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Using mindfulness to boost your mood

Have you ever been taken over by aliens?

I’m guessing not. But surely we’ve all experienced strange, inexplicable compulsions to do or not do something – almost like we’ve become an alien to ourselves. It’s as if we don’t have a choice: we have to eat that whole chocolate bar, we say hurtful words before we notice they’ve left our mouth, we must have that totally gorgeous and irresistible thing (new shoes, iPad, holiday … wherever your preferred consumer high comes from), or a thought takes hold and we just can’t shake it. It’s like it truly possesses us!

Whatever triggers this action is for discussion another day.

As is how we respond to the trigger without even realising it. [But if you just can’t help yourself, try this explanation of how we can fall down a rabbit hole before we know it.]

Right now, let’s talk about how mindfulness can help break this chain of events.

One definition of mindfulness you may have heard is paying attention to the present moment, on purpose and non-judgementally. It’s a great definition, but I’ve always felt there’s little point in simply paying attention in this way for the sake of it.

While living mindfully by paying attention is infinitely better than living mindlessly, it’s not the whole story.

To be fully present to each enjoyable millisecond?

And if we’re having a rotten time, then it would be natural to want do something to feel better. Given that one intention of mindfulness is to reduce suffering, then it’s entirely legitimate that we create and use mindfulness techniques that help us be less miserable.

And there are few more miserable moments than that alien invasion and its aftermath.

So what are your options?

First off, you’ve probably got your own favoured techniques. Maybe music lifts you out of a low mood. Perhaps running pumps blood round your body and anger out of your mind. And ‘a green thought in a green shade’ has been known to soothe many anxieties.

It’s always good to have your go-to activities for these occasions and maybe you also want to expand your toolkit. To try out a mindfulness-based approach, read on …

In moments when you need a mood boost, try these steps:

  1. As soon as you notice the alien invasion, pause. It doesn’t matter how far it’s gone, simply allow yourself to stop. If you’re tempted to criticize yourself, please try saying something kind to yourself instead, such as, “It’s understandable that I reacted in this way because I’ve done it so many times before that it’s just a habit now. And it’s one I’m choosing to gently let go of and find a healthier approach”.
  1. Focus on your body and the contact it’s making with the world around you; for example, a chair if you’re sitting down, or the floor if you’re standing.
  1. Allow your body to settle, and as you do so, invite your mind to settle, too.
  1. Now choose to focus on something positive; either a favourite memory or something you’re looking forward to doing.
  1. As you engage yourself with this positivity that you’ve called forth from your own mind, really engage with it. And now notice what’s happening in your body. What sensations are here? What name would you give to emotions that are arising? What positive phrases come up spontaneously?
  1. Now let the memory or plan fade, and let the positive after-effects in your body-mind stay or become even larger. Relish them, let them really settle into your body and acknowledge that these feelings are your reality now, in this moment. Notice the mood-boost you’ve received and encourage yourself to make the most of it by letting it influence how to respond to the next part of your day.

Please enjoy playing with this natural mood boost. If you’d like to be guided through it, pop your name and email below and I’ll send you a 7-minute audio of it.

While this approach is gentle, it’s also good to use it advisedly. If we over-use it or use it to numb from something unpleasant, or avoid what would be healthier to address, is unlikely to really help us in the long run. Mindfulness isn’t a ‘feel-good’ or Pollyanna technique, by any means. Its broad sweep of approaches offers us the chance to use our minds well, rather than our minds ‘using’ us. When applied wisely, mindfulness helps us to be kinder to ourselves and those around us, including finding kind and compassionate ways to respond to moments as they arise, whether they’re revealing wonders or difficulties. If you’re drawn to this mood-boost to put yourself in the best position to act well, then it’s likely to be more helpful to you than using it to railroad negative feelings. Please invite yourself to pay attention to how you’re using it as well as its effects.

Over to you

Please let me know how you get on with this suggestion and the audio in the comments below. Is this approach helpful? How have you applied it? Have you tried any tweaks with it that work well and you’d like to share?

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