We live in a very connected age. We text, tweet, Facebook, Skype, and Snapchat. More than ever, before we can instantly check in on an old friend, see how a long-distance family member is doing or find out what our ex is up to. Most of the information we receive is sent to a phone that we disregard and upgrade every couple of years. We can do more, learn more, and reach further than ever before. With life at high-speed, why are we not content with our current lives? Why is happiness so elusive?
As a therapist, I hear firsthand the kind of stipulations people place on themselves before they can fully achieve happiness… “Once I finish school, once I get a new job, once I lose that 15 lbs, then, only then, will I will be happy and content with life.” The problem with this line of thinking is that happiness becomes something to be attained in the future rather than something that can be experienced now, at the moment. And while there is nothing wrong with setting goals, when your happiness becomes contingent on some future outcome, you deny yourself the freedom and joy of experiencing life in the present. If you’re compelled to get to point Z from point A, rest assured you will get there by taking small steps along the way. It’s from these small steps, our daily motion, that we can derive joy from the process. Here are some tips on how to achieve satisfaction and contentment now:
Relax, take a deep breath, and try to be fully present in whatever you are doing. If you are with a friend or family member give that person your full attention and truly listen to them. When you are walking to work, pay attention to the colors of the trees, how your legs support you while you are walking and the way the breeze feels on your skin. When you write an email to a client or your boss, notice the keys as you type into the keyboard. Take a moment to re-read what you wrote and when you click send, take note for a moment that you have accomplished a step in your daily job. Approach work, errands, and your chores not as bothersome, but as a non-judgmental transition from whatever you were doing before. For example, if you are doing the dishes pay close attention to how the warm water feels in your hands. When you feel your mind drifting, allow yourself to become an observer and take a moment to just notice your thoughts. This can keep you from getting stuck in ruminating thoughts or boredom.
We are fortunate to have tools today that allow us to transfer and receive information with ease. As our digital speed increases, we must try to maintain our connection to the physical world and ourselves. In the book The Art of Happiness (Cutler, & Dalai Lama, 1999), the Dalai Lama writes “the very motion of our life is towards happiness.” If we’re unhappy right now, we may be consciously or unconsciously choosing to be so. Happiness need not be a destination you reach someday, much like how booking a dream vacation can be almost as fulfilling as the vacation itself. From waking up and experiencing the warmth of the morning sun through the windows at the start of the day, to completing the very first page of a novel — Happiness can be found in the process — in the present moment.