How to train your happiness muscle

Here’s an embarrassing story about our honeymoon.

We were in Bora Bora staying in one of those private huts on the water.

The “swim in, swim out” kind sitting above the reef.

Flush with manta rays, friendly baby sharks and clownfish.

We playfully sipped Veuve from our hot tub overlooking a majestic and dormant volcano.

Yet sadly, all I could think of was:

Where will our next vacation be?

Human beings can be pretty weird.

Some of us yearn for the glory days of yesterday.

And others – especially the striving type – are always on the hunt for a better tomorrow.

What’s up with our phobia of the present?

The author Dan Harris uses potty humor to make light of this situation:

“With one foot in the future and one foot in the past, you’re pissing on the present moment.”

And we’ve heard the mantras dispensed from your favorite gurus.

The Power of Now.

“The present is all that we have.”

But how does one actually put that into practice?

And even for me, who’s meditated 40 minutes a day for nearly a decade – these words ring hollow to me.

3 steps for savoring today

Have you ever seen a dedicated meditator eat? It’s quite a unique experience.

They eat tiny bites. Deeply savoring every single morsel of food.

It’s almost as if they’re letting each salt molecule delicately land on their taste buds.

(Meanwhile, us fools are pounding Soylent so that we can get back to work.)

The promise of presence is that it unlocks an ease to your life. A lightness. A joy.

In the podcast episode Rewiring for Happiness and Freedom one of my spiritual teachers talks about creating new pathways in our brains. Cultivating a series of practices to discover that ease and happiness.

To live it.

These 3 practices take less than a minute and can be done each evening. While you’re laying in bed.

(Yes, no excuses.)

Step 1: Learn to savor

The first practice involves savoring life’s beauty.

Every single drop of it.

So bring to mind, something that made you happy that day.

It could be:

  • A delicious gulp of flavored seltzer
  • Hitting your camel pose during yoga
  • Holding your child’s hand on the walk to school

(These are all real examples of mine.)

I encourage you to look for micro-moments instead of something momentous like “an awesome group dinner.”

And then while you’re laying in bed, savor that moment. For 30 seconds.

Yes, your mind will wander. You’ll start thinking about your task list.

But really try to take in how special that moment was for the entire 30 seconds.

Step 2: Find 3 things you’re grateful for

This is your standard gratitude practice (although in this case, you don’t have to write it down).

Again, lean into the micro-moments. Glances. Giggles. Smiles. Hugs.

Play back the 3 moments in your head.

This takes 15 seconds, tops.

Step 3: Did you perform an act of kindness?

While I fancy myself a kind and considerate person, this was the hardest part of the practice.

For this last step, bring to mind an act of kindness that you performed that day.

At first, I struggled, because I was aiming too high.

I wanted to give a sandwich to a homeless person. Or tip a barista generously.

Or the proverbial “help grandma cross the road.”

But many of these felt elusive, particularly given the life of a Work Remote Suburban Dad (who basically is on Zoom for large swaths of the day).

So instead, I leaned into acts of micro-kindness.

Sharing an article via text.

Complimenting the actions of a colleague.

Checking in with an old mentee.

And after a few nights of this practice, a funny thing happened.

Subconsciously, I started to be on the lookout for opportunities to be kind.

And they were everywhere.

Putting it all together

In spiritual circles there’s a saying about your thoughts;

Where your attention goes, your energy flows.

And it’s easy to put your attention into comparison, worry, consumerism and competition.

For many of us, that’s our baseline setting – creating worn and weary tracks in our brains. And in our souls.

But we can unlearn that. One life moment at a time.

Give it a shot. I know you have a spare minute as you lay in bed each night.

I’m rooting you on!

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