IS MINDFULNESS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS?
Posted by Nicola Elliott
There's so much out there on mindfulness and how it can make you happy, so we quizzed NEOM's mindfulness expert, Emma Mills - who, by the way, has just launched her new book, "Inhale, Exhale, Repeat" - so knows pretty much all there is to know about mindfulness!
Q A lot has been reported on mindfulness being the key to happiness this year - what’s the best piece of evidence you’ve read/ found to support this?
A I was checking out the latest on Berkley Science Review website (a fab graduate student-run magazine, highlighting all sorts of studies) and came across a post about the self discrepancy gap and it’s link to mindfulness. What’s this? The ‘self discrepancy gap’ is the gap between who we think we ARE, and who we think we should BE. Basically, if we focus too much on this gap (anyone know that feeling?) it can cause us to feel, a bit, well, not that happy or content! Or, as they put it cause ‘psychological distress’. So if we are mindful (ie focusing on the here-and-now - like - really tuning into a conversation, or taking 60 seconds to appreciate that fresh air in the morning) our attention is deflected and we reduce the amount of time we spend unhappily comparing our current self with our ideal self. Mindfulness helps by encouraging us to:
1. Accept ourselves as we are
2. Stop striving all the time towards something that we think we should be
3. Focus more enjoyably on what’s happening now, rather than fixating on our perceived shortfalls. Once we accept that, our mind feels more content and happier. Berkeleysciencereview.com
Q Do you believe in the above? Why/ How?
A Yes, for the most part - I believe being mindful throughout life, makes you feel happier. I felt affirmed when I read this research because it neatly articulates many of the changes I’ve seen in people who explore meditation and mindfulness. Such as the ones who have very busy careers and have achieved a great deal, who, I expect, might attribute some of their success to always doing their best, improving, learning and growing - hmmm potentially striving to be a person, be in a place, they want to be!? So…..on face value this observation may appear to be out of sync with the mindfulness research reported on the Berkeley website; the notion that we might do well to accept ourselves without excessive striving? But for me, I don't see these two ways of being as mutually exclusive - it’s healthy to strive, to keep learning. We can all grow and learn and develop. No matter how much we have done already, there is always refinement occurring, a desire to learn new skills or develop in some way. The differentiating factor is that with a meditation practice, this interest in continued development, comes with sense of joy, benevolence, love, intelligence and patience. Rather than from a sense of lack or fear. That’s the key.
Q So, all this mindfulness sounds like it can really make a big difference AND we don’t have to give up our goals….we want to try it. Talk us through your top 3 mindfulness exercises for happiness, that we can all do?
A 1 - Do at home Place your hands on your tummy, and take 5 easy breaths in and out using your nose, sending the breath down to the belly where possible. On the out breath, let out a little humming sound, like a bumble bee. Sounds a bit unusual but it’s called the Bhramari Breath and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system helping to relax body and mind. 2 - At home, work, cafe, tube, bus Get a cup of tea, sit down somewhere comfy, and just be. Don't try to achieve anything, or be happier or be anything. Sometimes there can be a perceived pressure from ourselves and/or others to perform in some way. So just have 5 minutes of non-performance. Free to feel exactly how to feel, without trying to change it. Free to be tired if you are tired, happy if you are happy, lazy if you’re lazy. Five minutes of total self acceptance. 3 - Anytime, anywhere Listen to your favourite song, take a bath, read a great poem, go outside for a walk and look at the trees. Something joyful!
Q Do you use NEOM alongside? If so does it help? How/Why?
A I love the NEOM Happiness Home Mist. I keep one at my desk at work - it’s a work side wonder. My everyday essential is the Complete Bliss Scented Candle, for relaxing at home in the evening with a book. And for night, it’s the Pillow Mist which I use to mark the end of the day in my mind and prepare for a restful sleep. I have also just tried the new Scent Discovery Test kit. And also took the test when I was in store the other week during my book launch event (the fabulous staff took me through my personal wellbeing journey). I am always really surprised at how intelligently my body picks out what it needs. For example, for several months I will be really drawn to the Happiness and Energy range, and then over time I find myself choosing De-Stress with lavender, jasmine & Brazilian rosewood. It’s so fab to observe, through scent, how my needs change. Have you tried it?