The Bad Mood

Have you ever noticed how bad moods can strike no matter how your life is going and no matter what mood you started out with? Being human is not always easy. Expecting yourself to be continuously easy-breezy and happy is not realistic, and it sets you up for disappointment. The fact is, bad moods happen! Sometimes bad moods are the result of outer pressures in your life, like the flat tire, the whiney kids, or the slowpoke driving in front of you when you’re already running late. Other times, bad moods result from inner conditions like excessive negative thinking, not getting enough sleep, or too much caffeine or sugar. A bad mood could even be the culmination of multiple inner and outer causes. And many times bad moods just seem to arise out of nowhere, for no discernible reason. Here are some suggestions to help you deal mindfully and skillfully with a “bad mood”: 1. Recognize and acknowledge that you are in the midst of a bad mood. This may sound obvious, but it requires your mindful awareness of the present moment. To determine your mood, stop everything you’re doing and feel what’s going on in your body, heart, and mind. If your internal state feels heavy, dark, agitated, angry, sad, impatient, or dull with malaise, you’re dealing with a challenging mood. 2. Remember that bad moods are temporary. Try to see your moods as passing weather patterns that inevitably change over time. With consistent mindful awareness, you’ll notice that moods are fluid and ever-changing. 3. Accept your present mood state. We usually have no problem accepting great or neutral mood states, but we tend to resist unpleasant moods. Practice accepting whatever mood state is present—especially the challenging ones! 4. Engage in helpful self-care. Most of us are so busy trying to plow through our long to-do lists that we can easily overlook essential self-care practices: If you are sleep-deprived and have the opportunity, take a short nap. If your blood sugar is low, eat a healthy meal or snack. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for support or take some time away from any challenging tasks if possible. No matter how you’re feeling, find time for mindful meditation practice. This will cultivate a calmer, more peaceful mind. 5. Don’t take your bad mood personally. When you regard your poor mood as a personal deficiency, you are giving it power over you. This strengthens the bad mood, making it even worse. Here are some indications that you are taking the bad mood personally: Resistance: You resist the mood by refusing to acknowledge it. You may pretend to feel fine or perhaps you try to distract yourself by seeking pleasure....

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Arresting Restlessness (Part II)

Read Part I: Restlessness » Stop Feeding the Monster Once you have recognized restlessness for what it is, try very hard not to give in to the urges or impulses that accompany it. If you give in you will only feed the monster, i.e., cultivate additional restlessness—not a good idea. You can strengthen your ability to resist restless impulses by avoiding behaviors like these during your day-to-day life: Checking your email whenever the thought crosses your mind (e.g., 30 times a day) Picking up the phone and calling a friend just to allay boredom Eating a treat purely for stimulation Racing out the door to escape a case of cabin fever During meditation practice you can also practice tolerating restlessness. One of the hardest things to do during a bout of restlessness is to continue meditating. But this is exactly what will strengthen you. So resist quitting, getting up, or changing positions. Do your best to keep your body still. (If you’re in physical pain, by all means move; otherwise, try not to move needlessly.) And when the restless mind manufactures one dramatic story after another, don’t buy in to the story line. In other words, don’t necessarily believe your own mind! In mindfulness terminology, restlessness is considered a “hindrance” of the mind. It is a hindrance that challenges everyone from time to time, but it doesn’t need to sabotage your practice or your life. In fact, with regular practice, you can use restlessness as an opportunity to hone your mindfulness. Now that you have recognized restlessness and chosen not to give in to its distractive impulses, how do you proceed? 1. Do not judge restlessness as bad, wrong, or unwanted. Restlessness is nothing more than a habitual tendency of your mind and body. It’s just another habit to break. It could well be that your psyche developed this habit to distract and protect you from having to experience even deeper emotional pain. When you label restlessness as bad or unwanted, you actually strengthen it. Instead, accept restlessness as nothing more than your present experience, and try to greet it as you would a good friend at your front door. 2. Let go of restlessness gently without trying to push it away. Let restlessness go just as you might release a helium balloon into the air to watch it float away. Sometimes restlessness simply dissipates after you let it go. But if its intensity is so great that it remains with you, try the next step: 3. Make the restlessness itself your object of meditative inquiry. Explore restlessness as if you were a scientist inspecting some new organism under a microscope. Ask yourself questions like these: What is this restlessness?...

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Restlessness (Part I)

We all feel restless on occasion. But restlessness wreaks more havoc on our lives than we realize—primarily because we seldom recognize restlessness as restlessness when it arises. Have you ever experienced the urge, when meditating, to get up and do something else? This is actually restlessness, and a crucial part of your mindfulness practice involves both recognizing and handling restlessness. Why? For one thing, restlessness doesn’t occur only while you meditate. It can be a frequent visitor during your regular activities too. When you don’t recognize restlessness for what it is, it controls your life, pulls your strings, and motivates you to engage in unproductive and maybe even unhealthy behaviors. People who experience a lot of unrecognized restlessness often find it hard to complete tasks. They may have a history of half-completed projects. These restless folks typically get bored easily and may flit from one task to another, one job to another, or one relationship to another. Meanwhile, they berate themselves for not having more stick-to-it-iveness. They typically overbook their schedules to compensate and then end up feeling totally overwhelmed. They may also be adrenaline or excitement junkies one minute, and then closet absconders the next. Restlessness often motivates its captives to engage in unhealthy escapist behaviors too, such as gaming, vegging in front of the TV or computer, incessant reading, compulsive shopping, or abuse of alcohol, drugs, or sex. Unchecked restlessness will inevitably drain you—both energetically and emotionally. You experience restlessness in your mind, in your physical body, and in your emotions. Restlessness can originate in any one of these three areas initially, but, in a matter of seconds, it can overtake your whole being—mentally, physically and emotionally. The more you begin recognizing restlessness during your formal meditation practice, the more you will discern how much it infiltrates your daily life. But you must recognize it first! Have you ever had any of these thoughts while meditating? Get me out of here! I can’t stand one more minute of this! If only I could get up. I’ll just meditate later. I need to …(check my email, pay the bills, make a call, …) If any of these sound familiar, then you have experienced restlessness of the mind. Mental restlessness usually makes the mind feel jumpy, busy, skittering about, and even crazed when at its worst. It is akin to a fly buzzing around your head that you just cannot seem to catch. In fact, the more you try to arrest a restless mind, the busier it seems to get. When restlessness hits during a formal meditation period, your body will feel compelled to move. You may find yourself shifting, fidgeting, quivering, jumping, shaking, or rocking back and forth....

