What are the small things in your life that you enjoy, that you could focus on more closely and pull more happiness out of? What are the techniques for noticing and appreciating these small moments of enjoyment in your life, as they pass by?
- Mindfulness is being talked about a lot at the moment, and the essence of mindfulness is the idea of living in the present. It's actually a really hard thing to do, because we constantly get distracted planning or speculating about the future, or going back to the past. To stay in the present, to be aware of yourself in the present, takes a lot of practice. Feel your chair underneath you as you sit there now watching this video. Feel your clothes on your body.
Feel your breath as the air goes in and out of your lungs. Be aware of yourself as you watch me talking on your screen. You're completely here and now in this room, not thinking about what's gonna happen tomorrow or what happened yesterday, just 100% here watching this video. It's easy to do for a few moments, but hard to keep doing for a longer time. But why bother? What's the big deal with mindfulness? Well the answer is that the only thing that's real is the present, so if you spend a lot of time thinking about the past or the future, you're kind of sleep walking through life because those things just aren't real.
The game is to focus on the present as much as possible, with just occasional bouts of planning for the future to make sure you're going in the right direction. A bit like hiking, but not looking at the map the whole time, just checking it occasionally and then going back to savoring the beautiful scenery around you. Also, there's a theory that all negative emotions are either in the past or the future, and that true happiness can only really be found in the present.
So things like regret and sorrow are in the past, while things like worry and fear are in the future. You might think that fear can be in the present, say if a tiger came into your office right now, but then you'd be dealing with it. You probably wouldn't have time for fear, and any fear you did have would be thinking about what's gonna happen in the admittedly very near future. There's a concept called flow, which says that when you're really absorbed in something, hopefully something more fun than fighting a tiger, maybe something like rock climbing, or making a model of the Golden Gate Bridge out of matchsticks, or gardening, or even preparing a PowerPoint presentation, you'll commit, completely immersed in the present.
And that's where true happiness lies. All your fears and worries are forgotten as you focus on that activity. You're in the flow. So how can we live more in the present? How can we get more flow? Well, I think there are two main things you can do. First, find out what gets you really immersed. What activities do you love doing to the point where you lose track of time, and plan more of those into your life. Ask yourself, "What makes me think this is the life?" What is so powerful that it makes you suddenly aware of how great the present is and do more of that.
For me it's walking on the beach in bare feet, right on the edge of the sea. And it's also playing the saxophone as loudly as I can. (laughs) You don't wanna live next door to me. But for you it could well be something different. By the way, it's interesting to see that most of these things don't cost much money, if any at all. And secondly, focus on the small stuff. Observe the little details of your life. Take longer to do things like eating or cooking, or spreading the jam on your toast.
Notice every detail of your children's faces, or the trees as you walk through the city. Consciously stay in the present as much as you can, so you can suck out as much happiness as possible from every little detail of the world that we're lucky enough to be living in. So I'd like you to think about how you can get more awareness of the present into your life, more activities that engross you, and more things that you can savor as you do them. What activities will they be, and which one will you do today?
- Misbeliefs about happiness
- Focusing on good
- Building gratitude
- Eliminating sources of unhappiness
- Reducing stress