As creatures of habit, we tend to build our sense of safety and security from our own behavioral repetition. Through our weekly schedules, morning routines, and predictable relationships, we are able to rest comfortably in the familiarity of our lives. While this process provides a necessary structure and stability for us to depend on, the novelty and happier moments of our lives can be easily missed and overlooked. What would it look like to refocus our attention on the existing joys in our life? If we mentally shift out of our typical default settings and break out of the autopilot trap, we can appreciate the smaller beauties that our day-to-day has to offer us. There are so many, if we actually pay attention! Here are a few tips on how to cultivate mindfulness to appreciate the fullness that is already your life.
Cultivate Childlike Wonder – Think back to when you were a child, experiencing new moments for the very first time! Your first day of school, your first sport event, falling in love for the first time. There is a childlike awe and wonder that is felt when we are experiencing something with fresh, new eyes. There were so many questions we would ask as children. What’s this? How does this work? Where did this come from? If we view life as a continual platform for growth, we can keep that childlike mindset alive and curious. Apply some of that same curiosity and amazement for the small things that already exist. Perhaps it is trying out a new recipe, taking your dog on a walk, or admiring your partner’s laughter. Is there something new to learn here or admire about the experience? Pretend like this very moment is the first time you’ve experienced it. Better yet, search deeply for the beauty that has always been within it.
Savor Moments – Unfortunately, negative experiences get imprinted within our memories like stubborn stains. It is far more difficult to reflect on the happier and more joyous aspects of our past experiences. In order for any given moment to be transformed into a memory, we have to attach an emotional value to it. Fear not! You have the power to do this in real time, and with positive memories and associations. Next time you feel a wave of happiness, take a moment to pause and deeply savor it. Take note of the things happening around you: the people you are with, the environment it occurred in, and all the details of that present moment. Observe the way happiness feels in your body. Soak up all of the goodness of that very moment and observe your experience through a newfound lens of appreciation. The more you practice this, the greater the gratitude you will feel.
Practice Gratitude Reflections – Speaking of gratitude – studies show that having a consistent gratitude practice is one of the strongest interventions against anxiety and depression. Who knew that such a simple incorporation of thought could be such a natural prevention for poor mental health. It makes sense! The more joy you notice in your life, the less room for negative thoughts and worries. Take a few moments at the end of each day and write down a couple of things that went well. ‘My boss gave me an extension for my deadline,’ ‘I felt really connected to my partner today.’ Even on our worst days, it is likely we can find something worth feeling happy about. And when we add them all up, we find there are far more there than we even realized.
With intention, mindfulness, and gentle awareness, you can ensure that these moments are never again glossed over and forgotten. Even amidst the familiar monotony of our every-day lives, we can always pause to find more presence, power, and appreciation in those moments.