The Most Effective Way to Stay Happy Throughout Our Day…
We have the key to our own happiness
Posted Nov 08, 2014
How do we do it? How do we maintain happiness throughout the day? What’s the trick? The good news is that understanding this concept won’t be hard. Understanding how we do it won’t be hard. Actually doing it will be more challenging. But how we do it is actually quite simple.
Let’s start with our state of happiness. Why aren’t we happy? For most of us, the main reason we’re not happy is because we’re too much in our own heads. We’re thinking about things, things in the future that we want or don’t want. We’re thinking about things in the past that we wish were different and didn’t happen. Because we’re stuck in the past or in the future, we suffer. We create stories. Sometimes our stories are about wishing things were different. For example, “I hate my job, I hate my job! I just want out of my job. I hate my job.”
Other times, our stories are about trying to figure things out. “Why did my husband have an affair? Why did he cheat on me? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with him?” All day long, our thoughts bombard us. But this is what’s keeping us from being happy. Think for a minute. When we aren’t bombarded by thoughts, when we’re just living in the present, we’re happy. However, when we have these thoughts, they take us away from our natural state. So what I am suggesting is that our natural state, those times when our thoughts are non-existent and we’re quiet, is the state of happiness.
The easiest way I can prove this for you is to suggest you try meditation. It may be challenging to learn how to meditate, but stick with it and, with time, you’ll find it does get easier. What you will find is that when you meditate, when your mind becomes completely quiet and you have no thoughts, you are happy, you are peaceful. Every meditator will tell you this is true. Once you try meditation for yourself, that will be the best proof that, when our minds are still, our natural state is really ‘happiness’.
Of course, we can’t meditate all day long. While meditation is fabulous, it doesn’t keep us happy. Meditators who are happy and peaceful when they’re meditating can become unhappy the second they stop meditating. All of their thoughts can come rushing back, and then they return to where they were before they started meditating.
But even if you’re not a meditator, I can show you how our thoughts keep us from being happy. Let’s say you just broke up with your boyfriend and you’re really, really sad. You go to a movie with some friends. If it’s a good movie that holds your attention, your sadness will go away during the movie, won’t it? Your sadness will be pushed to the background and won’t be there, so you’ll be happy while you’re engrossed in the movie. However, the second you start to walk out of the movie theater and start thinking about your loss again, your unhappiness may quickly return. That’s an example of the kind of thing that happens in meditation. The key question here is how. “How do I do this? How do I keep my mind still so I will be happy throughout the day? Is it even possible?” The great news is YES! It is very possible! Anyone can be happy throughout the day. Any of us can maintain a state of happiness all day long. And if we can maintain happiness throughout the day, then we can maintain it throughout our lives.
Let me give you an analogy that might help. If you’re a weather person, can you predict what the weather’s going to be like two months from now? Of course not, not with any reasonable precision anyway. Even predicting the weather a week from now can be challenging. But predicting the weather for tomorrow isn’t too hard. And predicting today, right now, is easy --- you just look up at the sky and you know what the weather is like. So now, at least for today, you are a pretty accurate weather predictor. In our everyday lives, what we do is much like the weather person. We’re constantly trying to predict what’s going to happen in our future --- months from now, two years from now, ten years from now. But weather predicting is like happiness. Right here, right now, the weather is always happy. We live in happy weather. Even when we struggle in our lives, as long as we don’t create stories, there is always something beautiful and happy to experience.
Let me use another example to illustrate this idea. We get up in the morning and we drive to work. Or maybe we’re driving as part of a trip we need to take. Okay, we’re in our car, but what we’re not doing is we’re not driving; we’re thinking about things. We’re thinking about all kinds of things. Most of them we’ve thought about hundreds of times before. But we keep thinking about them. Our worries, our fears, our desires are all bombarding us and, like that weather person, we’re trying to make predictions. We’re trying to fix things that are way out in the future. When really all we need to do is to focus on right now. So, while we’re driving along, we can put on the most beautiful music, and listen while we’re driving. We can look out and see the scenery go by. We can notice different signs, different people, different things, and we can really enjoy our journey. Sadly, what most of us do while we’re driving along is we’re thinking, so we miss out on life. We miss out on the beautiful drive and the beautiful scenery that’s out there right now.
