How Mindfulness Meditation Can Save America

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There’s a reason some people laugh when I say that mindfulness meditation can save the United States—that it can dampen the political polarization now dividing the country; that it can defuse the hatreds that have propelled the word “tribal” into our political vocabulary and have led serious commentators to compare the US in 2017 to Northern Ireland, even Yugoslavia, in the 1990s.Actually, there are two reasons people laugh. One is that they can’t imagine a huge number of Americans—especially those in the Trump tribe—actually sitting down and meditating. And I, too, have trouble imagining a sea of MAGA hats enveloping a statue of the Buddha. For that matter, I’m not under the illusion that most anti-Trumpers get up every day and meditate. But for reasons I’ll explain, I don’t think these harsh realities are fatal to my American salvation scenario.

The other reason people laugh at this salvation scenario is that they think the point of meditation is to cultivate love or compassion or some other warm and fuzzy feeling that might heal the nation. But in fact, mindfulness meditation isn’t fundamentally about love or compassion. Other kinds of Buddhist meditation—such as “metta” meditation—take on that challenge more directly.

More broadly, mindfulness meditation isn’t warm and fuzzy. In a certain sense it’s cool and clinical. It involves, among other things, examining your feelings and deciding whether to buy into them, whether to let them carry you away.

Obviously, America could stand for people to be a little less susceptible to getting carried away by their feelings. But the contribution mindfulness can make to bridging the great tribal divide is more powerful than that simple formulation suggests. To appreciate this potential, you have to understand how subtle the psychology of tribalism is.

Tribal psychology involves, at one level, some obvious ingredients: rage, vengeance, loathing—the kinds of raw emotions you might imagine when you imagine tribes literally at war. But the psychology of tribalism also involves—in fact, I’d say, it mainlyinvolves—cognitive biases that warp our perception of the world.

Cognitive biases have gotten a lot of attention in the popular psychology literature over the past decade. For example, confirmation bias—our tendency to accept and retain information that supports our views and reject or not notice information that contradicts our views—is now pretty famous. But the term “cognitive bias” misleads people about the nature of this problem. “Cognition” is often thought of as separate from feelings—it’s the kind of rational, logical process a computer can execute—but in fact feelings often influence cognition. And they seem to play a key role in cognitive biases.

Consider the role confirmation bias can play in “fake news,” false or deeply misleading information that spreads widely, typically via social media.

Such information is sometimes spread cynically and knowingly. But often it is spread unknowingly, by people who click “retweet” or “share” without first investigating what they’re sharing. And the reason they don’t do this critical investigation is because the information they’re sharing supports their world view—because, in other words, they are victims of confirmation bias.

I sometimes spread dubious information this way myself. And when, having discovered my mistake, I reflect on what made me do it, the answer I come up with is this: Clicking “retweet” made me feel good. After all, the information I was spreading reflected favorably on my ideological tribe and unfavorably on the enemy tribe. What’s not to like?

Indeed, if you pay close attention at the moment you’re sharing this kind of news on social media, you may observe a sequence of feelings: a positive feeling upon seeing the news, the subtle but palpable urge to spread it, and the feeling of gratification you get upon spreading it—a gratification that is deepened if this addition to the nation’s discourse then gets a lot of retweets, shares, or likes. These are the feelings that can make you part of the fake news problem.

If, on the other hand, you see information that reflects unfavorably on your tribe, you may notice a negative feeling well up, and you’ll probably feel no urge to share the information; you’ll either dismiss it and move on or inspect it critically, looking for flaws. And if you find flaws, this will feel good, and will likely feed an urge to publicize them.

So confirmation bias is a “cognitive” bias that is driven by feelings from start to finish. In that sense it’s feelings, more than thoughts, that propel false or misleading information through social media. Yes, Russian bots and conspiracy-theorist crackpots and other nefarious actors have played a role in systematically spreading fake news, but much of the false or misleading information that is now muddying discourse and sustaining the tribal divide is spread unknowingly—innocently, in a sense—by people on both sides of the divide who are acting in accordance with human nature.

This is where mindfulness could come in. In my experience, and in the experience of many others, spending 20 or 30 minutes on the cushion every morning doing mindfulness meditation makes you more aware of feelings—not just as you meditate but as you go through the day. When feelings well up that you might otherwise obey reflexively, you’re more likely to reflect on them and decide whether to obey them.

