Bring On The Sunshine: How To Savor And Record Moments Of Happiness
Life is uneven and unpredictable. We have good days, mediocre months, painful afternoons, and unhappy weeks during which little inspires us. Our home life and work life can become monotonous; in addition, we may have chronic physical, emotional, or psychological issues to address.
Despite or because of this, many of us can and do experience extraordinary moments infused with happiness. Happiness can be defined as “the state of being happy.” A few synonyms of happiness are “pleasure, contentment, merriment, delight, and joy.” Furthermore, for the sake of this article, I consider happiness temporarily experiencing delight and/or satisfaction. In fact, I believe happiness is worth address partly because it is transitory. I believe contentment is another matter altogether because it refers to a state which is quieter, yet potentially longer-lasting and more profound.
One example of how being grateful unlocks the door to more happiness
Generally I aim to be content more than I do to experience happiness. Despite this, I recognize that experiences of happiness can be invaluable. These are the moments in life worth recording and remembering: holding your newborn child for the first time; looking your significant other in the eye and telling him or her how you feel; celebrating a graduation, wedding, or other major life event. Happiness can also arrive more unexpectedly: while glimpsing a sunset painted loudly across the sky during a hectic day, or by the laughter of a small child in the grocery store.
What are you most grateful for?
It’s essential to have an attitude of readiness and gratitude in order to welcome and maximize such happy moments. If you are worried about whether or not you will reach work on time, you are less likely to see a subdued, however sublime, sunrise inching across the horizon. It’s also harder to experience undiluted happiness when you think you “deserve” more than you receive in a given situation. For instance, if you are convinced you should be dating someone “better,” it’s unlikely you can fully immerse yourself in the safe, secure sensation of being held by your significant other. Moreover, if you have excessively high standards regarding your behavior or the behavior of others, it’s harder to enjoy the imperfect, however humorous, moments in our lives.
Learning to be grateful under a wide variety of circumstances increases your chances of experiencing greater and more frequent interludes of happiness. I’ve discovered learning to be less entitled and more grateful has enabled me to savor smaller moments such as fruit for sale at the grocery store or the blissful facial expression of a yellow Labrador walking down the street. These encounters may seem too small to make a difference in a busy life; however, by being able to notice them and regard them as gifts, I’m able to experience brief instances of happiness. It’s also true that savoring happiness is comparable to learning how to savor fine wine. In other words, learning to partake happily in less dramatic moments is one way of exercising your happiness “muscle” and preparing yourself for a great quantity and quality of future happiness.
Trying to think like a child is one way to learn how to savor moments of happiness. This means your world should be more alive, as well as full of wonder and mystery. Try to ignore any overly analytical thoughts you may have about what is occurring, and instead try to relax into the moment. If possible, fixate on what is happening. Concentrate on the particular details in order to mentally record the moment. When I first met my oldest niece thirty minutes after she was born, I stared at her perfectly formed face and bald head and marveled how absolutely perfect she was to me. I didn’t pay attention to the other sounds in the room or the colors of the walls. Instead, my attention was focused on her because her existence was the source of my great happiness.
In romantic relationships I’ve found it’s helpful to quiet my analytical tendencies in order to enjoy the moments. Instead of thinking of all the reasons I am in love with this particular man, I try to behold him with a wonder not unlike how I react to glimpsing a majestic mountain range. In other words, I attempt to view this man with boundless awe. This is achievable only if I am able to abandon any thoughts such as, “He would be more appealing if only he did this or said this.” This may sound overly idealistic; nonetheless, I’ve experienced intense happiness when I am able to view my significant other with gratitude and amazement.
My position as a writer is one reason I firmly believe in recording moments of happiness. However, this is a cautionary recommendation since I also recognize that certain moments of happiness—such as laughing with your best friend at a seaside resort on a sunny day—are hindered if interrupted by grabbing a pen and paper (or, if you prefer, your computer or smartphone). At such times, it is best to mentally record the moment so you can record it afterwards.
When recording your feelings and thoughts doesn’t lessen your current happiness, you have nothing to lose by taking the time to record a few things. How much you record is a personal matter. While I may write a long paragraph about how miraculous it feels to walk barefoot on the beach with a good friend I haven’t seen in five years, you may need to record only a few words telling you where you were and what you were thinking. Another version of shorthand could include you writing the words, “Happiness to me is…” and then filling in the blank.
Taking pictures can also help you remember happy times. Such pictures can be posed or candid, professional or taken by your young nephew or a stranger. They may include the image of a person, a fancy meal, or a compelling natural scene. What’s important is that this imagine will be able to remind you of the happy moment you enjoyed.
If you are inclined to associate music with your memories, it may be helpful to write down a song you listened to while experiencing happiness. You may also wish to list a song which this moment reminds you of. If you are sweetly missing your significant other and the song “How Sweet It Is” by James Taylor comes to mind, write this down. For better or worse, there are no fail-proof ways to record your moments of happiness. You may find that the approach which worked last year while you were in love doesn’t work now that you have received a much longed-for promotion, and so forth. This area of life, like most of life, requires continual adjustment. Yet there is great potential in learning how to open yourself up to more happiness, as well as how to record these moments. While life isn’t always a pleasure cruise, remembering when the “cruising” was sublime can encourage you in the midst of rougher waters.