Our brains are wired to be on alert for what is wrong. It originally served as an important evolutionary purpose for the survival of our species but it doesn’t serve us so well today. To help counter that negativity bias, we can use gratitude. At the end of each day write three things that happened in the day that you are grateful for, and also what was your contribution to that happening. These don’t need to be huge things, it may be that you’re grateful for the new fruit growing on your tree, or for the friendly shop assistant. Then consider your contribution to those things happening. For example, the fruit is growing on my tree because I take the time to water and fertilise it. Or the shop assistant was friendly because I smiled at her and asked about her day. Writing your three things each night will build new neural pathways in your brain that are switched on to notice more good (and counters the natural bias to notice what is wrong). This helps us ‘accidentally’ notice more good which helps to us to feel happier.
We live in such a busy world where we are constantly on call to people via our electronic devices. These stresses and demands on our time steal from us the ability to fully appreciate the present moment that we are in. To give yourself some respite from the busyness of your world (and mind) use mindfulness. I use mindfulness in three different ways:
1. Mindfulness Meditation – is where you sit for 10 minutes (or more) fully focussed on your breath. You don’t alter your breath at all, just sit comfortably and notice with full detail your breath as it goes in and out. As your mind drifts off to other thoughts, gently notice that you’ve drifted and come back to your breath. If you’re anything like me, you’ll drift off many times but that’s OK, just keep coming back to your breath. There’s many apps for your mobile devices that you can use to guide your mindful meditation to get you started.
2. Savouring – being fully present in pleasant situations to enhance their experience. I do this a couple of times a week when I’m eating my lunch. I make sure that I remain fully present and even curious about my lunch. I look at the sandwich in great detail, noticing shapes and colours that I’d never really looked at before. Then shutting my eyes and noticing the tastes and textures in my mouth. It’s also great to try this when having a shower. We tend to shower on automatic pilot; instead try being fully present and noticing every possible detail about your shower. Notice how the soap suds feel on your fingertips, notice the temperature of the water on your head and how it gets a bit cooler at your feet, notice the noise of the water going down the drain etc.
3. Present moments – practice being more fully present in moments in your day. When you are talking with a work colleague or a loved one – be fully with them in that moment. When you’re sitting in a meeting give it your full and current attention, don’t allow you mind to drift off.
Understanding your inner strengths allows you to intentionally use them more often which is very energising and fulfilling. It also gives you the opportunity to be in the state of ‘flow’ more often. Flow is described as those moments when you are at one with the music, where it feels like time stands still because you are so immersed in what you are doing. Flow occurs when you are operating out of your top strengths, while doing a task that stretches you. Do you know what your top five strengths are? The science would say that knowing yours and using them helps you live with greater happiness, and better mental and physical health. Knowing my top strengths allows me to lean into them when faced with a challenge. Intentionally bringing forth my top strengths to face challenging situations helps me to feel more resilient and happy. To understand your top strengths you can complete a free online survey.
I wish you every success in finding your inner happiness and peace in life. I’d love you to share any practices that you’ve found helpful towards inner happiness here too.
Happiness is a choice that I can make no matter how grim circumstances might seem. The joy of being alive is always attainable at some level. - Patti Pansa -