What Is A Mental State?

That is an interesting question.

As you may have noticed, the term mental state is frequently used on axel g. Why is that, do you think? How does it relate to personal development, meditation and spirituality?

Let's explore what a mental state really is and what triggers it. We will also take a look at the endless flow of changing mental states.

Simply put, a mental state is a mood or a state of mind. That includes happiness, elation, sadness, depression, anguish, worry, restlessness, ease, tiredness, motivation, impatience, anger, indifference, empathy and love.

Would you agree that unpleasant mental states lead to unhappiness and unease, while pleasant mental states make for happiness and ease? Take a moment to reflect on it...

We naturally crave positive mental states and resist the negative ones. Can you see how this brings about unhappiness? What if it starts to rain when you arrive at the beach, or you feel low when you are going on a date. Resisting your mental state triggers negative feelings and thoughts.

On the contrary, mindfulness is a mental state that is characterized by acceptance. In other words, you are not resisting your feelings and thoughts. Hence, mindfulness is a way of making peace with yourself.

How do you think your mental state is affected by contentment?

Ever-Changing Mental States

It is true to say that the human experience is a stream of ever-changing mental states. Moreover, we have a strong tendency to want the highs and resist the lows, which makes for unhappiness. You may ask, how does wanting a high result in unhappiness? The moment the high turns into a neutral or a low mental state, you resist it which gives rise to unpleasant feelings and thoughts.

Your mental state changes all the time, not unlike the shape of a cloud. It takes very little to alter it, and we hardly have any control of the process. The changes may be subtle or pronounced. What is more, every mental state is temporary or short-lived.

One moment you may feel good, the next moment you may feel guilty about being selfish. All it takes to go from a pleasant mental state to an unpleasant one, is a single thought. At best, mental states are as stable as a wobbly, slow-spinning gyro.

Meeting a person with a negative or unfriendly attitude also drags your mental state down, by triggering unpleasant feelings and thoughts.

What else affects our mental state? Sound has the power to lift us up and drag us down. Music is a good example of that. If you like the song that is playing, you feel good and want to hear more. On the other hand, if you dislike the song, you resist it and want to switch it off.

All sense impressions and thinking, which is considered the sixth sense in Buddhism, directly affect our feelings and thoughts.

Would you like to do an experiment? For the next few days, try to become aware of your neutral mental states. They are less outstanding than the ups and downs and usually pass by unnoticed, so pay close attention to your feelings and thoughts. What does a neutral mental state feel like?

Learn to value neutral mental states.

It's possible to boost and numb your mental state with stimulants. The most common are caffeine, tobacco, alcohol and drugs. How would you feel, if you can't have your stimulant when you really need it? How would you feel after a few hours or the day after taking it? How are the people around you affected by your usage? The drawbacks speak for themselves, not to mention the negative health effects.

Years ago when I was depressed, I sometimes drank alcohol with my friends. It made me relax, yet the painful emotions shone through. It was so unpleasant to be intoxicated and depressed at the same time. I couldn't accept that the alcohol didn't lift me up. How do you think that affected my mental state?

Unpleasant feelings and thoughts can be so unbearable we do anything to escape them, even commit suicide.

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The Benefits Of Awareness

What are the benefits of being aware of your mental state in the present moment? It's calming and makes you fully conscious of your state of mind. Normally, we are only subconsciously aware of our feelings and thoughts.

It also makes it easier to avoid emotional reactivity. Certain situations can still be challenging, even when supported by mindfulness. Why is that? The emotional pull is so strong, or phrased differently, the emotions tend to be overwhelming.

Mindfulness makes for comfort and ease.

Another benefit of awareness is that you can remind yourself to flow with life, by accepting whatever comes your way. The moment you start to resist your feelings and thoughts, negativity arises.

A final note. Spiritual seekers observe the ever-changing mental state with relaxed attention. This is an age-old method of becoming aware of the impermanent nature of feelings and thoughts.

Best of luck!

Related:   Resisting Change   Mindfulness Explained   Restlessness

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