Meditation for Modern Life

Mindfulness skills from a well being expert

Awareness: The Cornerstone of Changing Our Behavior

Changing Behavior to Become Happier in Life

One of the most essential, crucial ingredients to happiness is awareness.  Awareness is an incredibly powerful tool to help us change.

Oh, I Didn't Realize That!

Shortly after my wife and I were married, she did something that changed my life.  I noticed that as she engaged with other people, including myself, though she would sometimes get upset by others' actions and words, she didn't ever reply in retaliation with hurtful words.  I was in awe.  How was she able to do this?  I myself, upon feeling hurt or insulted, would instinctively respond with a negative comment!  So I asked her, "Do mean thoughts never pop into your head?"  She chuckled, and explained to me that no, mean thoughts would indeed come into her head occasionally.  However, instead of spewing them out, she would pause and reflect, thinking to herself, "If I say these unkind words, what impact would they have on the other person?"  If she thought that the words would indeed be hurtful, then she just wouldn't say them.  I learned something that day that really changed my life in a very beautiful way.  I learned that yes, I can feel my feelings, but if I pause and think before speaking, I could be a nicer person.  I found this to be an incredibly valuable lesson.

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Awareness: The Ultimate Discovery

The key ingredient that helped me to change my behavior was awareness.  I became aware of what I was doing, which enabled me to change my behavior.  Prior to this discovery, I wasn't aware that I was speaking without considering the impact of my words.  I acted a certain way, thinking that it was appropriate and that it was the way everyone behaved.  I thought my wife was just wired differently!  I didn't realize that she had the same thoughts that I did. Awareness is crucial to being happy because we can only change if we are aware.

It's crucial not to be judgmental of ourselves but instead, to look at ourselves and ask, "Hey, what's happening right now?  How is my life going?"  In order to bring about change in our lives and to achieve happiness, we need to know what's going on.  Again, we are not judging, just looking.  We often lead our lives not in stupidity, but ignorance.  With these new tools that we've gained, we can begin to change our lives for the better in a healthy, productive way that really works.  When we have awareness, when we understand what's happening, we can look at our lives and then initiate change.

Take a Hard, Honest Look at Yourself

Part of being aware is taking a hard, honest look at our lives.  We can't numb ourselves with three glasses of wine every evening because our lives aren't going well.  This type of behavior is not going to help us.  We need to ask, "Honestly, how are things going?" When we do this, we are practicing non-critical awareness.  We are just looking and examining, exploring and perhaps talking with other people in order to become fully aware of who we are and what we do.  When something in our life is not working, this awareness can bring about change.  Only then, will we realize, "I come home and drink to deal with my life and then I end up yelling at my family.  Instead, I'm going to go for a walk to unwind and see if this helps things go better."  And of course things are going to be better because you've become aware of your former actions, you've found a new way to deal with your tensions and stress, and you're going to be approaching your family in a whole new way!  With your newfound awareness, you're going to be a happier, healthier person, and everyone in your life will benefit. 

Awareness is a truly beautiful way to bring about change in our lives.  It's a non-critical, powerful, and amazing tool that we can utilize to bring about positive change, and with this change, happiness.

 

 

Robert Puff, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over 20 years.

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