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  • Writer's picturePenny

Examples of Mindfulness and Emotional Awareness in Movies

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

In these days of uncertainty and negativity, we can use every ounce of focus and positivity possible. While researching health and wellness the other day I got chatting with my friend Penny from who's a wellness enthusiast. We combed through a few flicks that could teach us about mindfulness and emotional awareness.

The Pursuit of Happiness

As Charles W. Eliot says ‘’ The best way to secure future happiness is to be as happy as is rightfully possible today.’’, The Pursuit of Happyness is the perfect example of not giving up on working for our dreams regardless of the circumstances we have now and trying to make the most of what we have at the moment.

We follow Chris Gardner’s mission to success as he tries to make ends meet while struggling with the relationship he has with his wife and trying to sell bone-density scanner machines in order to pay his rent and taxes but fails to do so at first.

Will Smith talking to his son in the Pursuit of Happyness

The movie carries this message; we all strive for happiness, whether it's through the perfect job, a great marriage, or some other dream. But true happiness is actually in the moment and here and now.

When I watched the scene where Chris tricks Christopher into believing that the bone density scanner is a time machine and dinosaurs are after them, I immediately thought of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s quote: "The little things?" The little moments? They aren’t little. " In the end, all those hardships lead to the happiest chapter of Chris’ life.

Jon Kabat-Zinn’s quote: "The little things?" The little moments? They aren’t little. "

A mindfulness technique we can draw from this particular movie: the little moments of happiness in our daily life that add up to a big happy moment in the end. Take a moment to appreciate and become aware of those little moments every day. It can be as simple as a child smiling at you or hearing your favorite song on the radio. You will notice that there are a lot of things that you can be grateful for on a daily basis.

Groundhog Day

You have probably heard of Groundhog Day. The main character, Phil, for some reason, is trapped in Feb. 2, forced to relive the same day over and over again.

Phil at the first is extremely arrogant and self-centered. He doesn’t treat his two colleagues, Rita and Larry, right. However, Phil is able to change because eventually, the endless repetitions help him become aware of things, he had been blind to, even though they surround him.

Bill Murray in Groundhog day

He eventually is able to see other people and to see aspects of himself that had been untouched and unexplored. Since he is now free from official rules and obligatory stuff that need to be done daily, in a way, Phil finds himself and he starts living the way he wants to live, and he actually finds the freedom to do the things he has been holding himself back from.

Bill Murray and Andi McDowell dancing in Groundhog day

The movie reminds us of the true power of mindfulness. In our daily lives, we all face monotony. We all repeat the same day almost every day, but it’s not actually the same day. When we increase our awareness, we start to see the magic in our daily lives. It could be as simple as smiling at a stranger or seeing flowers or puppies on the street.

When we start to notice how each moment is precious, our reality starts to shift and that’s how Phil is able to get out of the loop, appreciating the people around him and loving what he has here and now.

Mini mindful technique: While doing your daily tasks, take a moment to appreciate what you have in that particular moment. What do you see, hear, or feel? Feel your breath, let it be your anchor today. Whenever you feel like you are complaining about the monotony, simply return to the rhythm of your breath.

Mindfulness and Emotional Awareness in The Matrix

This one is probably what comes to mind when we talk about Buddhism and the most popular one out there, related to the topic. We, human beings create our own reality of suffering, but it doesn’t have to be so. The Matrix can be considered the perfect metaphor for Buddhist teachings.

What Buddha did was he embarked on a spiritual search to find an answer after recognizing human suffering—old age, sickness, and death. He discovered the answer by turning inward and attentively observing his own thinking and the nature of existence.

Neo, the hero played by Keanu Reeves, could be considered the film’s bodhisattva-in-training. When Neo becomes aware that he is living in an illusion, his whole reality shifts.

There is no spoon - quote from the Matrix Movie

We can say that Neo could be the perfect example of a modern person. Because of our society, we are constantly bombarded with thoughts and things that do not belong to us or our true essence and nature.

Yet, we can break this habit, and instead of being a consumer, we can choose to act of our free will and try to live mindfully, living in full awareness according to our own values and being aligned with our true purpose in life. This is shown well in this metaphorical scene about the nature of existence when Neo says "There IS no spoon"

Keanu Reeves playing Neo in the Matrix Movie

The Matrix carries this message: We must maintain constant awareness; otherwise, we will slip into our pre-programmed habits. The choice is ours, after all. Will we constantly repeat the cycle of non-awareness and pre-programmed beliefs, or will we show the courage to step outside of living on autopilot and start showing awareness and living in the moment?

Morpheus in the Matrix movie

Mini practice: Just like Neo in The Matrix, imagine you were offered a red pill and a blue pill. If you choose the blue pill, you will make the choice to continue your life without the true power of living mindfully in your daily life, but if you choose the red pill, you will be choosing to see the "truth", the true beauty of ordinary life.