Obviously, meditation won’t singlehandedly end fake news. But I think it would reduce the fuel supply for false and slanted information. And that could make a big difference, because the problem with such information isn’t just that it confuses the people who believe it. It also has an unfortunate influence on the people who don’t believe it—the people in the tribe who didn’t spread it. It reinforces their belief that the people in the other tribe are, at worst, knowingly lying and, at best, deeply confused.And probably the former. After all, we tend to interpret the errors of our enemies and rivals in an unfavorable light, while explaining away the errors of our allies in more innocent terms.

Indeed, this tendency itself involves a cognitive bias, one that is less famous than confirmation bias. It’s called “attribution error,” and it, too, is dividing America.

In a context of intense tribalism, attribution error works like this: If people we identify as members of our tribe do something bad—if they’re mean to someone, say, or they break the law—we tend to attribute the behavior to “situational” factors. They had been under stress at work, or they were pressured by bad actors into misbehaving, or whatever. If members of the enemy tribe do something bad, we’re more likely to explain the behavior in “dispositional” terms—the bad behavior emanates from their basic disposition, their character. It’s just the kind of thing that people like them do.

Good behavior works the other way around. If members of our tribe do something good, the explanation tends to be dispositional—their behavior is a simple reflection of who they are. If members of the enemy tribe do something good, the explanation will likely be situational—maybe they were “virtue signaling” to a particular audience, or maybe they did the right thing because all other options were foreclosed.

One consequence of attribution error is that once you’ve been categorized as an enemy, it’s hard to get that label changed. The bad things you do will be attributed to your essential nature, and so reinforce the label, and the good things you do will be explained away as not reflecting the “real you.” So the more Americans there are who are looking at each other through this bias—the more Americans there are who identify with one tribe or the other, and the more intense the identification—the deeper the challenge of near-term reconciliation.

This cognitive bias, like confirmation bias, seems to be triggered by feelings. You don’t have to be all that sensitive to pick up on the negative feeling that accompanies the thought of an enemy. This feeling can infuse your very perception of the person with a sense that they possess a kind of “essence of enemy,” an essence that then shapes the way you think about them.

So with attribution error, as with confirmation bias, anything that helps you reflect on your feelings before letting them take root, before giving them your obedience, could help. And mindfulness meditation does that. It can make you less reactive, more reflective, less buffeted by unexamined emotion, more equanimous. It can make you at least a bit less inclined to embrace and hang on to that “enemy” vibe when it surfaces.

I hope all of this explains why I think that, if most Americans meditated, the prospect of ever-intensifying tribal warfare could start to recede. What it doesn’t explain is why I hold out hope for salvation by mindfulness even though most Americans don’t, in fact, meditate. And, worse still, what meditators there are seem to cluster on one side of the aisle. When I’ve gone to meditation retreats, the parking lots have featured a number of Volvos, Subarus, and Priuses, few if any pickup trucks, and zero bumper stickers that say Make America Great Again.There are four reasons that I nonetheless hold out hope.

First, parking lots can be misleading. I have a sister who is a conservative Christian and voted for Trump and has dabbled in mindfulness meditation. One reason that last part shouldn’t surprise you is that mindfulness meditation has in many settings, including the growing number of schools and workplaces where it’s offered, been severed from its Buddhist roots and packaged as simple self-help, as therapy. Such as: “mindfulness-based stress reduction.”

And viewing stress mindfully can lead to viewing other feelings mindfully. Indeed, people who teach meditation as a way of handling stress or anxiety often wind up helping students deal with rage, anger, resentment, and other feelings that warp our perception of the enemy tribe. Besides, using mindfulness to deal with any given problematic feeling naturally tends to lead to greater awareness of, and more critical reflection on, other feelings as well, including even the subtler of the feelings that may drive cognitive biases. What starts as simple self-help can wind up making you a better person and a better citizen.

Second, meditation on one side of the tribal divide can exert a calming influence on the other side. The way figurative tribal warfare becomes literal tribal warfare is through a positive feedback loop: Hatred and hyperbolic rhetoric on one side lead to more of that on the other side, and vice versa. Well, the positive feedback works in the other direction too. If there is less hatred and less accusatory, hyperbolic rhetoric coming from one side, the amount of hatred and hyperbolic rhetoric on the other side can drop in response.