Let’s say, just for the purpose of making a point, that someone comes in front of us and cuts us off. Our first reaction is to be upset by that. But again, we have a choice. We can allow the feelings of that first reaction to keep us upset or we can say instead, ‘Well, I’m going to listen to my beautiful music and not let this person affect my day.’ That’s what I can do right now, just like what the weatherman can do is know what the weather is like right now. What I can’t do is I can’t predict if five minutes from now or five years from now I’m going to get in an accident and get killed by one of those crazy drivers. But, right now I can listen to my music. That’s all I need to do is drive and listen to my beautiful music.
So does this make sense? Do you see that the most effective way of maintaining happiness throughout our lives is to get really focused on the here and now, and stay out of the future? We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Yes, we have to make plans and we do make plans. But it may take 1% of our time to do that. It’s the same way with feelings, things that we have to deal with when there are struggles in our life. Those struggles and feelings really only take 1% to 2% of our day to effectively deal with.
I am a clinical psychologist. I help people get well. Something I’ve noticed that is exactly related to what I’ve been telling you is that if someone spends too much time trying to get better, it doesn’t go well for them. In taking too much time, people begin creating too many stories in their heads and they actually add to their misery. What we all need to do is, throughout our day, be in the present. Be focused right here and right now. If all we’re focused on is the right here and right now, then we can be quite happy.
So how do we do this? Let me paint a picture for you. We get up in the morning and we take a deep breath. We breathe in deeply and let it out. We just breathe. We don’t have to think about the day; our day is planned. So then we just say, ‘Okay, now what do I need to do?’ Most likely, for many of us, what we have to do is get ourselves ready…for work, for school, or for whatever we have planned for the day. Perhaps over time, I can convince you to meditate at the start of your morning. It really is a great way to begin your day. If you meditate at the start of getting ready for your day, the getting ready for the day will be in the present. You’ll get up and have your cereal or make your coffee. You just do that. You’ll just eat your cereal one bite at a time, really focusing on the taste. It’s a newness, it’s a freshness you’re experiencing each time. Even if you may have had the cereal a hundred or a thousand times, I want you to eat it with just pure awareness, pure presence of ‘Wow, what does this taste like?’ Put the spoon down while you savor it. Then pick up the spoon and take the next bite, ‘Wow, what does this taste like?’ and put the spoon down again… and so on. With every task in the morning, do the same thing. When you’re brushing your teeth, be present with just brushing your teeth. When you get dressed, just get dressed. Focus on how it feels for your clothes to go over your skin. Focus on the colors in your clothing. When you’re brushing your hair, feel the brush go through your hair with each stroke. Then go on to the next adventure of that day. For me, it’s taking the kids to school. Along the way, I often point out the things we see and experience on the way to school. “Did you see that flower? Did you see that bird? Did you see that person?” It helps us to be present throughout the day.
Now this may sound challenging at first. But again, we do it throughout the day. We don’t focus on ‘Can I do this for the rest of my life?’ because we have no idea. We’re not worried about the future. There are just too many variables that can affect the future. But right now, we can be happy. Like the weather person predicting the weather in the here and now, we can be in happy weather anytime we want to be. But we have to do it now because, once we start trying to make predictions about the future, then good luck because things about the future always change. The ironic thing is that when we’re in the future, when we’re stuck in thoughts then, we’re missing out on now!
The key factor here is to be happy throughout each of our days and ultimately throughout our lives by focusing on what’s happening right now. Do that. Do that well and you’ll see that life unfolds beautifully. So I want to challenge everyone. It may be hard at first, but with time, this concept of living in the present, living in the now, can really be the key factor to living a happy life throughout our lives, no matter what’s going on around us.