This was the title of Dan Gilbert and Mathew Killingsworth seminal paper on mindfulness ten years ago. They developed an app called Track Your Happiness that you can still find at trackyourhappiness.org. Thousands of people participated in this study in which they would receive an alert to respond to the following two questions: 1) Are you paying attention to what you intend to be paying attention to right now; and 2) How are you feeling right now?
They found that our minds are wandering on average 47% of the time. They also found that not paying attention was correlated with unhappiness.
We are not present for almost half of our life and this trend is making us unhappy.
This was a big motivator for me when I began to practice mindfulness but it also woke me up to the need to practice presence throughout the day. I hope it does for you too. Whether you ever develop a sitting practice, see if you can invite more presence with whatever you are doing on an ongoing basis. You might find it helpful to set and repeat this intention for yourself. A mantra may help you such as: “Be here now”, or “Just this”. Paying attention to where the mind is and noticing that it has wandered off can be a cue to bring it back gently – gently being the operative word here.
When we practice and repeat things over time, these behaviors start to become automatic. This is the cornerstone of neuroplasticity. The repetition and practice of bringing your attention back and of being gentle with your self will eventually get easier for you to do.
Imagine… What would your life be like if you were more present?
What would your life be like if you were more gentle with yourself?
We hope these strategies can help you to build more life satisfaction. If you need assistance to implement these ideas or if your unhappiness needs more help you can reach us at 514-223-5327.
Written by Shawna Atkins, Ph.D., Psychologist