Third, meditation has established a pretty big beachhead and is gaining momentum. A National Institutes of Health survey conducted in 2012 found that 18 million American adults meditated and 21 million practiced yoga, which often has an element of mindfulness. And both numbers were growing.

Finally, science is providing more reason to meditate—not just by documenting the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness but by showing that our mental processes are in need of clarifying, and suggesting that clarifying them could involve changing our relationship to some of our feelings.

In a landmark study conducted during the 2004 election, researchers scanned the brains of strongly partisan Americans as they were shown evidence of hypocrisy in three people—George W. Bush, John Kerry, and a “neutral” figure, such as a famous actor with no well-known ideology. In all three cases, they were then shown “exculpatory” evidence that offered a way to explain the conduct in question without deeming it hypocritical. It’s no surprise that, in opining about which political candidates had indeed committed hypocrisy, Democratic and Republican partisans tended to nominate Bush and Kerry, respectively. More interesting is what went on in their brains as they moved toward these judgments.

For both Democrats and Republicans, a part of the brain associated with emotion tended to be activated upon seeing signs of hypocrisy in both Bush and Kerry, but not upon seeing signs of hypocrisy in the neutral figure. But some of the details depended on whether the candidate who seemed hypocritical was from their party. If he was, the study’s authors reported, then an initial “emotionally aversive” reaction was followed by a second phase that they described this way: a “combination of reduced negative affect (absence of activity in the insula and lateral orbital cortex) and increased positive affect or reward (ventral striatum activation) once subjects had ample time to reach biased conclusions.”

In other words, our “cognitive” biases seem to rest on a foundation of affective rewards. We think what it feels good to think. And it feels good to think that our tribe makes sense and the other tribe doesn’t.

Mindfulness meditation has roots going back more than two millennia, as do the Buddhist philosophy and Buddhist psychology that inform it. And Buddhist psychology has long emphasized the fine intertwining of cognition and affect, of thinking and feeling; our feelings make us cling to some thoughts and flee from others. Indeed, this is a big reason that, according to Buddhism, meditative practices which loosen the grip of feelings can give us a clearer view of the world, can lead in the direction of enlightenment.

According to Buddhism, these practices aren’t good only because they’re clarifying. They’re good because a clearer view of the world reduces our suffering and the suffering we inflict on others.

Modern psychology (as I’ve argued at greater length elsewhere) is broadly corroborating the Buddhist view of our situation: We are naturally afflicted by confusion, including cognitive biases, and this confusion is indeed abetted by feelings, and one consequence of all this is needless suffering. With Buddhism’s diagnosis of the human predicament getting more and more scientific validation, maybe it’s time we started paying attention to the Buddhist prescription.


Robert Wright (@robertwrighter) is the author of The Moral Animal, Nonzero, and The Evolution of God. This article is adapted from his new book Why Buddhism Is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and EnlightenmentWright has taught in the psychology department at Penn and the religion department at Princeton and is currently visiting professor of science and religion at Union Theological Seminary in New York. He also runs mindfulresistance.net.

How To Practice Yoga At Home If You’re An Absolute Beginner

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PHOTOGRAPHED BY MOLLY CRANNA.

There’s an image that comes across my Instagram feed about once a day of a wellness blogger in their light-filled apartment, surrounded by house plants, doing yoga and looking very casual about it. The thought of doing yoga at home sounds ideal; you don’t have to deal with people, spend any money, or even leave the house. But in actuality, when I try to do yoga at home, I get distracted and end up scrolling my phone in child’s pose on a yoga mat.

“One of the best things about yoga is that it can be done almost anytime, anywhere — including at home,” says Jade Alexis, a yoga trainer on the audio-based workout app Aaptiv. The problem is, without a yoga teacher around, or a proper app to walk you through the workout, it’s tough to know what exactly to do. You need to at least have a plan or intention each time you flow at home.

So, whether you also aspire to be an at-home yogi, or you just want to do yoga in private, ahead are some tips from Alexis and Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, yoga instructor and founder of Naaya Wellness (New York), a wellness collective for people of colour. With a mat and the right attitude, you too can be a yoga-flowing homebody.


