“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence”
Quality of life can be an ambiguous concept for many of us.
Because when it comes to defining “what is the quality of life?”, it is very dependent on what is most important to you.
Hence, before we can talk about the most effective way to boost your quality of life, let’s just agree that the totality of your health, happiness, vitality, peace, and revenue equals your quality of life.
To me, the quality of life is living in the moment and not being too preoccupied by thoughts about the past or the future.
It is about spending time with the people you care about, having enough money to sustain your lifestyle and having enough time to enjoy your life.
But quality of life is not totally dependent on money because it is possible that you may be the richest person on the planet yet have a lesser quality of life than someone on minimum wage.
If, for instance, all you do is work and get all stressed up, you won’t have time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
When you are confronted with a threat that you are not able to deal with, stress happens. These threats are known as stressors, the most common of which are divorce, death of loved one, moving house, loss of job and major illness or injury.
Work and stress, however, are not the primary causes of sadness, misery and a lower quality of life. The one thing that will degrade your health and life quality is judgemental thinking.
Yes, you heard that right. Being judgemental is destructive for your own mental health, self-esteem and happiness.
Just think about this for a moment. If you are able to keep track of your thoughts, you might be surprised to learn that you make snap judgements about people, events and things all day every day.
Your mind acts as a filter for every single one of your life experiences and then labels them as positive, negative, or neutral. Making judgement comes naturally to us because we are social creatures.
We have a proclivity towards forming strong opinions, and making no judgements at all is next to impossible. Judgements are merely your perspective on the world.
The ability to judge is helpful because it helps you navigate through life quickly. It’s a survival mechanism to help you avoid dangerous situations and stay alive.
While making decisions is necessary for survival, being judgemental can lead to anxiety, depression, and stress-related illnesses.
Because when you’re being judgmental, you’re looking for flaws in others to boost your own self-esteem. As a result, judging can lead to a negative focus, which can lead to negative action with negative results.
According to Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung:
“Although our conscious minds are avoiding our own flaws, they still want to deal with them on a deeper level, so we magnify those flaws in others.”
If you cannot identify where you need to improve, you will never be able to advance beyond your current level. The fact is, the more you pass judgement on others, the more judgement you pass on yourself.
When you point your finger at someone, you are pointing back at yourself.
For anyone aiming to elevate their quality of life, there is one practise that will make a difference: the practise of non-judgemental awareness.
An effective way to practice non-judgemental awareness is by practising mindfulness, which is defined by Psychology Today as:
“A state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
Mindfulness is a mental state where you are able to experience the present moment openly and without judgement. This state of mind can effectively ward off the effects of stressors. And too much focus on the past or future when confronted with stressors may lead to anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness allows you to be aware of what you are doing so that you may make choices to change your thoughts and behaviour for the better. When you are mindful, you can observe events in a non-judgmental way.
This lets you detach from negative feelings rather than be influenced by them. Inevitably, your life begins to shift according to the way you respond to events.
As Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of world-renowned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic, suggests:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment.”
The easiest way to adopt a non-judgmental mindset is to cultivate a ‘beginner’s mind’, which is simply a mind that suspends judgements.
When you take on a beginner’s mindset, you give yourself permission to be open and receptive. You’ll be free of any expectations of what it “should” be, open-minded, and eager to experience everything as if it were the first time.
So, begin by observing your thoughts for a few days and be aware of the moments that you are judgmental.
When you practice non-judgmental awareness, you become an observer and this allows you to ask non-judgmental questions of yourself first, then of others.
Always relinquish the need to defend your point of view and assume responsibility for your circumstances. Do not point fingers at anyone or anything, even yourself.
Whenever you feel a need to judge, take a deep breath. Notice the environment that you are in and allow all your senses to take in information from it.
As you observe the surroundings, feel the air around you and listen to the sounds from the environment, this will help you stay present and be in the moment.
Non-judgmental awareness takes time and practice. Notice when judgments arise. Be compassionate about what you’re thinking and feeling.
When it doesn’t feel right or when it doesn’t serve your highest self, let go of those judgements.
Can you remember a time when you made a judgment about someone? Whether you are aware or not, it probably did not make you feel good emotionally and physically.
