Slowing Down to Find Happiness
Noticing the small things in your life that makes you smile
By Ron Forte
There is no denying that happiness is big business. While the field of positive psychology is blossoming, libraries are flooded with books on how to attain a higher sense of well being. People are flocking to these books in droves hoping to find balance from their hectic schedules and demanding lifestyles. Unfortunately, their efforts might be in vain.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong advocate for positive psychology and am currently writing a book about how offenders on parole are changing their lives around by using simple techniques inspired by the science of well being. The reason I am being so cryptic is that I do not believe that the answer to happiness can be found externally. It would be great if we found the holy grail of interventions that was guaranteed to make you happier. The truth however, is that we are all unique and respond differently to techniques that are all too often generalized.
In order for a specific happiness intervention to work, it must resonate with you and somehow have meaning for you. Someone who is selfish might not be inspired to engage in random acts of kindness but might rather spend the afternoon at a spa. It varies from person to person.
In order for a specific happiness intervention to work, it must resonate with you and somehow have meaning for you.
When reaching out for ways to increase your own happiness, it is best to use the suggestions or techniques as a guide rather than a prescription. That is, if any of the activities they describe resonate with you give them a try. However don’t expect every activity they recommend to work for you.
If you are actively looking to experience something, you might actually miss the little clues and events that could contribute towards the desired outcome. I remember going to a rock concert when I was a teen and managed to sneak in a camera. Since I had front seat tickets, I wanted to take pictures of the band and have some special souvenirs of the show. It turned out I was so preoccupied by waiting for the best opportunity to take a picture that I didn’t enjoy the show. In fact, it seemed like I had missed the show altogether. Had I just slowed down and concentrated on the band, the music and the energy all around, I would have had much better memories of that show than a few blurry pictures. In that situation it really was a case of not seeing the forest for the trees.
Being mindful of our environment is the first step in achieving happiness and satisfaction.
Sometimes, it is best to just step back and reap the benefits of every little thing that can contribute to your own happiness. It is important to be able to slow down and live in the present moment. Unfortunately, we are often too preoccupied to notice all the little things life has given us to be grateful for. Being mindful of our environment is the first step in achieving happiness and satisfaction.
Luckily, there are many different ways to achieve mindfulness. Aside from the traditional meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises, any activity that allows your mind to relax and/or concentrate on a single thought or action without distractions can be beneficial. It might sound counterintuitive but when I train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ), I experience the same benefits as meditation. My mind is concentrated on the present moment and nothing else. If my mind starts to wander, I might end up on the wrong end of an uncomfortable submission hold. BJJ is not for everyone. For some, listening to classical music or getting a massage might be a better option. No matter what activity you engage in to quiet your mind, be sure it has meaning for you. That way, you will enjoy the activity and will be more likely to engage in it regularly. Next thing you know, you just might start to notice all of those small things in your life that makes you smile.
Ron Forte is a Positive Psychology Life Coach who lives and works in Montreal (Quebec). He teaches people about emotions management and zen living. One subset of his many clients is an interesting group: people on parole, learning proven methods to change their outcomes. He is currently writing a book about how positive psychology can make a life-changing difference in the lives of formerly violent offenders.