindfulness Now.

Mindfulness is an attitude or a way of perceiving reality just like being identified with thoughts and feelings is an attitude or a way of perceiving reality. Just like everything else in life, possessing an attitude of mindfulness is a choice. A choice that ultimately leads to less suffering. Here are six thing you can do right now to create more mindfulness in your life:

 
1) Are you identified with negative judgments right now? Not liking someone or something? Wanting things to be different than how they are? Feeling bad or critical about yourself or thinking that you are right and others are dumb? Being identified with negative judgments is like burning ourselves with a flame. It hurts. As long as we identify with our negative judgments we will be unhappy people. It is not that you will suddenly stop having negative judgments, but see if you can just be aware of them without acting upon them or articulating them. Just leave them alone and notice how when you do this they go away.

2) Are you reacting to distressing feelings? Do you continually try and push away, deny or get rid of feelings of distress? Feelings of distress are as normal as the sun coming up in the morning. If we do not learn how to skillfully deal with our distressful feelings we will suffer. See if you can notice when distressing feelings arise in you and then just welcome them. Even though distressing feelings are uncomfortable, who said life should be comfortable all the time? Why keep fighting against it? How about just letting the feelings of distress be there? Become mindful of your distressing feelings and leave them alone. Notice how the moment you welcome them (rather than react to them) they lose their potency and are no longer as distressing anymore.

3) Are you accepting your life as it is in this moment? Or are you trying to change or fix things about this moment? Make things how you think they should be? Good luck. This is a mountain that no one ever reaches the top of. Life just becomes a continual climb to nowhere. Not wanting to feel what we are already feeling in this moment is the surest way to make what we are feeling worse. See if you can just be aware of where you are at in this moment. Notice how it feels. Now see if you can just accept it. Leave it alone. Let it be. Stop trying to swim against the current. Acceptance is the key which opens the door to a more peaceful and calm life. The trouble is that most of us can’t seem to find the key. I am handing you the key. Here. Accept what is right now. Leave it alone. Alan Watts said, “Muddy water is best cleared by leaving it alone.”

4) Are you in a hurry right now? Do you want to get rid of some uncomfortable feeling in your body right away? Do you need to have things the way you think they should be now? Do you have to have everything all figured out and tightened up now? Good luck again. How about being patient? Isn’t patience a fundamental virtue? So just be patient. Leave things alone. Stop trying to change or fix things. Be willing to accept things as they are and then just be patient. Patient requires a kind of faith or trust that everything will work out. When we are patient we are willing to sit with uncertainty and not knowing. We just leave things as they are and find patience in learning to live with the uncertainty. Another way to think about being patient is be willing to be comfortable with the discomfort. This is a fundamental aspect of meditation practice and of living a good life. Life is uncomfortable so it is very beneficial to learn how to be comfortable with discomfort.

5) Daniel Higgs, a poet, wrote, “Anything outside of the present moment is a form of slavery.” Mindfulness is a way of being that is aware of each passing moment. Life is viewed as moments to be lived rather than task after task to be accomplished. As we grow older years seem to pass by in the blink of an eye but moments or even hours seem to maintain a similar duration as when we were younger. When we create so many problems and issues and things to do in our lives we are no longer aware of the passing moments. We are being pulled into the future continually or dragged back into the past all the time. We rarely seem to tend to the passing moments in our lives and then when we reach 40 or 50 or 60 we think, “Wow, my life went by so fast!” Yes it did. You were not aware of the passing moments. Be present. Tend to the moments of your life if you want to live a life that feels longer. If you don’t want to do this, that is fine, but please don’t be surprised when it feels like life went by so fast.

