Nowadays meditation and psychology often hold hands and draw strength from each other in an attempt to cross that bridge towards improving well-being and happiness. In past two decades, psychology and more specifically psychotherapy have incorporated meditation practices and techniques with the purpose of finding ways to prevent, appease or treat a series of mood associated conditions, such as anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder or simply correct behavior and improve the quality of life. This is the case with mindfulness meditation which is increasingly used in psychotherapeutic treatment.
On the other hand, psychology has leveraged ideas, practices and techniques from meditation with the purpose of better understanding the mind. In the present context we are interested more exactly in positive psychology which is a recent branch of the field, specializing in the study of creativity and happiness, whose most prominent representatives are Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi.
The purpose of this article is to discuss the relationship between mindfulness meditation and ’’the state of flux’’, which is a central notion in positive psychology, as ways of improving the quality of life and well-being, or ultimately attaining peacefulness and happiness through self-awareness and self-knowledge. But first of all let’s define mindfulness meditation on the one hand, and the state of flux on the other, and then see what their impact is on our well-being and how they can improve our life.
A few words on meditation
Meditation is an umbrella term referring to a wide range of practices and techniques meant to bring relaxation, improve energy and concentration and overall well-being. Through meditation we aim to control the mind in one way or another; that is why awareness and attention are fundamental elements. It can involve inducing a particular emotional or mental state or a specific response to external stimuli.
Originally associated with religion, especially Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism, meditation has come to encompass a multitude of practices and techniques which transgress the focus on spirituality, being incorporated in fields such as alternative medicine or various forms of therapy and psychotherapy. As already mentioned above, mindfulness meditation for instance has become very popular nowadays in treating conditions such as depression, anxiety or other mental disorders.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation techniques are meant to restore mental balance and create a state of happiness. Essentially, mindfulness involves focusing one’s entire attention on the present moment, in a non-judgmental way. The purpose is attaining a state of awareness centered on the ’’now’’, in which thoughts and feelings are accepted as such, without questioning, opposition or resistance. In this sense, mindfulness is a two-fold endeavor: on the one hand cultivating awareness and attention, and on the other hand, accepting openly what one experiences in the present moment. In other words, mindfulness is a form of metacognition, which gives the individual practicing it more access to his/her inner self and the necessary ’’tools’’ to master emotions and mental states.
The purpose of mindfulness-based therapies is mainly to reduce stress and generate a positive overall state or increase well-being. Studies show that people applying regularly mindfulness techniques are better equipped to cope with stress and crisis situations. Moreover, mindfulness meditation enables individuals to access and employ inner resources in a more effective way. As for its impact on people suffering from various mood disorders, it has been shown that mindfulness meditation has an overall benefice effect on health, by inducing a state of calm and peacefulness and diminishing the symptoms associated with mental conditions manifesting through anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive behavior and the like.
What are the basic ’’tenets’’ of mindfulness meditation?
Our mind is permanently assaulted by worries and concerns which take a toll on our quality of life. Meditation is a way to relieve stress and induce relaxation. Here are the basics of mindfulness meditation and how it can help:
- Live in the present. The key element in mindfulness meditation is living in the present moment. This allows you relax both mind and body, eliminating all negative thoughts.
- Free your mind. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to free your mind, get in touch with your deeper self and rise above daily concerns and pressures.
- Take advantage of every minute. You can incorporate mindfulness meditation in common actions and daily tasks. This way routine loses its dreary character and you can live every minute in a fuller way.
- Stay in control. Mindfulness meditation can help you understand yourself better and become more aware of yourself. By developing your ability to concentrate on the present you can improve your decision-making.
- Confide in yourself. By sharpening your self-awareness mindfulness mediation can help you find inner strength and resources to leverage your gifts and qualities, improving your confidence and increasing your chance to be successful.
- Harmonize body and mind. Mindfulness meditation has an impact on both your mind and body, acting as a cleansing agent which helps you eliminate bad or oppressive thoughts and achieve peacefulness.
Now, let’s define the state of flux. What is it and what is its impact on well-being and happiness?
The notion of ’’state of flux’’ was introduced by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi, a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology, renowned for his studies on happiness and creativity. He argues that people find authentic happiness when they are completely absorbed in an activity or situation. In such a state our concentration reaches a climax, we are immersed in what we are doing and time and space seem to vanish. We totally identify with the object of our attention and this engagement gives us a feeling of fulfillment and bliss.
When we experience a state of flux we literally forget about ourselves. Our ego dismantles and we become one with what we are doing. In such moments our skills and abilities are employed to their maximum potential and our motivation reaches a peak. Examples of state of flux include playing music, writing or any other activity that fully confiscates out attention and whole being.
In conclusion, mindfulness meditation and the state of flux are ultimately the two faces of the self-exploration coin, and they can both help us improve our quality of life and well-being by increasing our self-awareness and self-knowledge.