Because your judgments make you apprehensive about the “bad” things that have happened in your life or what might happen in the future, regardless of what, where, or who they are directed towards.
Accept people, situations, and events for what they are and you will be able to enjoy more peace of mind and freedom. Compassion for ourselves and others is the foundation for being non-judgmental.
“Look at the weaknesses of others with compassion, not accusation. It’s not what they’re not doing or should be doing that’s the issue. The issue is your own chosen response to the situation and what you should be doing. If you start to think the problem is “out there,” stop yourself. That thought is the problem.”
When you exercise non-judgmental awareness, you will notice that you will begin to appreciate many positive aspects of your life right now.
Non-judgmental awareness is the first step to living blissfully. Be aware that your brain is on ‘autopilot’ when it comes to judging a person or situation. Thus, it takes a conscious effort over a period of time to recondition your mind to suspend judgment.
“Today I shall judge nothing that occurs. I will be honest with myself today. I’ll not think that I already know what must remain beyond my present grasp.
I will not think I understand the whole from bits of my perception, which are all that I can see. Today I recognize that this is so. And so, I am relieved of judgments that I cannot make.”
A Course in Miracles advocates a philosophy that teaches individuals how to find peace and love through forgiveness. The primary concept is that the greatest “miracle” is just becoming fully aware of love’s presence in your own life.
Use the sentence “today I shall not judge everything that occurs” to remind yourself throughout the day whenever you find yourself passing judgement. When you first begin this practise, start with one hour of “non-judgment time” and gradually increase the time as you progress.
Being non-judgmental takes effort and a huge dose of awareness. Build on this practice to improve your quality of life.
A recent study in Mindfulness Magazine found that participants who scored highest on non-judgmental had reduced levels of depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms.
The practice of mindfulness will keep you grounded in the present moment. When your mind is in the “now” it makes it easier for you to suspend judgment.
Consider how many times you have passed judgement on yourself the next time you’re about to pass judgement on anything or someone else. Give others the same compassion you wish for yourself. Select your words carefully and avoid using judgmental, self-defeating, or negative terms in your speech.
Being non-judgmental releases you from the stresses of everyday life. It puts your mindset where you become more compassionate and accepting of others who are different from you.
For centuries, Zen masters have used Zen stories to help students become more self-aware, attentive and expand their consciousness. These stories do not provide you with answers to your questions. Instead, they expand your consciousness to the point where you can find the solutions for yourself.
If you are new to the concept of mindfulness and being non-judgmental, this short Zen story will not help you find the answers. But it will help you lose the questions.
A long time ago there lived a farmer with his wife and son in a small village. The farmer owned a horse and every day, it helped him work his fields and keep his farm healthy.
One day, for some inexplicable reason the horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, the villagers came by and said to him, “Without your horse and your farm will suffer. How unlucky!”
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The villagers were perplexed, but they chose to disregard his comment. A fortnight went by. One fine afternoon, while the farmer was working outside, he saw his horse coming toward him.
Much to the farmer’s amazement, the horse was not alone. The horse was returning to him with a vast herd of horses. As a result, the farmer now had ten horses to help him with his farming.
All the villagers came by to congratulate the farmer and said, “Now you have so many horses. How wonderful!”
The farmer’s son was excited to see so many new horses. He tried to ride one of them, got thrown off and broke his leg. The villagers came by again and offered their sympathy. “With your son’s injury, you will have more work than you can handle. How unfortunate!” they said.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The farmer’s son couldn’t walk or do manual labour to assist his father on the farm as he had to rest for a few weeks to let his leg heal.
A week later, every able-bodied young man in town was conscripted by an army regiment marching through town. When the troop arrived at the farmer’s house and saw the young man’s broken leg, he was exempted from joining the army.
The villagers congratulated the farmer for the pleasant turn of events. “Most young men never return alive from the war. How fortunate!” they said.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
[End of story]
This ageless Zen parable illustrates how one can cultivate mindfulness by just observing life and events without attaching negative or positive judgments to them.
Mindfulness helps you develop non-judgmental awareness where you can find beauty in the present moment.