Happiness = focus on now, be present

OK, you may have heard me say before that we all need to focus on the now, the present, right. And I often talk about how we need to be happy with what we have, accept what we have before we can move on to better things. Simple right? Sounds like it.

I do repeat subjects such as this – but for a reason. We all get better with repetition. When we reinforce good things we benefit. Plus, I’ve had people reach out to me and ask more about it, so it shows that there is interest in some of these ideas.

Ok, let’s jump into it. We all want to be happy each day, right? And we’d all like to have a gratifying career, right? A gratifying life where we can see the direct contributions like some careers offer, like a doctor or police officer or firefighter, for instance. 

But, we all, at least from time to time, long for other things right? We want bigger and better things. We sometimes wish that we are somewhere else. Maybe, perhaps, we’re at work but we wish that we are instead at the beach, on a hike, at that party, or somewhere ‘else’.

But studies show, and I think we know it intuitively, when your body’s at the office and your mind’s at the party, at another job, at home, or at the beach, it can create frustration at work.

Satisfaction, memories, happiness, and reward come in the “present”.

To be happy in life and to be happy at work, we need to be in the moment, living in the present instead of thinking about the past, future, or wishing that we were somewhere else – and this all relates to life in general and career satisfaction in particular.

Some people have a tough time doing that (and society doesn’t help much), and it’s costing them their happiness.

There’s a recent article by Andrea Kay (www.lifesabitchchangecareers.com) via Gannett Publishing that describes a well-documented study conducted by two Harvard researchers who set out to measure happiness, shows that 47 percent of the time people think about something other than what they are doing, and that mind-wandering typically makes them unhappy.

Ms. Kay’s article further describes that psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert concluded this after collecting data from more than 15,000 volunteers ages 18 to 88 from more than 80 countries in 86 different occupations.

They gathered the data through an iPhone application that tracks people’s happiness, trackyourhappiness.org, asking at random intervals how happy someone was, what they were doing and whether they were thinking about their current activity or something else that was pleasant, neutral or unpleasant.

The study showed that mind-wandering occurred in all activities. When someone is working, they discovered a person’s mind wanders 50 percent of the time. It makes you wonder if that’s one reason so many people complain their work is not rewarding.

That tendency for the human mind to wander and think about what is not happening, is a cognitive achievement that comes with an emotional costs, say the researchers in the journal Science, adding, “A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.” (the above was from Andrea Kay’s article To be happy in your job, focus on now)

We allow ourselves to be distracted and we’re constantly distracted by many things around us. Email, the phone, that think your coworker said, the bills, family, etc.

Have you ever been somewhere alone with someone and only two of you are talking. One of you says something and the other doesn’t hear it despite the silence? That person is probably thinking of something else, right? How could they not hear it? (Of course you always hear the stuff, it’s the other person.)

Ms. Kay states that “Researchers found that things like worrying “seem to be incredibly destructive to happiness” and “that our mental lives are pervaded, to a remarkable degree, by the nonpresent,” Killingsworth says in HarvardScience.”

OK, so what’s the answer? You can look towards the Bible, learn from Buddhism, listen to practicioners of Transcendental Meditation, or just listen to your therapist: make a conscious effort to ‘be in the present’. Often we first have to be more aware of ourselves – be aware if we’re daydreaming, wanting something else, or if we’re ‘present’.

If you do that, you will notice that you’re more engaged, more satisfied, more productive. That alone will make you feel better. Being in the moment will bring more happiness. Think of one of those days we’re all had – when we’re distracted, interrupted, worried, and it seems like we do 100 things but accomplish none. Do we feel happy? Accomplished? No.

Then think of those moments – often doing sports or something fun – when you’re only thinking of “that thing”. I think about rock climbing. I don’t do it often but when I have, I can only think of that activity. All things fade away. I enjoy it and I feel lighter, I feel clear. And guess what, the last time I went climbing I later had a good idea about something after – I had been worrying about it for sometime and my guess is that my subconscious worked on it while I climbed.

Meditation is a great way to help us learn to be more in the moment and to focus. I definitely have trouble sitting in a quiet manner, focusing, and not letting my mind wander. I think of ideas, people I need to call, lists, etc. But we need to work on the silence. Wayne Dyer suggests using a prayer or poem that you like and very, very slowly saying it when you start to meditate – and focus on the gap in between the words. He uses the example of the “Our Father” and says to focus and meditate on the spaces between each word, the emptiness, silence and peace. That helps us meditate.

Lastly, it goes without saying, that present moment can very well turn out to be one of the best memories ever. How many times has someone said or done something out of the blue and that moment becomes a memory that you refer to often? Remember that simple thing a child said or did? That unexpected moment in nature? The compliment or kind word? That surprise or laugh?

Here’s to the present, may you remember that it is a gift.

Below are ideas to help us all focus on happiness.

These are found in the article; 12 Steps to Happiness, By Stacey Kennelly | August 9, 2012 at http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

Savor life’s joys. Pay close attention to life’s momentary pleasures and wonders through thinking, writing, or drawing, or by sharing them with others. Download instructions for the “three good things” exercise—a way to help you savor the good in your life.

Learn to forgive. Keep a journal or write a letter in which you work on letting go of anger and resentment toward someone who has hurt or wronged you.

Practice acts of kindness. Do good things for others—whether friends or strangers, directly or anonymously, spontaneously or planned. Download instructions.

Nurture relationships. Pick a relationship in need of strengthening, and invest time and energy in healing, cultivating, affirming, and enjoying it.

Cultivate optimism. Keep a journal in which you imagine and write about the best possible future for yourself, or practice looking at the bright side of every situation. Download instructions.

Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. Use strategies (such as distraction) to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems, and guard against comparing yourself to others.

Develop strategies for coping. Practice ways to endure or surmount a recent stress, hardship, or trauma.

Count your blessings. Express gratitude for what you have—either privately, through contemplation or journaling, or to someone else—or convey your appreciation to people whom you’ve never properly thanked. Download instructions for keeping a gratitude journal and for writing a gratitude letter.

Strengthen your spiritual connections. Religious and spiritual people are happier, perhaps because of the social connections they get through their community.

Commit to your goals. Pick one, two, or three significant goals that are meaningful to you, and devote time and effort to pursuing them. Download instructions for using your strengths to help you achieve your goals.

Take care of your body. This could mean exercise, of course, but also meditating, smiling, or laughing.

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