1. Know a few basic poses.

When you’re starting out with your at-home yoga practice, it’s a good idea to have a vocabulary of postures that you can work with. Alexis and Dhliwayo suggest learning: cat cow, child’s pose, downward-facing dog, plank, cobra pose, upward-facing dog, warrior one and two, chair pose, and low lunge. If you know those, you can piece them together a beginner flow, like Sun Salutation B, Alexis says. Look up videos or images of the poses to get a sense of how they’re supposed to be done, but try not to get wrapped up in what they look like; how you feel is more important.

2. Listen to your body.

Form is essential in yoga, but without an expert to guide you through the poses or make physical corrections, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing it “right.” The best way to make adjustments or tell if you’re making mistakes is to just pay attention to how you feel, Alexis says. “Regardless of wherever you are, it’s important to listen to your body,” she says. “If something doesn’t feel right, listen to your body and ease of the posture.”


3. Try an online class.

The internet is full of tons of free yoga classes and resources for you to take advantage of — arguably too many. Dhliwayo is a fan of yogis Sara ClarkRocky Heron, and Dianne Bondy. The beauty of taking an online class is that you can stop it at any time, or rewind a section if it gets confusing. And of course, the Aaptiv app has lots of audio yoga classes that you can try that are varying lengths, styles, and levels of difficulty.

 

4. Get some gear.

You don’t need much to do yoga, but ideally you’d have a clutter-free space to practice, a good yoga mat, and most importantly a positive attitude and patience, Alexis says. Blocks can also be super helpful if you’re just starting out, because they essentially bring the floor up to you, which is imperative if you don’t have flexibility yet, Dhliwayo says. Other props like blankets help you be more comfortable in a pose, and can be nice to have during a restorative practice, she says. Music and calming essential oils can also help make your home practice feel more special, but those aren’t must-haves.

 

5. Don’t stress the names.

Often in yoga classes, teachers will use the Sanskrit names to define yoga poses, which can make it seem way more confusing. “Many people are concerned with knowing the names of poses, but that comes with time and I tell beginners to not worry about names when they get started,” Alexis says. Instead, just find beginner classes that will walk you through the individual poses, she says. With enough repetition, it’ll eventually click.

3 Ways Meditation Can Catapult Your Career

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Anyone that’s been to a yoga class recently has heard of the concept of meditation. Chances are, in 2019, you will start hearing about it more in the workplace, too. According to a report by the CDC, the number of American adults saying they meditated jumped from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018.

The benefits of meditation can help you in many aspects of your life, but here are three ways in which the practice can benefit your career.

  • It can help you realize what you really want. For the most fortunate of us, the hunt for a job meant finding out what truly makes us happy and turning that into a career. When that dream isn’t realized right away, it can cause depression and complacency, and ultimately result in the death of that dream. Meditation can not only help you practice self-awareness, but acceptance, as well.
  • It reduces stress. Work can be a huge stressor for most people, especially if there is a large sum of money on the line. When it comes time to grind, that stress can be a real hinderance. For example, a survey from EveryDay Health found that 57% of respondents say they are paralyzed by stress. Mindfulness meditation, even done for only a few minutes a day, can help reduce stress and anxiety, as demonstrated in a 2013 Massachusetts General Hospital study.
  • It gets creative juices flowing. If you work in a creative realm, you understand the concept of walking away and revisiting. Sometimes, when you’re stuck on an idea that you can’t seem to work yourself through, it is best to take a walk around the block and come back to it. When you don’t have that much time, however, focusing on your breathing and meditating for a few minutes allows your brain to do a soft reset.

While it may still seem like a foreign concept to some, the importance of meditation cannot be diminished. As I tell many of the entrepreneurs and job seekers I coach, even if it feels strange, what do you have to lose? I invite you to try it today and see how you feel.

Ashley Stahl is a career coach who helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Visit AshleyStahl.com for free courses, resources and more.

Dispositional Mindfulness: Noticing What You Notice

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Many forms therapy and spiritual practice speak of mindfulness. Dispositional mindfulness (sometimes known as trait mindfulness) is a type of consciousness that has only recently been given serious research considerations.

