When it comes to pursuing our happiness, one of the biggest barriers to actually BEING happy is our inability to focus on the here and now. We worry about the past. We focus on the unknown in the future. Our minds slip away from what’s happening and slides down the slippery slope of wandering to anywhere but here and now.
In fact, researchers from Harvard concluded that unhappiness didn’t cause our minds to wander, but our mind’s inability to be present actually was the cause unhappiness.
And thus, away from our own sense of joy.
To be honest, even the happiest of folks have unhappy moments and seek ways to shift more time into the happiness zone. And, my heart goes out to those in the depths of despair not recalling many happy moments, let alone days. And yes, those with picture perfect lives that are on the edges, knowing that they are missing something within their heart or their life.
Because, of course, I’ve been all of those people: the happy gal seeking more delight and the depressed woman wondering if happiness was possible, at least a smidge. I have been the woman on the edge, at times living the picket fence life that seems perfect but isn’t in anyway pleasant beyond the surface and the and the phoenix rising from the ashes, knowing the she is on the edge of a ecstatic joy.
And, because I am a fact finder, I look at the research. I read the Harvard study and once again read about the conclusions I’ve found before: In order to BE happy, you must live in the moment. You must practice presence. You must be mindful in your actions.
And, no matter what stage of your life you’re in, well, darling, you look at these answers and feel frustrated. This is nothing NEW. You have heard this before.
How can you plan for the future and be in the here and now? How can you dive more deeply into joy? How can you be more mindful than you already am without becoming a self-absorbed jerk? What if my present is nowhere near a happy experience? Who would blame my mind for wandering away?
And the answer I’ve discovered when it comes to seeking answers in all these stages was to find practical ways to not just shift my thinking, but experience bliss that isn’t fleeting.
And though I cannot tell you that it’s easy, my darling, it can be simple.
The choice to cultivate simple pleasures in the process of living your ordinary life will immerse you in presence. Yes, you must choose to create a daily life that is nourishing in the small ways, which in all their tininess add up to bigger, bolder, ways to experience profound bliss.
Yes, I know it sounds too simple to be true, but I can tell you that no matter how crappy my life was, that first sip of coffee every morning has always been an infinitesimal moment of presence and delight.
I discovered that I was more successful in extending my periods of contentment and happiness when I took the time to tend the details of my life and seed it with small pleasures.
Here are some of the ways I have seeded the ordinary living with simple pleasures:
- Not only is that first cup of coffee a ritual, I’ve attended each detail of the experience. Filtered water combined with excellent coffee beans, ground fresh each morning . Organic milk and turbinado sugar to blend in my cup served only cups that I feel delightful in my hand and are delightful to look at.
- I make my bed each morning, so that when I slip between the covers at night, I am embraced by high-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets that I change weekly. Because is there anything more glorious than fresh, clean sheets against your skin?
- Popping in and out of the shower when I’m in a hurry happens, of course, so I stock the shower with just the right shower gel so no matter how long I may linger or quickly I want to get clean, it can be a spa-like experience of caring for my skin.
- Speaking of the bathroom, who loves cleaning the toilet? Yet, it’s one of those necessities of a happy home. So, I choose products that make the job easier and make my bathroom smell fresh and clean. It’s a small detail, yet shifts my view of the task and invites me to be present. This concept carries through to all of my cleaning and laundry supplies: products that clean yet delight my olfactory system.
- Working from home means that I could easily slob out and exist in yoga pants and worn out tshirts. Been there, done that and it makes me feel crappy. So, I’ve devised a uniform of sorts to wear: solid skorts or dark jeans paired with sweaters or polos, presentable for unexpected visitors, lunches with girlfriends or video conferences.
- When it comes to getting dressed, I wear my nice lingerie every day. I have a growing collection of costume jewelry that mixes and matches with all my uniform choices. And, my favorite perfume and lipstick are a part of my daily routine. Because each of these details brings me to the here and now.
- I use a basic sketchbook as my journal, which may not seem fancy or special, but I love the heaviness and feel of the paper and the invitation to write as large or small as I desire. And, I only use my favorite pens to write with there. (If you’re curious, it’s the Uniball 207 medium point BLX Ink Pens).
- When JB arrives home from work, we sit on the deck and enjoy a glass of wine as we share the tales of the day. We enjoy the fresh air and the golfers going by while we chat. The wine we drink is the same wine I’d choose for a dinner party.
- We must eat, of course, so when I make dinner, I only serve it on dishes that make me feel excited to dive in. I have deep autumn themed bowls for serving stews and holly-edges plates for Christmas. I no longer keep dishes that I don’t love.
- When dusk arrives on those fall and winter evenings, lighting candles illuminate the dark corners and invite us to pause.
When I mentioned that it was simple, but not easy, it wasn’t a throwaway sentence or a play of words.
As you can see, none of these examples are super expensive nor do they require that I stand on one foot while facing south on every second Tuesday. Yet each of these tiny details and small pleasures demand that I am present.
It’s not easy because our minds will try to convince us that we don’t deserve to have even small pleasures because we haven’t earned it. Who are we to wear our favorite perfume on a day we’re staying home? Who are we to use the good china? What kind of diva must we be to be picky about a writing instrument or the cup we drink from?
These small pleasures, my dear, are a way for us to touch presence. Delighting our senses propels us into awareness. The tiny details we pepper our lives with urges us to be here, now.
So, that’s the challenge I throw down to you: how can you find pepper your world with simple pleasures that open your life up to more profound joy? How can you delight your senses through ordinary living?
No matter what stage of happiness you may be in, you have the ability to invite your mind to stay in the here and now. Life isn’t about the big moments, but all the tiny moments that build upon each other to create deep joy.