We all want to be happy. When you think about it, most of the things we strive for in life are really just things we hope are going to make us happier people. We believe that success will make us happy, or a good relationship, or a really awesome car. All of these goals are just a means to an end; the ultimate goal is happiness. But how many of us can say that we are really happy in life? We may look at what we have and think… I SHOULD be happy. Or on the flip side, we look at what we don’t have and think… I COULD be happy. But how many of us can say we really ARE happy.
Most of us aren’t as happy as we want to be, instead we suffer. And the reason we suffer is because we are focusing on negative thoughts about our past or our future. We create stories about the negative sensations we experience or fear we might experience, and these stories linger far longer than the pain or discomfort of the initial encounter. We all do it. We dwell on a bad conversation we had at work, or we stay awake at night worrying about a presentation we have the next morning. This is suffering; it’s about living in the past or future instead of the present moment.
New research suggests that people who focus on the present are happier. This present moment, the one you are in right now. But how do we achieve this? Our minds wander; it’s what our minds are designed to do. In fact, it’s what makes us human, and it’s the root of creativity, innovation and change. If our minds didn’t wander into the past, or imagine the future, we wouldn’t have life saving technologies, beautiful art, or soul food. We need to let our minds wander sometimes, but we also need to learn how to let all other things melt away and come back to the present moment. This is a skill that needs to be honed and practiced, and according to research it will make us happier.
So here is an exercise I challenge you to try. Go outside and walk for 20 minutes. Leave your cell phone at home and just go for a walk. As you’re walking take note of 5 things you see (it’s easy this time of year with all the rich beautiful fall colours). Take note of 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel (maybe it’s the cool air on your skin, or how your breath fills your lungs), 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste (If it’s a salted caramel mocha, don’t worry, I won’t judge!). As you are taking note of these things, give them time to sink into your skin, take a moment to savor them. Try not to think too much about it, just experience it. Check in with yourself after the twenty minutes and see if you feel any different. You might just be a little bit happier!
Kristen Johnston, M.A., RCC
Healing Cedar Wellness
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