This is a fun and quick read on the science of happiness. Since my coach training and interest in neuroscience began in 2012 I’ve shared a lot of this with people and clients and it works. Period.
For me, the surest path to being in the present moment is checking into an appreciation timeout. It can be something as simple as slowing down and appreciating the deep colour of a bush. The other day I noticed buds on the tree and I took a five second inhale and was grateful for another turn of the seasons. It was a mini-reboot of my brain and felt great.
When you start defining yourself inside out, meaning making choices aligned with your life purpose and values, you’ll start worrying less about others’ opinions as a source of meaning or direction. This happens over time, and of course you’ll want to consider others’ perspectives if a decision impact them but your identity and sense of security will be internally defined versus externally defined. Researchers estimate only about 20% of the adult population achieves this.
What’s the connection between appreciation and happiness? Well, once you learn how to tune into, or see, or feel gratitude about all the wonderful things, people, experiences (even if hard or unpleasant) in your life you can find happiness in almost every moment. You’ll be cool with taking risks, with not knowing how to do something, asking for help, or simply moving forward even though you’re scared. Actions are not just actions, but represent an intentional way of being, or showing up emotionally, that is aligned with who you want to be. Most of us are human doings, not human beings, so when you can be intentional about that it opens up a spectrum of emotional presence that enriches every interaction and truly allows for you to bring about changes in your life not previously accessible to you.
And guess what? When you are able to stand in that balance between purpose and security, acting from a place of authentic character, you are more able to make space for others to do the same in their lives, and that’s a truly moving experience. Those closest to you might ask types of questions unusual for them, perhaps about dealing with a situation that has them stuck, or taking a risk, or simply wondering how you’re able to move forward without having all the answers.
When I went through the CTI Leadership Program I had a personal epiphany about letting others into my inner world. I noticed metaphorically that I blinked first, meaning if a conversation was headed towards a more authentic, deeper sharing or a way for someone to get to know me better I would find ways to shift the conversation to something more superficial. When you’re having a real connection with someone, it’s usually in the eyes (the window to your soul), so blinking was a way of severing that access.
But I was also dying for more intimate connections, and I wanted to be that kind of person for other people so I made the commitment to keep my shutter to my heart open, to let people in, to witness them and appreciate them, and in turn to share my perfectly imperfect self with them. So just like an appreciation time out, this shutter-open moment was a way for a soul to soul connection and it feels totally amazing, and time stands still. These are the moments that people savour in the twilight of their lives.
So, if you’re over the distractions and pace of today’s world and want something more meaningful and nurturing, I say just start anywhere: notice something pretty. Thank someone for being sweet. Hold the door open for someone and establish eye contact. Ask someone how they’re doing and really listen, not just with your head but your whole body and learn to connect with your intuition. Challenge yourself to find five ways a jerk in your life is actually a gift, a way of teaching and growing you, that only s/he can provide. Work with a coach. Or not…or maybe try these exercises out. Give it a go and see what you learn.