I’ll be happy when…

by | Feb 4, 2017

How many times have you said those words to yourself or others?

I will be happy when…

…I graduate.

…I get a job.

…I have more money.

…I buy a house.

…I go on holiday.

…I have children.

…I lose weight.

The list is endless.

But what happens when we reach our goal? Does our world change suddenly and we become more relaxed, grateful and happy? Unfortunately, in most cases, the answer is no. So why is our perception of what will make us happy so skewed?

Go ahead and take a few moments to consider your answer – it’s an important one!

I read an interesting study that compared the happiness of recent lottery winners and those that had recently suffered paralysis. It’s not often that you hear those two groups combined. The part that gave me pause was the fact that both groups returned to their baseline level of happiness in just a few months.

Many of us will have had those words cross our minds – I’ll be happy when I win the lottery. But there doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation between the two. Daniel Gilbert explains why:

Bad things­ don’t affect us as profoundly as we expect them to. That’s true of good things too. We adapt very quickly to either.

It seems that we mere mortals are notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy.

So, what’s the solution?

One strategy that is gaining increasing popularity, both in popular culture and evidence-based research, is mindfulness. Matt Killingsworth, a Harvard researcher, conducted a study on over 15,000 people. His findings? That we’re at our happiest when we are mindful of the moment we are in and least happy when our minds are wandering.

Mindfulness – it’s just paying attention, right?

Kind of, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

I decided to invest some of my own time in finding out about 8 months ago when I signed up for an 8-week mindfulness course. Big commitment!

Those 8-weeks took me through a series of exercises and meditations focused on being present, aware of my reactions, how I communicate and how I look at myself. In many ways, I’d say it was a transformational experience – but in a discreet, internal sense.

I found out a great deal about myself. I discovered I began to have more patience than before, something I would have categorised as my greatest weakness in the past. I became more aware of my own thoughts and reactions and generally found that I was more able to enjoy the moment, whatever I was doing or whoever I was with. Perhaps most importantly of all, I began to realise just how much time I spent not being mindful!

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a long way from being a mindfulness expert! When meditating, I also found myself in a constant battle with a desire to snooze or letting my mind wander with things like to-do lists. At the outset, I was overly worried whether I was doing it properly that I didn’t let myself enjoy it.

The change came when I stopped taking it so seriously and played with different meditations. I mentioned last week that I felt we needed to be more childlike in our approach to life – taking things too seriously is one of the symptoms of being entirely too grown up! I needed to find the fun to begin looking forward to it.

The easiest place for me to start was the three-minute breathing space exercises, which can be used wherever or whenever you choose. It’s perfect for beginners – we can all focus ourselves for three-minutes, right?

It’s a simple exercise and one that I’d strongly recommend. As with anything you want to turn into a habit, don’t just try it once, expect a miracle and quit when it doesn’t manifest. Do it for 30 days. Make it a commitment. Not only will it be a positive habit by the end of the month, it will also start to change how your brain works.

3-step breathing
  1. Notice your current experience. What’s happening around you or to you.
  2. Notice your breathing. Focus on it, the beginning, middle and end – inhale, hold, exhale. Don’t hyperventilate!
  3. Focus on your body as a whole. Feel the sensations taking place in your body, the numerous things you ignore on a moment-to-moment basis.

That’s it! Here’s a video by Jon Kabat-Zinn – someone a great deal more experienced in mindfulness than I am!

We all want to be the happiest we can be. Take those three minutes every day to begin the journey towards mindfulness and stop worrying so much about when you’ll be happy. Happiness lies in how we perceive our lives, relationships and selves and mindfulness is the way to increase our awareness of those very things.

That’s got to be worth three minutes of your time!

About Fiona Barron

Fiona is a happiness advocate who is on a mission to spread positivity through simple evidenced based practices, weekly blogs and community events. Through a combination of research, scientific journals and anecdotal experience, she invites you to join her as she pieces together the jigsaw of how to become your best self.

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