Sometimes I feel just like a hamster on a wheel … running as fast as I can but going no where. What am I trying to reach anyway? Where am I going? How will I know if I even get there? And this time of year, I feel as if the wheel is spinning faster!
In my reflection of my life on the wheel, I have discovered a few things:
- I may live in a fast-paced, technology filled, consumer driven culture, but I don’t have to chase those things.
- I am learning that my definition of happiness was very limited. I have come to understand that happiness is something I have control over. Pursuing one pleasurable experience after another is like running tirelessly on the hamster wheel because these experiences only make us happy for a few moments.
- Consumerism sucks me in … especially this time of year! The shiny catalogs in the mail, the flashy commercials, the families having a perfect holiday meal together! There seems to be a lot of pressure to keep up and make it all perfect.
I have realized that my experience of happiness is not dependent whether I have the latest and greatest gadget, or buy the perfect gift for everyone on my list, or make the perfect turkey dinner! All that is great but it makes up such a small part of happiness – only about 15%! Chasing that is like staying on the hamster wheel and continuing to increase the speed!
My favorite definition of happiness is Aristotle’s: “human flourishing”! The thought of flourishing is really enticing to me! But how? How do I move from the hamster wheel of seeking pleasurable experiences to true contentment? There are a couple ways we can get more bang for our buck, or happiness for our time!
Research about the brain has shown what we can do to actually increase our experience of happiness – to tap into that deeper experience of happiness.
Two weeks ago I talked about the powerful punch of gratitude! Expressing gratitude really changes things – for you and the person you thank. It makes such a huge difference in our brain and light up the happiness areas.
Just as important to me on this journey to experience more happiness is mindfulness. After years of resistance to it (because of a lack of understanding and the notion it was some new-age trend people were falling for) I finally gave into the exploring it. What I discovered about mindfulness helps me stay off that hamster wheel. It really is about paying attention on purpose!
Seems rather obvious – I mean we all pay attention to what we’re doing, right? Well, let’s see. Have you ever asked yourself while at a stop light “how did I get here?” Or “did I close the garage door”? Yep, me too!
Training my brain to really pay attention, to the little things as well as the big things, has gotten me off the wheel and really experiencing people, life, the good things and the hard things!
This is a great time of year to get yourself off the hamster wheel! Pay attention: to your spouse, your kids, your friends, your co-workers. It is amazing how much we learn when we really pay attention and how much more happiness we experience … the happiness that enables us to flourish and truly enjoy the holidays!!!