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Freedom from Boredom

When you get bored, what do you do? If you’re like the average person, you attempt to assuage your boredom with a more interesting or absorbing activity, such as… Watching the television Eating Surfing the web Reading a book or magazine Calling a friend Busy work Engaging in an addictive behavior Or whatever your favorite flavor of excitement or distraction On the surface, most of these activities are not inherently bad. However, if you have a mindfulness practice, you’ll want to examine the urge for the distracting behavior when it arises. If you discover you’re hoping to avoid boredom, try to stop in your tracks. The more you give in to the “boredom = distract yourself” pattern, the more you reinforce it. In other words, you’re actually strengthening the potential for increased boredom in the future. So how should you handle boredom? As soon as you feel a strong and compelling urge for escapist behavior, check in with yourself to see if you’re experiencing boredom. If so, take these steps: Pause. Bring mindful awareness to the boredom. Allow boredom just to be for now. Now, explore the boredom: How strong is the boredom from a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = very little, 10 = extreme)? What does boredom feel like in your body (physical sensations)? What thoughts are going through your mind? What does boredom feel like emotionally? Do other emotions lie under the surface of the boredom (e.g., restlessness)? If so, how strong are these other emotions? Do the sensations and emotions morph over time? Does your present experience have a color or other visual aspect? A texture? Notice any desire to get rid of your current experience. Try not to give in to it. Sit with your core emotions/experiences until they pass. From your explorations, you will likely discover that it’s easier to sit with boredom than with resistance to boredom. You may also find that what you thought was boredom was not actually boredom. It may have been restlessness. Or a craving for excitement. Or a symptom of some deeper emotion, like sadness, loneliness, or depression. Or perhaps some other deep-seated feeling that is personal to you. The more you allow yourself to sit with the feelings of boredom and its roots without acting on them, the less often they will visit you in the future. And when they do visit, they will be weaker and dissipate more quickly. Mindfulness is a practice of being present with whatever is arising at this moment. With mindful awareness, boredom can no longer get its hooks into you and compel you to seek out numbing, distracting, or pleasure-seeking behaviors. Mindfulness =...

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Mindfulness Counteracts Workplace Stress

With today’s business climate placing so much emphasis on meeting deadlines, increasing workloads, cutting costs, and maximizing profits, business leaders and employees are paying a heavy price. Such regular, sustained pressure gradually but surely overloads both the mind and the body. The result? Debilitating STRESS! Stress, once it attains unhealthy levels, not only degrades workplace performance but also imperils individual health — physically and psychologically. Reduced productivity Inferior work quality Reduced creativity Inability to focus on job tasks and organizational goals Less cooperation and teamwork Higher absenteeism Higher turnover Rapid burnout According to the World Health Organization, stress is the number one health problem in the United States. The World Health Organization also reports that stress costs American businesses $300 billion a year. The American Academy of Family Physicians report that two thirds of all doctor visits are for stress-related conditions. As employees get sicker, company health care benefits and insurance costs rise. According to the iOpener Institute For People and Performance, reducing stress in the workplace results in these improvements: 46% reduction in employee turnover costs 19% reduction in sick leave costs 12% increase in performance and productivity The bottom line: Happier and healthier employees cost less and produce more. Providing mindfulness training in the workplace is one of the best investments an organization can make. To date, researchers have performed nearly 3000 studies on mindfulness practices to measure their effect on health, mood, and performance. The science is clear: mindfulness, an age-old meditative practice, is dramatically effective at improving overall health (as well as specific health conditions), promoting and sustaining positive moods, and strengthening mental clarity and focus. By promoting mindfulness in the workplace, organizations can expect to see a positive impact on their bottom line. Mindfulness training has been proven to result in the following benefits in the workplace: Fewer hospital and doctor visits Fewer sick days Lowered stress Reduced burnout and turnover Increased productivity Improved quality control Fewer workplace conflicts and improved cooperation among co-workers Sharper mental acuity Improved creativity and innovation Heightened job satisfaction Sustained positive attitudes When organizations invest in the health and happiness of their workforce, they not only receive ample return on their investment, but they also communicate to their staff that they care about the staff’s well-being. Aetna General Mills Apple Google Twitter Proctor & Gamble McKinsey & Company Deutsche Bank Astra Zeneca Target Green Mountain Coffee Roasters An article in the Financial Times promoted the value of mindfulness in the workplace by citing the example of General Mills. General Mills has made mindfulness practice an integral component of the company’s culture. The article noted that the company had documented significant improvements from implementing mindfulness programs: “The company has even begun research...

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