6) Are you lost in your head right now? Thinking about all kinds of things? Judging what I am writing? Thinking about other stuff? What about your body? What is going on there? Our bodies are always present. Our noses, our toes, our ears, our lips, our lungs, our heart, our knees- they all exist in the present. It is only this small portion of our brain that creates thoughts that usually have something to do with some place other than right now. We have been conditioned to be more identified with this very small section of our brain rather than the other 99% of what is going on with our bodies. Being aware of our senses is an incredible satisfying experience. Notice the various sensations in your body. Notice smells and tastes. See if you can pay attention to hearing, breathing and really notice things that are around you. Mindfulness is a way of fully inhabiting the space where our bodies are already at. See if you can be more in tune with the sensory experience that you are having from moment to moment, rather than ignoring all of this because of being too lost in thought. Sometimes we get so lost in thought that a panic attack seems to be the only way our body can get our attention. It doesn’t have to come to this. See if you can tune your mind into being more aware of your sensory experience as you make your way through your day.

And finally, I forgot who said it but I wrote this quote down in my notebook: “If we love the little moments ferociously, than maybe we can learn to live well not in spite of death but because of it. Let death be what takes us, not lack of imagination.”

Confessions Of An Imperfect Mindfulness Teacher

When I began my formal mindfulness training in 1998, it was certainly not to become a mindfulness teacher. This was the furthest thing from my mind. I wanted to work on myself and potentially heal the various physical and psychological issues that I was struggling with. I wanted to find more peace and quiet in a mind that was up until that point filled with worry, panic, anger, uncertainty, confusion and self-judgment. The irony is that today I still practice mindfulness for the exact same reasons that I started practicing almost two decades ago.

I have never had any interest in enlightenment or nirvana. I have never had much interest in transcending my more materialistic or egoic limitations through some sort of spiritual transformation. I have zero problems with other people who are interested in spirituality and religion (unless they try and push their beliefs onto me), these belief systems have just never really been for me. I have always been someone who prefers learning how to be fully right here, right now. My interest is in learning how to be as fully present in my life as is humanly possible, since I realize that my struggles with worry, dissatisfaction and anxiety are mainly a result of thoughts about the future and my struggles with anger and depression are mainly rooted in thoughts about the past.

The more and more that I have cultivated the ability to be fully present, fully right here and right now- the less that I have struggled with anxiety, dissatisfaction, worry, anger and depression. But being fully present, for me, is a daily, moment by moment practice. The more I practice the less tormented I get. The more present I become. This is my practice in a nutshell.

I do find it challenging to be a mindfulness teacher. Like I said, I never set out to teach mindfulness. I was always happy learning mindfulness from and practicing with others who were much further down the path than I was. My wife and I started the mindfulness group in Claremont because after moving to Claremont from the San Fransisco Bay Area, I could find no place in LA to practice mindfulness. I started the group so that I could have a place to practice mindfulness with others, and I feel very grateful for what this group has become.

But I still see myself as a mindfulness practitioner, not really a teacher. When I lead mindfulness individual sessions, groups and seminars I look at it more as sharing my practice with others (rather than instructing others in what they should do). I talk about the things that I am practicing in my own life in the hopes that other people will use my mindfulness practice as a foundation from which to go forward and build their own practice. Mindfulness is a very creative practice. I have found that no two ways of practicing mindfulness are exactly the same. Over time, everyone makes mindfulness into something that is their own if they are doing it right. I suppose this is why I am drawn to mindfulness practice- it is an open and creative practice that only really works for a person if they find a way to turn into into something that is their own creation.

This may be why it is challenging for me to be a mindfulness teacher. I think a lot of self-help, motivational, religious or meditation teachers must struggle with this. There seems to be this unspoken expectation that the teacher is this perfect person that has it all figured out and is going to pass along to the student how they have figured everything out and healed themselves completely. As a result the student will be transformed and fixed. No more problems in life. I am yet to meet a teacher who has no problems or issues (though many will present themselves this way in order to succeed in their position) but I think it is the collective expectation. There is no doubt that the most successful spiritual, self-help, religious and mediation teachers are the ones who present as having it all figured out. Masters at their craft.

I am a flawed individual who struggles with various emotional and psychological issues just like every other human being on earth. As someone who teaches mindfulness I do not want to give off the disingenuous impression that I am a master who has figured it all out. This would be a terrible way to have to live my life- being someone who I am not. And more money in the bank is just not worth it. I want to be a very human mindfulness teacher, one who struggled just like everyone else but applies mindfulness to better manage my daily struggles. This feels more interesting to me.