It is defined as a keen awareness and attention to our thoughts and feelings in the present moment, and the research shows that the ability to engage in this prime intention has many physical, psychological, and cognitive benefits.

Mindfulness meditation is different. It has taken the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and introduced it to the western world as a form of preparing and training. Those who practice mindfulness meditation are often encouraged to have a “sitting practice,” where they have set aside time to meditate.

In the West, this practice is considered a means to an end. We will be calmer, have lower blood pressure, better relationships, and less stress if we use this practice. While all this is true, the mindfulness aspect of this practice — the essence of this style of meditation was not designed as a means to an end — it was designed to be a way of conscious living.

Mindfulness, when viewed in this way, becomes a quality in our life — a trait, not a state we enter into during practice.

Don’t get me wrong — mindfulness meditation and the wide variety of training programs and opportunities are all valuable exercises. But the original intention of mindfulness and the science now surrounding dispositional mindfulness may be at the very root of how we maintain hope, perseverance, and mental health.

Here is a sample of the research outcomes from nearly 100 studies using dispositional mindfulness:

  • Lower levels of perceived stress
  • Lower use of avoidance coping strategies
  • Fewer depressive symptoms
  • Greater perseverance
  • Less anxiety
  • More hope
  • Reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Improved adaptive coping strategies
  • Reduced rumination
  • Less catastrophizing about pain
  • Diminished neuroticism
  • Improved executive function
  • Decreased impulsivity
  • Increased emotional stability
Proof Positive

This is an impressive list as the intervention we are talking about is a non-judging awareness of our thoughts and actions. The non-judgment is an important aspect of this practice. Cultivating a witness, a self that views our own experience with a benevolent prospective, has importance and impact.

This means that even before we attempt to change our thoughts, there is value — exceptional value — in simply noticing them.

This wobbly space between perception and response becomes clearer once we are given permission to examine the gap. Dispositional mindfulness is an invitation to widen that gap simply by noticing it exists. As we step back from our moment-to-moment experience we are cultivating our mindfulness, which then opens the way to responsiveness and the possibility and potential to shift our perceptions for the better.

As the Beat poet Alan Ginsberg suggested, one way to enter this gap is to “notice what you notice.” The practice is simple enough. As you survey your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in a present moment try to do so without judgment. This pause for thought is, in itself, the very dispositional mindfulness that research is showing has so many benefits.

In essence, the practice is strengthened when we catch ourselves thinking.

Why Spirituality is Good for Your Mental Health

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Why Spirituality is Good for Your Mental Health

Spirituality, or being concerned about your connection to the human spirit and the light all around us, is beneficial and uplifting for our overall mental health and quality of life. The secular world often looks at spirituality as hocus pocus when dealing with mental health or physical concerns, but the truth is the human body is not a car, it is more than just mechanics.

Technology and science are needed and beneficial, but they are not the solve-all that some people hope they are. We have a growing disconnection from that sacred light and love within our bodies, even our physical environments have grown into more concrete and steel with less nature and beauty. This lack of spirituality leaves a void; which we fill with overeating, anxiety, sex, money, fighting, career or some other placeholder which we shove into that void thinking we are doing just fine.

Spirituality or Religion

To be clear, spirituality and religion are not the same thing although they do interact. Religion is organized, has standards and provides structure to someone on how they should interact with and grow their spirituality. While spirituality is very individualized and resides within our hearts, no one has access to that spiritual core except for the one who created it. We can think of religion as more external and spirituality as internal. One impacts the other, one can feed off of the other or hurt the other, but they are not the same.

_We are not human beings having a spiritual experience_ we are spiritual beings having a human experience._

I have always been a spiritual woman, but I spent 30 years searching for my religion which would help me elevate my spirituality. It is important to follow your own path in this, trial and error, for every time we stumble or fall we are actually learning and this doesn’t hurt your spiritual core.

Mental Health Benefits

Our spirituality is a connection to something much larger than ourselves, something impossible to measure or fully comprehend. This means we can outsource our anxiety and depression to the one who created this state of being in the first place. Spirituality encourages us to look within ourselves and ask deep questions. At the same time it makes us contemplate how this all fits into our everyday lives and the world around us. This means it can change your perspective on the very meaning of life. If someone wants to argue their interpretation of the meaning of life has no impact on mental health then I have to wonder if they truly ever contemplated that question.

