Whenever we think of happiness we normally think of living the life of our dreams. We think of that raise at the office or that promotion you were longing for and maybe that dream you had of someday of travelling around the world. We think of it as something we attain in some distant future when we have all that we desire. When you have crossed off all the stuff on your bucket list and when your living a life that your friends envy.
We look up to Celebrities as they walk on the red carpet and we wish we had a taste of their lifestyle. That maybe then we could experience happiness. When happiness is really something we could have right here and right now if we choose to do so. You don’t need that Perfect wedding or the perfect man or woman to be happy. You don’t need that perfect career or a perfect set of children to have the happiness that you have always longed for. Do not hope and pray that someday happiness will suddenly fall on your lap, for it turns out happiness is more of an intentional practice than you think it is.
As we go through life, we could all agree that children tend to be the happiest people in the room. They tend to be lighthearted and don't get bogged down in the stress of everyday life like the rest of us. We often assume it's because children don't have responsibilities. But could it be that children are more naturally mindful than the rest of us?. Children are born with such a huge sense of wonder and curiosity. Everything is new for them and everything is an experience to be sought after. From walking to eating, to touching any object that they can reach towards. Toddlers could literally taste anything if they had the chance.
As we grow up we take up more complex roles in our lives, eventually we become more self conscious and more anxious about the circumstances. We try to prove to the people around us that we too can have a big car or a big house or go on a big vacation with the kids. In the USA this is generally termed as “Keeping up with the Jones” . We feel the need to look like we know it all and we begin to perceive curiosity and wonder as childish. We tend to live in our own heads and go through the motions. We are often thinking of the next bill, the next vacation, the next paycheck or we are simply just busy trapped in the regrets of the past. We are too busy holding grudges and trying not to lose face with a particular group of people that may or may not even care about you.
There was a study done recently by a Harvard researcher named Matt Killingsworth. He created an app in attempts to answer a question that we have all asked ourselves in one way or another. The question is attempted to answer was ‘what makes us happy?’ and he found some really astonishing results. According to Mr. Killingworth’s data, we’re happiest when we are mindful of the moment, and we’re least happy when the mind is wandering. His research on happiness confirms that this tendency we have of constantly living in our heads is the very cause of our unhappiness.
The research finds that we spend generally 47% of our day in mind wandering, from sitting in traffic to grooming and it literally permeates through everything we do. What is surprising is that even when indulging in pleasant mind wandering and neutral wandering it still diminishes our happiness levels. Any form of mind wandering when doing our daily activities diminishes our happiness levels to some degree, even if your just thinking of what a great vacation you had last month or the exciting thing that will happen this weekend.
This is certainly difficult to understand because we have come to believe that negative thinking is the cause of all our unhappiness. That is true but even positive thinking or neutral thinking done constantly to the extent of constantly drifting you away from the present moment will diminish your happiness.
So even in unpleasant situations we are better off sticking to the present moment than indulging in mind wandering. Now we certainly can not do away with thinking all together but I personally find that we must consider dedicating a small chunk of time especially in the morning to think of what needs to be done and then when we begin these activities, it is essential to your happiness to focus all your attention to the task at hand. So from feeding your dog to taking a shower and even brushing your teeth one must focus on the moment.
We are not only at our happiest in the present moment but also at our highest peak as human beings. When we are immersed in the moment, it's in this state of mindfulness that we achieve the flow state. The flow state has been explained by many as state in which your so absorbed in the moment that time seems to fade away. High performers seek this flow state because the flow state, also known as being in the zone, is known to bring out a person’s highest performance.
“Live on earth and not in your mind” anonymous
The quote above sums it up beautifully, the present is the best present one can ever have and one must take the time to unwrap every hidden gem that lies underneath. Underneath every present situation if you closely it's always happiness and if you let you mind wander away from the present moment that happiness will certainly pass you by.
Happiness comes from experiencing every moment as it occurs even in the most mundane of activities. Mindfulness is a practice that is sometimes underrated but turns out to be vital to your mental, emotional and physical health.
Written by: Dr. Rohini
Edited by: Russel