Our minds and mindsets are the most important aspects of who we are, not our relationships or possessions or our position in life. Tend to your mindset and you’ll find that happiness in all aspects of your life is within reach.
Imagine we are all standing in the rain, and each of us catches a single droplet in the palm of our hand. Although they’re being cradled in different hands, the droplets remain identical in terms of chemical composition, quality and purity. What if we then add dye to our droplet, turning it blue or green, yellow or red. Can we now say our’s is different to everyone else’s? No, the droplet is still exactly the same in quality and ‘being’ as the rest of the rain, the only difference is its colour. Every one of us, no matter who we are, what colour our skin, the shape of our bodies, the language we speak, the kind of words we use, the actions and deeds we perform as a result of our beliefs, we are all exactly the same as each other, of the same quality, having the same potential. We might be different in terms of our ‘additives’, as a result of our genetics, derived from our parentage and race; environment; family upbringing; family resources, poor or wealthy; education, and opportunities in life, but, these are all superficial – some people climb out of deep holes of disadvantages, depression and despair and achieve high positions of trust and respect; and others fall from dizzying heights of advantage, wealth, opportunity and talents, into black holes of despair and depression. For all that we make of our opportunities or lack of them, we all remain basically the same; the only real difference between us are our minds and the way we use them. Neither position nor wealth, or even intelligence, can limit the power we have to find happiness and contentment, and to reach our full potential – our only limitations are our minds and mindsets.
'The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.'
The difference between our minds, brains and consciousness is a question that has eluded scientists, sages and scholars for thousands of years, and as such the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. Of the three ‘the brain’ is the easiest to define. The brain is part of the visible, tangible world of the body. It can be physically described and the function of its various components can be tested and recorded. It is the centre of our nervous system and receives input from our senses and various other parts of our nervous system, processes these inputs and acts in response. Unlike the brain, we cannot ‘see’ the mind. So, just where or what it ‘is’, is difficult, if not impossible to ascertain. Our minds are the aspect of us that is the ‘self’. It is our thinking, our awareness, our perception and judgement. Traditionally, scientists have tried to define the mind as the product of brain activity – the brain is the physical substance, and the mind is the conscious product of its firing neurons (brain cells). However, others believe that the mind is a separate entity, working through the brain, and that it even permeates every cell of the body, thus having tremendous power over all of our bodily systems. Whatever your concept of what the mind ‘is’ most people agree that the brain and mind are both involved in consciousness: the state of being aware of and responsive to one's surroundings.
‘A person's sense of self-esteem or self-importance’
You could say that all the problems we experience arise from this ‘central point’ of the self, the ego! It is our driving need to defend ourselves from criticism or emotional/physical attack and to push aside other people in order to arrive first in the race of life. It is also our driving need to take all that is best for the self, despite the opposition of others and a similar driving need to hold on to personal possessions, be they relatives, friends, material goods or achievements, despite any opposition. These are the two ‘driving forces’ of life – to push away what we don’t want, and to hold on to what we do. They are like the opposite ‘faces’ of a magnet. One represents the magnetic pull, the bonding, the attraction, evident in all of nature. It is the source of all ‘wanting’ and ‘desiring’. The face of bonding drags, draws, demands, pulls, buys, grabs, clutches, clings to the people and possessions it craves, creating an illusion of security in togetherness and possessions. It is what directs us towards constructive purpose, gaining, holding, building, achieving. However, it’s also the side of us that can create unnecessary fear and insecurity, as it causes us to become angry when we don’t get what we want, frustrated when we don’t achieve our dreams, and worried that we might lose our positions, our status, our friends.
The opposite face of the ‘magnet’ is our impulse to repel, push away, defend ourselves from any unauthorised encroachment on our property or possessions or any attack on our character, family or work, thus creating an illusion of privacy and security. This impulse of rejection is a legitimate weapon when our physical or emotional survival is at stake. However, it is also the drive that causes rifts in families, relationships, communities and nations. For example, the unpleasantness may arise as a result of criticism from a parent, teacher or employer, and the words which spring to mind and jump out of our mouths are ‘ego-words’ wholly given to self-defence. And as our words of attack flare up into angry speech, so does the ego of our critic feel similarly threatened and it also rises up in him/her as words of self-defence against us! What may have started out as a necessary action of ‘pointing out some error and a better way to do things’ is often seen by a self-centred, sensitive ego, as a personal attack. What should have been a moment of growth, develops into a time of conflict, anger, possible tears, ongoing resentment and mutual hostility. When this happens between two people, the consequences can be contained; however, when it happens between nations the results can be devastating.
We are completely dominated by these ‘wanting/taking’ and ‘not wanting/pushing away’ thoughts and actions all day long, and it is these that can lead to stress and mental health problems. This happens when our minds keep up a ceaseless chatter of comments and judgements – criticisms; must haves; don’t wants; reactionary feelings verging on resentment or rejection; longing for certain things and fears that these longings won’t be fufilled; striving for success, and irritation or anger with those who stand in the way of that success. At the onset of emotional tension, our minds and emotions begin to race with ‘rejection’ feelings. We might engage in continual thoughts such as: ‘I can’t cope’ which is a rejection of any existing energy that we have to deal with things. ‘I can’t bear it’ also denies us strength. ‘I hate this happening to me’; ‘I hate the person doing this to me’. I hate, I deny, I refuse, I object, I oppose, I don’t deserve. It’s this constant pattern of negative thoughts that’s involved in the development of the sort of emotional stress that can lead to a nervous breakdown.