Here are some examples of spirituality benefiting your mental health:

    • Empowerment. Spirituality puts focus on your individual connection to the divine, to whatever it is you believe to be true in your own set of values and faith. This causes your own sense of self to blossom as you explore that inner dimension of yourself. Spirituality does not judge or label, it is whatever you mold it to be within yourself. While it is very difficult to imagine spirituality as a tangible object you can physically mold, you can imagine it is liken to plasma. A state with no fixed volume or shape that allows for the conduction of electricity like a spiritual boost and responds to magnetism or those beliefs and occurrences that pull you towards spiritual growth.
    • Gratitude. Someone who is more spiritually aware often notices their environment and daily blessings. They literally stop to smell the roses as the expression goes and they see light and divinity within that rose. They feel gratitude for the beautiful sunset because it is a blessing from God to even see this sight and the colors fascinate their senses. Unlike the non-spiritual person who may see the sunset and their first thought is “I didn’t get enough work done today”. Gratitude for what is around us and the people around us naturally makes us happier and alters our perspective to a more positive one.
    • Mindfulness. This goes along with gratitude above as we tend to be more grateful when we are more mindful of what surrounds us. Spirituality encourages meditation/prayer, sitting in quiet places listening to your heart, devoting time to worship no matter what that looks like to you. Being consciously aware of what is happening versus being glued to the phone screen oblivious to the beautiful rose bush next to us. Mindfulness is used to treat anxiety, depression, ADHD etc. Yet with spirituality you get mindfulness along with many other benefits.
    • Stamina. Increased spirituality makes you stronger, you can take more hardships and walk away from them smiling. When something difficult happens, some people fall into despair and cry out WHY ME while others understand everything has a reason and ultimately, it is not what happens to you that matters it is how you respond to it. For Muslims, we say alhamdulillah (all praise to
      God) and those of us strong in faith can move on without dwelling. Instead of “why me” try saying “thank you” then keep going.

WHY-monique hassan

In today’s modern world they tend to look at mental illness as related to hormones, neurotransmitters are off, your diet is unhealthy or in some shape or form you are broken and need repair. While I agree that chemicals can be off balance and your diet will impact you, I would also argue that devoting time to your spirituality and listening to your heart can help you feel motivation for a healthier diet and even help you balance your own hormones. If you don’t believe me then explain the placebo effect. Explain how people taking sugar pills can have the same physical effect as someone taking the actual prescription. This is the power of our amazing mind, when linked up with your spirituality , your potential is beyond what you can imagine.

Final Thoughts

We live in a seemingly disconnected space; where people focus on the physical and ignore the internal, letting it wither away. Yet even a few moments a day dedicated to spirituality and listening to your own heart can change your entire mindset and uplift your mental health. I challenge you to push yourself out of your typical comfort zones and explore a new way of thinking. What can you lose? Worst case you determine that spirituality is hocus pocus to you but best case, it change your world.

 

A 5-Minute Meditation Practice You Can Do Anywhere to Let Go of Jealous

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How To Overcome Jealousy Meditation

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If you’ve ever wondered how to stop being jealous after a scroll through your Facebook feed leaves you feeling like a crazy person, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too. As ashamed as we might be to admit it, jealousy is a tough demon to beat.

Before Facebook posts were a thing, I could go about my daily life not knowing what my ex was doing with his new girlfriend or what amazing new job a high school classmate had just got. But now we’re in the modern world, and we have the privilege — and burden — of knowing everything about everyone. Well, maybe not everything. Social media, after all, is just a highlight reel.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to remember that we shouldn’t really be comparing ourselves to others. Why? Because our feelings of envy can linger and have unpleasant effects on our mood and our perspective of our own lives. So, If you’re feeling or have ever felt like the grass was greener on the other side, you might want consider giving meditation a try.

How can meditation help jealousy?

Most people think of meditation for stress relief, but not everyone considers jealousy a stressor. The truth is, feeling jealous can indicate that a person’s sense of safety is threatened, so these emotions really should be addressed. Luckily, meditation can actually work to rewire the brain for more positive thinking and relief from envious feelings.

