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What’s the secret to happiness?
Is it being rich? Is it having a loving family? Is it being healthy and living in an area of natural beauty?
Is it all of those things?
The answer is that it’s none of them. And that might surprise you, but even with all those things going for you, you might be miserable.
Meanwhile, someone living in the worst of conditions – with crippling hunger, illnesses, poverty and not a family member in sight – can actually be one of the happiest people in the world.
So what’s going on?
Well, it all actually comes down to the way that you perceive your situation and the way you think about the circumstances you’re in.
A billionaire can be depressed and especially if they don’t focus on what they’re grateful for. But if you learn to see the beauty in everything and if you can learn to calm your mind and shut out stress – then you can enjoy bliss wherever you are.
How do you accomplish this? Like anything, it comes from training. If you can learn to control your mind, whether through meditation, CBT or other methods, you’ll find that you can start to decide how you want to feel and how you want to react at any given time.
What’s more, having the ability to control your mindset like this can help you to achieve a lot of other things.
Overcoming stress for instance means that you can stop ‘treading water’ and you can stop ‘putting out fires’. Instead, you can get your head above water and start to decide the trajectory you want for your life and how you’re best going to use your time.
And better yet, if you can learn to control your mind, you can even start to tap into ‘flow states’. That means that you’re so completely focussed on the activity you’re engaged in, that you actually manage to tune out everything else and time almost seems to slow down.
Flow states are the mental state that most athletes are thought to be in when they break world records or score winning goals. And when you put this state under the microscope and use a brain scanner, we can see that it’s actually a state very similar to meditation!
How to Control Your Brain, Your Thoughts and Your Emotions
Meditation is the first step to becoming more in control of your mind, your emotions and the way you choose to feel, think and act. Once you learn to use meditation, you’ll create a ‘safe’ place that you can escape to any time you choose. This will allow you to become completely relaxed and to ‘detach’ yourself from the petty concerns that you might have and all those not so petty ones.
Because at the end of the day, constantly thinking about your debt or about your relationship problems isn’t going to help. It’s certainly not going to help on the bus on the way into work in the mornings. So if you can learn to tap into a calm and relaxed state, you can give your mind and body the rest and recuperation they need in order to attack the day ahead with the most energy and the most vigor.
Studies show us that meditation can help us to enter a ‘thetastate’ in our brain, where many of our brainwaves will start to slow down, showing reduced activity. This is very good for us and can help to lower blood pressure, improve mood and generally help us to become calmer, happier and more focussed. Instead of worrying and stressing, we are simply ‘existing’.
At the same time though, meditation is also useful for other reasons. That’s because it’s training. What you’re effectively doing is training your brain to learn how to focus and you’re training yourself to learn how to direct your attention the way you want to. Now you’re teaching yourself to avoid the temptation to think about certain things and to decide where and what you want to send your focus.
This actually creates more neural connections in the brain and it leads you to become smarter, improving your memory, your IQ and your attention.
But at the same time, this also teaches us that we are not slaves to our emotions or to our thought processes. Rather, we can control them at will in order to ensure that we’re always in the most productive and useful mental state for the given scenario.
And that’s when we’re going to introduce our second skill and our second technique: CBT.
CBT is ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ and is basically a psychotherapeutic technique. That means that it’s a tool set used by psychologists to help us overcome various different types of mental health problems, anxieties etc.