Gandhi is oft-quoted as saying “happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” If this is true, why do we stray from our values in thought, word, and deed so often?
In my therapy practice I often ask clients to take an inventory of values. I use a values card sort, a deck of eighty cards, each with a “values” word and definition. The words range from ‘family’ to ‘power’, to ‘health’ and ‘spirituality’, from ‘pleasure’, ‘dependability’, and ‘beauty.’ Clients are asked to sort these cards in three stacks and from the “most important to me” stack choose their top ten. Once clients have their top ten chosen, we look them over to see where there is a discrepancy between their values and their actions. The conversations that follows this exercise are illuminating, and sometimes uncomfortable. A client might say, “I really value my family but I can’t seem to make enough time with my kids,” or “I really value my health, but I can’t change my diet.”
Contentment comes when we accept our true nature. Mindfulness helps us build areas of the brain that encourage a kinder orientation toward the self, helping us to align thought, word, and deed.
Here is where mindfulness comes into play. Gandhi is oft-quoted as saying “happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” If this is true, why do we stray from our values in thought, word, and deed so often? The answer: we are human, and as humans we are constantly being pulled toward our sometimes primal needs which can eclipse our higher goals. The need to feel safe, loved, and sheltered tricks us into thinking we are too weak to get to know our higher self. This is primarily why people come to therapy, because their actions and values are misaligned. Not “walking our talk” usually works for a while, but eventually, in small, or not so small ways we come face to face with the discomfort and pain of feeling inauthentic to ourselves and others.
A mindfulness practice can help us align thought, word, and deed in many ways, including the following:
1. Mindfulness helps us to slow down – A regular mindfulness practice, even a few minutes a day, every day, allows the nervous system to reset itself. This intentional quieting of the mind allows us to listen to the voice within – the voice that is calling us to follow our values.Read more about mindfulness and the nervous system.
2. Mindfulness helps us make more thoughtful decisions – This same process of slowing down and clearing the thoughts actually has a physiologic affect on the brain, strengthening the frontal lobes, our higher decision-making center, helping us access our more rational selves and engaging our wiser nature. the practice of intentionally stopping racing thoughts and quieting the mind allows us to build the ability to make decisions based on self-trust, not on fear. Read more about how mindfulness affects the brain.
3. Mindfulness helps us communicate more authentically – Strengthening this same area of the brain helps us communicate in a rational manner with friends, colleagues and loved ones. This ability to connect in a productive way with those in our lives helps us build confidence in our ability to be authentic, and respond rather than react the world in a way that benefits everyone we speak with, including ourselves. Take a look at our worksheet on mindful communication.
4. Mindfulness helps us build self-acceptance – Mindfulness practices help us see our true nature, foster self-care, and uncover the hidden gifts we all have. When we are in a space of self-acceptance, we can honor our values, and begin to act in ways that not only help us access contentment and joy, but also allow people in our lives who come in contact with us every day, to experience more joy and contentment. Read more about self-acceptance.
Please browse our website to learn more about mindfulness. Use our free worksheets to strengthen your personal or professional practice.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!
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