I have not been a Buddhist for a long time, and I have not gained the awareness and peace that comes from years of discipline. Yet I still have reaped the benefits. Through Buddhism, and practicing meditation, compassion, mindfulness, and acceptance, I have greatly reduced my anxiety and greatly increased my sense of wellbeing.
If you struggle with anxiety, depression, or another mood disorder, or if you’d just like to be a little happier, Buddhism may be right for you. You don’t have to completely adopt their philosophy, but incorporating a few practices into everyday life can make a dramatic change in your outlook
Meditation is a very positive force in my life. Meditation can be done in a number of ways, and so you should look into what works best for you. For me, it is very calming to focus on my breathing and just on my breathing, acknowledging other thoughts when they come and then returning my focus to my breath. Whether I meditate for two minutes or half an hour, I return with a great feeling of calmness and positivity.
An import tenet of Buddhism is loving-kindness. Buddhist philosophy teaches that we should be concerned for others as we are concerned for our self, and that they are a part of us and we are a part of them. We should love our neighbor and forgive those who have wronged us. Cultivating a powerful sense of compassion takes time, and is often developed through the use of meditation. I like to meditate until I am in a very relaxed state, and then picture people that I love, and fully embrace the love I feel for them. Then, I picture people who I find frustrating and have hurt me, and I use my feelings of love to love them as well. Also, whenever I find myself growing frustrated with somebody, I remind myself that their goal in life is the same as mine: to be happy.
Empathizing and understanding others increases your kindness and benevolence. It helps to focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us. Feeling positive and compassionate feelings towards other not only benefits those around you, but it fills you with a great sense of peace. I also noticed that I was spending too much time worrying about what others think, and by developing loving and kind emotions towards others, I now do not care so much what they think. Loving-kindness is a great way to experience compassion that uplifts others as well as yourself.
Mindfulness has greatly reduced my anxiety, because anxiety (at least in my case), involves worrying about the future. It is hard to worry about the future if you are truly grounded in the present. Mindfulness is just what it sounds like: being mindful of what you are doing, right now, in the present. I am writing an article, and you are reading one. What is that like? What sensations and emotions are you feeling? Mindfulness takes time to achieve, but it helps to pay close attention to ordinary activities. If you are eating an apple, take notice of the color and shape of the apple. Take a bite. How does it feel in your mouth? Is it juicy? What does it taste like? When you notice these things, you become entrenched in the present, rather than concerned with the future.
Mindfulness also includes acknowledging your emotions while not judging them. When you are angry, calmly state, either out loud or in your mind, “I am angry.” By doing this, suddenly your anger has less power and you are more detached from it.
Lastly, Buddhism has helped me through acceptance. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism explain that suffering stems from wanting what we can’t have. If we are sick, we want to be healthy. If we are old, we want to be young. If we can’t have an iPod, we want an iPod. Eliminating these desires takes time, but a helpful asset in doing so is accepting events as they are. If you cannot change it, accept it. As anxiety is fueled by concern over things that we cannot change, acceptance can reduce anxiety. I often use a motto in order to accept things. If I start worrying about something like a flight delay that I cannot control, I say, “It is what it is.” And things seem a bit better.
Through this philosophy, I am developing a great sense of peace and happiness that, with some effort, you can achieve as well.