Editor’s note: My friend and colleague Elisha Goldstein has found a great way to connect mindfulness, happiness, and social wellness: his work around what makes the ‘self’ less happy and its’ need to connect with the ‘we’ is a breath of fresh air in the saturated mindfulness industry. His article “Three Common Mind Traps That Sink Happiness” describes so well the traps we create for ourselves that hijack our happiness. Read the following excerpt:
“As time goes on and we grow up from children to adults, somewhere along the way life begins to become routine. Day in and day out we’re walking, driving, talking, eating, going to the grocery store, working, or being with our families. Our minds switch over on auto-pilot as we develop habitual ways of thinking, interpreting, expecting, and relating to other people.
However, these daily routines also include habits of the mind that can keep us stuck in stress, anxiety, fear, depression, or even addictive behaviors. Let’s explore a few habits of the mind, and mindfulness practice to help you break out of auto-pilot, and gain more control over your life.
Three Common Mind Traps that Sink Happiness:
- Catastrophizing – If you’re prone to stress, fear, and anxiety, you may recognize this habitual mind trap. This is where the mind interprets an event as the worst-case scenario. If your heart is beating fast, you may think you’re having a heart attack. If your boss didn’t look at you while walking down the hall, you start thinking you’re going to get fired. You get the picture. This style of thinking will increase stress, anxiety, and even panic.
- Discounting the positive and exaggerating the negative – The news is especially good at supporting us with this one. This is where we habitually reject or minimize any positive feedback and magnify the negative feedback. The glass is always half empty. If you catch yourself saying something positive and then saying ‘but’ followed by a negative, you are practicing this. ‘I got a 95% on this test, but I didn’t get a 100%’. Without awareness, this style of thinking will likely land you in a depressed mood.
- Blaming – Be careful of this one. We all do it, pointing the finger at someone else for our woes or point the finger at ourselves for others woes. “If my boss wasn’t so hard on me at work, I wouldn’t be so anxious” or “It’s my fault my parents got divorced”. Check in with yourself after noticing this style of thinking. It doesn’t cultivate any solutions and just makes you feel stuck, anxious, or depressed.
Cultivating the ability to be more present to these mind traps will help you break free from them and shift your attention to more effective ways of interacting with life.
For example, if you notice catastrophizing, actually say to yourself “catastrophizing is happening right now“, then bring your attention to your breath for a moment to steady your mind and then ask yourself, “what are some other possible reasons why my heart is racing fast?” (e.g. , I just ran upstairs, I’m nervous)”