“The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now.” ~Robert G. Ingersoll
In 2014, my whole life changed. I ended a long relationship, decided to leave my “dream” job, and moved halfway across the country in search of one thing: more happiness. I had spent years planning and dreaming of a different future for myself. One where I could travel frequently, have the flexibility of being my own boss, but also doing something meaningful and giving back to the community one person at a time. Finally, after one morning spent in tears, I built up the courage to quit my job, and I let my family know that I was going to be moving to California. Over the summer, I traveled extensively in Europe, and was hopeful that I was somehow going to find an amazing job. I was confident that I would make new friends, find the love of my life, and of course even join a yoga studio. Easy, right? Well, as it turns out, all of this didn’t happen exactly as planned. It soon became clear that I wasn’t experiencing the blissful future that I’d dreamed of. I ended up feeling even worse than I had felt before I changed anything. A sense of dread and helplessness crept over me as I realized that changing your life situation doesn’t automatically make you happier. Happiness is a choice, and we can deliberately wake up everyday and set out that we will be happy, however, just by making all these significant life changes, we are not going to wake up and miracously feel happy. After spending the summer stressing and agonizing about what the future was going to hold, I decided to continue my happiness research and be actively present in my journey. Over that summer, there was one theme that started to pop up in all my findings.
Be aware of your thoughts so your mind cannot control you.
Learning how to be aware of thoughts rather than letting your mind control you seems to be essential to experiencing lasting happiness. Meditating every day, even just for ten or fifteen minutes, makes it easier to be aware of your thoughts and to learn how to quiet your mind. For me, being aware of my thoughts has made me more intentional about how I think about things. I now try to look at my life positively and search for solutions to issues rather than worrying about problems that might not even happen. Try and be present in the moment, as it takes away from the power in your mind. In the present moment there’s no past to regret and no future to worry about, so you are naturally happier. Though keeping your attention in the present is hard to sustain, it’s simple to try.
Give it a try today by focusing what you can see around you right now. What sounds can you hear? What can you smell? What can your body feel? Don’t answer these questions in words, just move your attention to your different senses and acknowledge what they notice. I’ve now made being aware of my thoughts a daily practice. Instead of reading the news on my phone, I dedicate the first 20 minutes of my morning to meditation to start the day. My evening walks by the Emeryville marina allow me to pay attention to the sounds of the ocean hitting the rocks, the children laughing and playing in the park, and to the peaceful sound of the wind rustling the trees. The question I ask you today: How could you incorporate meditation and being present into your daily routine? Please share your findings!