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Happiness

How to Gain Greater Balance in an Unbalanced World

Four tactics to strengthen your resilience, focus, and happiness.

As we continue to shelter-in-place, experience ongoing political discord, and live day-to-day, it can feel like an uphill struggle to experience moments of happiness — to maintain balance, focus, and resilience.

Gerd Altmann/Pixabay
Source: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

In this complex world, daily life is filled with distractions. It’s common to fall into the habit of just doing. Striving to check things off the list. You may forget about paying attention to who you really are and what’s really important to you.

Life’s vicissitudes — changing circumstances both pleasant and unpleasant — can fill your moments so completely that you may lose sight of your goals, direction, and how you want to express your life. This busyness can leave you vulnerable to overwhelm, making it hard to notice the truths, needs, and callings within and around you.

Many of us know we would benefit from a bit of breathing space as we face the persistent demands of life and work. Engaging in practices that can help us build focus and attention can inspire us to free ourselves from distractions, improving our sense of balance and our capacity to leverage moments of happiness.

According to psychologists, even brief engagement with mindfulness and meditation practices can help strengthen our attention (Kabat-Zinn, 2012; Goleman & Davidson, 2017). Goleman and Davidson report that 8 minutes of mindfulness can reduce mind-wandering for a short time, while mindfulness practice for about 10 hours over 2 weeks can make even more difference. These experts advise that the key to lasting benefits is practicing mindfulness regularly on an ongoing basis.

These findings reveal that where and how you focus your attention can contribute to feeling a greater sense of balance, focus, and happiness. Happiness is not so much about the circumstances in which you find yourself as about how you choose to experience your life and circumstances.

You can begin strengthening your attention by being more aware of what you are focusing on. You might try folding brief, simple mindful moments into your day. You’re practicing mindfulness whenever you point your attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity, or acceptance (Niemiec, 2016). The simple act of paying attention can bring mindfulness to the moment. For example, pay careful attention when you pour a glass of water, sit down on a chair, or talk with a friend.

Here are four tactics to help yourself move toward greater resilience, focus, and happiness:

Increasing your sense of resilience and happiness does not require big changes — even brief moments can create a more positive emotion. The secret for many folks is to try an experimental approach. Start small. Then gradually create more space in your life for these applications as you observe how they fit with your lifestyle and goals.

1 — Savor the Taste of Your Food and Drink: At each meal, try to purposefully pause for a moment to savor the many tastes. Engage your five senses. Pay attention to the textures, smells, and sensations you experience as you interact with the food and drink. What do you notice?

2 — Reflect on Pleasant Moments: To appreciate the positive moments in your life pause, take a deep breath, notice the pleasant experience and welcome it with a sense of joy and gratitude.

3 — Reflect on Pleasant Memories: Once or twice each day, pause briefly to reflect on a pleasant memory, recalling an experience from earlier in the day or another recent time.

Pause, take a few slow breaths with awareness, and sit quietly.

Focus your attention on the positive emotions you experienced and allow yourself to re-experience those pleasant feelings right now. When you’re ready, take a few additional slow conscious breaths and then resume your daily activities.

4 — Notice Experiences That Bring You Enjoyment and Meaning: According to psychologists, happiness grows when we are when we’re making progress toward our goals and involved in activities that bring us meaning — endeavors that we value (Ben Shahar, 2007; Myers & Diener, 1995).

Try this:

  1. Think of — or better yet, write down — three things or activities that you enjoy.
  2. Think of or write down three things or activities that are meaningful to you.
  3. Consider how you can create a bit of time in your life to include one or more of these. Daily? Weekly?
  4. What’s your next step?

This post is for educational purposes and should not substitute for psychotherapy with a qualified professional.

References

Ben-Shahar, T. (2007). Happier: Learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Goleman D. & Davidson, R.J. (2017). Altered traits: Science reveals how meditation changes your mind, brain, and body. New York, NY: Avery.

Kabat-Zinn , J.( 2012). Mindfulness for beginners: Reclaiming the present moment - and your life. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.

Myers, D. G., & Diener, E. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6 (1), 10-19.

Niemiec, R.M. (2014). Mindfulness & character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston, MA: Hogrefe.

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