When you hear the word ‘mindfulness,’ you probably think of clearing your mind while breathing deeply. In fact, it’s probably impossible to clear your mind completely but focusing on the breathing helps you to avoid getting caught up in negative thoughts and to let them pass in their own time. While mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated, it is built on a foundation of learning that has been developed over thousands of years. There are lots of lessons from the world of mindfulness that can help you to live a happier and healthier life, even if you don’t actively practice it. A good example of this is mindful attitudes.
What are mindful attitudes?
An attitude is a way of thinking or feeling about yourself, other people, or the world around you. The attitudes you hold help shape your mindset and your outlook on life. Some attitudes can help you to build a more positive outlook on life, while others can make it harder to feel hopeful for your future.
There are a number of attitudes that are talked about in mindfulness teaching. You can think of these as key ingredients that go together to create a mindful outlook. Nurturing and developing these attitudes in yourself not only supports your mindfulness practice but can also help boost your mood, build your self-esteem and improve your life satisfaction. Changing your outlook doesn’t mean that you have to pretend that you’re always happy or that everything is good all the time. Challenges are a part of life, but developing mindful attitudes can help you believe in yourself and stay hopeful, even when things get tough.
The attitudes of mindfulness that can boost your mood
In mindfulness, being non-judgemental means experiencing the present moment as it is, without bias or judgement. Trying to become less judgemental is difficult because judgemental thoughts are often automatic. This means you might not even notice when you’re thinking in a judgemental way, but it can still have a negative impact on your mood. For example, you might learn that you have an exam coming up and think ‘I’ll never pass this exam’ or ‘I’m not smart enough to do well.’ Judgemental thoughts like this can cause you to worry and lower your mood. Learning to combat negative self-talk can help you take on new challenges and see the world in a more optimistic way.
Practising non-judgement takes time. The first step is learning to recognise when you’re making a judgement. When you notice that you’re thinking in a judgemental way, remind yourself of a more balanced perspective. This is where kindness and care become important too. Mindfulness encourages you to experience without judgement and to respond with kindness, both towards others and towards yourself.
Everyone wishes that things were different sometimes. It can be upsetting or distressing when you’re in a situation that is unfair or you feel should be different. Even though it’s difficult, sometimes you need acceptance to be able to continue to learn, change, grow, or heal. An example of this would be learning to cope with losing a loved one. Acceptance takes time. It can emerge slowly and rarely happens overnight.
In mindfulness, acceptance encourages you to see things exactly as they are in the present moment. Acceptance doesn’t mean you can’t create positive change in the world or improve your personal circumstances. It also doesn’t mean that things aren’t bad or downright awful. It’s about recognising when something is outside of your control and being able to see it for how it is. It’s also about recognising when you’re in a situation where you do have control and feeling empowered to take action and make a difference. If you want to practice acceptance for yourself, the next time you find yourself struggling with a situation or circumstances, start by asking yourself whether or not this is something you can control.
Life can move pretty quickly, and it’s not always easy to spend time reflecting on what you’re grateful for. In mindfulness, you are encouraged to give your attention to things in life you are thankful for, no matter how big or small. Going through a tough time and dealing with difficult circumstances can cause you to view the world in a more negative way and the positives can get harder to see. Practising gratitude can help you see through the fog of life and find the things that are most important to you. This helps you to see things from a more balanced perspective.
If you want to practice gratitude for yourself, keeping a gratitude journal can be helpful. Start small by writing down one thing that you are grateful for every day. Some days you might find it hard to think of something, but be patient with yourself, there’s always something. Once you’ve been keeping a gratitude journal for a while, you can read back through some of your entries to lift your mood if you’re feeling low.
Life moves at its own pace. In mindfulness, patience helps you to stick with mindfulness practice so that you can get the benefits of it, but cultivating patience can help you in many aspects of your life as well. Nobody likes to wait, and wanting things to happen now isn’t always a bad thing. Having things in your life that you’re looking forward to is good for you and helps build a hopeful outlook. The problem is, good things often take time and hard work. Rushing for a quick fix can be tempting, but practising patience will help you to work towards bigger goals and will make it easier to cope with unexpected bumps in the road. If you’re too focused on what’s coming up, you can miss out on now. Patience helps you to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
In mindfulness, having a beginner’s mind means that you see and interact with the world around you in an open and curious way as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Embracing new experiences and being open to learning new things can help give you a fresh outlook on life. It also helps you to accept yourself as you are by recognising that it’s ok to not know everything or have it all figured out.
Developing a beginner’s mind can help you make fewer assumptions about yourself and other people. If you would like to think more like this, take time to notice the assumptions you make in different situations. Like judgements, assumptions are often automatic thoughts that you don’t notice, so you might be surprised by how many you find. When you find yourself making an assumption about a situation, gently challenge it and try to let go of any expectations.
Developing trust in yourself and your feelings is an important attitude in mindfulness. This is also an important attitude for life in general. Believing in yourself and your abilities, and understanding that your feelings are valuable and important can help you build resilience and cope with stress and other challenges.
It can be particularly hard to trust yourself when your self-esteem is low. You can build trust gradually over time by being kind and patient with yourself. This can be strange at first, but it can help to think about yourself as a loved one. Lots of people are harsher on themselves than they are with the people around them. If you wouldn’t say something to someone you care about, then try not to think it of yourself.