The Habits of Happy People, Part 5 of 8

hand in water

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” — Omar Khavyam, 11th Century Persian poet

Habit #4: Present orientation and mindfulness.

While Habit #3 (Coping skills and forgiveness) mostly pertains to how we deal with things that have already happened to us, Habit #4 is centered squarely in the here and now.
Sometimes we get on autopilot. We feel so stressed or so rushed that we walk around like robots, in a daze, jumping from here to there, switching from channel to channel while life just passes us by.

Dr. Rich Hanson writes in his book Hardwiring Happiness about finishing one task and then shifting to the next with “little sense of accomplishment.” He writes, “We hear the children laughing, but it doesn’t lift our hearts.” I call this zoning out.
Present orientation and mindfulness are about living in the moment and enjoying the moment that we’re living in.

How can we be happy people if we don’t notice even the happiest moments going on all around us? Happy people are oriented and rooted in the present. Instead of zoning out, they tune in. They are mindful, they keep their mind open, and they savor the good things that are going on to them and around them.

Life is a series of moments, and we can decide to be happy in this moment, right now, not some distant moment way off in the future. Happy moments accumulate into happy hours, happy days, happy weeks and a happy lifetime.

Dr. Hanson presents a framework for hardwiring happiness that he calls “taking in the good.” Mindfulness is another word for this practice. The first three steps of taking in the good are 1) to have a positive experience, 2) to enrich it and 3) to absorb it.

A pleasant experience can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.

A very simple pleasant experience is the sensation of running water, like in the picture at the top of this blog. Maybe we are running our hands under warm or hot water, washing dishes or in the shower, washing our hair. Or maybe on a hot day, we are cooling off with some refreshing cold water. Notice the feel of the water, the wetness of it, the temperature, the force of the drops.

Enrich the experience by drawing it into attention and letting the pleasantness of the moment become stronger and more intense. Absorb it by allowing the feeling to sink in, absorbing into your skin, your bones, your lungs.

We can do this with all sorts of experiences that play on all five senses: warm sunshine, a good smell, the taste of fresh herbs, a favorite song, children playing and laughing, a sense of pride in something we have accomplished.

Think for a second now about this present moment and something positive to focus on. Recognize the positive experience. Enrich it. Absorb it.

To read the other blogs in this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8


The Habits of Happy People, Part 4 of 8

Hug dad

Happy people are resilient. They view problems as predictable and manageable.

Habit #3: Coping skills and forgiveness.

Despite the theme of this blog series being The Habits of Happy People, the reality is that no one can be happy all the time.

Our relationships with others will sometimes cause us stress. Sometimes the car doesn’t start, the money runs low, work is demanding, or we fight with our spouse or kids. Sometimes, through no fault of our own, bad things happen.

When all those things and more start to get to us, we need Habit #3. Habit #3 is Coping skills and Forgiveness.

Happy people know that problems and challenges are a part of life. Problems are as predictable as sunshine and taxes. Problems don’t happen only to bad people or to good people. They just happen.

Happy people are resilient and are able to get through problems in life by developing coping skills that they can use in times of distress.

“Coping skills” is just a fancy way of saying whatever we do to get through. Eating something tasty, donating to a worthy cause, spending positive time with friends and family, taking up a hobby, taking a deep breath, going for a walk… All of these sorts of things are coping skills.

Re-examining what it is that got us so upset in the first place and practicing some acceptance and forgiveness are other coping skills. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, defined forgiveness as “a shift in thinking, such that your desire to harm that person has decreased, and your desire to do him good … has increased.”

Lyubomirskly also acknowledges that forgiveness is extremely challenging in practice. For those of us stuck when it comes to extending forgiveness, here are some tips that Lyubomirsky recommends:

• Recall a time when you needed forgiveness and were forgiven for something that you did.

• Practice empathy and try to put yourself in another person’s position and perspective.

• Imagine what your life would be like if you had forgiven the person who is asking for forgiveness.

• Write a letter to that person in which you describe the hurt and how it has affected you. Then write a statement in which you express forgiveness for that person. You don’t have to deliver the letter, but you may choose to.

Forgiveness and coping skills are two practices that make it easier for us to live a happy life. Life isn’t perfect, but that fact doesn’t have to keep us down.

To read the other blogs in this series:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8