When we put our attention on something, it amplifies. If we focus on problems, we’ll get more problems. If we focus on what’s working, that will become our filter. Many of us have learned to focus on what’s not going well because we believe that fixing the problems in our lives will bring us happiness. But–when was the last time that solving a problem brought you lasting happiness? Once an issue has been resolved we tend to move straight to the next, without stopping to revel in our satisfaction for more than a moment.
We want the things we want because of how they make us feel–not because of the things themselves. Often we are unconsciously seeking a one-time solution that will bring us the state of being we desire. But as we know, no relationship, job or beautiful home can permanently change our state. If we want to be happy from moment to moment, we need to practice happiness from moment to moment.
In every moment there is an aspect of pleasure that we can find if we look for it, no matter how small. It could be the way the light is making shapes on the wall, or a part of the body that feels good. If we bring our attention to that part of our experience, it grows. If we keep doing this over time, eventually pleasure becomes the context for our experience. This is not to say that we won’t meet with difficulty–solving problems is how we grow into more of who we are, and we need them to fulfill our potential. But when happiness becomes our foundation, we generate more effective solutions because we start from a place of abundance and possibility, instead of being limited by the perspective that created the problems in the first place.
In that spirit, here are 3 practices to increase your happiness quotient:
1. In any moment, there are only two options–you can either focus on what’s working, or what’s not working. Notice where you have placed your attention, and whether that’s where you want it to be.
2. Bring your attention to an aspect of your experience that is pleasurable in this moment. Allow yourself to bask in that pleasure the way you would bask in sunlight, and notice how the feeling of pleasure grows until it envelops you like a bubble. Observe which experiences amplify the bubble, and which ones cause you to fall out of it. See if you can stay in the bubble while doing things that would ordinarily take you out, like doing your taxes or calling tech support.
3. Keep a daily victory journal where you list a minimum of 3 wins from your day, from any area of your life. We all have an unconscious seeking mechanism; for most of us, it’s oriented toward what’s not working. Tracking daily victories like this enables us to place our focus where we want it to be–on what we have–rather than on what’s missing. Making it a daily practice is key because if your unconscious knows that you’ll be tracking victories from your day in the evening, you will start noticing those throughout the day. Eventually your filter will change, so you will orient toward what’s working instead of what’s not. This seemingly small shift is the key to happiness.