by Anna Marie Trotman
There’s a considerable difference between looking healthy on the outside and being healthy on the inside. There’s a glow about someone who has cultivated happiness. They’re not too stressed, they’re motivated and energized.
I recently happened upon a TED Talk on Happiness with Dan Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. The question asked was; is there a secret to happiness? Professor Gilbert says that there is no secret. However, there are measures we can take to ensure that we maintain a level of happiness that will keep us balanced and healthy. Let’s explore a couple of strategies to help you with your happiness quotient.
Matthew Killingsworth, Ph.D. studies the nature and causes of happiness, he asks the question; why are we happy some of the time and not at others? He actually developed an app that tracks happiness in real time and has collected significant data that shows that when your mind wanders it’s normally unpleasant. Mind wandering can be a cause of unhappiness. Think about how you can be driving somewhere and your mind goes down a rabbit hole! How can you get out of spiraling downwards into the abyss? The trick is to practice mindfulness by noticing where your attention is and turning yourself back to what you’re doing. Here is a simple practice:
When you catch yourself being caught up in concerns about the future or guilt and regret about the past, just notice your thoughts and kindly say to yourself, “Come back.” Then take a calming breath and focus on what you are doing in the moment.
Channel Your Inner Tortoise
We are marinated in the culture of speed and the holidays can only make it worse. It’s the season of hustle and bustle with more on our plates than almost any other time of the year. The speed at which we need to get things done accelerates and takes a toll on our health, work, relationships, and community.
We fill our heads with so many distractions that slowing down can cause some anxiety, but we can work through it. About 25 years ago I was at a conference in Northern California; it was a beautiful setting near Lake Shasta. I remember how blue the sky was, the backdrop of Mt. Shasta covered with snow, the warm days and cold nights. On the last day, we walked out to a track for runners. It wasn’t like a normal track, it was a cross between a hiking trail and a running trail. The facilitator lined us all up and said, “I want you to do the mile.” I remember it clearly because I had pulled a muscle and was not able to run. So I walked while the other participants whizzed by me. Rather than being anxious about not keeping up, I decided to meander and looked at the wildflowers, the sky, the mountain, and the trees. I took note of the smells and other little things about the area I would have missed if I had been able to run with the others.
I didn’t know it, but I set the example. The facilitator said to “DO” the mile, she didn’t say run the mile. It took me about a half hour to “DO” the mile and 25 years later the experience is still fresh in my mind.
Getting in touch with your inner tortoise helps you to live and enjoy life, rather than trying to race through it. Create some ways to slow down and ask yourself, “How can I “DO” the mile and create more happiness in my life?”