Much is written about happiness. Books. Articles. Songs. Videos. Happiness seems to be a universal pursuit and one that has existed through ages; indeed, it was a frequent topic among philosophers from the ancient worlds of West and East and has been pursued without pause since then. No one has yet to discover a single answer to how to find happiness. Russ Harris, a important leader in acceptance and commitment therapy, wrote a book entitled The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living. Is happiness attainable, or is it a trap, a sham?
Mindfulness journaling for wellbeing can help you quiet anxiety and develop your own personal version of stillness and inner peace. When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, journaling simply works. The Positive Psychology Program, an organization dedicated to improving wellbeing and mental health through the application of positive psychology, provides 83 sound reasons why journaling is an excellent healer of depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, and more. I’ve reaped the benefits of journaling, and I’m excited to announce that I’ve written The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety that, in combination with mindfulness exercises, guides you gently on a rewarding journey to stillness and self-recovery.
Meaning-making is a powerful tool to enhance mental health and wellbeing. While useful year-round, turning inward and creating personal meaning in your life is especially effective in late autumn. Intentionally caring for our mental health in November allows us to enjoy the month and the changes it brings. Doing so can prepare us for the holiday season that begins this month, and it can even stave off seasonal depression (seasonal affective disorder, SAD). Among the many things that can boost wellbeing is taking time to reflect and engage in personal meaning-making.
Anxious. Unsettled. Uneasy. Agitated. Frustrated. Tense. Racing thoughts. Obsessive thoughts. Rumination. Headache. Heartburn. Chest pain. Lump in your throat. Clenched jaw.
This list could continue on and on. And it does continue within us. These are some of the things we can experience when we’re anxious. There’s a way to deal with being anxious both right now and going forward.
Wellbeing and mindfulness aren’t just for retreats, spas, and other calm environments. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. While placing yourself in a soothing environment, like sitting in a favorite room in the morning while enjoying a cup of tea, is important for calming mind and body, the power of mindfulness can be fully experienced in the midst of chaos.
Mindfulness. What, exactly, is it? We hear the term often, but there is much about it that remains a mystery. Beyond living in the present moment, what is the practice? The more we know (I’m always learning), the better we can use it to decrease anxiety or other challenges and cultivate our lives of wellbeing.
Anxiety and rumination are evil partners conspiring against our wellbeing. Anxiety works its way into our entire being and settles in for the long haul. All types of anxiety disorders do this, as does “ordinary” anxiety, the experience of worry, doubt, fear, etc. that isn’t quite diagnosable as a disorder but is disturbing and bothersome nonetheless.
Anxiety affects us in many ways including the way we think that the thoughts we have. Anxiety is connected to experiences such as overthinking and ruminating. We chew on them repeatedly, the way a cow chews on grass in its original form and in cud form. The more we chew on, or think about, our worries, fears, stresses, and the like, the more we’re paying attention to them. And the more we pay attention to them, the harder they are to swallow. So, like a cow and other ruminants, we regurgitate and ruminate.
Anxious thoughts are annoying at best and quite damaging to our mental health and wellbeing at worst. Part of the problem with these worries, fears, and what-ifs is the fact that once they form, they stick. It’s as if they’re covered in oozing tree sap so when they pop into your mind, they don’t leave. When we try to shake them of, they tighten their hold. When we try to argue them away, they grow because we’re giving them our full attention. We are focusing on all of our anxieties, and they stick together, growing larger and larger and threatening to consume us. Plain and simple, anxious thoughts are sticky so they don’t go away. It can seem as though we’ll never be able to loosen them. That is a common thought/feeling borne out of the frustrations of anxiety. It’s also false. You can remove your sticky thoughts. Mindfulness is a powerfully effective way to do it.
Several years ago, when my anxiety was stuck in its intense phase, I decided to give mindfulness, the act and state of being of living fully in the present moment rather than stuck inside our mind, another try. Yes, another try. In my quest for the holy grail, that one thing that would miraculously poof away all of my social anxiety and generalized anxiety, I had tried many things many times. Mindfulness as a technique for soothing so many things, including anxiety, is something that was and continues to be hailed as effective in decreasing anxiety. Yet for quite some time, it eluded me.