If you are interested in simplicity and minimalism, you probably heard about mindfulness before. I have broached the subject myself, about mindfulness and habits, or meditation for example. One could think it is a part of the trend, but I came to believe there is something really important in the idea of being mindful. Here are my two cents.
What is mindfulness?I shall keep short on this, as you probably have read quite enough on the subject to know what we are talking about here. Basically, mindfulness means being in the present moment, being aware of what is happening inside and outside. It is the opposite of mind wandering: you are here, now, conscious of this very moment, instead of being caught in thoughts or worries.
Simple, you think? But it isn't. Our minds are constructed to wander. Our brains have evolved to be able to remember, theorize and try to predict the future. Our mind wandering is a part of why the human race evolved to where we are now. Studies show that we are mind wandering most of the time, and even the best meditation master can't remain fully mindful for long.
Mindfulness and HappinessIf we are made to mind wander, why fight it, you ask? I understand chasing negative thoughts and worries, but tons of nice things also happen in my head. I won't contradict you, my mind is full of dragons and magic and spaceships and weird imagainary friends (and an alien advisor) and I wouldn't drop it for the world.
However, studies on happiness show that people who are in the moment are always happier than people who are mind-wandering, even if they are having positive thoughts. Mindfulness helps being aware of what is going on, enjoying the good experiences you are living here and now. In a way, mindfulness is the way to life appreciation and gratitude, the way of seeing the glass half full.
Mindfulness and Finding your WayWhile the points above are based on research presented in the Science of Happiness MOOC I just completed, this part is my own two cents. I feel like we spend most of our life in semi-automatic mode. Daily habits, the flow of life, what we call "métro, boulot, dodo" in French (transport, work, sleep). What happens if you wake up one day, at 20, 30, 40 or older, thinking "why am I here and what am I doing with my life?" ?
I have been making efforts to be more mindful for five years now, ever since I realized one day that my external image was at odds with who I thought I was. And I started with the daily mindfulness: counting my clothes, changing my daily habits, learning to appreciate the small joys of life, on a day-to-day basis.
But looking back at five years of simplicity journey, this mindfulness ended up being much more than enjoying the smell of coffee in the morning or feeling the cold air on my skin. I became aware of this discrepancy between the image I projected and who I wanted to be deep inside. I became aware of who I wanted to be deep inside, in the first place. I realized that many of my thoughts were derived from my education, culture and social class, without my ever questioning what I blindly admitted to be a truth.
Becoming more mindful pushed me to see the world in a different light, to become more aware of how my life curently is and what I want to turn it into. The result? There is still a long way ahead, but I stopped wasting money in status symbol objects and started pouring my energy into what I really want to accomplish. I reconnected with old passions and hobbies (collecting minerals, playing the violin...), started to write fiction again.
After five years, this little daily thing that is mindfulness transformed my life. I feel better because my actions and choices are more in line with who I want to be. I feel like I am the change I want to see in the world (or at least, I know I want to, and start making efforts). I feel like I pour my time, energy and money into things that really matter to me. I feel like I'm really working toward my own definition of success, and not someone else's. and I sincerely think it all started with mindfulness.
What Now?I will publish a level up mini-challenge soon to give you ideas on how to be more mindful in the everday life. In the meantime, one of the ideas to explore is meditation practice. You can find some free guided meditations here if you have a mind to give it a try.
What about you? Did your simplicity journey lead to more mindfulness? Have you seen larger scale changes when looking back at your life?