I try to be as open and transparent as possible about my struggles as a human being so that I can help others to see how I apply mindfulness to better my mental and physical health. This I feel is the most important teaching that I can offer other people. It allows me to continue to feel authentic and truthful in how I present myself to the world. I feel that it is also an important learning opportunity for those who struggle with similar issues. I practice mindfulness for the same reason that everyone else does- I am trying to obtain more presence and peace in my life. I presume that if I ever arrive at a point where I have achieved absolute peace, perfection and presence, I will probably no longer have the desire to teach.

Many people think that mindfulness is a very simplistic practice. What do you mean just breathe when I still have all this anger in me and issues that I need to figure out? What do you mean just breathe and hear sounds when I am really struggling with serious problems that need to be resolved in my life? There are things I really need to figure out! I can certainly relate to this since I at one time felt the exact same way.

Mindfulness may seem simplistic because life is filled with so much suffering and agony. Who knows, maybe we will all go to our graves kicking and screaming but I feel that the pursuit of peace is a very noble pursuit (especially after a lifetime of suffering). Even if a continual state of presence and peace is just not possible in our fast-paced contemporary world, it is the pursuit that is important. And it has been my experience that through pursuing peace and presence, I have experienced a lot more peace and presence in my life. The alternative is more suffering. The most important part of mindfulness practice is a willingness to no longer be as defined by our suffering. Everything else gradually falls into place once we are willing to begin the process of letting it go.

Mindfulness: Managing Negative Emotional And Psychological States.

I just wanted to clarify something that we spoke about at last night’s mindfulness group. Of course I can only speak about what I have experienced personally and what I have witnessed in others who have been practicing mindfulness for quite some time. Also during my psychology training this issue was spoken about a good amount.

Like we discussed last night, the negative (difficult) emotional/psychological states that we struggles with (anger, anxiety, depression to name a few) are often apart of the fabric of who we are- like our blood type, height, hair color, sound of our voice, etc. These negative emotional and psychological states are not only multi-generational (passed down from generation to generation) but they are also a part of our initial conditioning. So often the anxiety, worry, restlessness, depression, unhappiness, etc, that you deal with today has been there for a very long time and will most likely be there for the rest of your life because these personality traits are a part of who you are. They never entirely go away.

The desire to make these personality traits (emotions/psychological states) go away often creates a great deal of struggle, frustration and difficulty for people. With mindfulness practice the idea is that we learn how to become aware of our anxiety, our anger, our depression, our boredom, our loneliness the moment it arises and then fully accept it by not-identifying with it as strongly as we tend to do when we are unaware of it. By just being aware of our anxiety or depression and accepting it fully (I know I am depressed now but I know this too will pass. I am aware of my breathing, feet on the ground and sounds that I am hearing. I continue to bring myself back to the present moment where everything is ok) we can begin to step back from it and it will no longer last as long. Through mindfulness practice we learn how to accept and manage these difficult emotions and psychological states rather than trying to fix or annihilate them.

But here is the catch. Mindfulness is the integration of a new personality trait. The result of adding this more mindful (self-aware) aspect to your personality, greatly reduces the intensity and duration of negative emotional and psychological states that may have once dominated your entire life. (You can “snap out of” these habitual negative emotional and psychological states much quicker.) Through being able to be aware of your depression and then step back from it (accept it as it is) and allow it to run its course, your depression or anxiety or anger no longer lasts as long and it no longer takes you into the depths of despair, self-judgement and/or panic as it once may have.

So by becoming aware, accepting and dis-identifying from these negative emotional/psychological states you no longer suffer from them as much. They take up a much smaller part of your personality. So in this sense the intense and all consuming way that you once experienced anxiety, panic, anger, depression does gradually go away through the integration of mindfulness into your moment to moment life and what you are left with is a more mild, watered down and manageable form of these negative emotional/psychological states. The kind of depression, anger or anxiety that you lived with before mindfulness does go away but you will most likely always live with some degree of depression, anger and/or anxiety. Mindfulness (self-awareness) just gives us the ability to manage these more difficult emotional/psychological states (rather than the difficult states controlling us) that are often a part of who we are.