According to Psychology Today, meditation affects the prefrontal cortex, more specifically the “Me Center” of the brain — the same part associated with jealous feelings. It also affects the amygdala, or the “fear center,” that governs our fight or flight response. Balancing these systems with meditation can help you to gain control over negative thoughts and emotions, and can even improve your ability to connect with others. Scroll down for a simple practice to get started with today.

1. Notice your feelings.

The first step to overcoming any problem is becoming aware of it. Meditation doesn’t always look like someone sitting down in a tranquil environment with flute music in the background. It can be as simple as taking a moment — in any environment or situation — to pause and to notice.

When a jealous feeling arises, acknowledge it. Before you run off on a thought tangent, take a moment and a deep breath into your belly and recognize that the feeling is there. You might say (aloud or to yourself), “I am feeling jealous.” Observing your thoughts gives you the power to take control of their direction. Simple enough, right?

2. Breathe and reflect.

The magic of meditation is really in the breath. Once you’ve noticed that you’re feeling jealous, simply paying attention to your breathing and taking slow, conscious breaths can ease the tension by bringing you back to the present moment. It can even stop you from following that one negative thought down a rabbit hole of more pessimism.

This practice may seem really simple, but it’s tough at first since our brains are conditioned in old habits of thinking. Try to practice your breathing for at least one minute, with deep inhales into your belly and deep exhales out, making the exhales longer than the inhales. With repetition, this exercise can be the one that saves you from what may be the most common happiness killer — overthinking.

3. Practice letting go — and use a mantra.

If it were as simple as “just let it go,” then you probably wouldn’t have read this far. The idea of letting a negative thought or thought pattern go is great, but our brains don’t necessarily work that way. If we’re going to give up a habit that’s essential to the way we view ourselves and others in the world, we need to replace it with something. That’s where a mantra comes in.

Your mantra doesn’t have to be complicated; all it has to do is propose a positive to replace a negative thought. Because jealousy often arises as a result of feeling inadequate, mantras combat jealousy by focusing on abundance. Think about it this way, if you believe there’s enough for everyone, there’s nothing to compete for.

Your mantra could be something like, “I have enough. I am abundant,” if you’re struggling with feeling like others have more than you have, or “I am enough,” if you find that you’re struggling with feeling inadequate. To use your mantra, simply repeat it slowly over and over, with a big long breath in between each repetition. Do this for a few minutes, even if it feels like lying at first — which it might if your mind is fighting to tell you the old same story. Saying a mantra gives your mind something else to focus on and introduces a new way of thinking. Eventually, and with repetition, you’ll start to actually believe it.

A simple meditation practice like this one can do wonders in training the mind to think more positively about ourselves and the world around us. Taking some time in our day to pause, breathe, and reflect is an act of self care that allows us to connect with ourselves in a way that benefits everyone. We hope that you’ll give this practice a try and remember, the grass is always greener where it’s watered.

 

Meditation has become a very common practice nowadays. It is now everywhere. And after knowing the benefits of meditation, you would know that it deserves to be everywhere. With its increasing popularity, people are adopting many methods of meditation according to their preferences and ease. There are many centers and institutes which teach tons of…

via Heartfulness Meditation: A Perfect Blend of Science and Spirituality — Get Well Forever

Will I Ever Enjoy Meditation?

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Woman sitting cross legged on the ground, looking into the distance.

Question: I’ve been meditating for a long time, but the truth is I don’t really like it. I meditate because I think I’m supposed to. It does help me in my life, but usually I find it boring and not enjoyable. Will I ever like meditating, or is that not the point?

Kate Lila Wheeler: Congratulations! Most people never feel like meditating. How great that you actually do it, and want to refine your abilities.

I bet you already have deeper motivations than “supposed to.” Before starting your meditation, try recalling a specific way you knew meditation has helped you (and others, no doubt) in life.

When you are meditating, grant yourself permission to be easy, simple, open for experiences. Feel your body. If you lack joy, let it be. Instead of fixing it, explore. What’s this like for your body? Check for attitudes. If there’s disliking or judging present, that’s OK. Don’t force yourself to be perfect. Breathe. Stay present and persist in gentle exploration. Bathe the whole mess in compassion or equanimity as needed. If you get overwhelmed, shift your attention or blink your eyes.

