The Secret Sauce of Happiness
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
Have you ever experienced one of those days or moments when you feel happy for no real apparent reason? Aren’t those the BEST moments! I love that feeling. When those feelings of true contentment occur, I find they are not the extraordinary moments that involve a momentous event (although they can be), those feelings often arise when I am just truly living in the moment and enjoying whatever life has offered me. It may be while I am walking in the woods or sitting out on the deck on a cool evening, enjoying a glass of wine. I could be at a concert listening to some great music. Whenever it occurs, It tends to be in those very ordinary moments. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could bottle those feelings up and just keep them for a rainy day, or even better, for every day?
I have a friend who I admire deeply for her love of life. She is always so happy, and not annoyingly in-your-face-happy, but rather a truly happy person who seems content in whatever comes her way. What amazes me the most about this is that she is not rich, she doesn’t drive crazy expensive cars (in fact I think she was driving a minivan for quite a while but hey, no knock on the minivan). She has also had moments of profound sadness in her life, including losing her Dad who was taken too young. So what is she on and how do we get it?
Through our various conversations, I have discovered her secret sauce and I am going to share it with you here. Get a pen and paper because this will change your life. Are you ready? The secret behind her sauce is (drumroll)…savoring the present. Hold up, don’t leave. I know you were expecting some big reveal with a super long explanation and scientific terms to boot that only a few could master. But no, this is even better because everyone can master it!
SAVORING THE PRESENT
Savoring the present allows you to immense yourself in the sights and sounds that are all around you, fully allowing yourself to experience what is going on and being in that moment and nowhere else. You are not in your head thinking about the thing you wish you would have said to your boss or wondering what you are going to have for dinner later, you are all in where you are right now! If it is that simple, why aren’t we doing it? The answer is that it is challenging! In this day and age, are we ever not doing at least two things at once? I can’t remember the last time I watched a movie without checking emails, returning texts, looking up a recipe and creating a grocery list on my phone. Sound familiar?
Being able to be present takes practice but it is totally possible! Here are a few strategies you can use to start your practice of being present. I recommend carving out time on your calendar each day to practice one of these. Treat these actions like any other meeting you have on your agenda. They don’t have to take hours to do but the key is consistently practicing them. Focus on the ones that resonate most with you and forget the rest. This is all about making it work for you!
Take a few minutes each day to practice gratitude. We are in what feels like fast forward mode all day long. We are multi-tasking throughout the day and it is easy to be constantly focusing on what is next on the checklist. Practicing gratitude forces you to STOP and reflect. Your mind slows down (that in and of itself is a gift). It allows you to really think about moments throughout the day that passed by that you didn’t have time to appreciate it. It can be super simple, it can be the flower you saw blooming outside your house or the “thank you” from your adult son or daughter. You can write these things down, type them or just think about them in your mind, whatever works for you.
Fresh air always does the body and mind good. Even better if you can find a park or some woods where you are away from cars and buildings. If getting away from civilization is a challenge, no worries. You would be surprised at how much nature is around you, even in the city. I work and live in the suburbs and driving to a park is not always convenient, so I walk in the burbs. However, when you are focused on your surroundings you will find nature, even in the hustle and bustle of the city. There are birds chirping, bees pollinating flowers, or maybe snow falling, depending on the season. Taking time outside can really recenter your mind if you let yourself focus on those moments.
Are you a Yogi? I can’t say that I am although I do Yoga occasionally, I find gentle Yoga or stretching to be more my style. If you are sitting at a desk or in a car all day, getting up to do some simple stretches feels amazing! Sometimes I wake up and do a quick 10 minutes of stretching before I even leave the bed. Focusing on how your body is feeling and the muscles you are stretching can be a great exercise in practicing presence. Did I mention, it also feels really good?!
Hear me out, I am not talking about spending 20 minutes cross legged on the floor humming “ohmmmmm.” If that IS your jam then by all means meditate away! However for those not as sure about the practice, let me just clarify something. Meditation doesn’t need to be on a yoga mat or even sitting on the floor. You can meditate anywhere. It can be 30 seconds in fact. Taking one deep and meaningful breath that you are completely focusing on is meditation. Practicing meditation is an amazing way to be present because it forces you to focus on your breath (much the same as yoga) rather than your to-do list. For those who may be interested in exploring meditation further, search your apps and podcasts, there are a lot of amazing options out there.
small act of kindness
I love this one! Nothing makes you smile more than helping someone else and you can’t help but focus on that moment because you feel so dang good! You will note the title is “small acts”, these do not need to be huge things, it could be opening a door for a stranger, picking up something off the floor that someone dropped, donating school supplies to a child or a school drive. In addition, not only do these things help you with practicing presence, but they have also been shown to give you a mood boost! Bonus!
This certainly is not a comprehensive list so feel free to add what works best for you. Someone who enjoys cooking may find that preparing a dish to savor is a great form of practicing being present. By the way, savoring a meal is an amazing exercise in practicing presence as long as you are focused on the meal.
The goal behind these exercises is that eventually you will be able to, not only practice presence when performing these acts, but also throughout your day. By consistently performing acts of presence, you are training your brain to reflexively stop and smell the roses! You will find that instead of focusing on your task list, you are focusing on the great conversation with your family member or enjoying the evening breeze on the patio with your favorite beverage.
And there you have it, the secret sauce! I would love to hear what helps keep you in the moment! Drop me a line and let me know!