How Mindfulness Changes A Life (For Good)

I was interviewed by a Los Angeles news channel. I never thought I would say that. I am not big on media. Have had no desire to be on the news. Don’t watch television. Try and ignore current events the best that I can. But when asked to come on the channel and be interviewed about what mindfulness is and how it can help with anxiety, I thought, Why not? Why not try and pass the information along to others who could possibly benefit from it?

It was ironic that I was there to talk about how mindfulness can help with anxiety since in that moment, I was applying the technique I was there to talk about. I was feeling anxious the moment I walked into the news studio. All the cameras and bright lights made me very aware that all eyes would be on me. Yikes! I was kindly greeted by a young lady and asked to sit in a chair while waiting my turn. She pointed out where I could get some complimentary coffee and donuts if I liked. I thanked her but decided to decline the potential panic attack that more coffee and a sugar-filled donut could generate in me.

As I sat in the chair, I noticed I was still feeling very anxious. Interesting, I thought. What was I anxious about? I realized I was worried that I would make a fool of myself. That I would say something wrong. Public humiliation. That I would mess up and be negatively judged by others. All kinds of negative thoughts were flooding my brain. Fortunately, I knew the difference between anxiety and fear. Fear is a perfectly natural human emotion that is the result of an immediate threat. Anxiety is the expectation of a future threat. It is normal and even beneficial for a person’s survival to feel fear but the emotion of fear does not need to turn into anxiety. Anxiety just makes us unwell.

I reminded myself that, “Right now, I am fine. None of the potential threats I am imagining in my head are happening. In this moment everything is ok.” This helped me to pull back from my thoughts, become aware of reality (where I was in the present moment instead of being caught up in the imagined future inside my head) and ground myself in the right here, right now. My nervousness dissipated. My blood pressure and heart rate went down. I felt much better. I then felt like I could cope with whatever challenges lay ahead.

Before I went on, there was an entomologist being interviewed about bugs and the outbreak of a certain kind of insect that may destroy all the palm trees in Los Angeles. Then there was the head of LATrump.com who was talking about how wonderful Donald Trump is and how sketchy Hillary is. Since I am not a supporter of Donald Trump but respect everyone’s right to their own opinion and position, I had to use all of my mindfulness muscles to feel my feet on the ground, follow my breathing and not say, “You really believe this?” Once the Trump supporter (who seemed like a very nice lady) was done being interviewed, the newscaster said something like, “Well ok. That’s a lot! Very intense. Thank goodness up next we have Randall Sokoloff, a mindfulness teacher, who can help teach us all about how to calm down.” I laughed under my breath at how ridiculous this sounded.

Once it was my turn, I sat in the chair behind the news desk. The newscasters said hello to me and one asked how to pronounce my last name. The lady who was putting the microphone on me said, “So what is this mindfulness thing? Is it some sort of religious or spiritual thing?” I said, “No.” “Is it a metaphysical thing like being hypnotized?” “Hypnotized, are you kidding me?” I said. I couldn’t help myself. “It is the opposite of being hypnotized. It is about being right here, right now.” She looked at me like I was nuts, so I took the opportunity to elaborate. “Just become aware of your feet on the ground. Just come out of being so caught up in your thoughts right now and notice your feet on the ground. That’s mindfulness” She looked confused. She looked down at her feet. I don’t think she got it. I let it go.

The newscasters talked to me a little bit about what I did and seemed very interested. I asked one of the newscasters, “If I mess up could we do a retake?” She gave me a look and told me that everything would be fine, to just go ahead and use my mindfulness. I thought this was funny. As a mindfulness teacher, I appreciate how sometimes this mindfulness stuff gets thrown back at me in comical ways.

Suddenly, I was on tv. The newscasters came alive, like switching on a light bulb in a dark bathroom. “Today we have with us Randall Sokoloff, a psychotherapist who uses mindfulness techniques with his clients and has a mindfulness group in Claremont, California. Since I think we could all use some anxiety relief just about now I am interested in hearing what Mr. Sokoloff has to tell us about finding some relief in these anxious times. Hello Randall! Thanks for being with us.” I was on. As I talked, I noticed my voice sounding a bit shaky because of whatever residual nervousness I was still feeling. I was thankful to the newscaster who helped me out by saying, “I tell you, just from the sound of your voice alone, I am already feeling more relaxed and calm.”