Finally, we all tend to import the obscurations of samsara into meditation. Samsara demands things to be a certain way. Can you know your own deepest heart, beyond techniques or measurements? Who’s that sweet being who persists, even though life gets hard? Can you rest with them?

Hope this helps.

How Meditation Can Make You Happier

Psych Central Article
By 

Despite many of us in the modern world enjoying a level of comfort and luxury that would be been unimaginable for most of human history, we still find it very hard to be happy. In fact, it seems that modern society is contributing to our fatigue and discontentment — with high-pressure working lives, decreased sense of community and a perceived lack of meaning all causing strain.

As much as we may struggle, however, the pursuit of happiness is still the primary goal for most people. While it would be trite to suggest that meditation can solve all our problems, there are reasons why it can help us achieve this goal.

Experiencing Less Stress

Our “fight or flight” response is continually triggered in day-to-day life by our “lizard brain” stress response system, which cannot differentiate between a true emergency and something routine — such as running late, or demands at work.

The stress response evolved in order for us to detect and face life-threatening situations, but because we have the capacity to think about our lives this response is no longer purely instinctive. Instead, we have the capacity to trigger our stress response simply by ruminating over fears and worries — especially if we struggle with anxiety.

During periods of relaxation, the hormones and physiological responses of stress naturally dissipate and do little harm, but unfortunately this isn’t the case if we’ve found ourselves on a relentless high-alert. In cases like this, the end result is exhaustion, vulnerability to illness and unhappiness.

Meditation has shown promise in various studies to reduce stress and increase “present moment awareness”, encouraging us to appreciate the moment rather than stewing over our concerns. Eventually we become calmer in general — our brains stop reacting so significantly to every trigger and our recovery time after a stressful event is improved.

In the long run, this increases our natural optimism and makes happiness easier to achieve. Consciously forcing ourselves to become more positive can be a real struggle, but because meditation appears to reduce stress on a physiological level, seeing the world in an optimistic light isn’t hampered by feelings of pressure.

Clarity

Living a hectic life full of anxiety and worry makes it nearly impossible to look at any situation with a good sense of perspective. We can overcomplicate our lives and get lost in a fog that lasts for years, never really looking up from the grindstone to appreciate what we have and enjoy ourselves.

Stress makes us think narrowly and hinders our ability to make good decisions, but, once it is eased, we can think much more clearly. This leads to more productivity and efficiency, allowing to work in a way which gets things done faster and with focus, further freeing our time and mental energy.

When we aren’t in “emergency mode” all the time, we can think about our lives without the panic, anger or irrationality that stress can bring. With this, we are more able to objectively assess what’s actually important, both in our relationships and our work lives.

Better Health

There are many health benefits of meditation, as stress can be the root cause of, or can aggravate, many illnesses. It directs energy away from normal functioning such as digestion and immune response, exacerbating ongoing issues such as IBS while leaving us more susceptible everyday coughs, colds and stomach upsets.

It also contributes to bad habits such as eating bad food, smoking and overindulging in alcohol. Those who are tired are more likely to choose high-fat, high-sugar options in their diet, while being chronically stressed increases our chances of looking for crutches such as a nicotine habit.

This further damages our health in the long term while also perpetuating the problems which make us feel bad in the short term (whether it’s just guilt or a vague hangover). Meditation tackles stress, the primary issue, putting us the best possible frame of mind for making good decisions regarding our health, whilst also improving our sleep.

Getting Started

There are many different forms of meditation and it can be worth doing a little research to see which kind most seems to resonate with you. Mindfulness is where most people begin — and with plenty of apps on the market to introduce you to this technique, it can be a good way to bring meditation into your life.

If you would prefer some guidance, it’s likely that there will be meditation teachers (or Buddhist centers) which will be happy to teach you how to meditate and offer support as you make it a daily habit.

Being the happiest we can be is one of the overriding aims of humanity, yet it is frustratingly elusive. It’s easy to think that happiness is something that will come later, if only we sacrifice our time and peace of mind now. Meditation can help us be happy wherever we are in life, and let us identify the changes we need to make in order to be truly content in the present moment.