From Daniel: This is a guest post written by freelance writer Chris Sequeira. He writes about self, society, and sustainability at his blog Master This Machine.
The topic of happiness is all the rage today, and it will be all the rage tomorrow and well into the future. The reason is simple: we all want to be happy.
Unfortunately, many of us speak of “finding happiness,” as if happiness were waiting on the sidewalk to be picked up. Happiness isn’t waiting for us. In fact, happiness isn’t an object at all, nor is it a destination. So… what is it, and how do we experience it?
Some people speak of happiness as a choice. You take the choice approach to happiness when you choose to take stock of your life, count your blessings, and say to yourself, “my life is good.” Building a habit of choosing to reflect on the good things in your life is a great way to strengthen positive feelings.
Others speak of happiness as the state of being that emerges when you do things that you enjoy. You take the “emergence” approach to happiness when you remind yourself to do positive actions like eating right, exercising, and spending time with your loved ones. In a way, the choice approach to happiness is a subset of the emergence approach because reflecting on the good things in your life is also a positive action.
There’s one important thing that both of these approaches to happiness have in common: they both focus your mind on the present.
Being in the present isn’t easy; whether you’re a CEO or unemployed, whether you’re filthy rich or dirt poor, you can always find something in your past or your future to ponder. Looking to the past or the future can distract you even if you look with the best of intentions.
For instance, going through fond memories of the last vacation you took can easily make you feel sad that you had to return to work afterward. Thinking about that big promotion you hope to earn or the prestigious college you want to attend could easily make you feel anxious about an uncertain future.
Our imaginations are powerful. There are an infinite number of alternate realities that we can construct of how we want to be, how we wish we were, and everything in between. These alternate realities in our imaginations can easily bring us pain. Actual reality exists right at this very instant, and being present helps you to experience it.
When you count your blessings, you look at your life as it exists right now. When you immerse yourself in positive actions, you take part in reality as it unfolds right before you.
Sure, there are times when you have to reflect on your accomplishments and failures and hope and dreams, but don’t forget to focus on the here and now for happiness.