The Science of Happiness?

Monday I actually had a day off! Crazy, I know. I didn’t even get any calls asking me to come into work–a miracle. That means I had the whole day to myself. I could do whatever I wanted to. One of the things that I genuinely love to do, but never have time to do is cook/bake. I decided to make a One-Pot Chickpea Curry for dinner and healthy-ish lemon bars for dessert (Both were delicious by the way!) Anyways, while I was at the grocery store getting my ingredients, I was mesmerized by the magazine stand. Time had a special edition out called, you guessed it, The Science of Happiness. I’m a total nerd and love anything related to psychology, so I knew that this was going to be my afternoon read.

This magazine was chock-full of research on how we can tweak our physical, mental, and spiritual lives to become happier individuals. Many of the authors argue that a key aspect of happiness depends on one’s state of mindfulness. Mindfulness is essentially being present in the current moment.In this day and age, mindfulness is something that many of us lack. In fact, studies have shown that adults feel present only 50% of the time, meaning that we are focused only half of our lives. We are so busy multitasking or thinking towards the future that we forget to relish today and to accomplish today’s tasks to the best of our ability. While multitasking may seem productive, it actually distracts us further from the present and makes it more difficult to produce quality work. The urge to multitask instead of focus on mindfulness is intensified by technology. Right now, on my computer, I can listen to music, work on this blog, watch for incoming emails, and check social media. That’s sensory overload. One article hits the nail right on the head by stating, “our devices allow us to be many places at once– but at the cost of being unable to fully inhabit the place where we actually want to be.”

That quote is so true, it’s unsettling. I myself don’t realize how consumed I am by technology. It prevents me from finding joy in the simplicity of the day. Honestly, if I’m ever bored or alone, I grab for my phone. It’s my safety net at all times. Does it make me happy, though?

The clear answer is no. It does the opposite. It steals precious time that I could be devoting to the things that do make me happy. One of the challenges that many of the articles suggest is doing a digital detox in order to strengthen one’s mindfulness. That might mean not checking your phone before a certain time, or not checking your emails on the weekends, etc. For me, I’ve noticed that I always start and end my day by checking social media, and I want that to change. I’ve decided to try to not use social media–email, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc– during the two hours after I wake up and during the two hours before I go to bed. That way I can start and end my day by reading, praying, exercising, or doing anything that relaxes and connects me to the present moment.

This morning I gave it a go, and it was surprisingly easy. I woke up around 6am and ate breakfast. While sipping on my coffee, I finished reading this magazine. Then I decided to go swim at my gym. Afterwards, I did some yoga outside in my backyard, since it was warm and sunny! It was a nice change compared to doing yoga in my dark, cold basement. By the time all of this was done, more than two hours had passed since waking up. I really had no urge to check in with other people online whatsoever. I felt refreshed being able to wake up and focus on my personal wellness. For me especially, I know that I need to strengthen my mindfulness. You all know how work can wreck me emotionally, and I let stress overtake me. Learning to be mindful and intentionally taking time for myself will help me to recharge and face stress with a newfound strength.

I highly recommend this magazine to anyone who is fascinated with psychology, science, or wellness. I learned a lot of pertinent information that I could apply to my life to help me be more mindful, and hopefully more joyful. If you feel up to it, please join me in a digital detox too! I would love to see how this detox allows a variety of people to be more present, and I would be interested to know if individuals felt that this mindfulness is adding more happiness to their lives.

Lots of love,

Hannah

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