While going to work, or doing your daily tasks this week, ask yourself: "Are you willing to live the truth of this life, or will you continue to live on autopilot and follow your instant desires, aka "a sedated life." Whenever you feel like you are not doing things mindfully, think about this particular scene from The Matrix.

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Eat Pray Love

This one is definitely a classic when it comes to finding ourselves and letting go of the perfect notion of a relationship or marriage. When Liz, the main character, embarks on her self-discovery journey after going through a hardship in her life, like a divorce, her reality starts to shift too.

Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love movie

We see Liz trying to mediate, but inevitably she fails to do so. She has moments where she thinks she is saying the mantra wrong, her thoughts start to interrupt the process, and she said that she was experiencing dissatisfaction and low self-esteem.

Personally, this is what I experienced when I started my mindful meditation journey. I failed. I wanted to stop the meditation. My thoughts were all over the place. But the thing is, as the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course, Jon Kabat-Zinn, says, "Life is the real meditation." I feel like when we follow Liz’s story, we can really understand this quote as well as the true meaning of the meditation.

I love this particular line from the movie, which says, "The meditation room is within." I feel like this whole line summarizes the entire message behind Liz’s struggle with the meditation process. The life we live is actually our own journey of consciousness. We really need to stop trying and surrender, and we cannot become masters of our lives unless we master our thoughts.

The only way to do this is to live in awareness, living and doing things mindfully and trying to let go of things we cannot control. The movie teaches us to surrender. As the character Richard from Texas also says to Liz, we must do the work and continuously expand our awareness in our everyday lives and try not to lose our balance.

Mini practice: After watching the movie, I must admit that I would love to walk in a place like Bali and practice mindfulness while doing so. Mindful walking is simply being done in your local park too! It’s very simple. You walk by being aware of the "walking" process. It’s effective in the sense that it makes you grounded on the solid earth we all stand on.

It makes you aware of your surroundings, of the ground you walk on. It’s very beneficial for people suffering from general anxiety disorder too! When you shift your focus from yourself and toward the activity you are doing, you’ll feel calmer.

The first step is to walk gently like you don’t want to hurt the ground. Be aware of your steps. How do your feet feel? Do you feel your socks or your sneakers while walking? Do your feet want to rush, or do you want to walk slowly? Be aware of all the sensations.

Inside Out

Inside Out is an animated movie by Disney, and I must say it includes a lot of messages about ourselves and our emotions behind them. It follows a little girl called Riley’s life and how she learns how to deal with different emotions inside her brain, such as Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear.

Although Joy is trying to make Riley happy and bubbly all the time and doesn’t let sadness rule her memories, the situation becomes the perfect representation of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is when you don't acknowledge negative emotions such as anger and sadness and is flawed emotional management.

Things start to shift when Riley’s personality and core memories start to fade, ever since Joy stopped being in control of her emotions.

This film is an excellent tool for engaging youngsters in discussions about major life transitions; how we deal with sadness; how our emotions shape our reality; and, ultimately, how to appreciate the emotional diversity that lies within us all.

As people, we are going to experience a wide range of emotions from positive and negative and everything in between and beyond. It’s okay to feel all of these since every emotion has a purpose in shaping our personality. In order to discover a deeper type of true happiness, we can let our emotions can work for us and help us to get through tough times, and that’s the true message behind this movie.

In mindfulness practices, whenever a thought or an emotion comes up, we try to observe it without getting attached to it. For instance, during my meditations, I sometimes think about a sad memory. It just comes to my mind randomly and we all experience it every now and then.

However, when you do not get swept away by it, and just observe how this particular emotion makes you feel, it will lead to emotional awareness. This will Inside Out is an amazing example for us to not run away from emotions like sadness, but instead learn how to accept them and harness them to be a more well-rounded person.

Mini practice: When Riley felt hopeless and she thought she had failed, since she couldn’t get into the hockey team in San Francisco, I immediately thought of the RAIN practice. If she knew how to do that at that moment, she wouldn’t be feeling that worthless. RAIN practice, which is an acronym, is very simple to do and remember and teaches us to investigate the current experience with kindness instead of pitying ourselves.

The first step is to recognize what is going on at this moment. Maybe you had a bad day at work, you argued with your significant other, or you got wet in the pouring rain.

The second step is to allow the experience to be there, just as it is. Give a pause. For example, if you argued with someone, you might blame them or rue the moment over and over. However, instead of just simply pacing and allowing that experience to be just there. Allowing offers a space in which we may see more deeply into our own selves, which in turn awakens our compassion and helps us make better life decisions.

The third step is to investigate with kindness. Yes, it’s totally okay to feel unworthy, to argue with someone, to forget your umbrella at home, or even fail a test. When we are aware of our pain and respond with compassion, compassion emerges spontaneously.

And lastly, you will gain natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.

Author Bio

Penny is a fresh literature graduate with a passion for content creation and writes about mindfulness, mental health, astrology, lifestyle, and well-being in her little corner of the internet. She has launched her own little shop on Etsy, where she sells mental health planners, and is working on the launch of her manifestation journal at the moment.

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