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How Mindfulness Manages our Mood

I came across this really beautiful quote that, to me, sums up what mindfulness is all about. I can really relate to these words, as I often had questions about what meditation, yoga, and mindfulness practices were really doing to me. I asked, what’s the point of doing all this?

What’s the objective?

What am I meant to feel?

“The guest house,

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

Some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows

Who violently sweep your house

Empty of its furniture,

Still, treat each guest honourably. They may be clearing you out for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

Meet them at the door laughing,

And invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes

Because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond.”

~ Rumi

When we are mindful, we meet each moment as it is. We’re in no rush to change what’s happening because we know we can change how we respond to each moment. We don't need to hold, preserve, nor cling to what we don’t want to let go. We’re not delusional to what’s happening right in front of and within us. The stories we create start to strip away, and we are able to accept life as it is.

We acknowledge the challenges, the joys, the downfalls, the effort, the ease.

Yeah, but isn’t acceptance just a 'passive, roll over and be walked on' type of mindset?

That’s what I thought too.

Until I learned what equanimity means. Equanimity is the ability to live with what is - it’s a state of deep awareness and acceptance. When we live in equanimity, we drop the desire of insisting life be different i.e. Why did this have to happen to me? When I finally land my dream job, I’ll be happy… if only the pandemic were over, so I could start living again… Living in equanimity doesn’t mean we have to enjoy every waking moment nor agree with the state of the world and its people. However, when we practice mindfulness, we are better able to understand how stimuli of our world are affecting us, our behaviour, and our mood.

It’s pretty profound to enter this state of “supreme watchfulness” that leads to developing “more skilful responsiveness in our lives”. Rather than reacting to life’s woes, we take response-ability for our thoughts, words, and actions. When we wake up to every present moment as it is, we ultimately re-wire our habitual patterns of our mood and mindscape.

The triggers of life that once used to set us off, no longer provoke such behaviours. The activities that brought us great agitation no longer activate our reactivity. Our mindfulness practice, and it is a practice, enables us to identify when we’re feeling that agitation surface, when we’re starting to drop into the low-states of depression, and when the stories of our self-talk are taking over and going down the dark rabbit hole.

Mindfulness’ three components include checking in with our:

thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.

These three things often co-arise with one another, and with our mindfulness practice, we can begin to untangle the threads of these to better understand why we think such things, how our emotions linger in the body, and what the body does in response to stressful stimuli.

Since we know that the only constant in life is change, can we connect with the winds of life, so that when they inevitably change course, we are adept to flowing amongst the breeze with ease?

We can think of our mind like a muscle and our mindfulness practice like going to the gym… we continuously draw our awareness to the present moment as soon as we notice the mind has left the building. (That, in its essence is being mindful - the moment we notice the mind is no longer focussed on the present moment!) We flex our mind’s muscle and meet each moment to reduce our reactivity to life’s turbulent fluctuations. That’s the objective. It’s not to ‘clear the mind’, or to ‘stop thinking’. It’s to live in equanimity with what currently is, which cultivates peace and profound acceptance.

We’re meant to feel all the feels. We may feel upset, sad, sorrow, anger, lonely, happy, wonder, or even joy when we tap into all our sensations swirling around in our mind, mood, and human body. The point isn’t to stop feeling nor thinking. However, now that we can notice what we’re feeling, and likely where we're feeling it in the body, we can start to recognise our tipping point, when we’re about to bubble over, or when we’re nearing the edge of that cliff. From that point of recognition, we can choose what to do from there.

Will I step closer to the edge or will I take a break?

Will I boil over or will I take a deep breath?

So that my friends is just an introduction to how mindfulness helps to manage our mood.

Curious to know more?

I’m running a four-week Mindfulness Informed Yoga Course for your Mental Wellbeing - Rooted in Yoga - coming up in October. We’ll delve much deeper into mindfulness practices and the physiology of mindfulness to support you in developing a resilient relationship with your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Check it out here.

This blog has referenced information from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course through Openground Mindfulness training’s eight-week program and Insight Meditation Center’s article on equanimity.

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