Everything flowed from there. I guess you could say I was in the zone even though my anxiety was never all gone. I went on to talk about what anxiety is (the expectation of a future threat) and how a person could use mindfulness to effectively manage it. I wonder if they knew that I was practicing what I was talking about on the spot? Suddenly I shifted the focus off of me by asking the newscasters to bring their attention to following their breathing and become aware of their hands touching their desk. One of them was so impressed by how much more grounded he immediately felt. It was as if I just showed him an alternative life option he never knew existed before.

Six minutes were up before I knew it. One of the newscasters thanked me and was asking how people can get in touch with me if they wanted to come to one of my workshops and I was thinking, Done already? I was just getting started. I need warm up time! There was still so much more I wanted to say and I wondered if what I had just said made any sense. I was nervous! I wanted a retake. Suddenly I was feeling regret and worry about not being as a good as I wanted to be. Ten minutes ago I was feeling anxious because I was focused on the future. Now I was worrying about the past. My crazy mind.

I shook a few people’s hands and like often happens when people find out that you work as a psychotherapist, I listened as several people told me about various challenges in their lives. As I always do in this situation, I told myself to just stay present, follow your breathing and let the person finish talking while doing the best you can to listen and empathize. On my way out of the news studio I was happy to be done. As is almost always the case with this tempestuous anxiety that I have had for most of my life, nothing that I was worried about had actually happened. It was all just in my head.

Walking to my car, I was aware of my feet on the ground, sounds that I was hearing and my breathing. I was also aware that I was still concerned I had somehow messed up. Maybe I didn’t say the right things? Maybe I didn’t make any sense? I was in the past. “What is done is done,” I told myself and then let those thoughts go to wherever thoughts go when they disappear.

As I drove home, I realized that there was no way that me ten years ago could of done something like this. No way. My anxiety would have kept me far, far away. Even though being on the news is such a small and fleeting thing, in many ways it is these kinds of small accomplishments that are a larger testament to how the practice of mindfulness can really change a person’s life for good.

Unhappy With Yourself?

Every person’s experience of unhappiness is different and unique but research shows that there are certain developmental blocks that cause unhappiness in all people. The origin (or cause) of unhappiness is almost always unhappiness with yourself. No matter how good external circumstances are in your life, if you are unhappy with yourself, nothing else will feel like it is working right.

Unhappiness with yourself looks like this:

*Feel like you are often making poor choices for your health and well-being. Feel trapped in a cycle of continually being unable to make better choices for yourself.

*Unable to carry out better decision making for yourself.

*Can’t seem to do what you feel like you should be doing in order to be a happier and healthier human being.

*You continually are taking what life gives you rather than actively creating the life that you want.

*Have a low drive to really do what you feel would be much better for yourself.

*Are unhappy with how you behave in your relationships.

*Feel uncomfortable with who you are and how you behave when around other people.

*Feel like you are continually throwing yourself under the bus.

If you experience any of the above, you will feel continually unhappy with yourself.

Mindfulness seeks to undue all of these undesirable ways of being. These negative behaviors are habits that are almost always the result of years and years of negative conditioning. These ways of thinking, feeling and behaving almost always lead a person towards self-destructive behaviors, chronic depression and anxiety. Because these ways of being have become so deeply entrenched within a person’s identity, it can feel almost impossible to change.

Mindfulness is like installing a new operating system into a computer that is no longer working right. From a mindfulness perspective, the above negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors are the result of ego defense mechanisms that keep pulling us back into ego-identification. It is the identification with our ego defense mechanisms (the old operating system) that keeps us perpetuating cycles of unhappiness.

Through mindfulness practice we cultivate a new identity that is more aware, grounded in the present moment (being rather than doing), effortless, accepting and compassionate. Some refer to this process as growing up. As a result, the unhappiness with yourself (ego-identification) tends to dissolve away and you can move into the next stage of your development as a happier, kinder, calmer and more aware human being.