Earlier today, I was chatting to my friend Kate about the benefits of living life at a slower pace and she made a great point, “Nothing is under control so you might as well learn to love now!” I know, that Kate is a smart cookie (and easy on the eyes, to boot)!
We’re all familiar with the clichés—stop and smell the roses, live in the now, don’t let the present get away from you, we’re here for a good time not a long time…Well, it turns out that learning to slow down and appreciate the things and people in our lives now may actually impact our overall happiness more than we realize. According to one study from Rutgers University, acknowledging the value and meaning of certain present life aspects—a best friend, a pet, a recent birthday celebration, your home, a day spent with the kids—and feeling positive emotional connections to these aspects actually doubles overall life satisfaction.
Who knew that learning to relish the present in these 8 ways could be so rewarding…
1. Take Stock
What are your small pleasures? Give it some thought and write out a list out your pleasures. Think basic—personally I’m thankful for going for runs after work, playing my ukulele, the safety of my cozy little house, coming home to my cat who’s always happy to see me. If you’re not sure where to start, look to animals for inspiration (i.e., a cat laying in a patch of sun or a rabbit munching on fresh clover).
2. Stimulate Your Pleasure Senses
Sure you can literally stop to smell the roses (or lilacs if you prefer) but who’s not thankful for things like ice cream cones, hot stone massages, a drive in movie, or a manicure? When taking stock, look beyond your solitary pleasures and indulge in a much-loved reward or pastime every once in a while.
You know that constant overwhelming feeling you get for no apparent reason? That’s likely technology constantly buzzing, distracting your attention, and swarming your life. So do yourself a solid and unplug—from your smartphone, laptop, tablet, e-reader, iPod, television, gaming system, and seek inspiration from nature, your loved ones, a nice relaxing bath, or the free time to let your mind wander…and see what magic occurs.
4. Devote Time
Think about who’s precious in your life. It might be a sibling, a parent, a childhood friend, a new pal, your children, or a beloved pet…it doesn’t matter. What matters most is devoting and spending quality time with the ones you love. It doesn’t matter what you do, just be totally present.
5. Be There for Others
Work and school are demanding, but working late or studying all the time isn’t going to make you any happier. Instead of rushing blindly from one obligation to another, make time for your child’s little league or school play, help your buddy move, hug a sad co-worker, bake cookies for your spouse, or just make a point to come home early once in a while. After all, your family won’t remember the exact denomination in your bank account, but they will remember the times you were present and supportive.
6. Permit Indulgences
Now there’s planning and promising to take some time out for yourself; and then there’s actually making the time to follow through and do it! While many of us are great at the planning—most of us (myself included) aren’t too great with the follow through…that takes practice. So block the hour and pencil it in your day timer, or even better, book an repeating date with yourself each week to indulge a little “me time” in a yoga class, a chapter of a book at a coffee house, a drive in the countryside, or a morning run.
7. Find Reasons to Celebrate
Or just celebrate for the sake of celebrating! Really, it shouldn’t be that tough to find an occasion to celebrate—holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and just being together. Make the time to show the important people just how valued they are with a small handmade gift, a hug, and a warm smile.
8. Laugh…Just Because
Laughter really is the best medicine for a unhappy life. When you think about it, laughing is much less stressful than worrying about money, arguing with your spouse, or yelling at your kids. So find every reason to be happy when you’re together!