I want to impress on you the strength of our mindsets, which is the sum total of all our conscious and subconscious programming. Our mindsets determine our world and relationships, experiences, successes, failures, happiness and misery. We all live in a world of our own making – look inside your thought processes, your attitudes towards life, generally, your feelings towards other people and yourself, and find out what kind of thoughts, and expectations, you regularly indulge in. Whenever they are ‘ego-driven’ eg critical, sarcastic, judgmental, rejecting, denigrating, intolerant, hateful, jealous, aggressive, try to stop them in their tracks, as you’ll be creating a negative environment just as detrimental to your own health as to those your thoughts are aimed at. We also need to understand that our mindsets create our realities. For example whatever place friends, family, colleagues occupy in our minds, good or evil, this ‘place’ is only our personal perception of them. The ‘reality’ of these people is not truly known to anyone. No one has access to the innate goodness hidden in an apparently negative character. Conversely, no one may suspect the hidden drives and desires of a seemingly personable human being! And if we can only ‘see’ badness in everyone and everything, we’ll live a life full of fear and hatred, afraid to go out. However, if we can try to ‘see’ the good in others, our lives will become happier, less judgmental, and more carefree.
Our mindsets, in the form of our beliefs, also dictate how we live our lives – if we firmly believe that by walking under a ladder bad luck will befall us, then we’ll do anything to avoid doing so, even putting ourselves in danger by stepping into the road; and if we have a lucky number this might become a focal point in all our decision making, even usurping logic; and if we believe that by failing exams or having few possessions or having the ‘wrong’ body shape it makes us an inferior, unworthy person, we’ll find ourselves living a life full of unnecessary, self-inflicted pressures. We create our own realities and live accordingly, so it makes sense that if we want to change our ‘reality’ we need to change certain aspects of our mindsets.
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET CHANGE YOUR LIFE
We are ALL important within our immediate environment. Perhaps you’re a parent, son or daughter and you feel that all that you do for the family isn’t appreciated, that you don’t make an impact on family life, are never heard, respected, loved. Perhaps you feel that outside the home you’re of no consequence and wouldn’t be missed – you’re so very wrong. Whether we’re male, female, mother, father, friend, worker, employer, all of us make an impact on our environment. And if we were removed from it, there would be a hole, a loss; a huge void is left by the biggest powers but also by those of us carrying out more menial duties. Each of us inhabits a special place in the whole environment.
Each of us brings our own talent, character, our own way of doing things, our own impact on the people we speak to, whether at home or at work. We are all vital within our own niche. No matter if we were born disabled, whether physically or mentally, we still have our unique place of importance within the family and the environment.
PATHWAYS TO HAPPINESS
So how do we find that longed-for happiness and peace of mind?
1) Learn to appreciate even the smallest things in life
We all have an in-born longing to feel joy, exhilaration and happiness, and this can be seen in many of us as always wanting, more, more and more, of what gave us a pleasurable feeling, previously. More houses, cars, clothes, etc. Each time the ‘more’ has been achieved there is a little glow of satisfaction, perhaps a showing off to the neighbours to heighten the happiness, and as such another little glow! But then the novelty dies away, the new possession becomes mundane, mental tiredness sets in, routine becomes dull and boring. And so, to generate some excitement in life, we find another material goal to be achieved to provide pleasure. Thus, life becomes an endless chase for material satisfaction which is never truly obtained. We need to find a way to replace this desire for ‘more’ possessions, with a sincere appreciation of what we already have, and therefore a sense of consistent contentment.
2) Build up, don’t tear down
We should try not to put others down in order to make ourselvess feel greater and more self-confident, but Instead work towards nourishing, nurturing, teaching, protecting and fulfiling the needs of others. It’s important to be aware of the sort of words we use on a daily basis, the quality of life they create for us and the impact they have on others. Contrary to the popular saying, toxic thoughts and words can actually cause us more harm than sticks and stones!
3) Find ways to laugh more
By seeking out more opportunities to laugh, we can improve our emotional health, strengthen relationships, and find greater happiness. A spontaneous and hearty burst of laughter is first experienced as a rush
through the head; this is immediately followed by the physical ‘ripple effect’ of laughter, experienced as a light beating of breath on the diaphragm to break up any tension and to smooth away any residue of bitterness. If we can genuinely laugh, seeing the absurdity of a situation, where there has previously been annoyance or hurt, the tension is released and friendly relationships are often restored spontaneously.
4) Learn to let go of our egos
Although our egos are essential in terms of survival, when they ‘take over’, our mental stability is at risk. We become easily offended; we need to win at all costs; we believe we’re always right; we think of ourselves as superior; and we find ourselves on a never-ending roller-coaster of constantly striving for more possessions and greater achievements. By learning to let go of our egos, we will discover tensions are smoothed away and that we become much lighter in thought, easier in relationships, more caring, much more appreciative, more aware of life itself and all that it has to offer. We will find that we enjoy simple pleasures more, need less possessions, less entertainment, and become more content with our own company. Little by little we will find ourselves returning to a ‘childlike’ state of mind whereby we view the world with a happy, enquiring, non-judgmental gaze.
5) Love yourself for who you truly are
If you can rid yourself of the notion that what makes us who we are, are our possessions, our status, our external appearance, our qualifications, our race, religion, wealth or even our gender, and that underneath these superficial veils lies the ‘real’ you, you will begin to realise that finding true happiness and contentment lies within yourself. What makes us who we are are our thoughts, our actions, our beliefs – our minds, our mindsets. Tend to these and you’ll be well on your way to finding true peace and happiness.