- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
- The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck
- Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie
- The Attitude Factor: Extend Your Life by Changing the Way You Think by Thomas Blakeslee
- You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective by Richard Carlson and Wayne Dyer.
- To be happy, you must shut down your inner dialogue and quiet your mind.
“The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life,” explains Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now. “The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is.”
Martha Beck, in The Joy Diet, walks you through how to first quiet your body and then detach from the “restless child” that is your mind and become the kind, nonjudgmental mother who regards that child with tolerant affection.
The origins of quieting the mind and embracing the present—mindfulness—began with Buddha who advised: “Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future; concentrate the mind on the present moment.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, which he launched in 1979 at the UMass Medical School, made mindfulness widely popular. Here is a video link to him explaining the concept.
Mindfulness can be done formally through meditation or informally in your daily life by nonjudgmental acceptance and staying focused on the present moment without getting distracted by your thoughts or feelings.
Carve out a regular time each day to sit comfortably and quietly in your favorite chair by the window or under a banyan tree. Let your body relax, focus on your breathing, and then start to separate from the mental static in your head.
You begin to see that thoughts are simply like dreams—they aren’t real. Capture each one that intrudes in a bubble and send it floating away. Focus on your breath—slowly breathing in and out—and clear your mind.
Sound easy? You’ll be surprised by how much your “restless child” constantly vies for your attention.
It is worth the effort. Let me share what Polly Vernon, a writer for the U.K.’s The Telegraph, discovered about meditation.
It’s chilled me out. Taken the edge off, stilled the caffeinated stress flicker that once permanently inhabited my left eyelid, quieted the washing-machine churn of chat and ire – the fury at perceived slights and injustices, the revisiting of ancient sadnesses, the picking over of scabby old grudges – which used to run on high-spin cycle pretty much constantly in my head.
I sleep better, I laugh more. I am less prone to compulsive actions. Mindfulness makes self-destructive behaviour eminently avoidable. Meditate enough and you become less inclined to eat until you feel sick, drink coffee until you get a migraine, put off bedtime for another hour because you want to scour Facebook for evidence that an ex has moved on more quickly than you have and never mind that you are a knackered, drained husk, physically and emotionally. That sort of thing loses its appeal naturally, with minimum effort.
If you prefer “a gym membership for your mind,” try the app Headspace on your smartphone. Founded in 2010 by a former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe, it has a legion of celebrity fans, from Emma Watson to Gwyneth Paltrow. Choose from hundreds of guided sessions that can be played on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. It will lead you through daily practices that can get you started.
It is a simple tool for becoming happy—for experiencing joy. You don’t have to get anything or do anything complicated to be mindful. You simply have to stop paying so much attention to your thoughts—the ruminations of the restless child that is your mind.